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I am entirely new to all of this, and looking to buy my first kiln. I think I want to jump right in and get a kiln that will last in the long term and suit a range or projects. Skutt & L&L seem to be the main kilns of choice,  but I am tempted by Olympic because they offer dual media, so I could try glass fusing if I wanted. Do you think it's worth it to go for the Olympic? I hear mixed reviews about them (from it being their favourite of the three brands and they have had for years, to lacking in manufacturing quality). It's also difficult to know what size and extras to go for. I can have 240v, and will probably not require special venting as it will probably be in a garage. How necessary of an upgrade do you consider solid state relays and multi-zone thermocouples? Are there any upgrades you've found to be essential, or wish you did or did not have? I'm not sure what to look for or avoid. For size, I took a guess at 3' or so cubic capacity(?); I will likely be making anything from dinnerware to sculptures but don't expect to be making large quantities. I will probably be purchasing online, any favourite retailers? And what would you say are the absolute essentials to have before getting started? Sorry if I'm asking too much. I'm a little overwhelmed by all the options, and I don't have any local ceramics friends for insight.

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You need to find out what size breaker and wire you can have at your location for the kiln, that will determine the size you can get. I had to install a larger breaker at the main box and pull larger size wire for my Skutt 818, and it's small. I'v e learned to live with it, but sometimes I wish it was bigger, large bowls and planters SUCK to fire in it cause it only fits 3 or 4.

 But... I am really glad I started with that size, I destroyed a lot of pottery learning to get the glaze firing right. Save your mistakes and fire them again with the new stuff spread around, that way you don't loose an entire kiln load when learning to glaze fire your kiln. I had duds that were fired 4 or 5 times.

Welcome to the forums!

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there are other things to consider.  are you getting into pottery because you just like to do things with clay and plan to continue as an exciting ( wish there is a different word for this) hobby?

are you thinking of selling what you make as an income producer?   would that income need to support you and your family or just provide enough to continue making pottery?  do you have enough money to buy whatever kiln you decide or are you considering cost as a major factor?  you have not put a location on your avatar.  you might be close to a wholesaler and not know it.

do you have prior experience working with clay as a casual student or have you taken formal training  in some kind of class situation?   

you might also consider the size of your body and the length of your arm.   you can see that there are many different sizes of kiln readily available.  most kiln manufacturers will also make a custom size that would fit your particular needs.   i remember the six foot wide kiln that was about 20 inches deep and served that artist for years before being sold to another who found it just perfect.  

strictly on quality, my vote is L&L.

 

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Another thing to consider is that the notion of Olympic being the only one to offer "dual media" is false. Any programmable kiln that can do higher temperature ceramics can also do lower temperature glass fusing/slumping. All that is needed is a different custom program to fire the glass properly. The new touchscreen controllers (Bartlett Genesis or the Skutt branded version of it) already have glass programs built in. Since you want this kiln to last you a long time, get one that will be easy to maintain (the L&L hard ceramic element holders are worth it for this alone) and multi-zone control (which is standard on L&L but you have to special order it from Skutt). As you might surmise, I recommend L&L.

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I have both L&L and an Olympic kilns with the Genesis controller. And yes, both have a pre-programmed glass fusing program built in but the difference between a glass kiln and a ceramic kiln is the glass kiln has elements on the floor and lid whereas the ceramic kiln doesn't. That said I know someone that fuses glass in an ceramic kiln with success, the secret is in the programming.

I purchased the Olympic for a specific task that fits my needs perfectly.  15" square shelf and 9" deep and I can fire 3 levels of pots at one time. I'm very pleased with it and wouldn't trade it in for anything else on the market. But a sided by side comparison of both brands its easy to see that the L&L is way, way, better built.

I started out with a 3' cubic foot sitter kiln and when I was planing on upgrading to a kiln with a computerized controller I figured on getting the L&L E18, 3cuft kiln. Heck, I had all the furniture so why not! Then I realized the next size up, the L&L E23, was only a small increase in price.  So I decided to go for the bigger one. 

I was talking to a fellow potter about getting E23n because I knew he one and I wanted to see if he had any advice. He said to me that he wished he had purchased the E28.

I'm so glad I got the E28.

My point is learn/find out what you really need and go the next step up so you have room to grow.

