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Mesi

Kiln options

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Mesi    3

So. I have a budget of roughly $2,000 for a new kiln (trying to keep costs as low as possible, but also address what my real kiln needs are), and I'm looking at two different kilns of the same brand (which I won't mention here, because it's irrelevant to my decision) but different sizes and features.

 

I could get a 2.9 cu ft kiln with 3" brick and automatic firing for $1649

 

OR

 

I could get a 4.6 cu ft kiln with 2.5" brick, but equipped with a kiln sitter for $1774

 

OR

 

I could get a 4.2 cu ft kiln with 3" brick with kiln sitter for $1874

 

 

I have a small scale pottery business, but I was firing at least every week and sometimes 2-3 times a week with my old (deceased) 2.6 cu ft kiln. The deceased was also manual.

 

So what would you do? I need some opinions here. Do I go with the larger manual kiln because of how often I was firing my last one? How important is 3" brick vs 2.5"? Kiln sitter vs automatic controller- am I missing out hugely? Will I even KNOW since I've never used a kiln with auto before? Would it be better to get a larger kiln manual or a smaller one auto? I have no idea, and I'm thinking myself in circles. I needed opinions so I thought I'd ask you all. :)

 

Please help?

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Min    779

Is there a reason why you are only looking at new kilns? My preferance would be to look for a used larger kiln with the thicker walls and a controller. A controlled cool down in an electric kiln really can change the glaze and is a great help if you are planning on doing any properly formulated matt glazes in the future or some of the iron reds or phase seperation glazes. You can do a controlled cool down with a manual kiln but it's much easier and more accurate with a controller. If it has a vent then all the better.

 

Transporting a used kiln usually means the elements will have to be replaced unless you luck out and find one where the kiln has only been fired a few times or to earthenware temps. You said your last kiln is no longer working, would it be possible to fix it and use that for your bisque where you can cram a lot of pots in and then use a new kiln for glaze firing? Not much that can't be fixed on a used kiln.

 

Min

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neilestrick    1,381

If you're buying new, get the digital controller. You'll love it. The firing options are wonderful. If you're willing to get a sitter kiln, then buy used. You can pick up a used kiln with decent bricks for $500, and even if it needs a full set of elements and switches you'll still come out under $1000. It might take some time to find the right kiln for you, though.

 

Be sure to check the amperage draw if you go to a larger kiln. It may require an upgrade to your wiring, which will add to the cost.

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Mesi    3

Is there a reason why you are only looking at new kilns? My preferance would be to look for a used larger kiln with the thicker walls and a controller. A controlled cool down in an electric kiln really can change the glaze and is a great help if you are planning on doing any properly formulated matt glazes in the future or some of the iron reds or phase seperation glazes. You can do a controlled cool down with a manual kiln but it's much easier and more accurate with a controller. If it has a vent then all the better.

 

Transporting a used kiln usually means the elements will have to be replaced unless you luck out and find one where the kiln has only been fired a few times or to earthenware temps. You said your last kiln is no longer working, would it be possible to fix it and use that for your bisque where you can cram a lot of pots in and then use a new kiln for glaze firing? Not much that can't be fixed on a used kiln.

 

Min

 

 

I'm sort of looking at used kilns too, but you never know what you're getting or how long it'll last. My last kiln was used, and it's an old ceramic fiber kiln. The elements are embedded in the fiber, so they can't be replaced. It's fine for bisque, and can still get about as high as cone 4. Most of the used stuff I'm seeing on craigslist within a 2 hour drive is looking pretty rough, and I have shows lined up throughout the summer, so I can't afford to wait around for very long.

 

I mean, do you think its a complete waste to get a new one?

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neilestrick    1,381

I was just checking prices online. There are a lot of 4.4 cubic foot kilns with digital controllers within your budget. Is there any reason you're stuck on whatever brand you're looking at? Give me a call if you need info on L&L.

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Mesi    3

I was just checking prices online. There are a lot of 4.4 cubic foot kilns with digital controllers within your budget. Is there any reason you're stuck on whatever brand you're looking at? Give me a call if you need info on L&L.

