I started with an Aim updraft 10 cu ft kiln with 3 burners in the center bottom with a bottom shelf about 6 in above the burners. It worked fine for bisk and could only get to cone 7-8 with bottom hotter than top for glaze firing, it was a great learning tool.
If possible find a manual on the internet or call Olympic for instruction on firing,and shelf placement.
There's a learning curve that is going to take some time but it's only Gas($$$) and pots($$$$) and time.
A gas updraft will work well and not fall apart on you as long as you are reasonably careful.
Study how they fire their kiln, ask question, take notes before you head off on your own.
A quick test to see if yur wheel is out of level is to clean the wheel head then put a small amt of water in the center. You'll see where the low point is and the faster the water goes the more the wheel is off.
I've had to change from standing to sitting because of hip issues and seem to need to readjust wheel height about twice a year,up or down a bit and level
I have used a hand press for a home made tile air release system. The hydrocal should be fine but if you wanted a little softer die then add about 25 % plaster to the hydrocal. Hobbylobby should have some silicone rubber for the masters.
If you need another source, give Rampress a call and find out what they recommend.
Therefore I am a brain surgeon, what ever I wish to be, but does the outside world agree?
In the movie example:
Mel Gibson has a good line in the Expendables 3 movie; he is observing a painting in a gallery, in a discussion with the gallery owner as the owner's assistant looks on. It is of an abstracted American flag. Mel's character says something like, "Look at this. It's just some paint, brush strokes on a cheap canvas, What do you want for it." "3 mil." "Done." Assistant grins ear to ear. Could be, that ARt is what the money says it is, & everybody follows.
For a certain segment of the population, this is entirely true, which argues for my previous point that in an affluent and segmented society, art is what that group says is art or values, morels, etc.
Thre is a very good definition that states, "all art is regional", which could imply geographic,social,ethnic, economic, etc regions.
So is there crossover between the production region and the academic region, the studio regions, of course but there are those that try and protect their regions.