Kiln tips for Beginners

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When it comes to building your pottery skills, having a kiln is a very important thing. Kilns are used to fire pottery, which is your work, and they are a huge part of making sure that you have the best pottery experience. This post will discuss the best kilt tips that you should keep in mind, and some important things to remember when you’re firing pottery in a kiln.



Safety First!

One of the key ways to make sure that you do well with kilns is to make sure that you practice great safety. It’s super important to make sure that you do follow the correct safety guidelines for the best results with kilns.


Some of the ways to do so are as follows:

  • Know your kiln before you use it
  • Never touch a kiln that’s on
  • Don’t touch it unless it’s unplugged
  • If you are moving stuff around in the kiln, you definitely will want to have gloves or tongs
  • Keep your kiln away from flammable surfaces
  • Always read the directions on your kiln


These are some key parts, and it’s super important that you watch out for this, since it makes a huge difference in your ability to fire pottery successfully


Mud to Ceramic

If you’re going to be firing your pottery, you’ll want to make sure that you take the correct means to do so. Remember, you’re taking some mud that you put together and turning it into some gorgeous ceramic work. You want to make sure that you do this, and it does take some time and a lot of work.


You want to fire this in two different ways, and that is the following:

  • Bisque firing
  • Glaze fired


Bisque fired is when you take the greenware that you’ve put together on the wheel and turned it into something that’s vitrified slightly and is kind of porous as well. from here, you begin the glazing, decorating, and then the firing.


You also do bisque firing for other reasons, so that it can burn out the organic materials that are located in the clay. When the temperature rises, changes happen, and you should definitely watch out for these.


Science Behind Stuff

Some thing to remember is that if you’re working with a kiln, you want to know about the way heat is transferred when you’re using a kiln.


They are the following:

  • Conduction through physical contact
  • Radiation from the kiln elements
  • Convection via the heat rising through the air


The electricity in kilns often has heating elements, and they’re made for high temperatures. This, in turn, will generate heat, and from there, it rises, and soon, everything in the kiln is absorbed by this. It’s important to understand this so that you fire your pottery at the correct temperatures for all of this.


Kiln concerns

If you’re going to be getting a kiln or starting with one, you want to make sure that you have a few elements kept in mind. Money, what you’re firing, and other reasons are important to explore, and this section will talk about this.


Now, with what you’re firing, it’s important to determine all of this so that you get the various elements that you need, such as

  • The kiln size
  • The range of temperature
  • Accessories that you need
  • What art do you want to make


If you’re going to be doing this as a serious hobby, you’ll want a bigger kiln. If you’re going to be glazing your pottery, you need something that you can use that works for glazes and is friendly with them.


If you want to make specific types of firing processes, you might need a certain kiln as well, especially if it’s an intricate design for the pottery.


You should look at how many projects you’ll be firing at a time as well. If you’re going to be making full sets, you should go bigger. If you’re going to do one at a time, go smaller.


Finally, if you’re going to get a kiln in terms of what to fire, you need to think about your own growth as an artist, and if you’re going to be firing similar stuff, or just moving onto something else.


Then there is the budget. With your first kiln, you’ll want to get something that is not on the super expensive side, but also not so cheap that it has safety precautions. You will want to make sure that you get something that won’t break the bank, but it will hold up at least for a few years.


Finally, you want to look at gadgets that you can put in there. If you’re going to just be working with basic pottery, you want to make sure that you do have the type of kiln that works for that. don’t try to get something super huge and complicated if you’re not going into this.


But, if you’re considering a complex set of processes, later on, there are a few things that you can get, such as:

  • Complex firing processes
  • Ramp downs
  • Extra little details


When you’re buying, you shouldn’t buy something you potentially don’t need if you’re not sure if you’re going to use it. If you want to get something like this though, do consider it, but make sure that if you’re getting anything with more extra tidbits to it, you should definitely read all of the descriptive information about it, so that you’re not getting stiffed on a kiln model.


You should make sure that you try to figure out what works for you, and if it’ll fit in your home. Your kiln does need a bit of breathing room as well, and you’ll want to make sure that it’s both ventilated, and you’ve got outlets and breakers if you do feel like you’re going to need more of them. Just take the time to plan for this.


Generalized tips

It’s important to make sure that you know a few of the generalized tips that are going on in this because it’ll help with making sure you’ve got a good firing surface. This section will highlight each tip.


  • Don’t put combustibles at least a foot near the kiln surface. This puts it at risk for fires
  • You should get some welders’ glasses when working with kilns, and never directly look into it without these
  • You shouldn’t put insulation around the kiln, because this can make it overheat
  • Don’t fire with cracked sleeves, since they do crack, and this could damage the pottery. You should make sure that the shelves are stored in a dry area where they can’t break
  • You should make sure that when you’re near the kiln, you don’t wear loose-fitting clothing
  • You should keep the kiln closed when you’re not using it, and never put stuff on the kiln lid. Unplug the kiln when you’re not using it. don’t leave it idle either since you might forget.
  • Always be near your kiln when using it, because you never know if you have to run something off
  • Don’t touch elements that generate heat with anything that’s got high voltage
  • Don’t leave your kiln unattended
  • Make sure your kiln is in an area that’s well-ventilated, and if you need to stop to ventilate the room, do so
  • Get rid of any chords or tripping hazards near where you load and unload the kiln
  • If you smell anything burning, especially burning plastic, shut your kiln off and look at the power chord or the wall outlet to see if it is burning
  • Don’t open the kiln until it’s cooled down. If you do open it up right away, it can cause the pottery to crack due to thermal shock
  • Turn off the kiln before you load and unload and disconnect the kiln when you’re not using it.
  • Keep children away from the kiln area
  • If you block airflow, it can change the heat and the cones, so do keep that in mind
  • Get rid of flammable materials
  • Don’t put objects under the kiln stand


These tips will help you have the best experience when it comes to actually using this.


