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Pieter Mostert

Buying A Used Kiln: Paragon Tnf 23-3 Vs Skutt Km 818

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EDIT: The Paragon seems to be a TNF 82 (can't edit the topic unfortunately). I thought it was the 23-3 based on the advertised volume, but this doesn't seem right.

 

I'd like people's opinions on the Paragon TNF 82 and Skutt KM 818 kilns. I'm hoping to buy a second-hand top-loading kiln some time soon, and these are the only two options at the moment.

Dirtroads had a post about the elements on a Paragon TNF 23-3 not handling cone 6 firings very well. Is this also true for the Paragon TNF 82? How about the Skutt? I may end up firing mostly earthenware, but it would be nice to go to higher temps if necessary. Any other issues?

The Skutt seems to be in better condition, judging by photos I've seen (It's in a different city, so I haven't been able to check it out myself, but a much more experienced potter friend has, and thinks it's in pretty good shape). I'm told that it's been fired at most 20 times,
and the current owner bought it 7 years ago but never used it. I don't know much about the history of the Paragon, but I'll find out tomorrow when I have a look at it. Is there anything in particular I should look out for?

Just based on the specs and price, the Skutt would suit me better. However, I've asked the lady selling it to have it tested, just to make sure the controller's still working, but it's been about 6 weeks and she hasn't done anything.  So if the Paragon is in good enough condition, I may have to go with it, since second-hand top-loaders don't pop up very often around here.

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I had a look at the Paragon, which I think is a TNF 82. (The specs are slightly different to those given online, but I'm assuming this is because the kiln is an 'international' model). From my perspective, The Paragon's main advantage, besides being in the same city, is that it's deeper than the Skutt; 566mm vs 440mm. The diameters are the same. However, the Paragon's been used more often; the current owner used it 20 - 30 times, and the previous owner used it to fire porcelain (not sure how often). The controller cover has quite a bit of rust, but the bricks are mostly in good condition.

 

For what I'm planning to fire, a deeper kiln would be better, but limiting myself to pots that will fit in the Skutt won't be too much of a restriction. I'll have to have wiring done in my studio, so a smaller kiln will need less expensive wire. I'll probably be moving to another studio within the next year or two, so I'd like to keep the cost of electrical work down. Both kilns have digital controllers, but the Skutt's is programmable, unlike the Paragon's. The Skutt is also quite a bit cheaper than the Paragon; R6 250 vs R10 000 (divide by 10 to get approximate amounts in dollars).

 

If it were just a matter of chosing between the two, I'd go for the Skutt (assuming I could be sure the controller still works). However, as I mentioned before, I'm still waiting for it to be tested, and can't wait indefinitely. 

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Both kilns have digital controllers, but the Skutt's is programmable, unlike the Paragon's. The Skutt is also quite a bit cheaper than the Paragon; R6 250 vs R10 000 (divide by 10 to get approximate amounts in dollars).

The Paragon TnF-82 has a digital controller. The Paragon kilns made during the 1990s use the same brand of controller as the Skutt digital kilns. The newer Paragon kilns use the Orton controller.

 

If you are firing to cone 6, you should get a kiln with 3" walls. The TnF-82 has 2 1/2" walls. The TnF-82-3 has 3" walls. If you are not sure about the model number, ask to see a picture of the electrical data plate, which is mounted to the side of the kiln's switch box.

 

Sincerely,

 

Arnold Howard

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

ahoward@paragonweb.com / www.paragonweb.com

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Sounds to me like the paragon is what you want. Deeper and chaeaper. If the bricks are in good shape and if the controller works, really all that might need replacing are elements. Don't know how many R they cost in South Africa but in the US they are around $40 each. You could replace them all, assuming they are about the same cost, and still be dollars ahead. The 3 inch wall is a bonus if it has them. If not, they both are the same dimension so neither is better, in that regard.

 

As an aside, my very first kiln when I was a teenager, many many years ago was a Paragon. With I think only one switch. It worked fine and I bet I had it for 30 years before I sold it and it was in good shape when I sold it. They make a fine kiln clearly built to last.

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Foxden, the Paragon is more expensive (although the owner just dropped the price to R8 500).

 

Arnold, I'm pretty sure it's the 82 since I remember the max temp was 2300F, whereas the max for 82-3 is 2350F. My friend took a photo of the electrical plate data, so I can double check when he sends it to me. If I regularly fire to cone 5 in a TNF 82, will it significantly reduce the element life? How much of a difference is there in electricity consumption compared with the TNF 82-3? The current owner said she used to fire to 1200C (2192F) in 8 - 10 hours, which I'm guessing is cone 5 or 5 1/2.

