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spiffypix

Skutt model 181 kiln?

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Hi everyone - 

I live on Long Island.  Kilns and equipment rarely come up for sale here for some reason. 

I stumbled across a Skutt 181 kiln, circa 1976, on a yard sale listing on FB.  (She’s having a yard sale and the kiln was listed with tons of other non-pottery stuff.).   I inquired and she said that I could have the kiln for $100 which also includes “boxes of paints or glazes” and tools.  I told her I would take it.   I figured that even if the kiln was not usable, I could convert it to a gas one?    Or Raku?  Is that accurate?   Did I get a good deal or did I screw myself?  I figured for $100, it was worth a gamble.  I haven’t seen it yet.  I go to pay for it tomorrow.

 

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Actually, I’m assuming it’s a Skutt?  I didn’t notice the other manual.  Hmm.  Well, I guess I’ll find out tomorrow!  What are the issues s that you are seeing with it?  Brick issues?   

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Not bad. Find the serial plate and see what the amperage draw is. You'll need a breaker that's 25% greater than the actual draw. Most kilns that size pull about 24 amps and need a 30 amp breaker. If that's the case, it may have a 30 amp cord, or it may have a 50 amp cord because they like to use the same cord on all their kilns. That's not the original cord, so take a close look at it and see what kind of condition it's in, and if it's the right size wires.

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Thanks, Neil. I’ve been firing at a community kiln so I have noooo idea about any of this.   Worst case, I can just pay an electrician to come in and set up a receptacle/breaker for me, yes?

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So, let me consolidate all my questions into one post (for now lol) :

If glazes are super old, are they garbage?
Worst case, if there is a weird plug, I can have an electrician come in and install the proper receptacle/breaker?
Does it disassemble for transport in a somewhat simple fashion?
Can I convert this kiln to a digital  / electric controller?

Thanks to everyone in advance for their knowledge.

Edited by spiffypix

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Glazes may be garbage. If they're dried out, add some water, let them sit overnight, and use a stick blender to mix them up. If they don't brush well, you can add some CMC gum.

If it's a weird plug, but it's in good shape and the cord is good and it's the proper amperage, yes, you can use whatever plug matches.

The lid can be taken off. It's a simple hinge. The bottom is not attached. The two body sections can be moved individually.

There are several ways to make it into a digital kiln. Olympic makes a controller system that replaces the sitter, assuming that's not the really old style sitter. Post a picture of the control boxes. You can also buy an external digital controller that it plugs into.

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I picked up the kiln and all of the ‘paints’ today.  Kiln is so little!  I love it.  Perfect size for me.  I’ll have to pick up some kiln furniture.  But honestly not much would fit in there.  Here is a pic of the label, as well as a pic of the plug and the outlet that it was attached to.  Oh and a pic of about 1/18th of all of the underglazes. There has to be hundreds of them.  If they are dried out, can I just use them as watercolors?  They seem to all fire to ^5 at least, but I’ll be firing to ^6.  Hope that doesn’t make too much of a difference.

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Thanks, Liam.  I’m planning on changing out the elements...would I have any issue firing to ^6 if I change them out?  Doens’t seem like too huge of a job and seems pretty affordable..


Thanks, Chilly.  Yessss, too bad some of them are just straight-up bisque paints.  A couple of them are ^05 and the Safari brand is ^5.  So i’ll Probably just stick with those and see what happens.  Too bad.  Do you think a ceramic studio (you know the kind) would want them?

 

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3 minutes ago, spiffypix said:

Thanks, Chilly.  Yessss, too bad some of them are just straight-up bisque paints.  A couple of them are ^05 and the Safari brand is ^5.  So i’ll Probably just stick with those and see what happens.  Too bad.  Do you think a ceramic studio (you know the kind) would want them?

 

Unfortunately, in a world where we should re-use. re-cycle, it takes man-hours to get that stuff back into condition.  It's worth doing if you're time-rich/cash-poor, but........

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And does this pack contain enough element to do all three sections or just one section?  I can’t tell.  It says one in the ad, but i’m Not sure if they consider that one entire unit or not.  Thanks

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I think you will enjoy your Skutt 181. That's an interesting old kiln. One can learn a lot from firing a manual kiln.

