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Calling all vertically challenged potters!


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So I am gradually creeping up on a 35 year long process of getting myself into a pottery studio.  I'm looking at the L&L E Quad pro 28 which is 38" tall on the stand.  I got it into my head it was 31" on the stand which is an easy reach for me, but 38" puts it at just below waist height for me.

Nominally I am 5' 2" tall but I have crazy long limbs.  So my reach exceeds my height LOL!

Still I only need 3" to be hip-high to the top.  I'm pretty sure something as simple as 2 layers of paving stones will get me where I need to be.  If not I'll just build an appropriate micro-scaffold LOL!

It has been suggested that I am too short for a 3-stack kiln.  I actually do not see the issue.  If nothing else I have some actual mini-scaffolding, all metal with locking wheels, with 2 steps or shelves, however you want to look at it.  I don't see why (if nothing else and I have had LOTS of alternative solutions to this kind of problem over the course of my undertall lifetime) I couldn't just put one of the steps down low and use the upper shelf part to lay things up on as I take them out of the kiln.  Though honestly I would rather just build a movable platform to perform this task that would live on my studio cart and be wheeled out there as needed (the cart being to wheel ware between studio and kiln and vv)

How do my fellow compact potters feel about the idea that we are limited as to kiln size for this sort of moderately sized kiln?

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I'm a vertically challenged person too, my kilns are 37" and 38.5" tall with the lid open. I stand on an 8" tall stool to load and unload the bottom shelves with pots, it's not a big deal. What I think is more of an issue is bending over and putting the shelves in or taking them out. I use 21" diameter 3/4" thick high alumina full shelves, it is hard on the back lifting those in and out when you are short, stool or no stool. If I had to buy kilns/shelves again I'ld look at either a wider but shorter kiln or get Advancers or Corelite for the bottom 2 or 3 shelves. (I used Corelite shelves with my old front loader, much easier on the back) If you don't mind using 1/2 shelves this might not be an issue for you. 

This is the type stool I use, when I'm loading/unloading the upper half of the kiln I just kick it out the way. Nothing fancy but it works.

image.png.ba8595f15cd73a975c21285dadc9ec36.png

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1 hour ago, Min said:

I'm a vertically challenged person too, my kilns are 37" and 38.5" tall with the lid open. I stand on an 8" tall stool to load and unload the bottom shelves with pots, it's not a big deal. What I think is more of an issue is bending over and putting the shelves in or taking them out. I use 21" diameter 3/4" thick high alumina full shelves, it is hard on the back lifting those in and out when you are short, stool or no stool. If I had to buy kilns/shelves again I'ld look at either a wider but shorter kiln or get Advancers or Corelite for the bottom 2 or 3 shelves. (I used Corelite shelves with my old front loader, much easier on the back) If you don't mind using 1/2 shelves this might not be an issue for you. 

This is the type stool I use, when I'm loading/unloading the upper half of the kiln I just kick it out the way. Nothing fancy but it works.

image.png.ba8595f15cd73a975c21285dadc9ec36.png

Upon examination, the shelf kit that they sell when you buy a new L&L for that model includes 8 - half shelves and 0 full shelves LOL!

Asking as someone who in 35 years has never gotten closer to loading or unloading a kiln than telling the studio manager the last firing is fully cooled now, is there a problem with using half shelves?

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1 minute ago, Pyewackette said:

is there a problem with using half shelves?

Nope, not at all. I prefer full shelves because with the halves it takes more posts which take up shelf space. I also make quite a few large flat shapes which don't fit on half shelves so instead of mixing 1/2 and full and fiddling around getting posts to line up without the shelves wobbling I use all full.

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1 minute ago, Min said:

Nope, not at all. I prefer full shelves because with the halves it takes more posts which take up shelf space. I also make quite a few large flat shapes which don't fit on half shelves so instead of mixing 1/2 and full and fiddling around getting posts to line up without the shelves wobbling I use all full.

 

That makes sense.  I was sort of surprised to find that shelf kit did not include even one full shelf but maybe its the weight at that size.  I don't think that CURRENTLY I have any inclination to making the sort of thing you describe, but part of the reason I want my own kiln is so I can do new things that you don't get to do normally in a shared studio.  Like I have NEVER been allowed to fire at anything other than cone 6, which means all the pots I have burnished up to now, not a one ever got fired because there just wasn't anyone else in the studio who wanted to fire at such a low temperature.  So I would burnish then squash.  You know, for the practice.  Just in case I ever got to actually fire one.

