I'm new here, so if this is in the wrong place I apologize. :o)
I'm getting back into pottery after many years - I've been going to a community studio/class for the last year, and I'm now setting up studio space in my garage. I have a wheel and a kiln - sort of.
The kiln is a Jenkins D-118 (w/Kiln Sitter model K), measures 18x22 inside. I bought it for $100 from someone who found it in an abandoned storage locker, so I don't have any real information on it. It does fire - it gets hot enough that it heats up the garage, and the elements inside glow white-hot when I look through the peep-hole. But it never gets hot enough to trigger the cone 5 cone I put in the kiln-sitter or the cone 4 witness cone I put in it, even after 15 hours on high. The label says that it should go to 2300. And it stinks - I don't know how to describe it, but the kilns in the community studio do NOT smell like this. I would have expected something sitting in storage for ages to smell upon start up (like the first time the heat turns on in winter), but I've turned it on and run it twice now - the first time for 10 hours, the second for 15. Still stinky. I'm not sure if this is just a peculiarity with this kiln, or if it's an indicator that something is seriously wrong.
I'm about ready to call it and buy something new. The kiln isn't in fabulous shape - the bricks are a bit worn-looking, and my husband said that the wires look old. I don't know its history or how old it is, and in looking through the forum, it looks like there could be a number of things wrong with it. I don't want to spend $1000 to fix it when I'll probably want something bigger down the road.
But in the name of NOT spending $3000 or so on a new kiln, I had a thought. I could always pick up a thermometer (pyrometer?), and see what temp it IS capable of reaching, and if it hits a temp that would fire a low-fire clay, I could just use low fire clay with it. But would it be dangerous/ill-advised to do something like that? It seems like pushing something to work harder than it is able to could be a fire-hazard, and I would really prefer not to burn down my house.