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Benzine

Well, There's Your Problem!

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So, I picked up a new-ish kiln off of an auction site, from a local school district.  

I knew that the kiln wasn't working, and that it had some damage, based on the photos they shared.  

But it looked like it was still in good shape, and I didn't spend too much on it, all things considered.

The control boxes look practically new, minus a little discoloration on one of the wire wraps, that can be seen in one of the photos in the gallery.

Obviously, the BIGGEST issue is, the bottom slab/ bottom brick damage.  That was more than I expected.  I've never seen anything like this (Heard about, but never seen), but I'm sure Neil has seen things like this from time to time.

If you look at the photo of the slab, you can see, and may even be able to guess what happened.  You'll notice the melted mass (The shelf posts are stuck in those positions), and even see that some of the bottom wall bricks, along with most of the bottom element came with the bottom, when I took them apart.

After I got it into my work shop, I think I figured out what happened.  The control is a kiln sitter, with a back up timer.  The sitter rod, on the inside has some black "glass" connecting the rod, with the insulating tube, and cone supports.  I don't know if that was from a firing before the kiln's "last" firing, or the one, where it stopped working.

Regardless, the sitter was not functional, and  my guess is the kiln just never shut off.  What I thought was a  runny glaze on the bottom slab, is actually melted clay.  You can actually see pieces that didn't fully melt, still there.  I can't say if it was a mid to high fire clay that was just fired too long.  Or if it was low fire clay, that was mistakenly fired too hot.  Or some combination of any of that.

Soooo, I've got some work ahead of me.  I need a new slab, which luckily, I have one from another kiln, that I never got around to fixing.  Same size and model, just older.  Then I need to replace the bottom bricks and element(s).  Hopefully, that will get it functional.

Time to get to work!
 

 

Edited by Benzine

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"what fools we mortals be"

(yes, Shakespeare said "these", not "we".

isn't it amazing what a little lack of knowledge can do?  could this be the kiln used by those beginners who wrote a few months ago about melting everything in their kiln?

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Not sure Oldlady, I don't believe I saw that post.

My wife asked, "Didn't they know what they were doing?"

I told her that honestly, a lot of teachers know how to load the kiln, and turn it on.  That is about the extent of it of their knowledge.  

A lot of my knowledge, is just things I have picked up over the years.  This site has been invaluable, because of all the shared knowledge and exchange of ideas.

My college experience was limited to one of my Secondary Art Education classes.  There was a kiln in that room, and ONE time, the instructor gave a quick overview on how to load and fire.  I think the only reason we even did that, was because one of my classmates created a barrel firing lesson, so we all made a project for that, which had to be bisqued.  That kiln was a kiln sitter.  

My next experience was student teaching, where I loaded and fired some elementary projects.  That kiln had a controller, as did my first classroom kiln, that I used for six years.  I didn't get back to using a sitter until my second teaching job, where the instructor left good instructions and logs.  

My college only required Art Ed. majors to take X-amount of both 2-D and 3-D classes.  So ceramics, and a knowledge of it, wasn't required to get a degree.  I imagine that most Art Ed. students DID take at least Ceramics I, but it is possible they took other 3-D classes instead.

This is somewhat surprising, as my school is THE Education School, in the State.

 

In any case, hopefully the teacher learned from the (Very costly) mistake.  I'm tempted to contact them, just to ask what happened.  The person, in the Business Office, who I talked to, thought that the damage on the bottom was the problem, but wasn't sure.  Initially I was thinking, there is no way some runny glaze stopped the kiln from working.  But, turns out "Runny glaze" wasn't the issue...  Best case scenario for them, the District had to spend a couple thousand for a new kiln.  Worst case, they don't get a new kiln, and can't teach clay anymore.  

For me, hopefully a few hundred in parts, and I get a good kiln, for a decent price.

 

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I THOUGHT so Arnold, but I am not a kiln expert by any means, nor have I ever repaired a kiln.  

I have already replaced the bottom slab, with an older model Skutt, that I already had.  Oddly, the old Skutt, that was given to me years ago, and I just had it sitting in my basement, had two slabs on the bottom.  I never noticed, and have zero idea why.  It had two  standard 2.5" slabs.  One had an attached handle, the other did not.  The bottom of the two , had some filler material caked on, covering damage.  I'm guessing it is really thick kiln wash, or some type of kiln brick repair material.  

Any reason a kiln would have two slabs for the base?  It was drilled for a vent, but there doesn't seem to be any type of damage, that looks like it would be structurally weak or anything.

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2 bottoms for insulation.  you are lucky to be able to reach into a kiln that will now be deeper than one with a single bottom.   that assumes you use the standard metal stand beneath it all.   that didn't come out right, i mean you can reach over a higher rim into the bottom.

i just had mine adjusted by using a 2 inch post under the bottom shelf so i can reach it.  getting old, getting tired.

Edited by oldlady
clarity

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Arnold, is the second slab required?  Is it recommended that I use it as well?  

I mean, I have it, not like it's problem if I do.  I had just never seen such a thing... This is despite the fact, said "Thing" had been in my basement for seven years...

