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Linda Lees

Advice On Old Kiln

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Hello, I've just been given an old kiln and I'm not sure what it needs or even if it's worth spending money on (of which I don't have much) 

 

It is a Tetlow (an Australian brand) Model TP6, 15amp, 3 kw, 50HZ Phase 1. It has a thermocouple, does this go in the hole on the front or top? The box on the outside of the kiln has a dial that goes from 0-100, with the words Simmerstat, Sunvic, made in the UK. I've been told that the elements have been replaced. It's a small kiln, 380mm x 380mm x 470mm.

 

 I've returned to ceramics after a break of about 20 years. Both in the past and more recently I haven't fired my own work, I've been a member of a club where the group members' works were fired for them, so my knowledge is very limited.

 

I'm wondering if I can add a Digital Temperature Controller, I've found one on eBay from a seller in Canada that's not too expensive.  

 

Any info anyone can give me will be gratefully received

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Thanks Ron, I did contact them via their contact page and they sent me a page on Operating a Kiln with one Energy Regulator, nothing specific to this kiln. It refers to setting temperatures and from what I can see of what I've got, there is no way to set a temperature.

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you can't take that as an answer.  call them, they appear to be in the same area.  badger them if you must, ask many questions but make sure you are talking to someone in their technical department, not the person who answers the phone.  

 

try to know exactly what you want to know before you call so you can get the right info.  take notes and tell them you are taking notes so they know you are serious.

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The Simmerstat control switch is a brand name of what is similar to what are called infinite switches in USA kilns. These are found only in manually controlled kilns, not in digitally controlled kilns. I don't know what is the generic term used in UK and other places in the world for this type of switch. The way it works is by switching the kiln elements on for a short time and then switching them off for a short time, repeatedly. The numbers around the dial are intended to convey a relative sense of the ratio of on-off times. At lower numbers, the "on" interval is shorter and the "off" interval is longer. As the dial is turned up to higher numbers, the "on" interval gets longer and the "off" interval gets shorter. At 100, it will likely be fully on with no off interval. It is called an infinite control because you can choose infinitely how much to turn it up or down. Other manual kilns may have simple on-off switches for each individual element (you adjust the amount of heat in the kiln by the number of elements that are turned on), or special Low-Med-High switches for 3 levels of heat. When you are operating the kiln, you should hear a click as the actuator turns on and off. The purpose of such a switching arrangement is to allow you to adjust the amount of heat being produced in the kiln at that moment. You want to heat the kiln slowly during the early phases of the firing, and you will need to add more heat later in the firing. Some potters use a setting of around 10 for the first hour, turn it up to 30 for an hour, then 60 for an hour, and finally 100 until it is done.

 

You say there is a thermocouple. It would normally go through the side of the kiln. Tell us more about it - where does the wire lead? A thermocouple is not a control device, it merely reports the temperature by generating a very small electric voltage, and it needs a meter of some sort to measure the microvoltage and interpret that as degrees F or C. The older analog meters have a dial with a needle that moves, pointing to a temperature scale. Does your kiln have a meter like that? It will not turn the kiln off at a particular temperature; it merely reports the temperature and you must turn the kiln off when it reaches the desired temperature. However, you can probably use that thermocouple with an external digital controller. For that, you plug the kiln into the controller and plug the controller into the wall receptacle. Then set the simmerstat to 100 (full on) and let the controller manage the on-off pulses of power. Before you get the digital controller, make sure you understand how to program it for your needs. There are inexpensive PID controllers that will work, but you must program them with your own raw firing schedules, which means you must know exactly what you want it to do. These can be quite complicated (but very versatile). Modern ceramic kiln controllers have a lot of additional programming already built into the device that make it easier for a potter to tell it to, let's say, "fire this fast to cone 06" by pushing just a few buttons, and walk away from it as the controller will know exactly what to do.

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Oldlady, I've just rung the company, the girl on reception said that the kiln I have sounds older than she is, she might be right. She asked me to send photos and my questions and she would pass them on to their technician who has worked for the company for 30 years. She did give me a quote for a new kiln of the same size - $6,875

 

Dick, thank you very much for your comprehensive reply.  I just had another look at the thermocouple and it looks a bit past it, the wires are frayed and it is not connected to anything, there's no meter.

 

Some of the bricks inside are damaged. I'm thinking that this kiln may be past it, it might cost me too much money to get it up to a decent condition.  It has no shelves, just some posts. 

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i am sorry to say that it looks just like a kiln i was given as a "gift".  weighed so much it took 3 men to lift it.  the elements were awful, the controls non-existant.  it took 3 other men to get it out of the kiln shed, the first 3 would not return. <_<  :(  :wacko:

 

maybe your perfect kiln is just around the corner.

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