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Frustration Finding A City Workspace!


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#1 mregecko

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Posted 08 May 2014 - 12:29 PM

Sorry for the venting (no pun intended), but I'm just really frustrated.

 

I've been looking for months for my own space that I can install a gas kiln in, and it's just ridiculously difficult in a city (I'm in San Francisco).

 

And every time I find a place that's OK with me installing a kiln, they don't have natural gas service and there isn't enough (non-publicly accessible) outside space for a large propane tank. 

 

I shouldn't complain too much... I have a place in a nice group studio that has a few mid-fire electric kilns, but I just really miss high-fire reduction, and would love to work in my own studio at my own pace.

 

It would be different if I had the money to buy a place, but that's just prohibitively expensive. Renting is all I can do. I keep looking for warehouse listings, artist studios, basement workshops, welding spaces, etc....

 

Has anyone else gone through this and have some words of encouragement or wisdom?



#2 Tyler Miller

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Posted 08 May 2014 - 12:54 PM

Maybe try looking for a space for mechanics or metalworkers.  I'm on the hunt as well and haven't had too much luck, but spaces like that will usually be plumbed in for what you're looking for, and are familiar/comfortable with fire.



#3 Wyndham

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Posted 08 May 2014 - 12:56 PM

Why not head out of town, up the coast to some small town where you find an old for rent property with a gas tank. Make and bisk where you are and go out to the boonies to glaze and fire once a month or so?

 

Wyndham



#4 mregecko

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Posted 08 May 2014 - 01:01 PM

Tyler, that's kind of the direction I've been going. Looking into welding and metal shops. Most of them are large hangers with open floor plan, which can be tricky with noise and clay dust... But I'm going to keep looking.

Wyndham, that is another option I'm considering. I'd honestly prefer to have my own space entirely from start to finish, but if I can't make that happen, then it may be my best option.

#5 Stephen

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Posted 08 May 2014 - 03:07 PM

have you considered oil. I think it is possible to have a storage tank inside an industrial type building and I know folks keep them in basements and garages. 



#6 TJR

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Posted 08 May 2014 - 03:19 PM

mregeko;

Unfortunately, it has become very difficult to get gas kilns passed these days. You have to jump through a lot of hoops.

1.The simplest option is to move to the country where restrictions are fewer.

2.Find a buddy who has an existing gas kiln, and fire with him/her.

I am in the same boat. I have a beautiful studio, and a bisque kiln, but not enough room for a gas kiln. I fire with another potter. Not ideal I know, but it's doable.

I had my own gas kiln, but shut the gas metre off when I doing doing Majolica. They [the city]was  charching me $100.00 a month gas charge whether I used that much gas or not. When I went to hook it up again, they refused.

Our own local clay supplier; Sounding Sound, moved to an industrial area, rebuilt their gas kiln, but were forced to jump through so many hoops, that they just gave up. If anyone could get a kiln hooked up, it would have been them.

Things have tightened up a lot with gas and kilns these days.

You have my sympathy. Been there.

TJR.



#7 JBaymore

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Posted 08 May 2014 - 03:44 PM

As a kiln designer and builder.... you can still often get them in. It is just harder (read more expensive) now.  You have to know how to "talk their talk" and not come across as a "potter".  Package stuff up like a developer or a contractor.  Lots of slick paperwork and the right exact terms.

 

And do note that SOMETIMES all of those expensive regulations and safety stuff are things that too many of us have gotten away with not having for far too long.  There HAVE been some nasty issues with kilns.  But surprisingly when I did a study about "kiln disasters" a good while ago... the number of ELECTRIC KILN messes was REALLY large (yes... there are more electric kilns installed than gas kilns.)  Electric kilns often get installed really poorly, and often routine maintenence is sorely lacking.

 

Much as I hate to say it I often advise a client hitting the brick walls to get a Bailey of a Geil now. They are both AGA certified... which drops a HUGE amount of the "hurdles". But you are paying for that nice AGA certification; a lot less kiln for the buck than a site built unit.

 

best,

 

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


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#8 TJR

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Posted 08 May 2014 - 03:58 PM

As a kiln designer and builder.... you can still often get them in. It is just harder (read more expensive) now.  You have to know how to "talk their talk" and not come across as a "potter".  Package stuff up like a developer or a contractor.  Lots of slick paperwork and the right exact terms.

 

And do note that SOMETIMES all of those expensive regulations and safety stuff are things that too many of us have gotten away with not having for far too long.  There HAVE been some nasty issues with kilns.  But surprisingly when I did a study about "kiln disasters" a good while ago... the number of ELECTRIC KILN messes was REALLY large (yes... there are more electric kilns installed than gas kilns.)  Electric kilns often get installed really poorly, and often routine maintenence is sorely lacking.

