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kiln advice top-loader vs front-loader


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Between the L&L eQ2827-3 and eFL2026 what are the advantages beyond ease of loading for the front-loader? The e28T-3 looks nice too but the limit of cone 8 at 240v single phase is less than ideal. Is it really worth the thousands of dollars price difference for the front-loader? What are the downsides of the front-loader vs the top-loader? Also looks like the lead time for the front loaders is 2x the time for the top loader. I can afford either but maybe the extra money is better spent elsewhere? I do make larger pots sometimes, over 22" in height sometimes so the smaller height kilns wont work for me.

 

 

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I cannot speak for those two kilns but since I do load a small gas kiln front loader every two weeks with glaze fire (12 cubic feet) and an 10 cubic electric about 8-15 times a year I can can talk to the physical differences . That is the front loader is easier on your body-back  as you are not bent over loading into a hole. In my experience they are not even in the same league. In terms of element change out etc Neil will chine and and he is the best info on that stuff. Since the shealves are rectangles for me that means easier to work with a swell and better to load and unload.I have done repair on a new front loader electric a few years ago that was dropped .It was a paragon and was on a small isalnd in the pacific. Once you get a front loader you will be done with top loaders.

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The front loader will probably run you $1000 in shipping, and you'll need to rent either a high lift pallet jack or engine hoist to set it up, so additional costs there. The front loader isn't necessarily easier to load, it depends on where your strength is. For some people, reaching down is easier than reaching out, and loading the top of the kiln can be difficult. It's easier to see the space between pots when loading a top loader, however rectangular shelves generally have less wasted space than round shelves. The top loader can be set up just about anywhere, the front loader can't go up/down stairs. The front loaders take longer to build, and lately there have been issues with steel supplies. Beyond that they're both great kilns and I think you'd be very happy with either one. I've got an eQuad 2827-3 and I love it. I've also set up several of the eFL series and I'm very impressed with them. My customers love both kilns.

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yeah luckily it will just be going in the garage so no issues with stairs or doorways. I've watched the unpacking video for the 2026 on l&l's site it looks like i'll definitely need to rent a pallet jack but not an engine hoist. clay-king has shipping costs included for freight with a lift gate and the ceramic shop it's 199 + 40 for the lift gate. any reason to believe this will end up way higher?

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The high lift pallet jack works well. I set one up that way a couple of weeks ago. Clay-King is giving a very small discount on the price of the kiln to make up for their shipping costs. Others will give a bigger discount on the kiln but charge shipping. Shop around, you could end up saving a couple hundred bucks.

For the front loader you'll need to fill out the shipping form before you can order it. They're considered custom orders so they want to make sure everything is good to go before they build it. For you it won't be a problem since it's going into a garage, but for setting them up inside buildings you have to make sure it'll fit through all doorways and elevators and such.

I would expect the top loader to have a longer lifespan.

8 minutes ago, Mark C. said:

These front loaders are top heavy so be careful on the unload.

The eFL series was recently redesigned to ship without the legs attached, so the center of gravity is low and easy to unload.

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As @Mark C. says. they're different to load.

For me, putting the shelves into the front loader is harder on my back than bending down to load the top-loader.  The shelf is hanging from your fingertips as you put it all the way in, trying not to drop it on the shelf-load below.

I own the top-loader, and use the front-loader at the community centre.  I prefer the front-loader, just easier to add tiny extras to a lower shelf.

 

 

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Seems like it would be really hard to judge how close or dense to pack things in with a front loader, especially in the back of the kiln? Being able to look down see space, rearrange etc from a birds perspective just seems a bit easier. I say all that but my next kiln would be that Hercules if I could :) thing just looks so well built and solid.

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Dense packing can be done in any kiln-Check out the upcoming  tumbling stacking article in Oct issue Ceramics monthy on that subject

I tend to prefer working in front of me not bent over if given a choice-better on my back. Front loaders do require more uper body strength for sure.

You just get use to whatever kiln you have to dense pack.

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I have both top loaders and an efl2635  front loader, and for my back, the front loader is much easier to load.  I did invest in nitride-bonded SiC shelves, which makes loading both much easier than without.  I did rent a forklift to get the kilns onto  my loading dock, and a pallet jack to move them into place.  I made sure that my door openings were wide enough for the kiln, but it was on a pallet that protruded a bit on both sides.  A few minutes with a circular saw fixed that issue.

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I have been using top loaders all of my life, never putting the money into a front loader. I did fire a front loader my first year in college, and old electric. Nice, but it was small. I helped load several front loaders in college, but these were so big you stood in them to load them, and the climb up and down was the biggest problem with people passing ware up to you for loading. That was not convenient, Heck, even the salt kiln I fired with the bricked up front was deep enough I had to stoop over to get into the back, so my experiences with front loaders were not great because of the sizes. 

Top loaders I used in the HS and other places were either older square metal boxes lined with brick, or stackable **gons of some sort. I ended up with a 23" L&L in the HS for our first new kiln. It was fantastic to keep running, and we used it for over 30 years, never really replacing it but augmenting it with a second of the same size 20 years after buying the first one. This allowed me to have one cooling and one firing when it came to crunch time at the end of the semester.  These were all 48" tall, and therefore I would lift off the top section to load and then replace it for the end of loading, great for gut muscles! That sort of effort kept me in pretty good shape, and I never really noticed the loading of the shelves into the kiln as they were much lighter than a kiln section. 

My latest kiln if 28" in diameter, top loader **gon. Not so deep, but as much of my ware now is not as large, works well enough. Shelves are 1/2 shelf, and easy to load into the bottom. Years ago I started using gloves with really grippy surfaces to load and unload after I cut my hands on a sharp shelf edge, my own mistake. These gloves are really helpful for gripping the shelves when lifting them around. All in all, guess given the money I would still stay with a top loader. . . . this dog is done with new tricks.

 

best,

Pres

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On 9/10/2021 at 11:08 AM, neilestrick said:

To load a front loader tight, you do it by feel rather than sight. You simply put the pot in close to the others, gently slide it until it touches the others, then pull it back slightly.

An inspection mirror can also be helpful in packing the back of the kiln.

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