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Beginners wheel and kiln


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I am new to this forum and am looking for some advice for a beginners wheel and kiln. I have watched a few YouTube videos and they have suggested the Brent ie and Skutt KM 818. I was wondering if anyone else had any recommendations? I took a pottery course in college and loved it. Now that I have a job, I'd like to really dive into it. I will still be making the basic bowls, cups, glasses, etc. But I would like to get into some of the larger stuff such as vases and pots. I read that the Brent ie has a 75lb center capacity and that should be sufficient unless I want to throw something really really big, which wouldn't be the case for a while. 

For the kiln, I want something relatively small because I wont be doing this for work, just as a hobby. But I want something that can handle more as I get better. Both of these items were recommended by Earth Nation Ceramics.

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Good small kiln, will need to budget for the wiring.  If you think you'll eventually be firing more than a handful of items at a time, a bigger kiln would be better since the cost to run a bigger circuit will be almost the same as the smaller one.

The 1022 and 1027 will fit a lot more pottery inside, but they are almost 1000 dollars more new.  If you can find a used kiln in decent shape, I'd go that route.  They come up on Craigslist and offerup allllll the time.

I haven't ever used the Brent IE, I'm sure it's fine, it's a Brent.  I like my skutt prodigy, it's a very beefy and nice wheel.

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Both the wheel and the kiln will last you 20+ years. Get a good wheel. The price difference between the low end and high end wheels isn't that much, so buy the more powerful one so you don't have to buy another one in 5 years. Brent makes good wheels, so does Bailey, Skutt, and Shimpo. I'm a big fan of the large splash pan of Skutt and Bailey wheels, because it keeps the studio much cleaner.

I would not get a KM818 or other brand of that size. You'll quickly outgrow it, as well as become frustrated with trying to fit serving bowls  or plates in it. Get a 23 inch wide kiln, like the 1018 or 1022. I'd go with the 1022 size because it will give you a little more height, but still be easy to load. And it's big enough that it should work for you as a hobbyist for man years. All brands make kilns that size, so do your research before choosing. Skutt and L&L are the most popular.

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Thanks for the feed back. I've been checking craigslist and the facebook market regularly. I have found a Cress FX23P on sale, but have not had any luck finding that model on the internet or through Cress's website. Does anyone know of this model?

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3 hours ago, Sile said:

Does anyone know of this model?

Looking at the cress site the fx models were small kilns with a sitter. The only reference I see to the letter P are much larger kilns, still sitter controlled / manual. Maybe request a picture of the nameplate with model number and electrical rating. If you have pictures post them here.

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Story of the kiln: Owners wife got it from a friend for his wife to start ceramics, but never got around to do it. They are moving and do not have room for it in their house. 

Here is a link of the manual that the owner found: https://documentcloud.adobe.com/link/review?uri=urn:aaid:scds:US:13456665-b745-4a7a-b831-3797e3ee1d04

Picture 1: Kiln stand, boxes are full of molds??? Not really sure what he means by that.

Picture 2 & 3: Inside dimensions.

Picture 4: Inside. Looks pretty nice. The cracks on the bottom to me look like normal wear and tear. Correct me if I am wrong.

Picture 5, 6, 7: panel and information.

The asking price is $700. From the research I have done, that seems a bit expensive. Though I am sure you all know much more about kilns than I do.

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sile,  there are lots of videos on youtube.   they are done by people with varying degrees of skill.   try to find several viewpoints before you purchase anything.   the people here all have opinions and experience so you are doing the right thing by asking for advice.   working with clay is mentally rewarding but not a route to quick income, especially these days of limited public contact.  have fun learning and enjoy the satisfaction of making things that are uniquely your own.

overlap with above post

personal opinion   seems expensive, that stuff inside should not be there.   uninformed sellers think brick means strong.  kilns are made of softbrick and you can mark it with a fingernail.   molds are probably useless and if there are a lot of them, you will have to find a way to dispose of them.

