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Brian Reed

Buy Vs. Build (Kiln Dilemma)

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It has become evident that the small updraft gas kiln I purchased and have been using is not going to keep up this next year.  It is only 8 cuft and the effort to keep up with demand will necessitate me doing a glaze fire almost every 2 weeks., which is more effort than I can realistically do.  Which tells me I need a new high fire glaze kiln. I my bisque in an electric kiln which is big enough for me now and for the foreseeable future, so I am good there.

 

My question was around what is the prevailing thought on build versus buy.  The component costs for building make that very attractive, but of course I have the build time that I will have to plan for.  The testing for either choice still exists, as I would have to test any new kiln to understand how it fires.  I am also going to change over to a downdraft which is more of what I am comfortable with and will eliminate some of the compromises I have to do with my current updraft kiln.

 

I am think I need a 24-30 cuft capacity kiln which will allow me a firing every 4-6 weeks or so, which is more reasonable.  A Laguna, Olympic, or Bailey all seem to be about the same price as a custom from Seattle Pottery Supply (SPS).  However all of these are considerable more that building my own.

 

I am confident that I can build a working kiln over a few weeks time period so that should be fine.  I just wanted to know any advice from people who have been in the same situation I am in.  I assume all potters have had this dilemma at some point in their past.  

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You can build for about half the price of buying, especially if you're planning on building your own burners. A good, safe burner setup from Ward will run you about $3000, but you could build your own for half that or less. Don't skimp on the safety systems. The system with a purchased kiln will be the ultimate in safety, however you can build a pretty good system yourself, or buy one from Ward.

 

Whichever way you go, the venting system for a kiln that size may have to be beefed up to handle the greater BTU's coming off the big kiln, depending on where your kiln is set up. More info about that, please.

Biglou13 likes this

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Start looking for a used one now-I hooked up a friend with a nice used geil (18 cubic) last year. It takes time to fine one.Kiln building is not as easy as learning to throw-there is a lot to it-easier to find a used kiln-we old timers are selling out -giving it up-kilns are starting to turn up as often as kick wheels

Mark

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John is right. In 1971, I helped design a Kiln for Mudflats in Boston area. We had to satisfy 3 different codes for the base alone. Fire Dept, building code and insurance code. Rural areas do make it simple, but always consider safety systems.

 

Marcia

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OK so after much thought and discussions with some local experience I have decided to build my own.  I found someone selling K26 firebrick for a crazy price (1100 full bricks and 100 that have been cut in half).  They started to get things to build a kiln, but they decided against it.

 

I head over to puck up the pallets today, hope it is as advertised.

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OK so after much thought and discussions with some local experience I have decided to build my own.  I found someone selling K26 firebrick for a crazy price (1100 full bricks and 100 that have been cut in half).  They started to get things to build a kiln, but they decided against it.

 

I head over to puck up the pallets today, hope it is as advertised.

 

It's like Christmas in December!

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unfortunately the guy was totally wrong about what was usable.  first there was only about 500 bricks on two pallets.  most were a rubbled mess and covered is mold and moss.  I passed.  back to the drawing board.  I am sure I will find a deal soon.

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When it comes to soft bricks they need to be dry stored-wet freeze cycles ruin them.

Call around to your supplies and see about damaged lots of soft bricks ( a friend got some great deals on a train wreck of soft bricks)-I can PM you a place in Portland that sells them cheaper than most suppliers especially in quainity-it is not a reatil scene

He has hard brick as well and some other odd ball stuff-they make the kiln shelves for scutt kiln kits

The place is really super. They used to make steel mill arc furnace plugs 3 ffet thick and 12 -15 feet in diameter-loaded them in kiln with fork lifts-They have a full time ceramic egineer on site. He will sell refractory materials as he has so many himself. They have tunnel kilns and extruders that are house sized.

Mark

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Mark any idea of east coast / south east, suppliers of same.^

(Pm me so I can keep it secret....)

 

Brian good luck. On your brick quest. It's a crusade I'm all to familiar with.

 

I was told (stories) of source of cheap to free refractory bricks, (secret elephant graveyard)..... It had to do with buss it's that needed to replace refractory material, per inspection standards, In this case it was steel mill. While no longer spec for their use, Still plenty of life for our use. But there must be more businesses that bricks are expendable for. After all the refractory companies still make bricks, and they are not getting fat on pottery market share. Please share any ideas on finds either here and or pm.

 

I own approx a 1/4 ish pallet of hard bricks. Some one collecting to build then, never built,

 

What's wrong with using the crappy bricks for insulating layer, how much did he want for bricks?

