Talking about kilns
Talking about kilns!
Everything you need to know if you want to buy a kiln.
I get a lot of questions on my Instagram and via e-mail about kilns. The most frequently asked question is how to find a budget proof one. So I thought it would be helpful to write a blogpost about kilns and all the things I learned about this topic.
There a quite a few different types of kilns available on the market. When I first looked into it, I got overwhelmed by the different types of firings and kilns that are out there.
Depending on the esthetic you are after, or a specific product you want to make, you choose your kiln. There are a few different kinds available depending on how you fire them; oxidation, reduction, wood, salt or raku.
This type of firing is normally done in an electric kiln, but can be done in a reduction kiln (not many potters do this). In this type of firing the oxygen is free to interact with the glaze. Most commercial potters use this type of firing, including me. I’ll explain more about this later on. First I’ll talk more about the other types of firing.
This type of firing is normally done is a gas fired kiln, which doesn’t allow oxygen during the firing. The outcome of a reduction firing is quite unpredictable, so most production potters don’t go for this method. If you want to learn more about a gas fired kiln, I recommend to look up Florian Gadsby's work. He is a potter from the UK and uses a gas fired kiln, his glazes are really amazing.
A wood fired kiln is kind of an ancient way of firing pottery. It’s the way they did it back in the day, but it is still done this way nowadays. A wood firing will take about 3 times longer than an electric firing and it’s very labor intensive, because they need constant stoking and re-fueling of the fire to keep the wood at consistently high temperatures. Most potters only do this type of firing a few times a year or for a special occasion.
A raku firing is also kind of a special occasion type of firing. I don’t know many potters that use this method. In a raku firing you heat up your pottery to a very high temperature and then take your pots out of the kiln and put them in a bin with organic material. This creates a very unique surface, it’s pretty cool! I’ve never tried it, but it’s definitely something I want to try.
Back to the oxidation firings
Now we go back to the oxidation firings and electric kilns. Most production potters use this type of firing, because it’s the most reliable. Both of my kilns are electric kilns and the main reason I decided on an electric kilns is because the outcome is kind of the same each time your fire them. The temperature can be a little different each time, due to how much pieces are in the kiln, but you can say that this type of firing is the most reliable. The second main reason is that you can plug directly into a 120-Volt wall socket. The small one actually literally plugs in a 120 volt socket, the big kiln needed a different kind of electrics so we needed to change some things in the house (3 fase wall sockets). They are both in our garage, next to the house and I’ve never had any problems with it.
I have two kilns; I have a small 50 liter Pyrotec electric kiln and a big 190 liter Kittec electric kiln. Both are top loaders and like I said, both electric. The small one actually literally plugs in a 120 volt socket, the big kiln needed a different kind of electrics so we needed to change some things in the house (3 fase wall sockets). They are both in our garage, next to the house and I’ve never had any problems with it. The small kiln is mainly used for bisque firings or for big vases.
New vs second hand kiln
Kilns are expensive! A new small 50 liter kiln is around €1500-1700. That was a pretty big investment for me when I first started pottery. I decided that I wanted a second hand kiln, but that was a challenge. Second hand kilns are very popular so I looked on Marktplaats and lots of facebook groups for kilns. They sell pretty fast, so I made it a daily task to check each website. In the end I found one on marktplaats for a good price with computer and shelves.
New vs old electric kiln
Most older electric kilns don’t have a computer and I totally don’t recommend buying a kiln without a computer. It is already so hard to operate the kiln and the computer makes it so easy to fire the kiln. The computer basically knows how to fire the kiln, you have to set up different schedules to your kiln knows what schedule to fire. For example a bisque firing or a glaze firing will need different schedules.
It all depends on what you are gonna fire and how often. Most small kilns are not made for production potters, but are made for hobby potters. In the beginning of my journey I didn't expect to grow so fast, so I choose a small 50 liter kiln. In the beginning this was more than enough, but pretty soon I knew that it was not big enough for me. That's why I decided to invest in a bigger kiln and it changed everything for me. I don't have to plan ahead anymore and having two kilns is just really really cool and good for my business.
If you just start out, I recommend to buy a second hand 50-60-70 liter kiln.
Basic glaze firing schedule:
6 hours to 600 degrees celsius
Another 6 hours or in one go to 1220 degrees celsius
If you have more questions please don't hesitate to contact me. I get a lot of messages, so please allow me some time to answer! Thanks for reading.
X - Robin