 

Much as I hate to say it I often advise a client hitting the brick walls to get a Bailey of a Geil now. They are both AGA certified... which drops a HUGE amount of the "hurdles". But you are paying for that nice AGA certification; a lot less kiln for the buck than a site built unit.

 

best,

 

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

Good advice as always John. Ironically, I know someone who bought a display model of a Geil kiln at NCECA, 10 years ago, and still has not gotten it hooked up. I do know another potter who lives outside of town who got her Geil kiln installed immediately. I think it depends on who is doing the inspection. you are correct in stating that you should know what you are talking about-like how many BTU'S your burners put out.

Tom.



#9 mregecko

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Posted 08 May 2014 - 04:20 PM

Hi John - thanks for your comment and input, it's really appreciated. Especially since, in the process of researching this kiln, I've probably read every CAD and clayart post and repost of your amazing advice for indoor gas kiln installations, working with local codes, etc.

I will say, despite how tough the SF market is for studio space, I AM fortunate for two things:

1.) SF building codes and regulations for gas kilns under 20 cu. ft. are actually very reasonable. Over 20 and you get into a TON of hardships. But smaller gas kilns (I'm looking around 12-15 cu. ft.) aren't too bad.

2.) I have an amazing local ceramic shop that has a TON of experience installing kilns in the city, and a willingness / desire to help me make this happen.

I just have to find someplace where I can house and fuel a kiln!

#10 neilestrick

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Posted 08 May 2014 - 05:13 PM

Make sure you're on the same page about the cubic footage. When potters say 20 cubic feet, they mean stacking space, and the actual interior volume is  more like double that. When the city says 20 cubic feet, they may mean total volume, not stacking space.

 

I went through all this 6 years ago when I moved my shop. The problem was not the village building codes, it was the fire codes. My first shop was in a free standing building, which makes it much easier to get things done. They don't care so much if you burn down your own place. When I moved, every space I looked at was a multi-tenant structure (light industrial/office park). Suddenly there were all sorts of fire code rules that didn't apply before. In order to put a gas kiln in my current space I would have had to add 2, possibly 3, layers of drywall to the wall separating my space from the neighbor in order to meet fire code. The other big issue was that the gas meters are clustered in the middle of a 24 unit building, and I'm at the end. I would have had to upgrade 200+ feet of gas pipe i order to deliver the volume needed for the kiln. The cost: $12,000. More than I spent on the kiln. My HVAC guy also wanted $6,000 to move the vent I originally paid $6,000 to have built and installed.

 

All of this was what made me do something I had been considering doing anyway- I switched to cone 6 electric. And I must say I don't miss firing the gas kiln one bit.

 

Regarding John's comment about electric kilns: Most all safety issues with electric kilns come from user errors/laziness that are simple to avoid. Usually they come from bad wires, either in the wall or in the kiln, or form the plug/outlet. They wear out and short and cause sparks and possibly fires. Regular maintenance checks can prevent most of those from happening. The other danger is form people setting combustible things on or near the kiln. This happens most often in community studios and schools, where many people who are not familiar with the kiln are working near it. I've seen all sorts of fun stuff melted to the sides of kilns. 


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#11 mregecko

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Posted 08 May 2014 - 05:14 PM

Just in case people were curious, SF has no standing amendments to 2013 CA Mechanical Code 930.0, which governs the installation of small ceramics kilns (< 20 cu. ft).

 

The main concerns are clearance, hoods, gravity ventilation ducts, makeup air, and automatic shutoff devices in case of ignition failure. Pretty reasonable.

 



#12 mregecko

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Posted 08 May 2014 - 05:22 PM

Oooh, Neil, that's a very good point regarding stacking space vs. internal space! I hadn't thought about that at all. I was going off of stacking space numbers...

 

The two kilns that I'm looking at are the Olympic Downdraft DD9 & DD12. Looks like on the upper end, the interior volume of the DD12 is ~18 cu ft, with stacking volume of ~12 cu. ft.... So it looks like I make it, just barely.

 

I'll look into fire codes too, I haven't done the legwork there yet.

 

Regarding electric vs. gas.... I've done ^6ox for the past two years, and for another 2-3 years a while back. I can honestly say, every time I have something fired in a gas kiln, or see someone else's ^10rx work.... It makes me sad that it's not my default medium. The look / feel / warmth / spontaneity of something as simple as a nicely reduced shino -- it just "fits" me.