Plus sometimes the folks with actual access to the kilns for loading and unloading tend to be a little, shall we say, cavalier with other people's pots.  I got one back once that I had been quite proud of, it had been shoved up against something hard enough to deform the side slightly and impress a kind of cross-hatching into it.  When I asked about it, well, let's just say she insulted my pot of which I was quite proud.  It was NOT a lumpy pot.  I have only ever fired a lumpy pot once in my entire life and even that wasn't actually lumpy, it just wasn't good enough to be a keeper, but I let the studio manager fire it anyway because he was one of these types who think everybody needs Self Esteem and if you don't want to fire an inferior pot, then its not because you care about the quality of what you are turning out, but you lack Self Esteem.  Something I have never actually been accused of under any other circumstance LOL!  I mean seriously.  How is knowing that you can do better LACKING self esteem?  Maybe its a sign of overweening ego, LOL!

I hope to remedy that situation (of having no control over how the kiln is loaded or how to fire it), and once I escape the cone 6 zone, who knows WHAT else might happen?  I might even learn to like glazing.  Up to now, its just been that step I HAVE to go through to be allowed to throw the next pot.  Maybe when *I* get to choose which glazes to have available, I'll like them better.

Thanks.

Pye

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I got the L&L 23-S, which is a shorter kiln, and Thermal Light half shelves that are super easy to get in and out. I like the half shelves for flexibility-the kiln has a large capacity so I can do all kinds of varied shelf heights for a mix of different types of pieces, from flat smalls to bead racks to tall vases etc. in the same load.

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8 hours ago, LeeU said:

I got the L&L 23-S, which is a shorter kiln, and Thermal Light half shelves that are super easy to get in and out. I like the half shelves for flexibility-the kiln has a large capacity so I can do all kinds of varied shelf heights for a mix of different types of pieces, from flat smalls to bead racks to tall vases etc. in the same load.

Hmmm, tell me more of these Thermal-Lite shelves of which you speak.  Are they really that resistant to being damaged by glaze drips?  I've read that bad things happen if you let them get wet (apparently even a little wet is very bad).  Are they harder to store properly when not in use because of that?

Oh heck just tell me everything LOL!  

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2 hours ago, Pyewackette said:

Hmmm, tell me more of these Thermal-Lite shelves of which you speak.

We have a couple of dozen of these at the local college and I'm in the process of buying another dozen. 

As for cleaning off glaze drips, it's much easier than the older shelves.  My friend is a crystal glaze enthusiast and he takes pretty good precautions for the runny mess at the bottoms.  However while I was unloading the kiln I noticed that two pots got away from him.  With mild dread I anticipated a major clean up or damage shelving, but no.  With 30 seconds of scrubbing with a hand grinder the shelf was back in service.  I do take extra care to keep them well covered when not in use.  Rainfall here in the desert is minimal but we still keep them safe and dry.  Covering with trash bags in the kiln storage area works just fine.

My friend is 86 and even when I can't load his work he can easily handle these shelves. In that respect they are definitely worth the extra cost they go for.

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Posted (edited)

 

  

1 hour ago, blackthorn said:

We have a couple of dozen of these at the local college and I'm in the process of buying another dozen. 

As for cleaning off glaze drips, it's much easier than the older shelves.  My friend is a crystal glaze enthusiast and he takes pretty good precautions for the runny mess at the bottoms.  However while I was unloading the kiln I noticed that two pots got away from him.  With mild dread I anticipated a major clean up or damage shelving, but no.  With 30 seconds of scrubbing with a hand grinder the shelf was back in service.  I do take extra care to keep them well covered when not in use.  Rainfall here in the desert is minimal but we still keep them safe and dry.  Covering with trash bags in the kiln storage area works just fine.

My friend is 86 and even when I can't load his work he can easily handle these shelves. In that respect they are definitely worth the extra cost they go for.

 

Is it true that they are so warp resistant you can put two halves together and they will meet evenly so you can treat it as a full size shelf?

Because that sounds pretty good too ...

Edited by Pyewackette
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Yeah, I look at the different shelves out there, and when looking at price my heart says one thing, and my head says something else. I just sold a kiln with a bunch of shelves and part shelves that I had had for over 20 years, the full size bottom shelf was over 30 years old. They were worn, and had some glaze chips, but were in pretty good shape. Nothing fancy. . . just did the job.

So I bought a new kiln, and look at prices for shelves, pressed high alumina for my kiln at 26" by 1/2 shelf is around $40, the same shelf in the thermal lite is around  $180. I think I will be getting two more 1/2 shelves for my kiln to handle loads for patens(plates). In the long run I can not justify the cost considering good maintenance make them last my lifetime.

 

best,

Pres

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4 minutes ago, Pres said:

Yeah, I look at the different shelves out there, and when looking at price my heart says one thing, and my head says something else. I just sold a kiln with a bunch of shelves and part shelves that I had had for over 20 years, the full size bottom shelf was over 30 years old. They were worn, and had some glaze chips, but were in pretty good shape. Nothing fancy. . . just did the job.

