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Firing a West Coast Kiln


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Some partners and I are cleaning/rehabbing a small studio which was abandoned/closed for probably a long time.  Among other things there is an updraft gas kiln built by West Coast Kiln Co.   Plumbed for natural gas, fired many times, looks like about 48 cu ft and 10 burners.  There is also a device attached to the side (brand: Barber Colman) that I think is a pyrometer and heat controller of some sort.  Years ago I fired a Berman updraft gas kiln but it has been awhile and I am not familiar with the West Coast Kiln.  I see some posts on this site from people who have WC kilns, so help!  Can you give me a brief description of how to start it up:  Is there an electric igniter which lights the pilot and then the pilot lights the burners?  What's the sequence to follow in getting it lit and running?  How to operate the Barber-Colman thingey?  Also, any tips on overall firing schedule for Cone 6 and 10 would be appreciated.  Thanks all!

 

20200726_151845.jpg

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1 hour ago, jellings said:

t's me again, I'm putting up an additional picture

The barber Coleman control appears to be a high limit (manual reset- thermocouple driven) with a solenoid to shut off all downstream gas. I can see 1/4” pilot service tube in the foreground  that provides gas to perhaps a pilot burner. We need pictures of the burners and pilot burners / ring. Also need a better picture behind that solenoid to determine if there is a piloted main gas valve. Sequence of operation is likely set high limit as necessary, reset as necessary and start and prove pilot. Open burner gas valves per firing schedule. Gauge appears missing from rear burner.

Edited by Bill Kielb
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I'd swap out that pyrometer for a modern digital one, as it's probably not very accurate, and difficult to see just what's going on with the temperature. Also, if you're using this kiln in a business, you should check into what's required as far as fire safety codes for your location. Without auto ignition, redundant solenoids, etc, it's likely not up to current codes for a kiln. Check with your fire marshal and see what's needed for them to approve it. It will all depend on how strict they are about these things. They might not be too picky, especially if you're in a free-standing building. But if you're in a unit connected to other businesses, they'll likely be more strict.

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2 hours ago, Mark C. said:

Tom Colman was going to be a Barber-the limit controller shut that thought down

Really good control back in the day,  very popular as well in HVAC building controls. Very likely certified as a high limit Control which means precision and high reliability by design. Honeywell equivalent today is about 800.00 bucks versus conventional cheap controls under 50.00 bucks. Barber Colman  made great stuff back in the day. Super interesting company that evolved into controls but was unique in industrial opportunity starting in Rockford Il and growing globally. An interesting story for sure of an inventor and investor. Colman was the inventor I believe.

https://www.eprinc.net/history-barber-colman-company/

 

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  • 7 months later...

Hi - Yes, we're up and running.   We lit up the empty kiln and determined that the Barber-Colman controller was no longer reliable--it could shut down unpredictably.   Since it controlled the gas flow we had to bypass it.  We had a handyman cut the pipe and rejoin it so the controller is no longer in the loop.  We now fire using witness cones and a digital pyrometer and the kiln operates just fine.  Good luck.

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On 7/27/2020 at 8:12 PM, neilestrick said:

Also, if you're using this kiln in a business, you should check into what's required as far as fire safety codes for your location. Without auto ignition, redundant solenoids, etc, it's likely not up to current codes for a kiln. Check with your fire marshal and see what's needed for them to approve it. It will all depend on how strict they are about these things. They might not be too picky, especially if you're in a free-standing building. But if you're in a unit connected to other businesses, they'll likely be more strict.

 

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Hello Neil - I understand your concerns and your points are well taken.  However, we're in a very informal situation with our studio and it's not a business.   We fire the kiln completely manually (monitoring conditions via digital pyrometer and witness cones) and at least one person is there at all times during a firing.  The pilot flame, igniter bar and burner gas lines all are operated with manual valves so we're always able to shut it down if something goes awry. 