 

That's not to say I don't respect a lot of mid-fire / oxidation work, but it just doesn't make me feel the same. If that makes any sense.



#13 JBaymore

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Posted 08 May 2014 - 08:35 PM

Regarding John's comment about electric kilns: Most all safety issues with electric kilns come from user errors/laziness that are simple to avoid. Usually they come from bad wires, either in the wall or in the kiln, or form the plug/outlet. They wear out and short and cause sparks and possibly fires. Regular maintenance checks can prevent most of those from happening. The other danger is form people setting combustible things on or near the kiln. This happens most often in community studios and schools, where many people who are not familiar with the kiln are working near it. I've seen all sorts of fun stuff melted to the sides of kilns. 

 

That's exactly the kind of stuff I am talking about.  It is astounding how many bad install jobs I found out about and how many people installed kilns that did not know wehat they were doing.  And "saved money" by cutting corners.  And then had the issues down the road.

 

best,

 

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


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Professor of Ceramics; New Hampshire Insitute of Art

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#14 JBaymore

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Posted 08 May 2014 - 08:42 PM

 

Ironically, I know someone who bought a display model of a Geil kiln at NCECA, 10 years ago, and still has not gotten it hooked up.

 

I think that 10 years ago was maybe before they got the AGA certification.  Not sure on that one.

 

IMHO....... The commercial gas kiln manufacturers getting the AGA certs is very much a double edged sword for the ceramics community.  It is not doing the field a great favor.  They are feathering their own nests. 

 

By getting the certs, they are making site-built units look far less attractive to local governmental officials.  It gives them an optiion to recommend instead of a site built unit.  The problem there is the astronomical COST of those commercial units for the average potter (or even coop place).  You can build a perfectly safe site-built unit for FAR less.  But it is not "type accepted" even if the individual compopnents of the flame safety and combustion system are UL listed.

 

best,

 

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


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Immediate Past President; Potters Council
Professor of Ceramics; New Hampshire Insitute of Art

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#15 neilestrick

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Posted 08 May 2014 - 09:37 PM

I think they started getting the AGA certifications because of schools mostly. You can't put anything in a public school that's not certified.

 

When I built my gas kiln in my shop, it took forever to get the permit. Turns out the permit guy was having a hard time finding gas kilns in his spec books (duh). I ended up giving him a list of all the different parts being used on the burner system, all of which had some sort of UL or AGA certification. I got the permit right away then.

 

Chances are nobody in the city government or fire department where you live knows anything at all about kilns. And when they don't know anything about them they deny the permit. Too much liability at stake, and too much work for them to do the learning required to issue a permit. Having a unit that's already AGA certified is understandable to them.

 

The fire department doesn't have to know anything about how kilns work, they're just worried about the safety of the building structure and the air quality. So your venting guy will likely have to provide specs that confirm the venting is adequate for the kiln, and you'll have to make sure that your building meets fire codes for having a big hot kiln in it. Don't sign a lease until the city and the fire marshall have checked it out and given you something in writing that says you can put your kiln there. I had no problem with the city when I was moving, they pretty much deferred to the fire marshall.


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#16 Denice

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Posted 09 May 2014 - 08:25 AM

If you aren't able to put together you gas kiln don't give up on C6 electric glazes.  This is the area of glaze that had really exploded with new firing techniques, unique chemicals and layering.  If you scan the C6 electric glaze forums you'll find new techniques or glaze formula and tons of research to explore.  In the last 40 years it's gone from bland to wow.  Denice



#17 Stephen

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Posted 09 May 2014 - 11:37 AM

and the difference in installation and firing cost is not a small chunk of change. 



#18 jrgpots

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Posted 09 May 2014 - 04:19 PM

A local potter has decided to teach at Southern Utah University. He is moving from his home studio located in Toquerville, Utah, about 20 miles from Zion National Park. He is selling his home, studio, and kiln shed with three gas kilns. One is a large car loading, one medium size , and the smallest is about 16- 20 cubic feet. All are natural gas fired.

The address is 143 N. Toquerville Blvd
Toquerville, UT

House was built in 1929
2252 sq ft
0.44 acres
Kiln shed 1150 sq ft.
$209,900.00

You can see it on line if you want to leave San Francisco and CA heading to a small town in SouthWest Utah.

#19 Mark C.

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Posted 13 May 2014 - 10:20 AM

Considering SF is one of the most crowded cities space wise as well of the more costly citys.

I suggest looking southeast in the industrial areas near the New UCSF Bay hospital.

There are a very artists who share spaces south of Market as well.

Hope your wallet is large as this is prime costing space

How about some of the Presidio that opend up for various uses?

Mark


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