Potterycrafts - Britain's leading kiln maker.
In the last two years we have reviewed all of our kiln ranges and have made numerous design changes that have improved the strength of construction, efficiency of power use and given more accuracy in firing. We've also made them look better! All of these changes have been made with a sharp eye on costs, weare determined to keep all of our kilns as competitively priced as we can. Details of specific changes are highlighted in the information below. Our kiln technicians have an on-going program of continuous development that is informed by feedback from customers and advice from our professional potters. Our kiln ranges have been transformed and the new innovations have made Potterycrafts not only the largest UK kiln manufacturer in this sector but also one of the most technologically advanced.
Selecting Your Electric Pottery Kiln
Buying a new kiln is a big step, whether you are a beginner or established potter it is a substantial cost and you need to answer a host of questions if you are to ensure that you make the best choice. I have summarised some of the most important points below; there will be many other considerations but hopefully this might act as a checklist to start you offinthe process.
Shape and Size
What are the size, shapes and quantity of the work that you make now and how might it change in the future. Tall sculptural work clearly needs a firing chamber with at least an inch or two to spare in height. Large flatter work, plates, bowls etc need a kiln with a wider chamber and if pots are to be fired on more than one shelf the crucial measurement is the space left after props supporting theshelf above have been put in place. There is not always a huge difference in cost for the next size up, so the potter’s advice is usually to go for the biggest kiln you can.
Top or front loading.
No longer are top loaders seen as lightweight, hobby kilns, times have changed and advances in materials and engineering have produced very robust kilns. Companies like Potterycrafts have been at the forefront in recent years with a complete redesign of their top loading range. At their Stoke-on-Trent factory they have concentrated on producing kilns with strength and economy to satisfy professional potters while keeping the prices realistic for the amateur. There is little to choose between a Potterycrafts top loader and their front loaders in respect of quality; when the door is closed the bricks and elements are the same. Front loading kilns must have a more rigid, heavier construction to support the weight of the door as it swings open; this of course makes them more expensive. Where there is heavy usage, for example in schools, colleges and production potteries, the preference is often for a front loader.
Program controllers are the instruments that control the rate of heating, the top temperature and if required the rate of cooling. Kilns are offered with a number of options for controllers, if firing to only one temperature, a simple single program controller will suffice; if a number of different program are used a multi-program controller is recommended. A simple controller may only offer two rates of heating, a hold (or soak) at top temperature and cut-off. For more controlled firings instruments with many different segments in each program are available, this enables a more efficient use of power and a more gentle and accurate firing for the pottery. It is essential that the controller has safety features such as over-temperature safety cut-off to protect against over-fire, anti- surge to protect against electrical power surge that could damage the electronics and diagnostics to inform you of problems found in the firing.
Positioning the kiln.
It essential that you have plenty of space to load your kiln and that there is some room around it for airflow, usual advice is to allow 20/30 cm between the sides and adjacent walls. With front loading kiln you will need extra space behind the kiln to allow access for maintenance, 45cm is usually sufficient. Do also check door widths to ensure the kiln will pass through. In domestic situations kilns are often housed in garages or outhouses, even wooden garden sheds. It is of course vital to ensure the conditions are dry and no combustible materials are touching or near to the kin, fireproof materials may be used to eliminate any risk to floor, walls and ceiling.
It is vital that you check available power supply before making a decision. Only the smallest kilns can be plugged in to a domestic 13 amp, three pin socket. Larger sizes will need to be wired in like a cooker. Most popular sizes of craft kiln can be run off a “cooker socket” but you will need to check with an electrician and get a quotation as installing a new supply can sometimes be costly.
Health and Safety.
Kilns are designed to contain heat so even when serious over-fires occur (a very unusual event nowadays), the kiln is unlikely to become a fire hazard. Ensure that no combustible material is touching or near to the kiln. Although with electric kilns only low levels of fumes are generated it is important to have an airflow through the kiln room, an open window may be sufficient. An electric extract fan is a good solution but ensure that you have an open window, airbrick or some other source of replacement air or the fan will not work. Whatever form of ventilation you have, do not work in the same room as the kiln when it is firing.
Servicing and spares.
At some stage in the future your kiln will need servicing, elements replacing etc. Check out the backup offered with a new kiln; is there a quick supply of spares, are there service engineers available. Ask how much a replacement element set costs, there can be massive differences between makes. If considering a second hand kin check that the maker is still in business and that spares are available, even small repairs can be impossible or very costly if the correct parts are no longer obtainable.