 

 

For the sake of ease I was just going with one of the brands my local supplier stocked so that I would be able to go to them for parts and support in the future (Bonus: free shipping). They're great people and have never steered anyone I know wrong. Of the brands they carry, they recommended this one based on my needs and usage.

 

Obviously, I have never had to shop for kilns before (my current busted one was free, a Nova 18 if you've ever heard of them). I know L&L are what most people recommend, but they aren't carried locally and where I was looking online they looked a little out of my budget. $2000 is really the ultra top end of what I have to spend, so even the larger kilns I was looking at are getting up there.

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neilestrick    1,381

It's not a waste to get a new kiln. It'll last you 20 years or more. And I totally understand about buying local, that's always a good thing. But make sure you're getting what you really need or want. I say if you're buying new you should get something that's got the latest technology, since it will last so long.

 

What size kiln shelves do you have? What size breaker is your current kiln on?

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mregecko    18

What temperature are you firing to? I'm not a kiln expert compared to many here, but the brick thickness mainly affects heat retention / efficiency... Which is going to matter most for higher firings (^6+). It will save you money on lower firings too, but you'll recognize it more at the higher temps.

 

Do you already have a downdraft vent? What were the interior dimensions of your old kiln? (It would be nice if you could reuse shelves, if it's the same diameter).

 

For my needs, I honestly don't like firing manual... Controlled ramps, holds, and cooldowns are too useful. But that's my personal preference.

 

As for brand, L&L's are great. So are Skutts and Paragons, in my experience.

 

I understand the convenience and immediacy of going with a local store, but personally -- if I can find a better deal with a reputable online retailer -- I would go with that. Support is going to come from the kiln manufacturer anywho, and replacement parts can be delivered in 1-2 days if needed. Worth the savings, in my book.

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Min    779

I'm sure neilestrick has the best info/price but if you are interested in another option, inbetween size with controller, spare set of elements, kiln furniture and free freight then Bailey has a sale right now. It's 160 more than you want to spend but maybe worth a look.

 

link to it: http://www.baileypot...kilns.htm#Super

 

I have one of their mixer pugmills, very well built and they were terrific with answering questions.

 

Min

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neilestrick    1,381

I would not feel bad about asking your local supplier to match an online price. They'll still make a profit if they do. You can find a 4.4 cu/ft with digital controller from most brands for under $2000.

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OffCenter    82

I was just checking prices online. There are a lot of 4.4 cubic foot kilns with digital controllers within your budget. Is there any reason you're stuck on whatever brand you're looking at? Give me a call if you need info on L&L.

 

 

For the sake of ease I was just going with one of the brands my local supplier stocked so that I would be able to go to them for parts and support in the future (Bonus: free shipping). They're great people and have never steered anyone I know wrong. Of the brands they carry, they recommended this one based on my needs and usage.

 

Obviously, I have never had to shop for kilns before (my current busted one was free, a Nova 18 if you've ever heard of them). I know L&L are what most people recommend, but they aren't carried locally and where I was looking online they looked a little out of my budget. $2000 is really the ultra top end of what I have to spend, so even the larger kilns I was looking at are getting up there.

 

 

While there are obvious advantages of buying locally, it may be worthwhile to shop around outside your area. There is a lot of competition online and that is where you're probably going to get the best deal (and free shipping) and, most importantly, you aren't limited to the brands your local dealer stocks. Also, there is no reason to depend on you local dealer for replacement parts. Once again, most likely, you'll find replacement parts quicker and cheaper online. I buy elements from Canada and even with international shipping pay a lot less than I would if I bought them from a ceramic supply store within driving range. In the last few years I've bought 3 new elec and 1 small new gas kiln, each from a different place out of state at huge savings over what I would have paid locally.

 

If you go with a sitter instead of a computer, you should really consider used kilns. It's what's inside that counts so don't judge one too harshly just because it looks bad on the outside and, except for oddball kiln's like yours, it's really easy to replace elements and most other kiln parts.

 

Jim

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I would not feel bad about asking your local supplier to match an online price. They'll still make a profit if they do. You can find a 4.4 cu/ft with digital controller from most brands for under $2000.

 

 

this. having sold kilns retail before, our margins were ~35%-40% and we didn't pay shipping due to the quantity we would order. This meant that often we would match prices that folks would find online to keep the business local, and we would still make money selling accessories. In retail in general, big ticket items don't make the most money--its the accessories that do the heavy lifting.

