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Just How Old Is Too Old For A Kiln?


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9 hours ago, terribleterra5@yahoo.com said:

I have two big kilns to give away not sure about them they were my mothers and she is dead and I hate to throw them out free to anyone who can pick them up in Richmond California By March 18, 2020 Please text 510-688-2475 

A description of the kilns would be helpful...pix too...

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My first kiln was a Skutt 1227 made in 1958, replaced the elements and a couple of bricks and worked fine. Only reason I replaced it was 2 years ago was that I found a 1 year old 3" brick 1227 Skut , an Olympic kiln and a bunch of other stuff too cheap to say no.

 

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I have one from the late 70's. I do my best to make repairs often and keep it in good working order replacing elements, switches wiring blocks and wiring as needed. Replace lids and bottoms also. Not a whole lot of work, I do happen to have an L&L, and the bricks get very little wear.

 

best,

Pres

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I readily concede that old kilns last a long time if they are kept in top condition.

Of course the flip side of that is that if you invest in a new kiln now and keep it in top condition it may well last you for the rest of your life so unlike something like a new car there is value in that.  Shortly after I started this thread I came to the decision that it was worth it to me to just buy a new one. That was a few years ago and I got a new Skutt 1027 for just under $2500 with vent and tax and I picked it up and drove it 2 thousand miles to Texas. The used ones I found that had electronic controllers (non starter for me) were a grand or so the savings would have been around $1500 and I put the first miles on it. Since a lot of used kilns will need a new set of elements sooner than later and maybe some minor repairs the extra cost was probably really under a grand when alls said and done.  At least that is how I justified it:rolleyes:

In addition to starting with a new kiln I also was able to pick out the right kiln for me. Shopping the used market I was pretty much trapped in whatever was available and since I was adamant about having an electronic controller that meant little choice (the cost of external controllers or the retrofits available at the time really made buying new a no brainier).

All of that said if I was broke I would get the best $200 manual kiln I could find and move on.  

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  • 9 months later...
On 9/30/2016 at 7:32 AM, Callie Beller Diesel said:

When I called Cress to get the right manual and electrical diagram from them for my new-to-me model, they said it was sold to the original owner sometime around 1983. The brick is pristine, and the elements look pretty tight. The electrician is coming today to hook it up, so I'll keep you all posted.

What model is it? I am trying to find operating instructions for a,Cress B23H I just acquired. When I called Cress they said they “no longer support “ this model. I’m hoping someone can help me figure out how to work it.

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@CeeJay I think it actually might have been someone’s custom build. It’s marked clearly as an FT31, but that’s not a number they manufactured a lot of, I guess.  I gave Arturo the numbers on the plate and he sent me 2 wiring diagrams, and my kiln uses elements of both. It’s got the thumb wheel, a timer, a kiln sitter, and it has a really rudimentary set of servo motors that turns the kiln up at different rates. It’s like a weird steampunk version of an electronic control panel. 

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  • 1 month later...

I'm struck that prices for used kilns in California on Facebook, Craigslist, etc., are easily double what others are quoting on this forum! I am having a hard time justifying buying a new kiln as I dip my toe back into ceramics after a 20 year hiatus. I was intrigued by this Econo Kiln J18 kiln. I'm OK with the small size (18x18). Per its serial number, it's from 1985  and is available with three full shelves and posts for $375 (non-negotiable). Again, this seems way higher than what I see in other areas of the country. Seller does not have 240v outlet and will not vouch that it works. I'm thinking I'd add a digital controller and would be prepared to replace elements. Is it worth a 90-minute drive to check it out?  Thanks in advance for any and all advice.

exterior.jpg

lid open.jpeg

thermocouple.jpeg

brick elements closeup.jpeg

Edited by May C
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14 minutes ago, May C said:

I'm thinking I'd add a digital controller and would be prepared to replace elements. Is it worth a 90-minute drive to check it out? 

Looks to be in great shape actually. Since you are resigned to elements and a controller And are ok with the size I think it’s worth the drive.

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that is an L&L kiln by its original name.   it is beautiful.  if you have the money, buy it.  now. it will be gone if you think about it too long.   even if you decide to become the busiest potter in the country, it can become a test kiln later.   18 inches will allow you to fire many pieces often so you can learn faster.

Edited by oldlady
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  • 1 month later...

@Bill Kielb @oldlady @neilestrick Your speedy responses were extremely helpful and nudged me forward to take the plunge- thank you!

I bought the kiln and the supplies to make it operational (sitter cone supports, cones, posts). The 240v circuit was installed last week and a preliminary test confirmed that all elements heat up and the kiln sitter timer works.