So I bought a new kiln, and look at prices for shelves, pressed high alumina for my kiln at 26" by 1/2 shelf is around $40, the same shelf in the thermal lite is around  $180. I think I will be getting two more 1/2 shelves for my kiln to handle loads for patens(plates). In the long run I can not justify the cost considering good maintenance make them last my lifetime.

 

best,

Pres

Unfortunately, were I to adhere to that criteria (and at my age), it wouldn't make sense for me to have a kiln AT ALL.  I mean I understand your perspective - you've got decades of experience taking care of standard type shelves.  You already made most of your mistakes in the misty misty past.  Plus I bet you've got quite a bit on me in the upper body strength department.

It seems the benefits for production potters are enormous.  I am not ever going to be in that class, even if I actually get good at this.

But I don't discount the benefits of a lightweight material that I am unlikely to be able to damage no matter what stupid thing I did with the glaze that I don't even know to watch out for yet.  I do have decades of experience not banging things into other things though so I am hopeful I won't actually break one.  But seriously - a 1/2 round shelf in 26" weighs 5 lbs.  compared to 20 lbs or more for conventional shelves.

The weight and the glaze impermeability make these very attractive.  The more I read about them, the more I am inclined to put up. It's just the shipping that is scaring me at this point.

At one of the first group studios I ever worked at, it was being run by this one person who had a tight grip on the nards of the studio.  She controlled EVERYTHING, and everything was set up to accommodate her production firing schedule (this studio was CITY run, it was not a private venture).  She made a great big huge honking deal about never ever ever ever allowing any of us peons to ever get closer to the kiln than being able to see whether or not the cool down was complete.  Also about what glazes we were allowed to use, basically only the ones she stocked.  And those were some ugly glazes, let me tell you.  I understand that, you don't want neophytes doing something stupid with a glaze they didn't even bother to test, but she could have provided at least a FEW more attractive glazes.

Then one day we came in to find the studio in an uproar.  One of her fellow "professionals" (she had a very small cadre of production potters who she allowed to use the studio from time to time for THEIR production runs) had used some glaze that had off-gassed into the kiln and coated everything - shelves, pieces, I think even the brick - with something blue.  And had ruined some of her pieces and all of "her" (really the city's) shelves.

Hopefully I would never end up doing something THAT egregious, but glaze mistakes by a newby to firing (especially one who in the past has had little liking for glazing) seem to me to be rather more likely than not. It would be nice if I had shelving that I didn't have to worry about ruining like that.  Even pros do it sometimes, and I am not a pro, LOL!

Don't discount the value of something that seems to be very nearly bulletproof ...

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Yes, @neilestrick, with the old 23" the full shelves were ok most of the time loading and unloading, but cumbersome so I moved to 1/2 shelves. I got used to removing the 4th section in the early years, thus removing the hinge set up and manhandling the kiln lid first by hand and the one handle. Then I added a second handle for the lid making it much easier. Back in the 90's I was firing nearly every week to the full 45" depth. When I bought the new kiln (with your help) I went wider, and shorter. I miss my full bottom shelf, but in the long run the size of these 1/2 shelves is heavier. I also have to watch the thermocouples when putting in shelves and ware, which is different. I am getting used to it and looking forward to testing the next bisque with a -40 cone offset to  06.

best,

Pres

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Thanks.  I know they are expensive - but I'm surprised more people don't use them.  Maybe not so much hobbyists, but the reported benefits from production potters re kiln loads and not having to use kiln wash seem fairly well established.

I'm not sure how but I am headed for what seems to be a pottery supply desert.  The nearest source of clay will be 5 hours away.  I don't think anyone (that I have found) West of the Mississippi is carrying these shelves.  Or at least not nearly as far west as I am LOL!

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Well my kiln will be electric but as far as I can tell that is not a problem as long as the kiln is off before you try to insert or remove them.  Personally I can't imagine not being sure the kiln is off before I stick my arm in there but maybe some people are not as paranoid as I am LOL!

Are there other reasons to be concerned about these shelves in an electric kiln?

I would love to have a front loader but as far as I can tell those would run me a couple thousand extra.  I've already succumbed to creeping elegance on several fronts, got to draw the line SOMEwhere.

Even the lightweight nature of the shelves wasn't really enough to turn me around.  It was the relative imperviousness to glazing accidents.  And I don't like working with porcelain anyway (though that could change) so plucking is not an issue for me (plus that is the circumstance where the right kiln wash takes care of that issue as well).

When I started all this - getting serious about finding a kiln and all that - I naively thought I could get a 2 section kiln and just add a section later.  Its not that I didn't see there was a difference in the controller box (I didn't pay that much attention to the hinge for the lid) but I thought you could get around that by just buying the larger controller and only hooking up 2 stages.  LOL!

 

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