 

Old Lady, pretty much any kiln is sooooo much nicer to reach into, than my classroom kiln.  Don't get me wrong, it is an amazing kiln, and I'm still figuring out how the previous teacher got the money/ approval to buy something that would have cost so much.  BUT, that thing is a pain to load.  It is a L&L Jupiter, with four rings, plus the stand.  I have to stand, on the stand, to load quite a bit of it, and hang over the side, to get things in/ out of the bottom.  When I am putting the bottom posts and shelf in, which isn't often, unless I have to vacuum out the bottom after an explosion, the students get a kick out of.  To them, it probably looks like I'm about to fall in.  Luckily, my rear end has plenty of counter weight...

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10 minutes ago, Benzine said:

Arnold, is the second slab required?  Is it recommended that I use it as well? 

The second firebrick bottom is not essential. It's very nice, because it saves a little electricity.

Arnold Howard

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5 minutes ago, Arnold Howard said:

The second firebrick bottom is not essential. It's very nice, because it saves a little electricity.

Arnold Howard

Thanks Arnold.

I honestly have no reason, to not use it, and nothing to do with it otherwise.

And I'm all about saving money!

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The kiln I bought at a estate sale recently also had a destroyed bottom.   It had the area about the size of a dinner plate eaten into the bricks and then some foamy stuff like spray insulation piled into it .  I have never seen anything like it,  it also had a extra bottom.   I threw the destroyed one away,  I believe it was over fired.  It looked like a cone was jammed into the ceramic tube of the kiln sitter and it melted all over.   My husband  had to replace the tube in the kiln sitter,  he has gotten pretty good at working on them in  the last  40 years.   It still had a receipt with it,  she paid $168 for it new in 1969 from a local ceramic shop that closed  a couple of years ago when the owner died.   I have fired it once, it still has the new kiln smell.    Denice

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Denice,

That seems very similar to the one I got, including the problem with the kiln sitter.  I'm not sure what got in there, but whatever it was, did not let it shut off.  I still don't know why the timer didn't shut it down though.  As far as I can tell, the timer does work.  They must have just cranked it to the max time, and walked away...

New kiln smell eh?  Can't say I'm familiar with that specific scent.  Do they make a product that a person could spray on the kiln, that would replicate that?  You know, like people do with their cars...

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Great find, sounds like you scored, congrads!

Off topic but I guess I am confused why the kiln wasn't repaired. Seems awfully wasteful to auction off and just buy another and absurd to auction off and kill the program. 

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1 hour ago, Stephen said:

Great find, sounds like you scored, congrads!

Off topic but I guess I am confused why the kiln wasn't repaired. Seems awfully wasteful to auction off and just buy another and absurd to auction off and kill the program. 

 

I think, they probably thought it was beyond repair and/ or didn't want to have the district pay to have it fix, and admit they messed up and caused the damage in the first place.

It's easier to just say, "I don't know, the thing just stopped working..."

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We had a army base that is a couple of hundreds miles from us shut down the ceramics program on the base because there wasn't enough interest a couple of years ago.   I e-mailed back and forth with a potter that got one of the nearly new large computerized Skutt's for a $200.   They had several more,  they asked him as he was leaving if he wanted another at the same price.  He would have taken another one but he had a small truck.    They auctioned off the whole studio.  Here it is two years later and they are talking about putting in pottery studios at the bases because it helps with  post traumatic stress.  I guess it is only tax payers money.    I couldn't figure out why the kiln I bought wasn't  repaired    The owner had three other kilns that were used for firing doll heads, they were pretty beat up.       Denice

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Looks like a win/win there.  I always used an old base under the new base to save electric at the HS. I did do something though not mentioned. . . I cut 2" off the bottom of the metal kiln stand. . . very carefully as to remain stable. Put extra angle brackets on bottom. At home I just reach a little deeper!

I understand what you say about 2D/3D requirements in college. My undergrad experience was excellent, and I got quite a bit of base information in a large variety of media. After undergrad, I took gad courses at PSU in mind of covering the 30 credits post grad work for certification. At the time I really wasn't interested in the degree. However, as I got older, decided to go for a Masters degree, and get a pay raise. Seems that PSU wanted more pedagogy, hardly any studio. My way of thinking studio was most important for an art teacher, especially an experienced one. So I returned to old alma mater, went for Med. and was able to transfer in 24 credits, take some pedagogy, art history and studios. Interestingly enough, I was able to transfer in the same number of credits that PSU would allow me to count towards the Med. there. Never regretted the decision.

New teachers need as much versatility in studio background as they can get. They also need to be able to learn from books, videos or on line. Other wise art classrooms will be narrow in the media that the teacher is most comfortable with. I have seen too many cut and paste elementary programs, and flat work secondary programs.

best,

Pres

 

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Pres, 

I'm considering getting my Masters at some point, but I am still paying off my undergraduate loan sooooo...  I mean really,  who would have known that the Government wanted me to pay all that back?!...