Edited by oldlady
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13 minutes ago, Sile said:

The asking price is $700.

Offer them $350. I bet they really don’t want to move with it. Cress is not a very desirable brand, and the kiln sitter is a long outdated mode of firing these days (compared to a digital controller). It does look to be in good shape though.

I have a friend who got a used Cress for $100, and he likes it. They work fine, but lack better features like an L&L. There are lots of them on the used market, because they are bought by potters who are just shopping on price, because they are not that serious about being potters (just like the sellers in this story). 

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I agree, not worth $700. It appears to be in very good condition, though. Again, a kiln that narrow has limitations, but if you can get it cheap then it's a good starting point.

If you ever move up to a larger kiln, you're going to want a 60 amp circuit. Since this kiln doesn't need one that big, have the electrician use conduit that is big enough for the 60 amp circuit in the future. That way they can just pull new wire, which is quick and easy. Or if it's a really long run, go ahead and have a 60amp (minimum) subpanel installed by the kiln, with the circuit for the small kiln coming off that. Just plan for the future so you don't have to totally redo everything when you move up to a larger kiln.

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Unless I missed it I didn't see  a budget mentioned and at first you were talking specific models like you were going to buy new and then switched to the used one. Nothing wrong with used but I would decide what kiln I wanted/needed and then match the kiln to that. Used or new kilns last a really long time and if its not too small you might end up with whatever you pick essentially forever. If it was a business you might upgrade but since its a hobby you might never want to spend the money again.  

For instance in addition to size you might like\want an electronic controller and if you are patient a newer kiln with a controller can be had for not too much more than the $700 asking on this one and new ones for several times this amount. Are the any other requirements?  We have a round and an oval and it is almost impossible to do platters in the round so if I was only going to have one kiln it would be an oval.

If money is an issue the CLAY BOSS wheel seems to be around $700 with shipping at a lot of places online. Used this wheel for a while and it was just fine. We have a couple Shimpo VL Whispers now and I like them a lot. I am hard of hearing and they are super quiet. Had the Brent IE as well and it was fine, louder, but fine. It is more expensive of a wheel and light weight not beciase its a beginner wheel but because it can be a counter top as well as a sit down wheel.

Good luck with setting up your studio. I can't tell how long ago it was that you took classes. It might make sense to take  a few before zeroing on all of this just to firm up on what kind of pottery you are going tp be doing. 

 

Edited by Stephen
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So I never mentioned a budget because I wasn't really sure where to start. I've found wheels to be about $1000, but when it comes to kilns the range is significant. I believe where my studio will be set up, the power and amperage for a larger kiln should not be a problem. Meaning I probably wont need to hire an electrician, or if I do, it will be for something minor. I was initially thinking  $3000-$4000 for everything (wheel, kiln, tools, clay, electrician, etc.). My ultimate goal is to be able to make all my dishware instead of buying it (mugs, cups, plates, bowls, platters, large serving bowls, etc.). I would also like to get into vases, pots, gardening pots, etc. I would assume once I get the hang of it, I'll be making a lot of Christmas and birthday presents. This would purely be a hobby and not a business. 

The course I took in college was two or three years ago now and I haven't been able to get back into it because I was traveling for a while and everything is kind of shutdown right now. If I'm the kind of person that likes to get one thing and use it until it dies. I don't mind upgrading, but don't want to be upgrading constantly. That is why I mentioned the Brent wheel. Throughout the above comments it seems that it might be best to buy a new kiln and wheel that will last me a life time???

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4 hours ago, Sile said:

Throughout the above comments it seems that it might be best to buy a new kiln and wheel that will last me a life time???

That used kiln could last you 20 years if you take care of it. It'll need new elements, and probably rewiring at some point, but if the bricks are good the rest is just regular maintenance on a kiln. The down side is that it's a manual kiln, and digital kilns offer much more functionality. And like I said, it's too small if you plan to make dinnerware.