 

Good Luck

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Like Dick said, any digital kiln can do glass work as well as clay. You don't have to have an element in the lid to do glass. Do get a touch screen controller and a kiln with multiple thermocouples (zone control). Don't spend money on solid state relays unless you've got some money you really need to spend and nowhere else to spend it. If you plan to make dinnerware, or bowls and plates of any real size, then you need a 23" wide kiln or larger. 18" wide kilns are very limiting. Get the kiln you'll need in 5 years, not the one you need now. And get the kiln you want if you're buying new. Don't settle. It'll last 20+ years and you don't want to be stuck with something you don't like. But before you do anything, get an electrician out to check out your electrical service and see what it can handle. You'll need up to a 60 amp circuit. If your system can't handle that, then find out what it can handle and make your kiln selection from there. I've attached a brief list of things to know about before ordering a kiln.

 

Things To Know Kiln.pdf

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  • 2 weeks later...

I greatly appreciate everyones input. Thank you. I'm probably going to get an electrician in just to make sure all is well before making a purchase. But I may be looking at getting an L&L E28S. Quick addional question; is the touchscreen a worthwhile upgrade, or just one more thing to go wrong?

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10 hours ago, KilnCat said:

I greatly appreciate everyones input. Thank you. I'm probably going to get an electrician in just to make sure all is well before making a purchase. But I may be looking at getting an L&L E28S. Quick addional question; is the touchscreen a worthwhile upgrade, or just one more thing to go wrong?

The touch screen is worth every dime, and it's an inexpensive upgrade. It is much easier to use than the old controllers, especially for custom firings. Plus you can monitor firings from a phone app and get software updates, and it's as durable as the old controllers. As an upgrade it's only $140, but if you decide to get one later it'll cost you $350.

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2 hours ago, neilestrick said:

The touch screen is worth every dime, and it's an inexpensive upgrade. It is much easier to use than the old controllers, especially for custom firings. Plus you can monitor firings from a phone app and get software updates, and it's as durable as the old controllers. As an upgrade it's only $140, but if you decide to get one later it'll cost you $350.

Neil, does this work with any of the old digital controllers?  I have a JD236 in my classroom, and have been interested in getting a controller that would allow me to monitor the kiln via an app.

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8 hours ago, Benzine said:

Neil, does this work with any of the old digital controllers?  I have a JD236 in my classroom, and have been interested in getting a controller that would allow me to monitor the kiln via an app.

It's a direct replacement for the Dynatrol. 

 

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On 9/2/2020 at 1:02 PM, Benzine said:

Neil, does this work with any of the old digital controllers?  I have a JD236 in my classroom, and have been interested in getting a controller that would allow me to monitor the kiln via an app.

Just an FYI,  for the phone app to work, you need to have wifi internet available at the kiln. The controller communicates via the internet to a cloud server maintained by Bartlett, and the phone app logs into that same server to read the data. You may already have wifi in your classroom, but if your school doesn't have it, then you'll have to work with the IT department to get it.

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On 9/6/2020 at 2:46 PM, Dick White said:

Just an FYI,  for the phone app to work, you need to have wifi internet available at the kiln. The controller communicates via the internet to a cloud server maintained by Bartlett, and the phone app logs into that same server to read the data. You may already have wifi in your classroom, but if your school doesn't have it, then you'll have to work with the IT department to get it.

No worries there.  My room and building have plenty of wireless access points.  Wifi is a necessity in schools these days, especially in the COVID digital learning era.

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Still haven't managed to get an electrician over yet, but hopefully in the next few days. I also haven't fully decided on which kiln. Trying to figure out whether the L&L E28S, E23M, or E23T will best suit my needs (I notice the E28T doesn't have such a high cone rating, and to continue upgrading would just be too expensive). I'm leaning towards the E23M. I assume the 3" brick versions are preferable? If the cord isn't long enough, is it best to have the outlet moved, try to buy a longer cord, or should it be wired in entirely? I appreciate you all taking the time to advise me. I'm embarrassingly novice.

Edited by KilnCat
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Two things I would maybe add to your considerations.

First, size. If you have the power and money then going bigger is prob a good thing when going from a smallish 2-3 cf to say a 7 cf (E23) but going up to 10 cf (the E28) you may want to think it through. We have a an oval that is close to 10 cf and a 7 cf Skutt 1027. There is a difference in the number of pots they hold so unless you want to fire partial loads (most people I think recommend not doing that often as things fire different) then you might want to think about how often you will want to fire. It really depends on what you are making but if you are a hobbyist it might take you a long time to fill up a 10 cf kiln if you only make a few pots a week. If its large mugs for example then a 7 cf kiln will hold 40- 50 mugs and a 10 cf kiln more like 70-80. But if you want to fire 10 big mixing bowls or large plates at a time then the big one might make total sense so that 2 can go on each shelf. I do know that the 6-7 cf kilns are by far the most popular small studio kilns. Go too much smaller and it will restrict the types of pots you can make. We do production and had the 10 cf oval when we started doing a lot of shows that were close together time wise and it was hard to move more than a load through a single kiln in a week with 2 firings and cool down time so if we had a really good show and wanted to plug some holes in inventory it was almost impossible. We bought the Skutt 7 cf to fire a bisque load (it can stack so holds more pots) and then the larger oval could fire that load when spread out not touching when glazed and they could be working simultaneously so another bisque load could be firing while a glaze load was firing and we could push two loads through the studio in a week and even 3 if you timed everything perfectly.