 

Mark I'm understanding the obsession with bricks. Like a young crazy cat lady I too am starting to collect brick. Every time I hear of or get close to getting more bricks my kiln plans become more and more grandiose.......

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I do not know of any east coast brick sources

I do reacll many years ago a kiln manufacture moved thier operations to the southeast as thats where soft bricks are made

Was that Olympic kilns in Georgia? They near you?call and ask about seconds-I bet they have a large pile

I know back in the day of a Cali kiln manufacture that had such a pile- I missed it but another potter hit the gold mine on that one

Think outside the box

 

Brian I know of a geil fiber kiln for cheap-its an 24 cubic foot in Or for 1k  or less was used for soda so it will need to be relined but the frame and burners may be ok.

Mark

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Mark,
     If you could pass along that contact for the Geil Kiln in OR that would be great.  I will give them a call. I would also be interested in your contact for fire brick. 

 

Thanks.

 

FYI you cannot receive new PM's your box may be full.

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One of the issues (here in the USA at least) is that we do not do much industrial level making any more. A lot of the "heavy industry" that used to be the prime markets for firebrick of all types is pretty much gone. Those that remain have mostly switched to ceramic fiber linings wherever possible due to soaring energy costs. So one of the reasons that the used firebrick market is drying up is that there are fewer and fewer companies relining furnaces/kilns every year.

 

If you are lucky, you can find an old manufaturing plant that is being ripped down.

 

This also has affected getting special refractory shapes from the suppliers. It used to be when I did a kiln for a client, I could get most any of the available shapes pretty much "off the rack". Now for a lot of the non-typical shapes that I often use..... months of lead time are needed for them to make them specifically for the order. Just in time manufacturing... they can't afford to have lots of limited market pieces lying around at dealers or watrehouses.

 

The lower level of market for bricks has also resulted in a dramatic rise in the prices even of the "stock" types of bricks. Fiber has not seen the same level of rise .... because it is still being used a bit.

 

FYI....... in Japan I can get BEAUTIFUL quality SK32 dry pressed (true high duty) bricks for about 90 円 (Yen) apiece when I've built kiln there. At todays exchange rate, that is a tad less than a Dollar. Although severely impacted by cheaper Chines manufacturing also, they still have an active ceramic industry (as well as manufacturing in general).

 

best,

 

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

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It is funny how things work out.

 

I decided to ask my clay supplier if he had heard of anything and it so happens that he has an old Alpine kiln 24cuft in his back warehouse.  He said the burners were bad and the guy never came back and just left it.  I was told I could get it for next to nothing.  The brick lining is good, but needs a new burner setup.  I am going to run over there next week and see if I can salvage it!  Maybe convert to a downdraft in the process.

 

Fingers crossed.

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Those old Alpines can have issues-so look for the interior wear and tear-the old burner systems are all forced air and the whole kiln wieghs about double as its wrapped in thick steel.Full metal jacket deal.

I have beenaround many-fired more than i recall in school-at one time these where state of the art-That was then they are old school now. I have seen a few go for free as getting rid of them has been an issue. 

You could plug up the roof hole and cut a hole in lower back wall and add a stack.

Good luck

Mark

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I was the Alpine production manager and tech for a couple of years. I've seen 40 year old Alpines still going strong. The brick work can last forever if it's taken care of, but burner systems do wear out. Be careful digging into those kilns, though. If the kiln was made in Elk Grove Village, IL or Sturtevant, WI, the insulation behind the bricks is most likely vermiculite mixed with portland cement. Not terribly dangerous compared to some types of insulation, but a real mess to get out. If the kiln was built when Alpine was in California, nobody knows for sure what was used behind the bricks. They did not keep good records back then. Could be the same thing, or could be abestos or something similar, since they used that for a lot of things back then.

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......... the insulation behind the bricks is most likely vermiculite mixed with portland cement.

 

Some vermiculite, particularly the old stuff, was contaminated heavily with asbestos.  This made the health and litigation news in the past 10 years or so.

 

http://www.asbestos.com/asbestos/vermiculite-compounds.php

 

best,

 

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

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......... the insulation behind the bricks is most likely vermiculite mixed with portland cement.

 

Some vermiculite, particularly the old stuff, was contaminated heavily with asbestos.  This made the health and litigation news in the past 10 years or so.

 

http://www.asbestos.com/asbestos/vermiculite-compounds.php

 

best,

 

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

 

 

Good to know!

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