- Jerry

P.S. I am amazed to see that you're in Grayslake, my home town.  If I ever get back there I will look you up.  :) 

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3 hours ago, jellings said:

We fire the kiln completely manually (monitoring conditions via digital pyrometer and witness cones) and at least one person is there at all times during a firing.  The pilot flame, igniter bar and burner gas lines all are operated with manual valves so we're always able to shut it down if something goes awry. 

Good to hear, but from another Illinoisan, pilot safety, main gas valve safety, redundant gas valves  and high limits are mandated for everyone’s safety. Stay as safe as you and those around you  can I understand wanting to operate it manually but as a person involved in energy and around HVAC for forty years it is not advisable nor would it be considered safe to operate  under any code I can think of.

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Aye, somewhat parallel to having (and using) both a timer and cone actuated switch at the (electric) kiln, whether or no one is right there watchin' (I am), in a space fitted with redundant smoke detection, two exits, and three extinguishers - and all that behind a circuit breaker, within easy reach of two hoses.

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1 hour ago, jellings said:

OK, Neil, I will look into this and discuss with my partners.  I guess if the person "on duty" during the firing keels over dead we would have a problem (no one to shut off the kiln).  Thank you for shining a light on this.

Just a note for your partners, accidents usually occur because a pilot fails to ignite the gas stream or a leak or one of the burners does not light or is extinguished or. ...... anyway the result of many accidents are fire and or explosion. The kiln must be supervised and the high limit protects from melting the kiln in case of the drop dead kiln supervision scenario but really most safeties are designed to protect against fire and explosion that can lead to the drop dead supervisor. Accidents are often unpredictable. Just my experience though.

Hopefully the person supervising the kiln below is still alive

 

2DAA48E8-C23B-4F37-AA7E-293D25EEB1C4.jpeg

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4 hours ago, Bill Kielb said:

ust a note for your partners, accidents usually occur because a pilot fails to ignite the gas stream or a leak or one of the burners does not light or is extinguished or. ...... anyway the result of many accidents are fire and or explosion. The kiln must be supervised and the high limit protects from melting the kiln in case of the drop dead kiln supervision scenario but really most safeties are designed to protect against fire and explosion that can lead to the drop dead supervisor. Accidents are often unpredictable. Just my experience though.

Hopefully the person supervising the kiln below is still alive

 

2DAA48E8-C23B-4F37-AA7E-293D25EEB1C4.jpeg

A true story: 
Once upon a time (late 70's), a malfunction on the air flow into a gas furnace in Louisiana shutdown the furnace; the fuel was also stopped by the low flow air as designed by the safety control system.  An operator immediately override the shutdown and restarted the fuel and air to the furnace without going through purging and relighting of the burners according to the NFPA recommendations;  The furnace exploded; the blast was mostly contained by the walls of the furnace, but all of the interior of the furnace was destroyed -- took about 9 months to repair and return to service.  

The point here is that personnel are not always as smart than they think they are. Had the operator followed the controller with a complete furnace shutdown and restart the lost operational time would have been only about 8 hours instead of 9 months and significant repair cost. 

Just because you are using a much smaller kiln does not mean the consequences will be scaled down by the same size ratio.  The safety recommendations are not to save the kiln, they are to save the lives of the surrounding humans. 

Follow the NFPA start/shutdown reccomendations; the steps have been proven! 

The NFPA 86 is a good starting point for all fired kilns; even though the kiln is likely smaller than the "law" requires, the concepts and recommendations are the best available guide lines. The current 2019 edition can be obtained from: 
https://www.nfpa.org/codes-and-standards/all-codes-and-standards/list-of-codes-and-standards/detail?code=86 

The NFPA 86 Standard for Ovens and Furnaces 2007 Edition is available here:
http://baibiao.net/picture/18064391684.pdf 
is a good starting point. 

