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Craftymicky

HELP - how does this kiln work

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Hi,

I’m new to this, total novice! 

I’ve  been given a kiln I can’t find instructions to.

i tried to fire it up to try it out and it just turned off.

here are some pics: 

 

Thanks in advance

862884AC-A100-4DC0-8891-799B663EF699.jpeg

0A7901E9-85D8-4F85-82A5-FA406B66E76A.jpeg

Edited by Craftymicky
To add photos

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Hi.

Mills & Hubball went out of business in 1977/1978. I don't think anyone took the business over. The chances of finding a manual are vanishingly small.

Given that your kiln is at least 40 years old, it might be worth letting a  kiln-savvy electrician give it the once over, unless you are comfortable with 'leccy things. Having said that, the interior looks in good condition for that age, and the frame etc. isn't actually rusting into the ground. Note that it requires 14 Amps, which means a circuit with greater capacity than the normal socket circuit in the UK. Putting one in especially for the kiln is a good idea.

The Off/Low/Med/High switch is a simmerstat. It does what is says: it cycles power on and off to the elements at a rate dependant on its setting. At 'low', it will switch off more than on; at 'med' perhaps half and half, and so on. Electric cookers uses to use these. Being a mechanical switching device, they eventually go wrong, but are readily available and replaceable.

In use, you'd start the firing on 'low' for a few hours, then to 'med' for a few hours, then to 'high'. The exact timings of this will require experimentation to get the right profile for your purposes.

Can you provide a better picture of the other dial? It's very indistinct. It's purpose will be to set the top temperature for the kiln. It would be interesting to know the mechanism behind it.

Edited by Sputty
Speeeling.

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Thanks Sputty, that’s great!

Here is a photo of the instructions ( I don’t have but are sold with the actual thingy on eBay just now) .

Still trying to figure out how to make the photos small enough to be able to upload them. 

37B2310C-E7E1-4E3B-9A10-CD26F8DB5C4D.jpeg

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I believe Pye Ether stopped being Pye Ether in 1974, so that dates your controller (and presumably the whole kiln) to then or earlier.

It's an interesting bit of kit, but as far as actually using it (the controller itself), I'm not sure I'd trust it! I'd like to, really I would, because I just love old electrical devices. I'd be very interested to see inside it.

The NiCr/NiAL refers to types of thermocouple that the device is expecting. It claims a top reading of 1200 deg C. The idea is that as the kiln reaches whatever temperature is set on the dial, it (probably) throws a relay to cut the power to the elements. Somewhere inside the kiln will be the tip of a thermocouple (assuming it still exists). Whether it still works is probably a matter for divinity, and if it does, whether the box of tricks still does what is should will be divinity, Part II.

You need to find out what works, and what doesn't! Theoretically, with the kiln wired to a suitable outlet, and the temp dial set 1200, and the simmerstat set to 'high', the kiln should come on and stay on. The little neon on the controller (right hand one) should light, and stay lit. After 10 minutes, you should be able to notice warmth in the kiln.

If that doesn't happen (and I'll be mildly amazed - and amused - if it does), then you'll need to track down which bits function and which bits don't. Are you comfortable with electrics, voltmeters, etc? You need to know whether the elements are sound, whether the simmerstat works, etc.

Even if the Pye Ether device is duff, it should be possible to get the kiln up and running as a basic box which heats up. You'll just have to judge the switching off at the end bit yourself, which in practice you'd probably do anyway, with the aid of witness pyrometric cones.

Report back!

I'm off to see whether I can track down the innards of that controller.

EDIT - It appears that you can still source these Pye things 'as new'! It's all very exciting.

EDIT - It also appears they exist in science museums...

Edited by Sputty
To edit.

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Lol, yeah I saw the science museum one! 

I did fire it and it did heat up, even got it to orange glow, all elements were on! 

The problem is it just shut off after a couple of hours which meant the glaze wasn’t really affected apart from the white turning gray ( see previous photo).

The thermocouple is intact but had like a ceramic tube over it which I took out as it’s base is broken a bit.

Edited by Craftymicky

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It's a good start!

When you say 'orange glow' - was that the whole kiln interior, or just the elements? That is, do you think the kiln itself got to orange heat? This from @Pres is very useful:

KilnFiringChart.jpg.c3901508d6495bf3e892

How many hours did it take before it shut off?

What were the dials set to?

Those glaze tests - what are the glazes - that is, what temperature or cone are they supposed to mature at? Bear in mind that your kiln appears to have a top temp of 1200 deg C, so you'll struggle to get anything above cone 6 to maturity.

The ceramic tube is (was!) there to protect the thermocouple from mechanical and environmental (chemical fuming) damage. You should really replace the tube - in fact, unless you know for certain how old the thermocouple is, you might be best advised to replace it all while you're about it. That assumes that you think the Pye box is functioning as it should. If you have doubts about that, it might be an idea to bypass the temp controller and thermocouple completely, so you just have a box which heats up with the aid of the simmerstat. You'd then rely on cones to tell you when the firing is complete. You could also buy a new thermocouple and meter to help you judge what's going on, but that means spending money, a pet aversion of mine.

 

Edited by Sputty

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odd indeed, no elements in back wall, elements in door?

reset button functioning?

looks in good nick old electricals aside.

If going on with it I'd install a separate timer which switches off the supply after the set time you know it takes to mature your glazes.

one kiln I had was 50 plus years old but of the original kiln, the framework and a couple off odd bits were the only things standing. Can still get parts etc, one Old codger gad notes on every kiln h made and where they went ,when factory clos ed down early seventies he continued to service, make elements for etc.

his efficiency could make you weep!

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For its age and condition, even though the controller has a top end of 1200C you may be relegated to producing Low-Fire products. As was mentioned above, witness cones would probably be your best indicator of the temps reached in the kiln... Good Luck!

JohnnyK

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A wee update: 

i just tried it again with the following set up within the kiln. 

It reached a kinda orange glow ( seen through the peep hole) after about 40 min. 

Sadly it switched off again by the time I checked about 15 min later. 

I suspect it’s the extension cord I have been using ( as the kiln is outside )  - the kiln plug was very warm and the extension cord had tripped.

Will find a heavy duty cord first  before moving the very heavy kiln nearer a socket. 

 

51D602D1-DB28-4224-AF9E-41CCCF6474C9.jpeg

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23 minutes ago, Craftymicky said:

Will find a heavy duty cord first  before moving the very heavy kiln nearer a socket. 

Bear in mind you'll be (potentially) trying to draw 14 Amps from a 13 Amp circuit if you're plugging it in to a standard power socket. That's not necessarily a good idea, and will trip anything there is in line to trip, or possibly cause a fire if trippable things fail to trip.

Is there a 7kW cooker circuit you can run it to? I'd recommend it...

Is there any history with this kiln? Previous owner? Usage?

Edited by Sputty
Avoidance of fire.

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