Before investing in a digital controller or new elements, I want to try a bisque fire (and more, if successful). Before I do, should I do something to fix a section (see photo) where the element holder broke off? Or, on the other hand, are the elements so likely to need replacing that I shouldn't worry about damaging them, and just use the kiln?  The elements are basically all the same condition as what's pictured (shape is intact, but greyed). I didn't see an obvious way to pin the elements in place without removing more of the broken ceramic holder.

Sorry for the basic question and thanks for any advice!

IMG_1849.jpg

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11 minutes ago, May C said:

The elements are basically all the same condition as what's pictured (shape is intact, but greyed). I didn't see an obvious way to pin the elements in place without removing more of the broken ceramic holder.

If you measure the elements with an ohm meter you should be able to tell where they are in their lifespan. A 10% increase in resistance from new means they are ready for replacement. I am pretty sure the easy fix for these holders is to cut out the old ceramic element holder and install new,  cementing it in place using a tiny amount of appropriate high temp grout / patch  / cement else some kiln brick  removal is in order. Probably best to have ready when you do replace the elements. @neilestrick has likely done this many times over the years. For now I think you could use it and if it crawls out you could get some pins across the front so it does not crawl out too far if and when needed until you replace the elements.

Edited by Bill Kielb
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2 hours ago, May C said:

and just use the kiln? 

If you fire it with that element unsupported, it'll sag and stretch and you'll have a mess. Because of the element holder you can't pin it as-is. You have several choices on how to deal with it:

1. You can carefully chip out the rest of that holder and then pin. Install a pin every 4-5 coils, pins angled upward so they don't sag. Place the pins at the upper part of the coil so the element hangs on the pins. When it's time to replace elements, replace the holder then by method 3 below.

2. Carefully chip out the broken holder and install a new new one by chewing off the bottom lip of the new holder with a pair of pliers and pocketing it in. If you break the upper groove in the brick this won't work, so be careful. Kiln cement tends to keep it from sitting flush in the brick, so don't use any other than along the front edge at the bottom, just along the surface of the joint, if needed.

3. If the elements are flexible enough, you can carefully pull the element out of the groove, remove the brick, slide in a new holder, and slide the brick back in. HERE is a video, although it's much more extensive than what you need to do. You just need to loosen the body band clamps and slide the brick out. Also remove any parts on the outside of the kiln between the clamps and the broken brick because the screws will keep the  band from being able to move. I'd go ahead and replace both holders in the brick.

Your elements look pretty good. Check them with a meter, but I think they'll work for a while still.

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Thanks for the second round of helpful advice. Multimeter just arrived today, so I will check resistance. And super helpful to understand the importance of supporting the elements and options for doing it right.

I didn't anticipate that one big advantage of a used kiln is my willingness to experiment with it rather than being afraid of messing up a new, more expensive one! That said, chipping away the broken ceramic holder was intimidating. Instead, I tried hooking two pins to the elements (see left side of photo) and realized my skill level is too low. So I then just stuck in the U-shaped pins in front of the element, like guardrails (see right side of photo) Will those guardrails suffice until I do a better repair when the elements need to be replaced?

PXL_20210426_031557585.jpg

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32 minutes ago, May C said:

Will those guardrails suffice until I do a better repair when the elements need to be replaced?

If they're in the brick far enough to hold solid they will work. I don't have confidence in the two coming from the top, though. If you want to make a guard rail, I would try straightening out the staples so they're nice and long, and put a series of straight pins all along there, as that will give you more metal into the bricks.

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1 hour ago, May C said:

like guardrails (see right side of photo) Will those guardrails suffice until I do a better repair when the elements need to be replaced?

IMO
I think they would be fine certainly to try, it’s not as if this element is gonna fly out of there. We have elements grow out several inches from kilns with worse slots  after many firings  and we just torch them back into place neatly. Plenty of internet videos on doing that. I would try it out and I believe it will not be a whole bunch of trouble. If my thought is wrong or if you discover they are worn it only  means you will simply need to replace your elements sooner than later. This could be a good opportunity to get all your parts.

I like your center pin best . Not sure I would need more than two of those about 1/3 of the way in from each end. You could always take a long straight pin and rotate it in far enough so it’s embedded in the brick and catches behind the top of the element holder.   In my experience the element holders on those kilns allow elements to grow and shrink pretty uniformly. Pinning it firmly at one point often inhibits this movement and causes more trouble with unequal growth. I would be more concerned the pins are imbeded towards the center of the brick and not out towards the face so you do not damage the outside  face of the brick.  My experience, I have pinned far worse.

Edited by Bill Kielb
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