Learning pottery but don’t have a kiln? Well, there is a great solution to this, microwave kilns. Yes, your microwave oven can be turned into a highly functional kiln with the help of this pottery device. However, keep in mind that you cannot fire huge sculptures or even normal-sized artwork in these kilns. They are meant for miniature clay work pottery firing. So, how do these microwave kilns work? And how can they aid your pottery work? Let us find out!
What Is A Microwave Kiln?
A microwave kiln is a miniature version of your regular kiln that can be used to fire pottery inside a microwave oven. While a regular microwave can be used to dry the clay to a bone-dry state, its temperature doesn’t go high enough to fire it. So, if you don’t have the budget for a regular kiln or are just starting as a pottery artist, a microwave kiln can do the job for you.
This specialized kiln is designed to fire small glass, ceramic, or metallic objects in a regular microwave oven. It comprises of refractory or ceramic material container that is enclosed within a metal frame or shell. Microwave kilns are usually popular among crafters, hobbyists, and artists who like to fire small pottery pieces.
What Are Microwave Kilns Made Of?
In general, a microwave kiln comprises of the following parts:
- Ceramic Container:
The base material for a microwave kiln is a ceramic container that is normally made up of refractory material. This material is designed to withstand very high temperatures for successful pottery firing inside a kiln. It is generally shaped in the form of a crucible or a small bowl with a tight-fitting lid.
- Metal Enclosure:
The base material in a microwave kiln is surrounded by a metal enclosure that works as the device’s frame. This metal enclosure serves multiple purposes during the microwave kiln firing process. It both reflects and contains microwave radiation while providing the ceramic base a structural support.
- Insulating Material:
Certain good-quality microwave kilns feature a high-quality insulating material like an insulation board or ceramic fiber within the metal shell. This material aids in retaining heat while preventing the outer shell from getting too hot during the firing process. One such good-quality microwave kiln is the Love Charm Microwave Kiln which can reach as high as 1650oF when placed inside a microwave oven. Given its compact design, it can fit into ovens of any size and make the firing process easy for miniature artwork.
How Does A Microwave Kiln Work?
Standard microwave kilns are smaller than the interior of the microwave oven. This ensures the kiln can fit within the oven while leaving ample space within the interior. One can place clay miniatures inside the microwave kiln. However, given the small size, the number of objects that can be fired in one go is limited.
Keep in mind not to overload the microwave kiln or the firing might not happen properly or it will be unevenly fired. Make sure your microwave oven isn’t being used for food purposes as the process of pottery firing can release toxic odors or leave residue that might get into the food. So, dedicate a microwave oven solely for kiln firing.
When you turn on the microwave oven, it tends to emit microwave radiation which generates heat. This heat is generated by electromagnetic waves that are known to oscillate at a 2.45GHz frequency. However, this frequency doesn’t generate enough heat to initiate the firing process. However, when a microwave kiln is placed inside, it amplifies these waves and hence the heat retained inside the kiln is increased as well. Moreover, the ceramic design inside these kilns is designed to withstand high temperatures without breaking down or melting.
As the ceramic material within the kiln absorbs the microwave energy, it starts heating up rapidly and this heat is then transferred to the materials placed within the container.
While the heating inside a microwave kiln wouldn’t be as fast as that of a regular-sized kiln, it works just as well but only over a long period. Moreover, the temperature reached inside the microwave kiln would depend on your oven’s power settings and the heating duration. The firing schedule and guidelines would vary depending on the size of your project and the clay variant you plan on using.
What To Do Once The Microwave Kiln Firing Is Complete?
The duration for which you must fire your artwork in a microwave kiln would vary depending on multiple factors. This includes the size, clay type, glaze used, and thickness of the project. To ensure that you do not err with your project, it is important to test fire before you place the main batch within the microwave kiln.
Once you are done test firing and know the exact firing temperature and time for your project, you can go ahead and place your main batch inside. Whether you are firing inside a regular kiln or a microwave kiln, removing the contents from within the kiln immediately isn’t advised.
After switching off the microwave oven, let the content cool down within the oven itself. This can take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours depending on how long the heating period lasted. Doing this will prevent any thermal shock to the artwork and ensure it doesn’t crack upon cooling.
Remember, a microwave kiln can be your go-to choice if you love working with miniature artwork. Moreover, if you are a hobbyist or a beginner who just wants to experiment or enjoy the process, having a microwave kiln will make things easier without the need to invest a lot in traditional kilns. It also works best if you do not have a dedicated space to keep your kiln and need something compact.
Microwave kilns are an efficient and cost-effective choice for artists who require a user-friendly alternative to traditional kilns. With reduced electricity consumption, you can also save up on your energy bills while mastering the art of pottery firing. However, regardless of the type of kiln you use for the firing process, make sure you practice safety precautions and work in a well-ventilated space.