The extra pay, from a Masters is nice,  but one big reasons for me to do it, is just so I will be safe, in teaching my Graphic Design class.  It is a Dual Credit class, so the students get a high school and college credit for it.  The community college we are partnered with prefers that all high school instructors, who teach the class, have a Masters.  But, I've taught it, since I started at the District, and have had no issues thus far.  I have to go to training every  Summer, and meet with the  Department Head, at the college.  That way we know the expectations the school has, for the class.  

What's funny is, they also have people in the community, from a variety of trades (engineers, mechanics, etc) and teach classes.  Those people, generally have their Masters, but no teaching degree.  So  they have the content experience, but generally no training on the best methods for disseminating that information to students.

 

I know what you mean, regarding the sub par Elementary and  Secondary Art programs.  I get that with Elementary, it can be difficult to do anything meaningful.  My colleague , who used to do Middle School and some Elementary, ended up with all the Elementary students, a couple years ago with restructuring.  He has 7-800 students, he sees one to two times a week.  It is difficult for him to do any in-depth lessons...  And a couple years ago, our Curriculum Director and people from the local AEA didn't understand why he didn't want to do Standards Based  Assessment on his classes.  "Let me get this straight, I'm supposed to document how  well a student is doing on multiple categories, in a lesson, multiple times throughout the process?  And I'm supposed to do that with several hundred students?...

So yes, I do get the struggle.  

With High School, yes we have to do more and more things (Professional Development Related Things), that take away from what we'd like to be doing, but I've never found that it has prevented me from doing, what I want to with my students.  

I have seen programs, where there is little to no structure.  My Alma Mater, had a good program, while I was there.  The instructor was well liked, and we had students, from every group/ clique take Art classes.  My Senior year, was that instructor's last year, due to a terminal illness.  His long-term sub took the job, the following year.  The program suffered, from that point on.  I went back and subbed there, after college.  I did cover the Art classes, during that time.  The students in some of the upper level classes, didn't have any experience with the fundamentals.    Students were pretty much allowed to do whatever they wanted, with no guidance.  The instructor also added a "Crafts" class, because that's what she enjoyed doing.  It was mostly making things out of yarn/ macrame.

The number of students in her classes dropped dramatically.  She had some classes with only a couple students in them.  So they  had her start teaching Junior High too.  Then more recently, teach some upper Elementary.

A classmate of mine, from high school, has recently taken over the position.   After one year, he said his class sizes are going up, and he's trying to get more and more sections added back into his high school schedule.  Right now, he still does only mornings at the high school.  The rest of the day is Middle School and Elementary.  

 

It's just amazing how a teacher's view, attitude, etc can change the dynamic of an entire district.

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Well, shoot!

I just realized that the kiln is 208 V.  As I understand it, this is not ideal for a kiln in a residential space.

I made sure it was Single Phase, when putting a bid in, but skimmed over the voltage appatently.

Is there anything, that can be done, so that it will fire properly on 240?

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13 hours ago, Benzine said:

Well, shoot!

I just realized that the kiln is 208 V.  As I understand it, this is not ideal for a kiln in a residential space.

I made sure it was Single Phase, when putting a bid in, but skimmed over the voltage appatently.

Is there anything, that can be done, so that it will fire properly on 240?

Voltage can be changed with different elements. It looks like it's set up for single phase, so you should be good to go there. Double check that though- should be a 3 prong plug. Be aware that a Skutt 1227 on 240V 1P service is only a cone 8 kiln. It'll get to cone 6, but your elements will wear faster.

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Hope it works well for you Benzine.

I got a kiln from school over 40 yrs ago. Rebricked and new elements from similar story.... but no longer reached temp quickly..last bit a quote.

I got it home , asked later it the teacher had the bungs..... what are they   anotherquote. So having melted the kiln , got a rebuild, then got a new kiln.....oh to have that amount of power with the money givers.

Only got rid of that kiln a few years ago.

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8 hours ago, neilestrick said:

Voltage can be changed with different elements. It looks like it's set up for single phase, so you should be good to go there. Double check that though- should be a 3 prong plug. Be aware that a Skutt 1227 on 240V 1P service is only a cone 8 kiln. It'll get to cone 6, but your elements will wear faster.

Neil,

I posted a photo of the kiln's ID  plate, in the same gallery, I linked to above.

It says Cone 10, but of course, that would be on 240 only right?  I'm fine with Cone 6 firing, but of course, I don't want to burn through elements (literally and figuratively) so fast that it becomes cost prohibitive.  

Also, for anyone interest, I posted a close up, of the bottom slab, where the bottom element was melted to it.  And it's not just stuck a little, it was actually drug into the brick, by the melted material.  

Like I said, probably nothing people like Neil, who work on kilns haven't seen before, but a first for me.

Edited by Benzine

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54 minutes ago, neilestrick said:

My bad! I can't count. I thought it was 12 sided. It's cone 10 at all voltages and phases.

Counting?  Save that for those egghead mathematicians, am I right?

So do I need to use different elements, or have the outlet wired differently?

 

Also, have you seen something melted quite like that before?

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@Benzine Yes, you'll still need to change the elements out for 240 volts. That should be all it needs.

Yes, I've seen that many times. One just last week, in fact. When low fire clay goes up to cone 5/6, it melts into a greenish glass that eats right through the bricks. Many a kiln has met its demise that way!

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