You could wait until you find a used digital kiln, but they're not as common. You'll need to find one in your area, as they can't really be shipped safely by your average person. Another option is to buy a wall-mount digital controller that you plug a manual kiln into. Those run about $1000 for the newest touch screen models, or you can build your own for $500 if you're handy with electrical systems. Either way you'll be spending less than a new digital kiln. There's something to be said for the quality and ease of use of a new kiln, though.

The first step is to figure out the actual cost of the electrical hookup. If you use an electrician (which you should if you're not experienced with running electrical lines), it could cost anywhere from $300 to $1500 depending on your situation. I'd bring in 2 or 3 and get quotes and have them verify that it own't be a problem. Have them quote a 60 amp line, you can always go smaller if needed. Let's say it's simple and it's $500. From there figure $1000 or so for a good wheel. From the $4000 that leaves you $2500 for a kiln, shelf kit, and vent. Shelf kit and vent will run about $700 , leaving $1800 for a kiln, which for a new kiln puts you right back at the same size as the used Cress kiln. You should be able to find a bigger used kiln for $500-$700, and with the wall mount controller it would function well. There are a lot of variables at work here with the electrician and the size of kiln, but in general I'd say $4000 for all new equipment isn't enough unless you're making compromises. I'm of the opinion that if you're buying new equipment that's going to last 20+ years, you shouldn't make many compromises. Better to save up for a few more months and get what you want so you're not unhappy for the next two decades. Most kiln setups I sell are in the $3400-$4000 range, just for the kiln, shelf kit, and vent. Add the electrician and wheel and you can expect to pay $5000-$6000 for everything.

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Wow, yeah that was more than I thought. So just to be clear, I should get a quote on a 240V outlet and a 60 amp line and that should cover pretty much all the large kilns (of course not the industrial size ones)? I was thinking about creating my own shelf kit. I've got a bunch of lumber laying around that I can use. As for the ventilation system, is that typical?

The kiln I was looking at was just sold unfortunately. I think that's pretty good advice neilestrick (saving up for a few more months and getting something that will last me probably my whole life). If I take care of my wheel and kiln, what's the longevity? I'm in my mid-twenties. 

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Posted (edited)

I just checked my breaker box and found that I have a 125 amp line. I didn't see anything about voltage, but I would have to assume that something with that kind of amperage would have at least a 240V outlet. So I think I am good on the electrician, though I will still have them look at it to make sure it's all good.

neilestirck, where are you getting your kiln setup numbers from? The skutt 1018 and 1022 are less than 2500.

Edited by Sile
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51 minutes ago, Sile said:

neilestirck, where are you getting your kiln setup numbers from? The skutt 1018 and 1022 are less than 2500.

Shelf kit as in the shelves and posts that go in the kiln. That'll run $300-400 depending on the kiln. A vent will be about $400. That leaves $1800 for the kiln from the $2500.

Unless the kiln is in the garage, it needs to be vented. And even then it's a good idea to vent. A downdraft vent is the cheapest method, however it only pulls out fumes, not heat. If you need to pull out heat, too, like if the kiln is in the house/basement, then you'll either need a couple of windows with fans to provide cross ventilation, or a good exhaust fan setup, or an overhead vent hood:

Just one possible scenario, lots of variables:

Wheel: $1000

Electrician: $500

Vent: $400

Shelf Kit: $300

Kiln: $1800

TOTAL: $4000. Plus tax.

As for longevity, you should be able to get at least a couple thousand firings from a round kiln. So it all depends on how much you fire it and how nicely you treat it. It will also depend on what brand you get. I've worked on 50 year old kilns, and I've seen kilns trashed after 3 years. Being in your 20's, I wouldn't expect it to be the only kiln you ever buy, but you may only need one more.

