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So... I bought a used Skutt 181 manual kiln (manufactured in 1975 FYI)  for $170 and I am now at a point where if not regretting the buy, I am considering whether putting in the repairs needed for it are worth the money, OR, if I should just cut my losses and look for a newer/better condition kiln. I'll list the conditions and potential repairs, and pictures if possible. 

So, to start, there was no power cord/plug so I had to buy one, not too much of a biggie-was able to find a proper plug/cord for $20. For the time being I can't afford the re-wiring for a  new (240) outlet so I'll be using a heavy duty proper amp/temp rated extension cord to reach our dryer outlet; that's another $90. The plug for the kiln is 4 prong, outlet is 3 prong - the proper converter cost $40. So that's an additional $150 and I don't even know if it works yet. AND there was no furniture included - lowest price for a couple shelves and stilts is around $250...sigh. And need 4 peep hole plugs.

Now on to the potential issues. One, the porcelain tube around the kiln sitter is broken though the (thermocoupler) rod inside seems fine. So that will need to be replaced. Not sure of $ for that.

Two, it seems that some bees had used it as a hive? As I was doing some inspection-cleaning of the elements and grooves in the brick I got out a bunch of debris from it-only mention this because some of the bee combs are inside the coils. I expect that those will smoke like crazy if the elements work when turned on. For the elements themselves, the top set looks good-all silver no apparent corrosion. The bottom set though is quite brown and likely need to be replaced. Pricing the replacements it's about $44 per set and I think this model needs 2 (maybe 3?).  So, $132.

Three-the brick had some scoring/brown on it but it wasn't til I started cleaning that I saw how deteriorated all 8 sides of the bottom section are. As in, the brick for the whole bottom (kiln sitter) layer is crumbling like crazy. So those are about $14 a piece, add a couple more than the 8 I know are needed to make 10, is $140. 

So- just to get the kiln up and running I'm looking at $422 and that's not even including the furniture.... I have seen newer/better condition kilns (with furniture and plug/cord) listed for $500... Is it better to cut my losses and get a different kiln OR put the $ into repairing this one? 

One additional question re the leads from the cord- comes with 4 colors, green, black, white, red. My understanding is that I don't attach the green, and don't need to use/ attach the red or white-which only leaves the black. Am I correct? I want to be able to get power to it so I can determine what needs to be fixed (whether I keep it or not).

Thanks in advance for your insights! 


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This is wear a photo is worth a 1,000 words

Back in 1975 (I own one from that era myself) the sections where plugged together with plugs that are no longer available -You would if any any of those plugs are bad you remove them and hardwire the kiln together . It very doable but not as easy to move

Also you did not say what temp its rated to  on the plate -my guess is cone 8 max since it the thinner wall 2.5 inch. These old sitter kilns (does it have a shut off timer?) rteally wherte for low fire in my mind. If you are just bisqueing say to cone o8-its a perfect kiln but to fire for that but to cone 6 you will need a lot of upgrades

My guess is new elements-new sitter tube and guts some misc connectors-You do not know about the switches yet-I trhink your guess is on the low side.

Furniture is not in any equation we talk about as its always an extra.

tell us what your plans are to fire to temp wise-if it cone 6 a modern control (computer is really the easy way to go)

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So weird that the pics I embedded didn't show...

The kiln is a single phase, 30 amp, 240 volt 4600 watts machine -should fire to 2250 F/cone 6. There is a black dial on the side of the kiln sitter but no markings to tell what it dials to.

I DO want to have the capacity to fire to cone 6. The digital/computer kiln control/conversion would definitely add to the fix it costs...and make me more inclined to just look for a newer kiln. 

I'll paste a link to an online album of pics I took of the kiln interior-let me know if it works. https://www.facebook.com/rebecca.murphykeith/media_set?set=a.3502149176462842&type=1


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Your link is working (for me, right now).

The colour of the brick, and the wear (rounded corners) don't bother me; the bricks that are badly cracked will likely need replacing.

Is the size about right for you? If so, a set of furniture could be used in a second kiln; if not, that's a big strike, imo.

Looks like those older 181 models are rated cone 6/2250F - with new elements, likely it will reach that temp, however, you're (much) better off with a cone 10 kiln for mid fire (cone 5/6) work.


Hi Bill!

Try searching FaceBook for the name embedded in the link, with a hyphen, like this:  Firstname Last-Last

Edited by Hulk
Hey Bill!
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Link works for me-the dirty bricks will fire up fine and burn off that haze coating-no issue there.

That kiln will need some new bricks and new elements new cone sitter and most likely more stuff. It will have only a cone sitter to turn it off-there is no  safety shutoff timer .

I would invest the $ into a more modern kiln. Skutt back then posted max temps and if you fire to those it will kill the elements pretty Quik . .Its not a cone 6 kiln really-yes when rebuildt it will fire to cone 6 but not for long before burning up those elements. Get a cone 10 kiln for cone 6 firiing(best option) or at least a cone 8 kiln for cone 6 foring (2nd best option).

Edited by Mark C.
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Aside from the cost of fixing things that need fixing, you shouldn't be running the kiln the way you are. First, you should never run a kiln on an extension cord. Second, a 3 prong to 4 prong converter should not be used. That kiln needs two hots, a ground, and a neutral. All of the wires are essential for it to work, because each section of the kiln runs on 120 volts, not the full 240. A converter,  I assume, will combine the neutral and ground, which is not safe. The only way to run the kiln safely is to have an actual 4 wire circuit, which means getting an electrician in.

That kiln only gets to cone 6, so you'll only get about 30 firings at best before you have to replace the elements, if you plan to fire to cone 5/6.

It doesn't have a backup timer on the sitter, so the sitter is pretty worthless because you can't trust them 100% to work.

The bricks are really rough. The dirtiness will likely burn out for the most part, but there are a lot of broken bricks that need replacing.

If it were my kiln, and I really wanted to keep it because it's the perfect size for me , I would call Euclids.com and have them make elements that will get it up to cone 10, running as a typical 240 volt kiln with a 3 prong plug- 2 hots and ground. That will require rewiring the control box, which it probably needs anyway. I would remove the switches and sitter, and wire everything directly to the power cord, then plug the whole thing into a wall mounted digital controller box. A digital control box will run you $850-$1000, but ti will last a really long time and you could use it on other cheap used kilns in the future if you get one with a 50 amp relay.

If you're not comfortable with that level of electrical work, or don't have the budget, then throw that old kiln away and wait for something better to come along. Or stick a weed burner in it and use it as a raku kiln.

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