Pottery and Ceramics Tools
Complete Kiln Care
Air pockets in clay do not cause explosions, it is the steam and gases that collect in the piece that does!
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Firing Wet PotteryAir pockets in clay do not cause explosions, it is the steam and gases that collect in the piece that does! Water in the clay turns to steam when it is heated and expands. If pottery is fired to quickly the water doesn't have time to push from the center of the piece to the outside and evaporate. To avoid explosions hold the kiln below the boiling point of water which is 212 degrees F until all water has evaporated which usually takes eight hours. Then fire to the correct temperature listed below.
Slow Bisque- Cone 04 - for large pieces with walls over 1/2" thick.
Fast Bisque- Cone 04 - for thrown or hand built work with walls Less than 1/4".
Glaze Firing- Cone 6 - this schedule includes a slow cool down, which is excellent for Matte and Semi-Matte glazes .
Basic Kiln Loading Information and Tips
Shelves and PostsWhen loading an electric kiln always use 1" posts on the bottom of the kiln and a shelf on top of the posts. Never stack ware directly on the bottom of a kiln.
Place kiln posts directly over the four legs of the kiln stand. Doing this will help prevent the bottom of a kiln from cracking or warping.
Always stack posts directly over the posts underneath. This will help prevent kiln shelves from cracking.
Kiln WashApply kiln wash to one side of shelves only! Fire bisque with unwashed side up and glaze fire with washed side up. Rotating the shelves will help reduce warping. If glaze drips on the kiln shelf scrape it off immediately and reapply kiln wash to the chipped area. Keeping kiln shelves washed and free of glaze drips will greatly extend the life of your kiln furniture.
Apply kiln wash to the bottom slab of the kiln. It is not necessary to cover the entire bottom of the kiln. Most of the bottom is covered by the first shelf, so apply the wash starting at the wall and extending about three inches into the kiln. Do not apply kiln wash to the side walls of a kiln. If any glaze drips onto the bottom of the kiln chip it off immediately. Leaving glaze on the soft brick will cause it to eat further into the brick during each subsequent firing.
Loading BisqueWhen loading a kiln, bisque ware can be stacked and can touch during the firing. Glazed pottery can not touch anything during firing!
Thermocouple/Kiln SitterFor best results always leave at least one inch of room around the thermocouple or kiln sitter tube. Placing pottery to close to the thermocouple can cause the temperature to read inaccurately. Pottery near the kiln sitter may cause it to jam and not shut the kiln off.
Prop LidProp the kiln lid open several inches during preheat period to allow moisture to escape. Moisture trapped in the kiln will cause unnecessary wear on the elements and contribute to corrosion of metal parts. You will not have to prop the lid if you are firing bone dry greenware or thrown pottery.
Element GroovesVacuum the element grooves out occasionally, especially if a piece explodes during firing. Small chips of bisque will cause unnecessary wear on elements and substantially shorten element life.
Witness ConeAlways use at least one witness cone in each kiln load. If a firing does not come out as expected a witness cone will tell you if the kiln overfired or underfired. Fixing a firing problem requires knowing what went wrong, and a witness cone will help tell you.
Listen to KilnListen to your computerized kiln. During normal operation you will hear the relays clicking on and off as well as the elements buzzing. Learn what these things sound like during normal operation and you will be able to tell when something is wrong just by listening.
LidAlways keep the kiln lid closed when not firing. Never use the kiln lid as a table. The kiln may be started by accident and spark a fire if there are items on the lid.
Check PlugCheck the power plug occasionally. If it ever feels hot during operation there is something wrong! Never let the power cord touch the side of the kiln. It may melt the plastic casing.
VentilationA source of fresh air is important during firing. If the kiln is fired in an enclosed space leave a door or window open to allow air into the kiln room for proper ventilation. This is especially important if you have a vent installed because the vent will remove air from the room so a fresh air supply is needed.
Kiln ClearanceNever place kiln closer than 18" to any surface, especially a combustible surface.
Kiln LogKiln elements wear out over time and need to be replaced. The higher a kiln is fired the more frequently elements need to be replaced. Firing times will lengthen as elements age. Keeping a basic kiln log can help track this.
Fail MessageThermocouples also wear out over time and will wear faster at higher temperatures. Most kilns will display a FAIL message if the thermocouple is worn out, but if the thermocouple appears corroded or crusty it may be time for a replacement. Replacing a thermocouple is simple, inexpensive and can make a big difference to the accuracy of your firing.
ShutoffKnow where your electrical shutoff is in case of an emergency.
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Have you ever come up with a good idea while working with your handmade pottery and thought that you would like to share it with others? You have? Well, why not send it to us and we will add it to the tips page for all to see.
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When you get all set up, just enjoy the hobby and have fun at it. Some people get pretty serious and start selling their creations at craft fairs and small stores, but others just like to create items for themselves, relatives, and friends. Whichever kind of handmade pottery you desire to endeavor, enjoy the hobby and have fun doing it.
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