The 2nd thing is shape. The round kilns are tough to do big platters in and the oval is perfect for that. We do platters so that matters for us so only having a round kiln would not work.

Good luck with your choice and have fun. I'm sure either of those kilns will be just fine so you really can't make a mistake. L&L is supposedly a good brand. I think the Skutt is also a really well made kiln as well. 

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Olympic is a decent brand but there are a few others you should check out. Skutt and L&L Kilns are the best as you mentioned. Also I saw someone mentioned power considerations, that's a huge thing. I recommend contacting someone that's knowledgeable at one of the major pottery shops, they can help you find the perfect Kiln and do the homework for you.

Sheffield has a page dedicated to choosing the right kiln you might find helpful. Here's a link https://www.sheffield-pottery.com/Ceramic-Kilns-and-Glass-Kilns-s/258.htm#kiln-buyers-guide

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13 hours ago, KilnCat said:

Still haven't managed to get an electrician over yet, but hopefully in the next few days. I also haven't fully decided on which kiln. Trying to figure out whether the L&L E28S, E23M, or E23T will best suit my needs (I notice the E28T doesn't have such a high cone rating, and to continue upgrading would just be too expensive). I'm leaning towards the E23M. I assume the 3" brick versions are preferable? If the cord isn't long enough, is it best to have the outlet moved, try to buy a longer cord, or should it be wired in entirely? I appreciate you all taking the time to advise me. I'm embarrassingly novice.

Move the outlet or have it hard wired.  Putting on a longer cord will negate the UL listing and possibly affect the warranty. Definitely get 3" brick. My advise is always to go wider, unless you really need the height.

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17 hours ago, KilnCat said:

<snip> I notice the E28T doesn't have such a high cone rating <snip> 

Regarding the e28t, here's a great explanation that Neil provided in another post about why many manufacturer's 10 cubic foot kilns are rated to Cone 8:

Lots of people fire to cone 6 in cone 8 kilns. They work fine, however like you said, the elements won't last as long since you're closer to maxing them out with every firing. The L&L E28T-3 and kilns of other brands all fall into this same situation. The reason these 10 cubic foot kilns don't go to cone 10 is because they want to make them so they are plug and play, rather than being hard wired. That means a max of 48 amps kiln draw. At 48 amps on 240 volt single phase power, they can only generate enough heat to get a kiln of that size to cone 8. At 208 volt single phase they only get to cone 5. However on 3 phase power either voltage can get to cone 10. All brands make 10 cubic foot models that will go to cone 10 on single phase power, so you're not out of luck if you need a kiln of that size. However they have to be hard wired and they need an 80 amp breaker, which may or may not be an issue, depending on what your breaker box can handle. If you're set on  Skutt look at the PK models.

I've got the e28s and love the wide low design (easier to load/less bending over, wider diameter is more flexible ). However, there are times that I would like more height.  The e28M  was not offered when I purchased my kiln, but that is what I'd go for now - it seems to hit the sweet spot of width, height and power.

-SD

  

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1 hour ago, S. Dean said:

I've got the e28s and love the wide low design (easier to load/less bending over, wider diameter is more flexible ). However, there are times that I would like more height.  The e28M  was not offered when I purchased my kiln, but that is what I'd go for now - it seems to hit the sweet spot of width, height and power.

And the e28M-3 is rated to cone 10.

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4 hours ago, S. Dean said:

.I've got the e28s and love the wide low design (easier to load/less bending over, wider diameter is more flexible ). However, there are times that I would like more height.  The e28M  was not offered when I purchased my kiln, but that is what I'd go for now - it seems to hit the sweet spot of width, height and power.

Oh, I didn't see the 28M, so I assumed it was only offered as S or T. Good to know. I'll put it into consideration. I still may opt for the 23 unless I get a great deal and can be sure I'll have ample space where I'll be putting it.

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8 hours ago, neilestrick said:

Move the outlet or have it hard wired.  Putting on a longer cord will negate the UL listing and possibly affect the warranty. Definitely get 3" brick. My advise is always to go wider, unless you really need the height.

Thanks, figured that was the case, just wanted to make sure. I decided a little height might be useful if I make sculptures.

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