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oldlady    1,323

i lived with old kilns for years until i finally could afford a new L&L about ten years ago. i learned the following:

 

having a controller meant i did not have to babysit the kiln and remember it was time to turn up a switch

 

having 3 inch bricks meant that the shelves i used to use would fit inside but it is a tight fit to get my fingers around the shelf while lowering and raising it (top loading kiln). the extra inch of brick takes up space INSIDE the kiln, not outside

 

i love the fact that i can lift the shelf and accidentally touch the bricks, ( i am almost 73 and not so strong anymore) and not worry about breaking them because the elements are inside hardbrick casings

 

i love the thermocouples that tell me temperature, top, middle and bottom so i know it is still to hot to open it

 

firing with a preheat setting means i can single fire my things eliminating bisque firings almost entirely

 

probably more, just my opinion

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Marcia Selsor    1,301

I love having a controller. I fired for decades without one. Get the biggest and best insulated kiln and go for a controller.

You will grow into it. And take care of it and it will last a long time.

 

Marcia

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Mesi    3

Thank you so much everyone, it's incredibly helpful to get so much advice. I'm planning on shopping around online some today and seeing what I can find. I only did a cursory glance the other day, since I was figuring on going to my supplier, but if the prices are better online I think it would be in my best interest to do that.

 

To those asking, I fire ^6 primarily right now. Sometimes earthenware. I would like the option to try cone 9/10. I do not have a vent, that's something that I plan on getting along with the new kiln, but it will probably have to wait a few months til I get some more funds. As for my kiln furniture, its an assortment of shelves, half-shelves, and broken shelves. They all fit pretty snugly into the 18" interior diameter of my current kiln. I do have a good variety of stilts.

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AtomicAxe    19

I could get a 2.9 cu ft kiln with 3" brick and automatic firing for $1649

 

OR

 

I could get a 4.6 cu ft kiln with 2.5" brick, but equipped with a kiln sitter for $1774

 

OR

 

I could get a 4.2 cu ft kiln with 3" brick with kiln sitter for $1874

 

 

 

While the computer firing kiln would be nice (can control ramps, do end soaks, slow cools, etc) so you can do all sorts of glazing ... the size sucks, i would try to save an extra grand to pump that size up if that is what you want.

 

Otherwise I'm going to say 4.2 with 3 inch brick and the kiln sitter.

 

But if you're going to try to save ... there are tons of those that people sell used kilns w kiln sitters that are fine for every day use that someone bought for their hobby, fired twice then let it sit there till the significant other of the house said 'IT GOES, NOW!' ... and generally about 1/4-1/2 the cost so if you need one now-ish and want to wait for your work horse kiln with the used one as a backup (good idea for a business kiln) go with a used one that has good soft brick and hasn't been fired to hell and back or kept outside. and use the profits of your first few firings to build your bank for the good kiln.

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oldlady    1,323

something else, most people who are not potters would not know a kiln size stated in cubic feet from their left foot. look for numbers ordinary people use when searching for a used kiln. "big" means nothing. if you can talk to a seller be prepared to ask these questions:

 

what is the outside measurement of only the kiln in height

does it sit on a stand and what does it measure

 

what is the inside measurement, have someone stick a yardstick down from the top

 

what does it measure across the top from one of its (probably ten) sides to the opposite

 

is it in sections so it can be carried through a normal door in pieces (and fit into your vehicle to bring home)

 

what does the printed label say (should show amps, temp voltage, etc ask neil) when the seller tells you the name of the kiln and says "sitter" you know to ask even simpler questions get the serial number and call the manufacturer for it's age

 

go look at it to inspect the condition, open the lid several times to check its hinge but don't think that cannot be strengthened

 

look at as many kilns in your area as possible so you can judge condition more accurately

 

 

someone else take over now. i am in a show in the winchester, va area today and it is raining like it will never stop. we lost many pots last evening at closing when the rain poured down and a sudden gust whipped our closed up tents and sent shelf units flying. thank god nobody hurt and the tents were closed so they did not fly away causing more damage. gotta go

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