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Babs

Top Loading:front Loading, Ceramic Board:brick

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Babs    386

I am about to purchase a new kiln but am a bit more than worried about leaving my kiln sitter behind in the light of recent posts!

However that aside, what are your thoughts on the pros and cons of the above heading?

i have worked for many years with a top loading brick electric and a ceramic fibre gas.

I have left the gas behind as I live in a remote area and carting and handling gas cylinders is no longer an option for me, and the chimney of my gas k. had disintegrated for the last time.

I am thinking of ceramic board instead of brick but that limits me to a front loading.

Any feedback would be great.

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neilestrick    1,381

There's nothing wrong with digital controllers. They work quite well for most applications.  I fire thousands of pots a year with mine, with no trouble. A lot of what is being discussed here lately is theory and nit-picky stuff. Front loading kilns generally cost 3-4 times as much as top loaders because of the greater degree of engineering and labor required to build them. They usually do have some board insulation behind the brick, so they insulate better. But good ol' round electric kilns work great too, and are the most cost effective and easiest to set up.

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Chris Campbell    1,087

Depends ... If you are a shorter person you will find most top loaders harder to manage. If you pay more for lighter weight shelves it makes it easier. I would love a front loader but the price tag is too high ... Unless someone wants to trade theirs for a couple top loaders.

I also agree with Neil that digital controllers are excellent. I think they fire beautifully with very few problems. I have had two kilns with them for over twenty years and would never want to go back to firing within the limits of kiln sitters.

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Min    781

I’m a shorty and seemed to have a perpetual sore back when I had top loading kilns. Last kiln I bought is a front loader, much easier on my back to load. I agree with Neil and Chris about the merits of digital controllers. 

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neilestrick    1,381

One thing to consider if you have trouble getting into round kilns is getting one that is only 18" tall. If you're looking into a 23 inch wide, 27 inch tall kiln, you could get a 28 inch wide by 18" tall and have roughly the same cubic footage. Or get an 18" tall oval or rectangle instead of a 27 tall by 28 wide.

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Chris Campbell    1,087

I wish I had given more thought to my kiln purchases ... I just saw the ones they had in the teaching places and figured they were best. That's OK for one kiln but I wish I had done the oval shorter one for the second. For over fifteen years I did a large volume of wholesale and needed two kilns. If I were starting out my business today and buying a kiln, I think I would take the leap and go with a front loader. I would have had to work differently, but it would have been simpler.

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neilestrick    1,381

Here's the front loader I sold to Columbia College in Chicago. We just moved it into place last week. It took 2 hours and 4 people to move it from the 1st floor loading dock into the kiln room on the 10th floor. It's an L&L EL2448. 16 cubic feet. Powder coated frame. It's areal beauty. But it costs more than twice as much as a top loader of the same size.

post-6933-0-18552700-1384361848_thumb.jpg

post-6933-0-18552700-1384361848_thumb.jpg

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perkolator    54

if $ isn't a concern, top load vs front load are not your only options for kilns - there are also kilns with ring lifters (ex: L&L "Bell-Lift" kilns) as well as modular kilns (ex: Skutt "Transformer" kiln) both of which may help save your back at the expense of your wallet.

 

sure, kiln sitters are great devices because of their simplicity, but no comparison to computer controls.  just being able to do temp holds or down-fire w/o having to "trick" the sitter are huge advantages that the sitter cannot really do.

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Babs    386

Thanks for your thoughts people. I have limitations as I live rurally and freight is a b.... Also on an Island! SO I am leaning to the lighter kiln, ceramic board front loader. My cons are:

aging,(me), and weight of kiln shelves moving away from the midline of my body.

Not being able to look down at shelf of ware and see the distance of pots from each other.

Short woman but steps are a poss.

Honestly I'd love another top loader, but my choices here are brickm heavy, and round/hexagonal.  A take on the Skutt kilns I think. I still make some pretty big rectangular platters. Light bricks available??

SO I'll prob keep mulling over these things until the old, daily care needing , square kiln in my life , or the very ancient man who still manufactures bits for these kilns decide to give up entirely.  COmpany stopped making them about 35 years ago!

Murphy again, almost settled on a kiln and the old one conveniently still in my studio sparks up and fires beautifully foolong me until the next tight firing schedule appears.

Need to think about this a lot.

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JBaymore    1,432

Go with Advancer shelves.  I can hold an 18" x 1 8" one at arms length with no effort at all.  Makes a world of difference on the back.

 

However .... get ready for sticker shock.

 

Butr it is WAY cheaper than back surgery. ;)

 

best,

 

................john

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Babs    386

Thanks John,

I'll look into Aussie equivalent.

Pit firing is starting to look attractive except for the short fire season!

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neilestrick    1,381

The front loader may or may not be any lighter than the top loader. While the insulating board is lighter than the brick, the metal framework for front loader is much more extensive, and may make it heavier in the end. Check the actual weights. The added hieght of the front loader may make the shipping more expensive, too. Get freight quotes for both.

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Babs    386

Been there, done that! But being a much shorter person and deeper kiln I am actually doing a fairly advanced gymnastic movement when replacing the bottom element.... thankfully no avid photographers around at the time.

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Hi Babs

 

I thought of the following......ceramics is a commitment to me, which means firing 2-3 times/week and several hours loading and unloading ware and firing late or overnight

....so I decided to spend the money up front on a front loader to make my workload easier and a Bartlett V6 digital controller which allows me to start the firing at 4am, fully control every element of the firing schedule and experiment with different schedules

 

....in the end I guess, you're going to have this essential piece of equipment for many years, you will be spending quite a bit of time loading and unloading, and you would come to really like the ease and flexibility of multiple firing options.....and...you're going to want to love working with it

 

I live in Sydney so I had more options but I am very short and started ceramics later in life so health matters did count when I set up my studio

... my 5 cents worth is buy the best set up you can afford and really want now, because you will be working with it for some time  ....it would be a shame to choose the 'cheaper, I'll manage with it now' option if it could mean health issues or frustrations crop up to spoil your enjoyment of the kiln

 

I bought 2 electric kilns + 2 controllers for my studio, a mid sized Tetlow brick and a small Ward brick, both came secondhand from private sellers after careful scrutiny at fairly good prices  ... with the Ward which is a discontinued South Australian make I had a technician replace all the elements and electricals from 10amp to 15 so it can fire to stoneware as well....  it did cost a good deal of money but in the end not as much as one brand new one of top or front loader models.  Both kilns will probably outlast my ceramics career and will still have a decent resale value. 

 

Buy what you really want now, within your budget, so you always love using it.

 

Let us know what you decide.

 

Irene

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Babs    386

Thanks Irene,

I am now speaking with an electrician, will prob go the way of front loading, I guess I will learn how to space my pots without seeing them from above!

Like you , not a tall person and now wanting to focus more on ceramics, I want to have a kiln suitable for the rest of my days, making it a priority!

Christmas is coming!! 

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