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  1. I don't know if a kiln that small is worth much unless it was in decent shape. I am no real judge of kiln values, but the values seem to vary quite a bit over condition. What does it look like inside? Are the bricks clean and un-damaged? Have the elements been recently replaced? Or, are the insides chipped, stained, and worn, with sagging and oxidized elements? How about the power cord and shell conditions? And does it come with any furniture? Perhaps some pictures might help.
  2. You might also try contacting Indiana Ceramics Supply at the address below. I believe this company was related to Sugar Creek years ago, and someone there might have advice on where to go for more information, or for spare parts when needed. 1616 S. Spencer Ave, Indianapolis, Indiana 46203 (317) 955-8444
  3. This sounds like the old argument over weather photography is a true art-form. The photographer does not paint or draw the image. They just point and shoot. And yet many art shows these days will feature expensive photographic prints as original artwork. Today these prints often use expensive printing techniques to produce durable vibrant images using die sublimation, epoxy on metal, or other exotic printing techniques. In most of these, the artist does not not usually even own a printer that produces the finished work, but sends the data to a printing facility to have the finished works made. Is this art? Are these photographers really artists? Today, photography is recognized by most people as a legitimate art-form. The composition of an image, choice of equipment, lighting, angles, and even post processing, all contribute to the finished product. Most of us would admit that a professional photographer can usually produce images that are far superior to those of a casual photo enthusiast. There is clearly skill and artistry involved, even though some aspects of the process are automated. 3D printing will no doubt eventually find its some nitch in the artistic community. Exactly what that is will depend on how the technology progresses and what customers want . Right now, even a cheap 3D printer can be useful to a regular ceramic artist to at least produce tools. Need a custom cutter or trimming tool? You can make one out of wood, plastic, or metal if you have the skills, tools, and materials. But you can also 3D print something with relatively little effort. Do you want to emboss, or roll a pattern onto your work? You can buy or make a variety of tools, or you may want to 3D print them. If you want, you can even share these tools if you wish with other artists at any distance, and with little cost or effort on your part. But once you cross the line and actually print the finished ceramic work, or print the mold that will cast the ceramic piece, is this still OK? Have you automated too much of the process? Is that still art? How much different is this really from the folks who paint or glaze slip cast ceramics? Perhaps it will eventually come down to what customers value and are willing to pay for. The technology will continue to advance. Right now, it is too slow, and expensive to pose any real threat to most ceramic artists. And it lacks much of the character that truly hand crafted products usually poses. Some of that will change over time, and it is hard to say how far it can go. But another question is how will the artistic community respond to this new technology? Take a look at how photography effected the rest of the artistic community as it developed. I think you will start to see some artists embrace 3D printing as a new and interesting medium in its own right. But others will perhaps take a new look at what is that is unique about their work, and why it is different from 3D printed products. Before photography, most painting, and drawing, was focused on producing the best representation of what the world looked like. To document people, events, or scenes in the most realistic way possible. Photography can compete with some of that previous use for painting and other artistic representation. But rather than taking the place of traditional artwork, it actually freed up artists to embrace the more creative side of their craft. To develop new techniques of representation that were not necessarily realistic, but impressionistic. Art that conveyed emotions in ways they perhaps had not previously considered. So I ask you. If the technology for 3D printing ceramics becomes much cheaper, and faster, what would still make your work different? Is there a revolution about to take place in ceramics that will be initiated by the self reflection brought on by this new technology? Is one of you about to become a Picasso by distilling the essence of what is truly unique in handcrafted ceramics and taking a bold new direction with their art?
  4. Perhaps those of us responding to this thread are the ceramic wire nuts that Bill was referring to.
  5. If you are interested in the type of wire that normally gets used for this kind of setup, and know someone that has a commercially manufactured wall mount style controller, you can ask them what type of wire it uses. Most wire will have information printed on or stamped into the jacket that would include a part number that can be looked up online to determine the temperature rating. It might even have the temperature rating printed directly on the jacket. Common wire you might find at a home store is usually rated to around 90C or just under 200F. Various high temperature wire is available in the range of 200C to 250C, or about 400 to 500F. And there are some more exotic types that go even hotter. The exact way that the wire is used may affect the temperature ratings a bit. The fact that the wire is exposed to open air and not in a conduit shared with other wires helps a bit with temperature concerns. But the fact that this wire powers a kiln, which is a high current device with an automatic controller, can hurt. However, the biggest concern that jumps out is what appears to be a lack of electrical insulation at the connection points. I sure hope that you are being very careful. You probably should have someone knowledgeable in electrical wiring look over your setup to evaluate the safety.