Here are two Industrial Heating Magazine articles discussing excellent guide lines for combustion devices.  

https://www.industrialheating.com/articles/96169-understanding-the-requirements-of-combustion-safety-equipment
Understanding the Requirements of Combustion Safety Equipment Personnel, equipment and production schedules depend on keeping fuel-fired burners safe per NFPA requirement.  by: Bruce Yates, February 12, 2021
and 
https://www.industrialheating.com/articles/92011-basics-of-combustion-safeguards 
Process Control & Instrumentation 10 Basics of Combustion Safeguards, Bruce Yates, January 8, 2015  

LT

Edited by Magnolia Mud Research
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5 hours ago, jellings said:

I guess if the person "on duty" during the firing keels over dead we would have a problem (no one to shut off the kiln). 

Exactly. I think you'll find that it won't cost much for basic safety systems, and the peace of mind will be well worth it.

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On 3/16/2021 at 2:07 PM, neilestrick said:

I highly recommend putting a new high limit shutoff back into the system. You never know what could happen that would prevent you from being able to turn it off. They're inexpensive and easy to wire up.

I'm curious as to exactly what scenario or event a high limit shutoff system could backup where an experienced operator in attendance could not.  I'm looking to know the emergency that would cause the backup to trigger.  Like the operator has a heart attack, while waiting for cones to drop.  

I ran into similar consultations when I was a telecom tech.  The client would ask about backup systems and I would always ask what emergency are you protecting against?  A power failure is much different than a hard drive failure.   You can't protect against every possibility, so consider what you think is more likely to happen.

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16 minutes ago, CactusPots said:

I'm curious as to exactly what scenario or event a high limit shutoff system could backup where an experienced operator in attendance could not.

The whole reason for the emergency shutoff is to take the human out of the system. It's not just about preventing the kiln from burning down the studio, it's also about shutting it off so it doesn't over-fire and ruin the work, the shelves, or the kiln. People get busy with other things, and people get distracted, especially in emergency situations, and especially with a kiln that only requires attention every couple of hours. That's why shutoff systems are required by code.

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58 minutes ago, CactusPots said:

I'm curious as to exactly what scenario or event a high limit shutoff system could backup where an experienced operator in attendance could not.  I'm looking to know the emergency that would cause the backup to trigger.  Like the operator has a heart attack, while waiting for cones to drop.  

I ran into similar consultations when I was a telecom tech.  The client would ask about backup systems and I would always ask what emergency are you protecting against?  A power failure is much different than a hard drive failure.   You can't protect against every possibility, so consider what you think is more likely to happen.

Humans are not 100% attentive nor in attendance nor effective at monitoring something continuously for hours on end. Gas train safety is a thing because we have  developed many years experience. Pilots go out, flames go out, a drop in power (light flicker) disengages solenoid valves, a gas regulator drops in pressure momentarily ....... too many to list actually  and speculating on the unknown has never been effective. The risk associated with an event is reasonably  high so over the last 50 Years or so gas safety is well developed and fairly stringent.

In telecom a power failure or hard drive outage may be minimal; however if you are handling  all the 911 calls for an area then those failures are really attended to in an entirely different manner because of the risk associated with failure.

Gas safety codes were developed so folks would not make the mistake of trying to determine the likelihood, the risk of fire and explosion are significant and fairly easy to guard against these days.

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46 minutes ago, neilestrick said:

The whole reason for the emergency shutoff is to take the human out of the system. It's not just about preventing the kiln from burning down the studio, it's also about shutting it off so it doesn't over-fire and ruin the work, the shelves, or the kiln. People get busy with other things, and people get distracted, especially in emergency situations, and especially with a kiln that only requires attention every couple of hours. That's why shutoff systems are required by code.

What temperature would a cone 10 firing shutoff system be set at? 

Inattention kills, that's for sure.  I see it everyday on the So Cal Freeways.  Maybe self driving cars will eventually be better.  Hard to say.

Now that I think about it, what emergency control do non computer control electric kilns have?  Lots more of those around than gas kiln these days.

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