Your 181 might not need new elements. Check the elements with an ohmmeter. If they're okay, shrink them back into the grooves. Here is a video that shows how:

Sincerely,

Arnold Howard
Paragon Industries, L.P., Mesquite, Texas USA

 

 

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Thanks so much, Arnold.  I have to be honest, I saw a Paragon Dragon on Craigslist for $1000 and I almost went for it.  But a 75 amp breaker with 4 gauge wire.... gasp!  It’s too much for what I need.  But what a kiln. 

And for anyone who may come across this post in the future, here is a great, great video I found that teaches you all about maintaining your kiln, along with how electricity works lol.  I needed to learn both of those things.
 


Thanks again.  :)

 

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10 minutes ago, spiffypix said:


And for anyone who may come across this post in the future, here is a great, great video I found that teaches you all about maintaining your kiln, along with how electricity works lol.  I needed to learn both of those things.
 


Thanks again.  :)

 

Thanks for posting the video on Electric Kiln Maintenance.  (Having put the words in her, I'm hoping a search will find this post in future!?!

 

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On 5/17/2019 at 12:44 PM, spiffypix said:

Thanks, Liam.  I’m planning on changing out the elements...would I have any issue firing to ^6 if I change them out?  Doens’t seem like too huge of a job and seems pretty affordable..

ya know I would test and see where you can go with it. The rule of thumb is to buy a cone 8 or 10 kiln to do cone 6 glaze load to avoid wearing out elements too fast. I've never really be able to get a definitive answer but I've heard numbers like 25% faster wear out, so instead of a 100 or so bisque and glaze firings you would get say 75 IF you replaced sooner. Also only new elements will supposedly hit top rated temp so out of the gate you will only be able to get true cone 6 for a fixed number of firings and then it will slowly drop. Even at 50 combined firings you are paying ($125 replacement) $2.50 a bisque/glaze firing in element cost instead of a dollar and a quarter if you were firing lower.

You got the kiln for almost nothing and whatever electrical wiring needed will be there for the next kiln and its a 43 year old kiln so if you can get 3-4 years out of it firing mid range it seems worth the trade off of a few years potential life. I mean I am assuming you are not trying to have a 43 year old kiln last forever.

Mid fire is by default called cone 6 but actually you can get there by firing lower and using heat work to get to 6. Most say about half an hour is a cones worth of heat. We fire to cone 5 and then soak for 20 minutes using an electronic controller and get a 50% bend on the 6 cone. So if you use cone packs with a 5/6/7 cones and put 6 cone in sitter to start and then keep really good logs so you can see element decline with the cone reduction and you know how long to fire and turn off if it never actually trips the cone in the sitter, I bet you can hit in striking distance of cone 6 firings and just replace your elements more often. Essentially you are getting a timed soak in a manual kiln by just letting it naturally stall below cone 6 and knowing how long to let it do that. 

You could also buy a digital pyrometer for $50-$75 and actually watch the stall and then time it to get to 6. I hate looking through peep holes but you go just keep it running until the 6 bends and replace the elements when that starts getting too long.

I wouldn't go low fire just because you have an old cone 6 kiln without a fight. Unless you want to make low fire work that is :-)

Edited by Stephen

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A cone 6 kiln will only get to cone 6 when the elements are in perfect condition. That may mean only 30-50 firings. You could contact Skutt and ask them about using different elements that would allow that kiln to go to cone 10. That would mean that the kiln would pull higher amperage, though. Typically in an 18x18 kiln they pull 24 amps, which means you'd need a 30 amp breaker. You would probably need a new power cord to handle the higher amperage, and the internal wiring may need to be upgraded as well. All of that is pretty inexpensive, though, if you can do it yourself. If you got the kiln cheap, and the bricks are in good condition, it would be worth it.

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SUCH good advice from both Neil and Steven.  Thank you.  I love the idea of firing to ^5 and then a hold (?).    And another great idea to get ^10 elements.  I haven’t wired it yet, so i’m Quite flexible with the breaker/ amperage.   I’m still not convinced that I just don’t pull the trigger on a new Skutt 818-3.    I stumbled upon a set of valuable flatware at a thrift store.  If I can sell it, I’ll get more than enough to buy that new kiln.  ! !   Then I would just keep the 181 for raku.  :)

Thanks to everyone for their help! 

And can someone tell me if I *Have* to have 3” bricks in a ^10 kiln?    Or can I get away with the 2.5” brick?

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And can someone tell me if I *Have* to have 3” bricks in a ^10 kiln?    Or can I get away with the 2.5” brick?

 

Yes you will need 3 inch brick for cone 10 and really that is just a bare minimum .Forget about 2.5 for cone 10

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