  6. Thanks. I probably should have done more searching first. It seems that sieving is something that gets a lot of attention.
  7. My daughter just bought a screen for removing lumps from glazes. It is just a bowl with a screen on the bottom, and you need to brush or squeegee the glaze through. She mentioned that they make a better one with a crank that is like a sieve they sell for processing berries for jam, but they are fairly expensive. I decided to take a look online at the "better quality sieves, and got a bit of sticker shock. Are these things really $200? Even replacement parts seem outrageous. Just one (out of three total) replacement brush is $8.00 and looks like a dollar store fingernail scrubber. Am I missing something? Is it just the limited production that makes them so expensive, or are there less expensive sources? Or perhaps potters are just more flush with cash than I expected. They look relatively easy to make, so I think I will give it a try. I just found a nice stainless steel sieve at Goodwill for $3.99, and I can get enough 80 mesh stainless screen for making several replacement screens for about $11. I just need to fabricate, or 3D print, the brush holder, and find the right brushes to use. Has anyone converted a kitchen sieve for this purpose? Do you just use a manual sieve, pay the price, or make your own? I am starting to think that potters need to be either relatively resourceful, or wildly successful, since buying everything you might need adds up so quickly. I suppose you do not really need the hand crank version. But I can see why starting at a community studio where she did not need to invest right away in all of these things make a lot of sense.
  8. This is all very helpful. The slab roller is still just an idea, since I have several more time critical projects to tackle. However, if I do decide to build one, I will probably not be worried about using chain drive.
  9. I have had some success lately building an extruder and some custom dies for my daughter, so now I want to move on to the more ambitious project of a slab roller. I want to build something better than the do it yourself cable driven single roller type. Those are quite clever in design, but also seem to have many drawbacks. My daughter does mostly hand built work from slabs, so if I build one, I really want something with a wide two roller design similar to the North Star. I plan on using surplus thick wall aluminum irrigation pipe for the rollers. Knurling the rollers will take some effort, but I think I am up to it, and the tensionizing adjustment does not seem too difficult. But driving the rollers will be the real challenge. I do not have the ability to machine custom gears, and purchasing them can really run up the cost. Also, gears are much more fussy about precision alignment and engagement. But bicycle chains and gears are readily available and produced at an economy of scale such that they are very affordable. They also do not require as much precision, and by selecting the correct gears I think I can get a 4 to 1 reduction ratio similar to the high end machines.. But are they strong enough, and are there any unseen issues? I have seen some moving table style slab rollers that use cables or chains. Other than the known disadvantages of the moving table design over a dual roller design, how do they hold up? Do the chains wear quickly or break under heavy use? Has anyone ever tried driving a dual roller setup with chains, and discovered it is a dead end? Does anyone know how much force is needed to drive a roller on a system like this? And, am I crazy to consider trying this approach? The chain path will need a bit of thought to get the rollers to both move in the correct direction, and to also maintain proper tension as roller spacing changes. But am I missing something else that will be very important? Eventually I may just give up on the idea and just help her buy what she really wants. But like I said. I know that I can build the rollers and the tensionizer. It would really just be a matter of designing and fabricating the correct drive mechanism. What types of issues are seen on these dual roller units?
  10. I believe that the entire gas supply for both the pilot and the main burner is controlled by an electrically activated valve controlled by a thermocouple. That's really about all there is to the system. If the temperature sensor at the pilot is not hot enough to show that the pilot light is really on, no gas will flow to either the main burner or the pilot. The only other part of the system is the red button, which is just a simple momentary bypass valve to provides an easy way to light the pilot. It only supplies gas to the pilot though, not the main burner. With most of these valves there is even a mechanical lockout that only allows you to depress the red button and light the pilot with the manual control valve for the burner in the off or pilot only position, so that the appliance does not suddenly start up while you are still lighting the pilot. As always, exercise extreme caution around any gas appliance, and contact a knowledgeable professional if there are any issues. Also be aware that parts on most of these systems are not interchangeable. So, even if there are user replaceable parts, you will need to insure that you have the exact right replacement parts. So, if the pilot light lights when you press the red button, but then goes off when you release it, there are usually only four common reasons. 1. You did not hold the button long enough, so the thermocouple did not get hot enough. 2. The pilot light is not heating the thermocouple well enough to work due to alignment or flame issues. 3. The thermocouple is bad. or 4. the main switch is bad. Given your tests so far, (heating the thermocouple with an external source), 1, and 2, are probably not the issue. Cleaning the contacts was also a good move. It is still possible that you have a bad thermocouple. That is the most common failure point since it sticks directly into the flame and deteriorates over time. But a stuck or corroded valve is also a possibility. That is something that just should not be second guessed. If you have not tried replacing the thermocouple, you might try that. Otherwise it is time to replace the whole thing.