When you say you have a 125 amp line, do you mean just for the kiln, or the whole system is 125 amps and the kiln will be sharing that with the rest of the building? If it's a home, you'll have 240 volt single phase service. If it's a commercial space you could have 208 volt or 240 volt, and either single or 3 phase service. The circuit for the kiln will have to be sized for the kiln you get. The breaker needs to be 25% greater than the draw of the kiln. So a 24 amp kiln needs a 30 amp circuit, a 48 amp kiln needs a 60 amp circuit, etc. The breaker must not be more than 50% greater than the draw.

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500 for an electrician?? Wow, that would have been nice lol.  I had a quote for 1200 and 1800 and it wasn't a long run or anything.  Did it myself for 400.  Wire is extremely expensive these days :(

 

Anyway, if you only have 125 amp service you'll likely need a service upgrade and that's big money.  I don't know, maybe if you find an electrician who doesn't see dollar signs you can get them to add a 35 amp circuit, but that's like 25% of your service amperage on a single circuit.  You might trip your mains breaker if you fire your kiln while doing laundry and running the heater.  

But I've heard that basically an electrician sees a situation like that and won't work on it without a panel and service upgrade which would eat your entire budget.  Get a few quotes.

 

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Wow that seems expensive for a shelf kit :mellow:. For the vent, the kiln will not be in a basement. It would either be in a car port that has two doors and two windows that can be open when needed or it will be in a "barn" (cement flooring) with the doors open when need be. So if it is in a pretty open space, is the ventilation system really needed. I don't mean to sound cheap, just trying to understand. 

The house I am in has three breaker boxes. One for the house, not sure all the amperage for that. One in the car port and one in our barn/shop. The car port has a single line that allows 125 amp (so not the whole system). Sorry could you explain what you mean by a single phase service vs the 3 phase service?

Wow, there is a lot more that goes into buying a kiln than I imagined!

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Oh perfect. The carport one will be easy to add on to, and the short run of cable will lower the electrician costs dramatically.

Single phase is standard for homes, three phase is a special type of electricty for industrial and commercial properties.  Single phase has one live wire delivering a single 60hz wave (meaning current switches 60 times per second), three phase delivers three lives at 60hz each, but they're offset 120 degrees so there is always power.  Or something to that degree anyway.  Important in heavy duty motors and such, nothing you'd ever run into in a residential situation as far as I know.

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6 hours ago, Sile said:

So if it is in a pretty open space, is the ventilation system really needed. I don't mean to sound cheap, just trying to understand. 

IMO Put at least a down draft vent on the kiln, it will ensure oxidation and remove many of the fumes that are harmful. Depending on opening doors is ok but IMO a bad plan you will eventually forget..
 

6 hours ago, Sile said:

The house I am in has three breaker boxes. One for the house, not sure all the amperage for that. One in the car port and one in our barn/shop. The car port has a single line that allows 125 amp (so not the whole system). Sorry could you explain what you mean by a single phase service vs the 3 phase service?

The main panel will supply power to all panels and will likely have a main breaker, also hopefully rated 200 amps.. This is the size of your service and is a reason that a real electrician needs to give you a quote. Just because you have several panels does not mean they can be loaded forever. At some point it will overload the main breaker. If it has a 200 amp main it can supply 48 kilowatts of power to all loads. A 60 amp kiln is  just under 15 kw. An air conditioner is about 10 kw, an electric stove, 20 kw, your shop - ????, furnace, washers, dryer, toaster refrigerator ........ they all add up. Have a qualified electrician look at this. Limit voltage drop to 1% if possible. Tell him that! Most electricians go by 3% which is not great for kilns  But fine for everything else.

And finally, you likely will have single phase service which in the US is split into two actual phases. Each phase will measure 120 v from phase to neutral and 240 volts from phase to phase. In the US we have always called this single phase even though it is two phases just to make folks in the UK crazy I think. Just kidding about that, but it does make it it more confusing.  

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Lots o' good info here Sile!