Using Cones

If you’re using any sort of pottery or glaze, you might notice that it matures, or reaches and fires perfectly, at some temperatures. Now, you need to know these, because too high can cause it to melt, but too low makes it less durable. If you fire glazes too high, it can cause run-off, but firing too low makes it dry and it can feel rough to the texture. You want to make sure that when you fire, you use pyrometric cones. They’re made from oxides and they do bend at different temperatures.


You can get different cones, and typically you use three of them, in order to fire correctly. You should get one that’s a guide cone that’s below the temperature that you need, and then, the firing cone where you want it to be, and then the guard cone which means that you’re near the threshold of the temperature. You want to make sure that you have kilns that are adjusted on your kiln sitter, and make sure that you have that put in. while you don’t necessarily always need this, especially if you’ve got a kiln that can be calibrated immediately, this does provide a reference point to look into to see how the kiln is working.


General kiln help

Now, when you’re looking into getting a kiln, you might be a bit scared, but here are some key things to remember when it comes to this.


First of all, it’s not as scary as you might think it is. when you hear about the firing temperatures, which can get up to almost a couple thousand degrees, you might get completely scared, but here’s the thing, not every single one of them does that. If you’re beginning, you don’t need a super-hot kiln or a super-fancy one. A small electric kiln does the job and then some.



Plus, you can get different ones based on what you want, for example, think of the following:

  • Are you going to dabble in this part-time?
  • Are you going to be a working artist?
  • Do you want to fire a lot of things?

It’s kind of like with any artistic medium, there are cheap ways to do it, and there are more expensive ways to, especially if you’re wanting to be serious. You can get a small kiln for cheaper than a Mac, and it’s good if you’re going to just dabble in it. You don’t need a 4000-dollar kiln, especially when starting out


Plus, you can always sell your art, and you’ll make the money back over time.


Now, there are always some concerns about electricity. You might wonder how much this is, well it’s actually not that bad. If you’re looking into how much this might cost. It’s about 8 bucks a fire on a regular schedule. If you’re on a timely plan though, you can do about 4 bucks a fire. The best thing to do is to make sure that you do sandbag a lot of different pieces, and fire them all at once. It’s important not to alternate, since it can actually create problems, and you might end up firing something that you don’t want to fire.


When it comes to seeing up the kiln, there are also a few things that you should know about, and here are a few of the things to keep in mind before you continue:


  • Have the electrician look in the area that you’re using to make sure that you have good amperage and also help with kiln firing
  • You should make sure to get a furniture kit to accommodate the kilns, and nothing too small or too big
  • Make sure that you get a vent for your kiln, regardless of who you are or where you’re going to fire
  • You should kiln wash the shelves, and once you’ve added the powdered mixture, water, and combined it, apply coats onto this, since it’ll prevent the glaze from dripping and sticking. It’s like a baking spray. You should do this before every fire
  • If you have a manual for the kiln, do look at the quick start guide to opening it, so you know how to use it
  • Do a test fire with the cone before you do pieces, since this will help set the kiln, and you should make sure that the cone is bent over to the point where it’s just barely touching the shelves
  • You might notice when you start that it’ll make clicking noises and rev itself up. You should make sure that you fire at the right speed and keep in mind that the 0 in front of the number matters. Cone 6 is different from cone 06, so remember that. If you’re going to bisque stuff, make sure it’s around 06, and then when you’re done, you do it at 04. You can vary the speed on them as well
  • You should make sure that you keep in mind that once you do finish firing, you will want to make sure that you give the kiln time to cool. It takes about 6-8 hours. You should make sure to wait until the room temperature hits. You also shouldn’t take a day trip with the kiln on, and if anything, if you can’t watch it, get a buddy to watch over the kiln
  • You should make sure that you keep in mind that a thermocouple can happen, and you should avoid touching it as needed
  • You should stilt everything so that they don’t stick when you fire
  • You should use cones when firing to make sure that the kiln is doing its job. It should bend, and if it doesn’t, it’s not hot enough. If it starts to melt, it’s way too hot


Fixing mistakes

When it comes to firing, you might feel like you can’t really fix the mistake, but that’s not the case. Literally, with any step that you take in ceramics, you can always fix mistakes. For example, here are a few ways to help you get the most out of your ceramics, and mistakes to fix up over time:


  • If the underglaze gets smeared, you can use a knife or a sander to remove it
  • If you have firing issues, you can always use a Dremel
  • You can always redo the firing as needed
  • You can always mix and match pieces if you end up making something too large
  • If you do want to make a mold, you totally can, and you can do it via silicone in order to make multiples of molds, and you can use candy-making molds too

You should definitely get used to trying to fix your mistakes, and if something does need to be changed, you should do it


Finally, when you feel like you know how to use it, you can get others over and you can have a kiln party and make some cool pottery.


Using a kiln, it can definitely be a bit scary, but you should definitely learn how to use it. This article discussed kiln tips to help you get the most out of this. Your kiln is your baby, and if you want to create some amazing pieces for yourself, and for others, you totally can with this helpful guide, and definitely get the most out of it, and get the best pottery pieces that you know that you can get from this, no matter what you decide to make.




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