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Need Advice On Buying A Used Kiln

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I am a ceramic hobbyist looking to buy a used kiln. I have found a few on craigslist in my area, but I don't really know what I am looking at. I know how to load a kiln, but have no experience doing my own firing. I found a used Westby, but it seems this company has been out of business for some time. I looked at new kilns but my budget is nowhere near enough to buy new. Any suggestions on what to look for, or what to stay away from. Has anyone built their own kiln?
I know I will have to put in a separate breaker for it, but my husband is an electrical engineer, so that is no problem. Do any of you use your kiln in your basement? Our basement is large, with a cement floor. We also have a detached garage, so that is my other idea.

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Check the condition of the bricks. There should at least be a manual kiln setter.Also check the wires, coils and side panel with the Max. temp. volts and amps. 

If you put the kiln in your basement, you should get a ventilation system.

 

Marcia

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I would recommend you take a pottery class and ask to help to load, fire and unload the kiln.  Teachers are always happy to have the help and it will give you a lot of confidence when it comes to your own firings.  Denice

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as marcia said, check that there are no major cracks or broken bricks.  that does not mean that an otherwise gook looking, well cared for kiln could not have a big brick broken at the very top where someone might have leaned over and broken the brick while unloading or loading.  not a problem since you can clearly see it and you will not ever do that yourself. 

 

look for elements, the wires, that stand upright in their grooves.  if they are leaning over they are getting ready to die and you will need to replace them after a short time.  make sure the way they are attached to the control box is clean, no wires sagging the control knobs look newer rather than really ancient.  if it has a kiln sitter check that the rod is the same diameter from one end to the other.  if it is old it will have a thinning near the end.  

 

whatever kiln you buy will need maintenance.  if you see some of these "problems" do not just walk away.  tell the owner that there are things that need to be fixed and ask for a discount.  ask for a discount because of age also.  just because it has a brand name does not mean that someone else cannot supply what you need to make it work well.  you are fortunate that you have a husband who understands electricity.  he will soon be an expert on all things electrical about your kiln, whatever you end up getting.

 

if you are not claustrophobic and like the space, a basement is fine.  you need ventilation and if you want to work in the studio while you are firing, try to separate the work space from the kiln with a wall.  a garage is a wonderful place to work if you do not have to share the space with a car or other stuff.  a studio is a working space.  an office worker would not share his/her desk with anything else.  respect your WORKspace from the beginning.

 

most of all, have fun.

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Only one thought comes to me about this. When you narrow down the choices of used kilns: look up and find their original kiln manuals. These manuals can be found online, and will give your husband a wiring schematic. He can use it to wire the kiln, and also service the kiln: kiln part numbers are shown on the schematic. It will also give you a users guide in firing and maintaining a kiln. These seems to be your first time out: so having this information would be most useful.

Nerd

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I would recommend you take a pottery class and ask to help to load, fire and unload the kiln.  Teachers are always happy to have the help and it will give you a lot of confidence when it comes to your own firings.  Denice

Great idea. I have been going to my daughter's high school pottery class with her, and I'm sure her teacher would love some help with firing the students work.

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as marcia said, check that there are no major cracks or broken bricks.  that does not mean that an otherwise gook looking, well cared for kiln could not have a big brick broken at the very top where someone might have leaned over and broken the brick while unloading or loading.  not a problem since you can clearly see it and you will not ever do that yourself. 

 

look for elements, the wires, that stand upright in their grooves.  if they are leaning over they are getting ready to die and you will need to replace them after a short time.  make sure the way they are attached to the control box is clean, no wires sagging the control knobs look newer rather than really ancient.  if it has a kiln sitter check that the rod is the same diameter from one end to the other.  if it is old it will have a thinning near the end.  

 

whatever kiln you buy will need maintenance.  if you see some of these "problems" do not just walk away.  tell the owner that there are things that need to be fixed and ask for a discount.  ask for a discount because of age also.  just because it has a brand name does not mean that someone else cannot supply what you need to make it work well.  you are fortunate that you have a husband who understands electricity.  he will soon be an expert on all things electrical about your kiln, whatever you end up getting.

 

if you are not claustrophobic and like the space, a basement is fine.  you need ventilation and if you want to work in the studio while you are firing, try to separate the work space from the kiln with a wall.  a garage is a wonderful place to work if you do not have to share the space with a car or other stuff.  a studio is a working space.  an office worker would not share his/her desk with anything else.  respect your WORKspace from the beginning.

 

most of all, have fun.

I really appreciate the specific advice. This will help a lot as I think the kiln I am going to look at tomorrow is rather old, and has not been fired up in over 10 years. I am planning to talk them down on the price as I think $475 seems quite high for a kiln that is old and can't be tested. Now I have an idea of where to look for problems. This kiln does have an electronic controller, so that is a plus for me.

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So, I went to look at the Westby kiln. The top had a ton of broken bricks, probably 2/3 of the way around, and some of them were pressing down on the coils. It is a stackable/kit type, so the other sections lower down also had damaged bricks. It was clean inside, but is really old, and hasn't even been fired up since 2003. I told the guy that I would be taking a risk to buy it, but that I was willing to give him $120 for it. He wasn't interested, so I passed.
I am really grateful for the suggestions you all gave me as it helped me avoid getting burned.

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I have purchased a used kiln and sold it, purchased another 2 used kilns and might now add a genesis controller with zone control, Should have just purchased a new L&L kiln row a few $$ more.

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Great news! I got a lightly used Olympic kiln (model 1823) for only $120. The guy was in a big hurry to sell it because he is moving. It only has one damaged brick, and came with lots of shelves, posts, and feet. It's 3.29 cubic feet inside, which I am sure is big enough for pretty much anything I would make.

It has a kiln sitter, but I'm wondering if I should swap it out for an electronic controller. This is an area where I have no experience whatsoever.

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A lot of people come and ask me about used kilns they either see for sale or have been offered.  Besides looking for the obvious things mentioned above, one of the most overlooked things I've noticed is that people don't pay attention to the power requirements and somehow end up looking at 3-phase kilns instead of 1-phase that most residential has.

 

Yes, pretty much any kiln with a sitter can be converted to a digital control box.

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Olympic makes a conversion system where you remove the sitter and screw on a new control box with the digital system in it. Otherwise, Skutt and Orton make a digital control box that hangs on the wall, and you just plug the kiln into it. Personally, I like the wall mounted because the controls will stay cooler, and you can use the sitter as a backup shutoff.

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Olympic makes a conversion system where you remove the sitter and screw on a new control box with the digital system in it. Otherwise, Skutt and Orton make a digital control box that hangs on the wall, and you just plug the kiln into it. Personally, I like the wall mounted because the controls will stay cooler, and you can use the sitter as a backup shutoff.

Great idea to use the sitter as backup. Thanks for the tip.

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