I'll echo Neil and Bill's recommendations to vent the kiln. Below is copied from Bailey's site (their unit is on rad sale, $299). I built mine on the cheap.

 Fume Vent System is a direct fume system designed to pull fumes from the firing chamber before they can leak into the studio. There are 3 major benefits to this type of vent:

Maintains a safe work space free of unpleasant and potentially hazardous fumes.
Improves firing results- a clean atmosphere produces brighter colors and better surface finishes.
Extends kiln life- by removing fumes immediately from the firing chamber, elements, electronics and the kiln jacket are protected from their corrosive effects.

Edited by Hulk
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Thanks everyone for all the great information. Sounds like to need to do some more research first about the kiln that would be best for me and then second all the electrical stuff it requires. All that electrical stuff still confuses me a bit, but I guess that's standard since I'm not an electrician. Once I get my kiln choices down to a few, I'll post a new question to get some more advice. Thanks again so much! This has been the most educational forum page, I've ever used!

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@Sile, although the kiln you mentioned before is already sold, the size of that kiln does not prevent you from making plates. I wouldn’t try to fire a production quantity of plates in a 17 inch wide kiln, but making plates for personal use is totally doable. So don’t eliminate that size when looking at used kilns. 

I am a full time potter, and started my business with a kiln that was 17 inches wide and a bit shorter than that one. I made plates, using plate setters to stack them more efficiently. I upgraded to a larger kiln two years later when I could afford it. But still, if you are making pots for yourself as a hobby, that size will work.

That little kiln was given to me for free, I wasn’t going to turn it down! It really helped get my business off the ground. At the same time, I could see that I would need something larger before too long. Similar to what @neilestrick advised you, I had the electrician install a wire that was beefy enough for a larger kiln. When it came time to upgrade to a larger kiln, I only needed to have the breaker and the outlet replaced, but not the wire. Planning ahead saved a lot of money. So if you go with a small kiln now, my advice to you is to do the same. You may never need it, but if you decide to upgrade to a larger kiln later, you’ll be glad you did. 

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3 hours ago, Sile said:

Thanks everyone for all the great information. Sounds like to need to do some more research first about the kiln that would be best for me and then second all the electrical stuff it requires. All that electrical stuff still confuses me a bit, but I guess that's standard since I'm not an electrician. Once I get my kiln choices down to a few, I'll post a new question to get some more advice. Thanks again so much! This has been the most educational forum page, I've ever used!

@Sile and you have been given some great information in this thread, which you can use if you find a good bargain on a used kiln.  single phase or 3 phase?  Digital controller or manual? Vent or no vent? stand or no stand?  Shelves and posts or none?  How many thermocouples?  What condition are the elements?   I researched for a year before I bought my kiln.  And just like you, I had to figure out what would best work for me in my situation.  And yes, we had to upgrade our service in order to have a kiln.  And that involved inspections.  And an electrician.  And changes.  and more inspections.  And inspections by insurance agents.   It took time, but has been worth it!!

Roberta

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There's a good chance that the car port and barn panels are sub-panels coming off the main panel in the house. Do you get one electric bill or three? So while the car port may be able to handle 125 amps, if it's a sub-panel then that 125 is part of the total amps of the main panel in the house. Definitely get an electrician in to verify everything. If you're running a lot of machinery in your shop you could max it out pretty quickly.

3 phase power allows for lower amperage at the same wattage since you have 3 hots instead of 2. It is not available for residential buildings. Have your electrician put a meter on your system and verify that you're getting a full 240 volts, though. If you're not, it could be an issue with the kiln. If you find a used kiln that is set up for 3 phase service, it can be converted to single phase. It can be simple or not, depending on the kiln.

14 hours ago, liambesaw said:

500 for an electrician?? Wow, that would have been nice lol.

Like I said, lots of variables. That is a best-case situation where the outlet would be right near the breaker box. I've had customers say it cost them anywhere from $300 on up.

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