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Witness Cones

How to place and safely check the witness cones.
Being able to see the cones during firing is your assurance that the kiln is firing normally.

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If the kiln should take a little longer than usual to fire and you ccould not see the cones, you may worry that something has gone wrong. Maybe the kiln is over-firing.

Witness cones on pottery kiln shelves.

Pyrometric cones are small pyramids of clay that bend when exposed to the correct amount of heat inside a kiln. Glass artists don't need cones, but we recommend them for pottery and ceramics, even in kilns with kiln sitters and also digital kilns.
Most people have difficulty seeing the witness cones on the kiln shelf during firing. But if you position them just right, you can see them even at cone 10, that is when the kiln interior turns white-hot.

In finding ways to view witness cones, I have tried using a welder's mask, high intensity light and mirrors, which are items suggested by ceramists and pottery workers for this purpose. I have tried placing the cones close to the peephole, and then on the opposite side of the kiln shelf away from the peephole. I have positioned cones both in front of an element and in front of a piece of ware.

After all that testing, this is the method I found most effective for viewing cones:

I found out in a hurry that positioning the cones close to the peephole makes them almost impossible to see. Position cones so that when viewed from the peephole, they are silhouetted by an element on the opposite kiln wall. Make sure and keep the cones at least 2” from an element. The element that silhouettes the cones should be level with the lower part of the cone. If the element is in line with the upper part of the cone, you won’t be able to see the cone when it bends.

If you use the three cone system, always have the higher temperature cone on the same side in every firing, otherwise you can lose track of which cone is which.

Use firing safety glasses, which can be bought at an industrial supply store for about $15.00.

Keep the cones far enough from the ware so that when the cones bend, they will not touch the ware.

If you follow these suggestions, you should be able to see cones even at cone 10.

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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.

Handmade pottery can be a very gratifying hobby that produces fun and satisfying results. For many people it's an enjoyable release that is created by working an inanimate mound of clay into a beautiful work of art that you made through your artistic abilities.

The best way of starting out is to take a few lessons from Youtube. You will probably waste quite a bit in materials when you first get started. Figuring out how to truly make handmade pottery correctly and shape into what you want it to be can be quite an ordeal. The different tools that a normal shop will have can be fun to try. You will soon see which ones you like to use the most and then when you are ready you will know which ones to buy.

With the help of the internet, you can now purchase most if not all of your ceramic and pottery tools and supplies online. We are located far from any well supplied dealers and yet working with reliable ceramic and pottery suppliers online has allowed us to recieve most of our orders within a timely manner.

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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