  11. Wow. Thanks for all the great advice. Particularly the videos. I will definitely forward that to my daughter. She is new to doing her own firing and kiln maintenance, so the advice should go a long way to getting her on the right track. BTW. I did end up calling Skutt. It took quite a while to get through to a technician. But once I did, they were quite helpful. Here is a summary of what they told me. If you are having trouble with the kiln not reaching temperature, or having long firing times, there is nothing better than reading the resistance directly with an ohm meter to better understand what is happening. However, for typical operation of a kiln with built in diagnostics, you should not need you to do that. Just using the diagnostics screen to read the current is probably all you need to do. For this kiln they said the current should read about 18 amps for the top and bottom elements when they are new, and 15 amps for the center elements, also if new. Once they drop to 16 amps or lower for the top and bottom elements, or 13 amps or lower for the center elements, they probably need to be replaced. I asked if reading the current was less reliable than reading the resistance. But they said that directly reading the resistance has no advantage as long as you have a good reading. If the current reads good, that is a reliable indication that everything is working properly. If the current is low there might be more reasons for it other than worn elements, such as low line voltage, a loose connection, or a failing relay. That is when you need to do more testing. But if the current reads good, that is the best indicator that you should get a good firing. They also said that if you are ever worried that a firing is taking a bit longer than expected, or something just does not seem right on an SK series kiln, you can reassure yourself by just hitting the 7 key on the front panel at any point during a firing. Hitting the 7 key while the kiln is firing will cause it to report the current in amps that each element set is pulling. You can compare that to the rated current for your kiln, and verify that the kiln is still operating properly. If one of the elements reads a really low or zero current, an element or relay is probably worn or damaged, and you will probably need to abort the firing. But otherwise it just helps to reassure you that everything is OK, and the firing is proceeding properly. I also asked if you had a bit more leeway in when you replace the elements, since my daughter is only firing to cone 6 rather than cone 10. But he said not really. Cone 6 does give you a little extra margin, but not a lot. If she was doing low fire work to say cone 06, you might be able to wait longer to replace the elements. But cone 6 is close enough to the temperature of cone 10 that you probably would not get a lot of extra life out of an element that had dropped below the rated current. At least that is what they said. Thanks again.
  12. Hi, I am not an artist, but am helping my daughter set up a new studio in her garage. Or a garagio as I believe it is sometimes called here. She has worked in a community studio for some time, and now wants more control over her work. The plan is to slowly add to the studio and eventually transition to it over the next year or two. She recently bought a used Skutt KM 1027 kiln which we wired up while I was visiting. This kiln has built in diagnostics, so I was wondering if regularly testing the element resistance is really needed most of the time. From the diagnostics screen you can have the kiln measure full load amps, voltage under load and unloaded, and the current through each set of element pairs individually. It does not seem to have an automatic resistance measurement, but these built in readings seem adequate for most day to day monitoring. I checked the service manual, and it states that an increase in resistance of more than 1.5 ohms indicated elements that need to be replaced. For the elements in this kiln, that is about a 5 or 6 percent increase. Using ohms law, this would mean that a decrease in current of 5 or 6 percent would also indicate worn elements. If you have a kiln with built in diagnostics, shouldn't it be fine to just monitor any drop in current until you see a significant change? My daughter certainly has a good quality multi-meter, and regularly checks the elements in her smaller Paragon kiln using it. But the wiring on the small kiln is less complicated and easier to access. Unplugging the larger kiln and opening up the access panel to individually check the element resistance seems like overkill unless there is an indication of issue. Particularly given the built in diagnostics. What do you folks do? Now I know that if a problem occurs, nothing beats directly reading the element resistance, because you might have other problems. A relay might be going bad, or there could be a poor connection somewhere. There might also have been a drop in line voltage under load, although the kiln does measure that as well. But on a regular basis, it would seem fine to trust the current readings, and not break out the multi-meter until there was more of an indication that something was going wrong. How often do you folks break out the ohm meter and test elements at the source? And do you open up the access panel and test the resistance at the connectors as Skutt shows in their manual, or just probe the elements inside the kiln? Also, would it depend on weather the kiln has any built in diagnostics? I will probably call Skutt to get the official story, but sometimes the folks using the equipment on a day to day basis have more practical advice. By the way, the kiln is supposed to be capable of reaching cone 10, but she only plans to fire to cone 6. Does that have any effect of how carefully she needs to adhere to the recommended replacement resistance? The elements right now are showing less than 1 ohm of resistance change,and are not warped or sagging. But I was wondering in the future what advice to give her.
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