A friend of mine is interested in purchasing a kiln and asked me a few questions. Here are my answers.
1) So had few questions. I am in the market for buying a kiln. Is it better for me to get ceramic kiln or should i stick with glass kiln. I will be mainly doing fusing, slumping and casting. Medium size. With ceramic I have the luxury to work with clay if needed. So a bit confused.
This is a really common question- and a very good one.
Ceramic kilns are a dime a dozen. Getting a kiln that fires both Glass and Ceramics is a lot more difficult and usually one of the qualities is sacrificed as a result. The level of temperature control required for glass is not usually possible in the majority of ceramic kilns.
For example, ceramics are firing much higher than glass. So, you need a kiln that can go up those temperatures (past 2000). Most glass kilns only go up to 1700, 2000 if you’re lucky. The level of control needed in glass is significantly greater than that of a ceramics kiln. Ceramics is all about getting it hot (it’s more complicated than that, so I know I’m making a generalization). Glass needs heat to be evenly distributed in all the right areas, at the right temperature, at the right rate.
Ceramic kilns (the more affordable variety) do not have a way to ramp the heat DOWN once the kiln has been fired. They use a cone, which bends when a certain temperature is reached, and then the kiln shuts off. These kilns are designed to remove heat as quickly as possible.
This is acceptable with ceramics because it can cool at a much faster rate than glass.
As you know with glass, annealing is very important. As is temperature control. You know enough about glass and have specific results that you may desire- these results may not be possible in a kiln that you want to do both glass & ceramics. If you didn’t know anything about glass, or that you could achieve very specific results, a ceramics kiln might work just fine. (ignorance is bliss? J The more you know, the harder it is when you can’t achieve those specific results.)
What to consider is the true use for your kiln. In the next year, what will you be firing in it? Will you be casting? Fusing? Doing pot melts?
1) Casting needs temperature control on ALL sides (paragon kilns in the glass studio are ideal for this very reason)
2) Fusing needs a combination of top heat and side heat.
3) Pot Melts: a tall kiln with top heat and side elements to warm the shelf.
It’d be great to have a kiln that can do all of those things, but you can also very reasonably rent kiln time at Glass Axis. They are under new direction, so I’m not sure if their rates have changed for kiln rental. But you still have these options available to you.
Start small and get a kiln that suits your current needs. You can always upgrade or do larger projects at Axis.
While I was in Oregon, I bought my dream kiln – a Paragon GL24AD-TSD. It looks just like the paragons at OSU, but it’s a bit more powerful. It’s a beast, weights 350lbs+ and – and quite honestly, it can do everything I need it to do and more.
But quite honestly it’s way too big to justify using all the time. It’s way more power than I need most of the time. I’m actually looking into purchasing a smaller kiln (actually been looking at the firefly model on ebay for a few months) to do some smaller firings and testings in.
It’s not unreasonable to get a ceramic kiln later on- if you check craigslist regularly, they are frequently available for a few hundred dollars. You’ll get more bang for your buck by having two kilns instead of having a kiln that tries to accommodate for both, but consequently limits both ventures.
Also, another concern is that you don’t want glaze to be dripping all over your kiln shelves for glass. (some glazes run like crazy when they are fired.)
There’s a different kiln wash that is used with ceramics- it’s thicker and designed to reach higher temperatures. Glass kiln wash is very thin and smooth, as glass fired directly onto the shelf. Remember how the brush strokes from applying kiln wash would show up on the backs of your pieces?
If you use the kiln for both purposes, it’d be to your advantage to have a kiln shelf for glass and one for ceramics.
There are very few kilns that are designed specifically to accommodate both Glass and Ceramics. It’s the Paragon Janus series, starting at around $2300 per kiln.
2) between paragon and skutt, do you prefer one over the other?
The simple answer to this is that I prefer both. Both are very legitimate brands- it really depends on what you’re trying to achieve with your kiln.
Last summer there was a fabulous lecture at BeCon by Daniel Clayman about building the kiln around the artwork.
It’s less about the brand and more about the function.