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Mark, it's not a case of choosing between a Paragon TNF 82 or 82-3. My only options are a Paragon TNF 82 and a Skutt KM 818, both of which have 2.5 inch bricks, and both of which are second-hand. Should I assume the Skutt will also have trouble firing to cone 6? It's rated as cone 10, as is the version with 3 inch bricks.

 

Of course, I could wait until something else comes up, but the last second-hand top-loader I came across was about 3 months ago.

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Take Arnold Howards advice

(If you are firing to cone 6, you should get a kiln with 3" walls.)

He works for Paragon a large electric kiln company and knows his stuff well-way better than I on electrics.

I only bisque fire to 1,800 i(cone 08) in an electric and thats rarely and it has a 3 inch wall.

My 3 skutts all say cone 8 but two of them are only 2.1/2inch walls and would take forever long to get there.Skutt over rated those cone numbers as far as I'm concerned with the thin walls.

For me a 3 inch wall is as thin as I would ever buy.

If the price is low and electric costs are low well maybe consider it.

I'm not a skutt fan-Get the one in best condition if you must.

Mark

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I have a KS 818 (same kiln with a Kiln Sitter) with 2.5" walls and it reaches cone 7 without trouble. Even when I didn't mean to.

 

3" walls will be more energy-efficient, of course, but beggars can't be choosers when shopping Craigslist and the like.

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I have the Skutt 818 and it is a fine little programable kiln which will go to cone 9 without any problems.  I have also used programable paragons at the University and they are great kilns as well.  So either one should do the job for you.  If its a matter of price you might want to take the one that is least expensive.

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Thanks for the advice everyone. If I knew the controller on the Skutt worked, I'd have bought it long ago, but I'm still not having any luck getting the owner to test it. So I may have to settle for the Paragon.

 

I should add that I was wrong about the Paragon's controller not being programmable, as Arnold pointed out. It's a DTC 800C, which seems to be the version Paragon used in the 90's.

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I'm always leery of buying used equipment from someone who won't properly demonstrate that it works.

 

Paragon makes good kilns, and Arnold Howard is like a national treasure. Not that he won't help with any kiln, but you're sure to be able to make a used Paragon work with Arnold backing you up.

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why do people think that 2 1/2 inch brick would have trouble getting to cone 6???

 

i used an paragon 88b from 1972 until 1992 when i was given an even older paragon that was much larger.  both of them went to cone 6 easily.  the original one was 18x18 inches inside and the next one was 27X21 i think.  i never replaced elements in either one. the larger one was run off a TnF controller unit on the wall so i could use either kiln with it by changing the plug.  when i moved here the controller was installed and i used it for several more firings.  then  i DID blow up the larger one sometime in the last 10 years but i know that replacing all the wiring in it will bring it back to life.  (don't let those old elements stretch out into the middle of the kiln!)

 

enter the L&L i now use.

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Oldlady and Carl, that's reassuring. I do wonder if the reason Paragon only recommends the 2.5 inch kiln be used for low-fire is because the element grooves in the TNF 82 extend further into the wall than usual, resulting in the elements lying closer to the outside. I may be completely wrong about this.

 

At any rate, I'm trying out various earthenware clay bodies at the moment, and if I find one that suits me, this won't matter so much. But it's always nice to have the option of firing higher.

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I should add that I was wrong about the Paragon's controller not being programmable, as Arnold pointed out. It's a DTC 800C, which seems to be the version Paragon used in the 90's.

The DTC 800C is a Bartlett controller similar to the one Skutt uses. Years ago we had a distributor in New Zealand who considered the DTC 800C the best controller Bartlett produced.

 

Sincerely,

 

Arnold Howard

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

ahoward@paragonweb.com / www.paragonweb.com

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Oldlady and Carl, that's reassuring. I do wonder if the reason Paragon only recommends the 2.5 inch kiln be used for low-fire is because the element grooves in the TNF 82 extend further into the wall than usual, resulting in the elements lying closer to the outside. I may be completely wrong about this.

We still use the dropped, recessed brick groove that the A-series kilns of the 1960s and 70s had. The newer grooves have the same depth (or very close to the same depth) as the early grooves, but the opening is wider to allow larger elements to be threaded.

 

As others have stated, you can fire to cone 6 with a 2 1/2" wall kiln. The 3" wall merely enables the kiln to reach that temperature more easily.

 

Some of you have posted very kind comments. Thank you!

 

Sincerely,

 

Arnold Howard

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

ahoward@paragonweb.com / www.paragonweb.com

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