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Cress FE-25-A, What have I got into?


sclearman
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Brand new member, first post.  

My wife has expressed and interest in getting a kiln and doing some hobby-type ceramic/pottery work.  Trying to be a good husband, and with the holidays upon us, I decide to find her a kiln as a Christmas gift.  Not a surprise to many here, I bought a kiln without really doing much research.  My evaluation consisted of finding out what temp it said it was capable of and getting the highest temp available.  Very much getting the cart before the horse, I bought a used Cress FE-25-A.

The brick is all in good shape, no missing pieces, no large cracks, and they are still light colored.  I'm not worried about the elements, that would be easy to replace.  The previous owner said she was selling due to moving and everything worked fine.  I gave $200 for the kiln, and 2 shelves.

I'm wondering what I have bought.  I cant find much info on the FE model.  I assume it is an older.   I have a couple of pics if this helps:

https://imgur.com/PVMws3k

https://imgur.com/gobQMHM

I have already contacted Cress asking for information and a manual.  I was hoping folks here might shed some light on what I have, what it would be good for, and what I can and can't do with it.

FWIW, I feel like I have to say that I don"t mind doing some work on this if needed.  Somewhere I saw something about rewiring an older kiln to use a PID controller, effectively giving it digital control and programmability. Not sure if that is a worthwhile modification, but it is definitely within my abilities.  

Thanks in advance

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If it’s big enough and gets to cone 10 you certainly can simply add a wall mount digital with a Bartlett control in it. The controls today are PID that are set up strictly for easy firing and have been used on most automatic kilns for at least the last ten years in North America. Many companies have just rebranded them over the years.

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you will need some reference materials.   "cones" reflect the heat and time of a firing.   clay comes in many different colors and will mature at various "cones".   a simple textbook from the 1970s might make you laugh but the science is correct and you will find lots of valuable information if you get one.   yes, the photos are black and white but that is not what you need to see.  a potter's handbook, by glenn c nelson fourth edition 1978 has a lot of basic info.   there are lots of others.  don't trust things that say something in the title that indicates it has all the information on pottery.   nobody has this.   we are all students every day.

if nothing else, cone ZERO 6 is much cooler than cone 6.    learn the language and save the kiln.

 

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2 hours ago, sclearman said:

not sure what cone 10 is

Cone 10 refers to pyrometric cones, which measure heatwork in kilns. It's a measure of temperature over time. Take a look at the serial plate on the control box, it'll tell you what the max temp is. 2300F would be cone 8. 2350F is cone 10. If your wife plans to fire to cone 6, which is great for functional pots, then you want a kiln that can go hotter than cone 6. If the kiln maxes out at cone 6, then the elements must be in perfect condition to reach temperature, which means you'll only get about 35 firings (bisque and glaze firings) before you have to replace the elements. If the kiln can go to cone 8 or 10, then the elements can wear more before they need to be changed. In a cone 8 kiln we see about 75-85 firings, in a cone 10 kiln you can get up to 150 firings before the elements need to be changed.

A wall mount kiln controller would be the simplest and best way to go digital. They work great, and only take a few minutes to set up. Any kiln can use them, regardless of size or max firing temp. HERE are some examples.

Also double check the serial plate for the voltage and phase of the kiln. Being used in a house, it should be set up for 240 volt single phase power. When you wire it up, the circuit breaker needs to be 25% greater than the draw of the kiln. So a 24 amp kiln needs to be on a 30 amp breaker, a 48 amp kiln needs to be on a 60 amp breaker, etc.

Where will the kiln be installed- house, basement, garage? Make sure it'a on a fireproof floor, and 16 inches from any walls. How will you be venting it?

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11 hours ago, oldlady said:

you will need some reference materials. ......  learn the language and save the kiln.

 

 

10 hours ago, neilestrick said:

 

Cone 10 refers to pyrometric cones, which measure heatwork in kilns. It's a measure of temperature over time. Take a look at the serial plate on the control box, it'll tell you what the max temp is. 2300F would be cone 8. 2350F is cone 10. If your wife plans to fire to cone 6, which is great for functional pots, then you want a kiln that can go hotter than cone 6. If the kiln maxes out at cone 6, then the elements must be in perfect condition to reach temperature, which means you'll only get about 35 firings (bisque and glaze firings) before you have to replace the elements. If the kiln can go to cone 8 or 10, then the elements can wear more before they need to be changed. In a cone 8 kiln we see about 75-85 firings, in a cone 10 kiln you can get up to 150 firings before the elements need to be changed.

