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Second hand kiln, clueless, please help!

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I’ve been recently bitten by the pottery bug and today I got my hands on a second hand front loading electric kiln.


I’ve wired a plug on it and plugged it in. It works but now I’m stuck. 


There’s no instructions and my online search has proved fruitless. So if it is ok with you guys I’d love to ask you some questions.


Firstly, I confess I know very little about firing and kilns. The studio were I’m taking pottery classes does that for us when there’s space in the kiln. 


Ok, so I have got the kiln and I assumed that I would have to use pyrometric cones with it, as it is very old and basic but I can’t see anything through peep hole at the front (which is glazed). 


It doesn’t have a kiln sitter. 


There is a temperature gauge on the side, do I use that as a rough guide to temps (not sure how accurate) and put cones inside the kiln anyway whilst doing test firings to work out how the kiln performs? Then make lots of notes so I know what temps ‘work’ with the clay? 


I’m going to show my ignorance completely here and admit I’m not sure how the firing process works. Very stupid question. Do I fire the kiln until I reach the desired temp and then just shut off the power and allow the kiln to cool? 


When and in what circumstances do I take the venting brick out? 


Also the kiln has a timer dial on the side. What could this be for? Monitoring soaking times? 


Many thanks in advance for any help!




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Close up pic of plate showing kiln type etc would help.

I can almost read it on on pic.

Kiln and Furnace...

Yes that dial is an energy regulator.

Get it off the wooden floor.

Interior pics etc would be helpful

May need heavier than you've got electrical wiring etc.

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Yes, first get it off the wooden floor, or put 2 layers of cement tile backer board under it.

If you think of the dial in terms of low-med-high, low would be about 30, medium about 65, and high at 100. For most firings, you'll go one hour on low, one hour on medium, then high until the kiln is done. You'll need to use cones in the kiln to know when to turn it off. If you're doing a bisque to cone 04, then I'd go with cones 08, 06, 04. That'll give you a couple cones warning before you have to turn it off. If you're doing a glaze firing to cone 6, then I'd use 2, 4, 6. Some people like to also include a higher cone than the target, but I've never felt that was necessary. Once the peak cone has bent and touched the shelf, turn it off and let it cool naturally. The pyrometer may or may not be very accurate, but it should at least show you if it's getting hotter. Personally, I'd invest in an inexpensive digital pyrometer instead. If you're going to use it indoors, you'll need to vent it.

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Not sure where you're located; if you're overseas then you may have 240 outlets in your house (looks like where you took pics), but here in the states, most outlets are 110. While the kiln will turn on, and heat up some, you will not gain the temps the unit states, without providing both legs of 120 for 240 volts. Like Babs said too; make sure the wire which brings current to the outlet you are using, is sized appropriately for the amperage draw.

Just based on your title of "clueless" (no inference to you personally), I would suggest confirming that your wiring of the kiln, the outlet, and wiring to your main panel are appropriate; no one wants an electrical fire.

Kilns and Furnace LTD is still an active company; you may inquire with them to see if this kiln is designed for what you want to do. May be an glass annealing kiln, or used for enameling. A lot of small front loaders like this one are used for these purposes. Im also inclined to state this based on the toggle switch to 1000C/1300C. Im not sure how this would be used in conjunction with your infinite switch.

Yes, during firing you monitor the cones until your desired cone drops, and then turn kiln off. This is the process for bisque and glaze mainly. There are benefits to soaking the kiln at temp, or downfiring, but in regards to the basics, just allow to naturally cool.

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Looks like a glass fusing kiln? Are you down under or in the UK?A photo of the plate with info would be a great aid.

(I’ve been recently bitten by the pottery bug )

These days you can call a exterminator or just do it yourself with hobby classes to get rid of the bugs. Ask your teacher about a removal  process

Edited by Mark C.

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Wow! Thank you so much all the helpful responses. You guys are so knowledgeable. It has given me a lot to think about how to go forward.


Fear not though, the kiln is not on a wooden floor. It is actually sitting on ceramic floor tiles with a wooden pattern on them! Underneath those is solid concrete. 


My brother is a qualified electrician so he supervised me wiring on a new plug and did an inspection before I turned it on. 


I’m in the UK. Sorry I should have mentioned it before. So the temperature is in Celsius and 240v isn’t a problem. Again my brother advised on this. 


I’ve taken some more photos in better light. 




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no, babs, the elements are resting on the bricks so the picture is right side up.  but it sure looks funny with wires in the bottom.  posts have to be right against the walls.  how can this be stacked with shelves??????

Edited by oldlady

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Ok so what space woould you give between elements and bottom shelf I wonder.

Doesnt seem much leg room around edge of shelves...

Looks like a shelf mark on back wall so there's that answer..two thermocouples annd what looks like a vent topbackcentre.

I'd pin/peg right side third element run where brick damage is to control prob. Sag.

Middle bottim element run two rows look more abused than others...pos need to replace..

Nothing old about using cones! 

You say spyhole is glazed! What do you mean?

You cant see when door is open?  It is blocked somehow.

Just saying..smile..you wont see anything with door shut if kiln has not reached red temp...smile.

Do a fire as Neil suggested record whet you turned up and by how much every hour and recordtemp reached.

Keep a log in other words . Talk to the tech guys who presently fire your work to see what they aim at re lebgth of firing/ temp rise/ hr etc .  

Keep logging and talk to any potter you meet!

Did you get kiln furniture?

Lots here on firing schedules 

Have fun!


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19 hours ago, Babs said:

Just saying..smile..you wont see anything with door shut if kiln has not reached red temp...smile.

Hi Babs! I understand that the kiln needs to be red hot before I can see anything but the peep hole is covered with glass, like the spy hole on a front door of a house. I thought the peep hole wouldn’t have glass and instead have a plug. 

The reason I can’t see anything through it is that it is black with dirt and grime. So much so that I didn’t realise it was glass at first! But this is fixable! 

I’ve read and researched tons this week, as well as getting a lot of great advice from you guys. I’m feeling more confident now and very keen to start test firing! 

Thank you so much! 

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Yeh grime can be cleaned off...design may be so colour can be seen at glance...and may protect eyes a bit. Welders goggles good for peering in kilns.

Put kiln on high for 10 mins  open door and see if all elements are glowing...just out of interest re bottom elements mentioned.

Try to source some staples or pins which you push into brick to support the element at site of brick damage.  Should find them at kiln store...or the techs whete you get stuff fired might help.

Will prolong your element life there.

Good luck..great journey ahead!! No boredom in this field

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Hi @Charliechuckles

I'd suggest you get every pottery book from your library and read everything you can.  Every author will essentially be saying pretty much the same thing, but one of them will write in words and sentence lengths that set off the light-bulb in your head.

It can be really difficult to see the cones during firing.  With my kiln I have to kneel on the floor, contort my body round to one side  and peer through a tiny hole into a bright glare.  Welding glasses are an absolute must.  Practice finding where the cones are with a light source (torch?) inside, so you know where to look.  Also, I have to set the cones up so they are silhouetted against an element, otherwise I can't see them.  Most times, I put them in just to tell me what the kiln did, as opposed to what it is doing.

Good luck.

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