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Manual Sitter Vs Digital Controller; Your Preference?

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I have worked with manual sitters and electric ones, and in spite of the convenience of electric sitters, I really think I prefer the good old manual.

 

Back in college, I was privileged to babysit the gigantor beefcake $60k gas kiln (hubba-hubba!), and no matter how many sensors/TCs we replaced, that beast never had correct readings. We always went by witness cones over the digital readouts. The display would always read cooler than the witness cones, and I had to shut her down early 9/10 times. The Skutt round and ovals also tended to overfire by almost a whole cone sometimes with an electronic sitter. O.o

 

I like that with a manual sitter, I'm the one who calls the shots. Computers and I just don't mesh all that well. :D I know there are always risks with a manual, too (like cones breaking and such), but I guess I prefer having a kiln that doesn't have as many parts to break! ^_^

 

How about you guys?

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I have never used any kind of sitter. All I know are cone packs, which seem to do the trick just fine (for me, anyway.) Am I missing anything wonderfully helpful with these sitter-things? I have an electric kiln w/ computerized programming.

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I have both. I bisque in the kiln with the sitter and glaze fire with the digital controller. I got the digital controller kiln so I could do slow cooling. It also has a delay start and preheat function that I use. My dream kiln is gas. I love the look of reduction.

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Alas, by now you all know that I fire with cone pack in an electric kiln. No setter, no electronic gizmo. Kiln is probably one of the only ones L&L sold without one. I have used setters when teaching HS, and used electronic programmable controllers. I would  prefer the controller over the setter because I like to fire down. The setter just doesn't allow that. That said, I have found that a thicker lid will allow for slower cooling, but I still ramp down by hand using temperature color to judge.

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Pres,

I have restarted my test kiln which has a sitter. I just lift the lever and push in the button when I am firing down and use a pyrometer to monitor the progress. . My larger kilns have digital controllers. 

Marcia

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I used to do the same at school when I wanted a longer cool down for more crystallization. In the long run the setter-less kiln worked well for me when getting a good nights sleep was not as important. However, these days I need my beauty rest! ;)

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All of my kilns are manual with sitters, have never fired one with a electronic controller.  I have a dual digital pyrometer set up for down firing and monitor the progress.  I'm planning to buy one with a controller in the next year or two.    Denice

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I will never buy another manual kiln. With the digital controller and zone control I get even firings, very specific firing schedules, cooling cycles, and consistent results between the 3 vastly different sizes of kilns I have.

 

@neilestrick,

Would all three of the kilns be L&L by any chance? *grin*

-Paul

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I started out with a kiln sitter, but now use digital controllers. The digital controller has always shown to be accurate whenever I also measure with witness cones. The best feature is how the three zones are managed separately and keep up with each other, so my firings are even top to bottom.

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+1 for Neil's comment.  Given the multi-step firing programs we commonly employ these days, I cannot imagine not having a digital controller. 

 

Down our way, there are plenty of old, second-hand kilns that only have a simmerstat (you have to manually turn a knob each time you want to increase the temperature).  These kilns sell at a di sell at a significant discount to models which are wired for digital controllers, because the cost of upgrading them is a given.

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I will never buy another manual kiln. With the digital controller and zone control I get even firings, very specific firing schedules, cooling cycles, and consistent results between the 3 vastly different sizes of kilns I have.

 

@neilestrick,

Would all three of the kilns be L&L by any chance? *grin*

-Paul

 

 

You would think so, but no. 2 out of 3. My baby kiln is a 1 cubic foot Paragon manual kiln hooked up to an Orton wall mount controller. Before having the Orton controller, the baby kiln was worthless for glaze tests, and didn't really work very well for pots, either, because it cooled so quickly. With the controller I can cool it at the same rate as my big 21 cubic foot kiln and get identical results.

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I think the key to a controlled firing in a digital controlled firing is to have each zone(as Neil touched on) controlled by it's own thermocouple. One T/C in the middle can not give the control that 3, each in it's own zone can do.The other factor is to make sure the T/C is in good working shape and change it out as it begins to show problems. Have witness cones in each zone to know what the heat work is doing.

Kiln sitter will age out and sometimes fail to shut off, I've had at lest 3 go out over 20 years on different kilns, causing over firing

Stuff happens manual or digital

Wyndham

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Kiln sitter will age out and sometimes fail to shut off, I've had at lest 3 go out over 20 years on different kilns, causing over firing

Stuff happens manual or digital

 

 

When sitters fail, they tend to stick and keep the kiln on, resulting in an over-firing situation. With digital kilns, if there's a thermocouple or computer problem, they tend to under-fire, or shut off due to an error code. I have personally never seen a bad thermocouple cause a kiln to over-fire by any significant amount. If the relays fail, it is possible for them to stick 'on' and cause the kiln to over fire, but it's very unlikely for more than one relay to stick 'on' at a time. I've never seen it happen. So at worst you'll get one section of a kiln staying on, while the other sections shut off because the 'on' section is causing the kiln to heat too fast and the computer throws up an error code. The only time I have seen an over-fire situation due to a sticky relay was in a two section kiln, so one stuck relay resulted in half the kiln staying on. Because the owner was doing a low-fire glaze firing, the bottom shelf ran hot and her glazes ran a little bit, but not much. They did stick to the shelf, but it was not a full meltdown situation like she would have had from a stuck sitter. The point I'm getting at here is that you're much, much less likely to have a catastrophic over-fire in a digital kiln. I have never seen a digital kiln have a full meltdown of the ware, but I have seen many manual kilns do it. Regardless, always check to make sure the kiln has shut off as intended. Do not rely on backup timers, either. I've seen those fail, too.

 

Digital kilns are also much easier and faster to perform checkups on, and easier to diagnose problems on. There are just a lot fewer parts on digital kilns that can be a problem.

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+1 for Neil's comment.  Given the multi-step firing programs we commonly employ these days, I cannot imagine not having a digital controller. 

 

Down our way, there are plenty of old, second-hand kilns that only have a simmerstat (you have to manually turn a knob each time you want to increase the temperature).  These kilns sell at a di sell at a significant discount to models which are wired for digital controllers, because the cost of upgrading them is a given.

If you are in need of a kiln, get one of the manual kilns that is in good shape and add a controller to it, or make your own on the wall box with a Barlett V6-CF controller and with some creativity make a 2 or 3 zone controller for your kiln.

David

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All three of my kilns are manual, but I'm teetering on the verge of ordering one of Bailey's digital Cone 10 kilns.  You can make anything work, with enough effort, but I'd really like to be able to set and forget, and still get controlled cooling, which is very important to my glaze palette.

 

Any opinions on the Bailey kilns?

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Neil is so right on this.

Zone controller is the only way to go these days for you electric fans out there-for me if I was buying new I would get the zone contol with s-tcs so I could do cone 10 crystal fires but thats only when I slow down. Not going to happen in nearby furure-of course it would be a L&L.

Mark

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