A wall mount kiln controller would be the simplest and best way to go digital. They work great, and only take a few minutes to set up. Any kiln can use them, regardless of size or max firing temp. HERE are some examples.

Also double check the serial plate for the voltage and phase of the kiln. Being used in a house, it should be set up for 240 volt single phase power. When you wire it up, the circuit breaker needs to be 25% greater than the draw of the kiln. So a 24 amp kiln needs to be on a 30 amp breaker, a 48 amp kiln needs to be on a 60 amp breaker, etc.

Where will the kiln be installed- house, basement, garage? Make sure it'a on a fireproof floor, and 16 inches from any walls. How will you be venting it?

Thank you both.  In my defense, I am aware of what cones are and how they are used I'm just not aware of how the correspond to actual temperature readings.  My kiln has a temp dial and doesn't read in cones.  Sorry for the confusion. And you are quite right, we do need to get some reference and training materials.

The kiln has a temp dial that goes to 2500*.  I'm not sure the kiln will really get there since my car has a speedometer that goes to 180 and that won't happen.  
I guess let me rephrase my question;  What was this kiln designed for?  I am only vaguely aware of the differences in clays and firing temps and what is produced with them.  Ideally I want a kiln that can "do anything".  What is this kiln not capable of doing? (assuming it works as designed).  I'm sure we will be looking at reference materials and 'how-to' books soon, I don't want to look at books on how to do things that this kiln is not capable of.

Assuming this is designed to fire at cone 10, I assume the only way to be sure it to plug it in and check the temp.  Are there other evaluations I need to make?

Neil, it will be used in our garage shop.  I am building a new detached workshop so this will go in the old area which is also garage.  In that area I already have a welding area built, the garage is concrete floor and I have a 50 amp plug to use.  It's not any issue to change plugs and breakers to make it fit

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2 hours ago, sclearman said:

The kiln has a temp dial that goes to 2500*.  I'm not sure the kiln will really get there since my car has a speedometer that goes to 180 and that won't happen.  
I guess let me rephrase my question;  What was this kiln designed for?

The serial plate on the side of the control box will say what the max temp of the kiln is. If the serial plate is missing then Cress will be able to tell you. Post some pictures of the kiln controls. Does it have a Kiln Sitter? If so, then it uses cones.

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1 hour ago, neilestrick said:

The serial plate on the side of the control box will say what the max temp of the kiln is. If the serial plate is missing then Cress will be able to tell you. Post some pictures of the kiln controls. Does it have a Kiln Sitter? If so, then it uses cones.

The serial number plate doesn't show max temp.

 

gobQMHM.jpeg

PVMws3k.jpeg

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2 hours ago, sclearman said:

The serial number plate doesn't show max temp.

Well that's odd. Call Cress, they will know.

This is pretty typical for an old Cress kiln- lots of control parts. I'm assuming the 1-12 dial is just a countdown timer. I don't think it has anything to do with the actual length of the firing, but rather just shuts down the kiln when it hits zero. So you'll have to figure out how long a firing will take and set the timer just a little bit longer. And the 2500F dial is a high temp shutoff. The kiln won't go to 2500, if you're lucky 2300-2350. The thumbwheel gradually increases power to the elements as it turns. You can also use it for manually controlling the kiln. The Firemate controls how fast the thumbwheel turns. When one of these parts dies, it will either be costly or impossible to replace them. You can then either gradually wire around the dead parts and fire manually, or wire around them all and get a wall-mount digital controller.

The biggest problem with the whole setup is that the high temp shutoff is not going to be accurate in terms of heat work. You have to adjust the peak temp depending on how fast you're firing. And even then I wouldn't expect that shutoff to be super accurate anyway. Your best bet for accuracy is to use the whole system as an over-firing safety and just manually turn it off using witness cones in the kiln. That may or may not be more hands-on than you were hoping to deal with.

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