Knowing your kiln’s wiring diagram will help you to realize that electric kilns are actually pretty easy to maintain.
How to Read Your Kiln’s Wiring Diagram
Recent Q&As: Using a cracked kiln shelf; twisting together the ends of a broken element
A Kiln Story: Moving a 1,350 Pound Kiln Down Basement Stairs
News: The Kiln Pointers Newsletter is Now Available in HTML or Text Format
HOW TO READ YOUR KILN’S WIRING DIAGRAM
Save the wiring diagram that came with your kiln’s instruction packet. The diagram is a road map to the kiln’s electrical system and will aid you in maintaining the kiln.
The electrical parts in the printed wiring diagram are laid out very differently from the parts in the kiln’s switch box. This is because parts are arranged in the switch box to fit the available space, while parts are laid out in the wiring diagram to avoid overlapping the lines that represent wires. Wires that cross over each other can become confusing.
If you are working on your kiln and need to understand the wiring diagram, first unplug the kiln and open the switch box (also called the kiln control panel). Compare the parts in the box with the parts on the printed wiring diagram. Take your time.
If the box is dusty, you will have difficulty identifying the parts. So, if necessary, blow out the switch box with canned air while wearing a dust mask and safety glasses. Shine a flashlight into the switch box; the parts will be less confusing when they are well lit. Start with the element connectors; each element has two. The wiring diagram will show wires that go from the element connectors to a relay or switch. Find the corresponding parts in the switch box. Then branch out from those main parts to the others.
Surprisingly, many kiln problems are caused by something minor such as a disconnected wire. So, while you are examining the switch box, check the wire connections. They must be tight. Look for bare wires that are touching the case. Replace brittle wires.
If you have a digital kiln, make sure the thermocouple wires are kept away from other wires. The thermocouple wires are sensitive to electrical interference.
Q. I have been making slumped wine bottles for our church to sell at the upcoming country fair. In one firing I flatten three bottles. In the next three firings, I put one bottle mold in the middle of the shelf with one of the flattened bottles on top. Today I took the 21" round shelf out to scrape off the old kiln wash and apply fresh layers and realized that there is a crack across the middle of the shelf. I always put the shelf on four, one inch posts. Can/should I continue to use this shelf until it breaks completely?
A. I would continue to use the shelf. If you are concerned that it might break during firing, you could support it under the crack with extra one inch posts. It is safe to use the cracked shelf because in this case, the kiln is loaded with only one shelf, which is supported an inch off the kiln floor.
Q. Did you ever see an element that had burned out and was repaired by twisting the broken ends back together?
A. Tony Rodriguez, kiln technician: “I had several customers who repaired their kilns by twisting broken element ends together. However, most of the customers did not heat the element to red heat and twist the ends to assure a tight grip between the two ends of the wire. Most people just moved the wires so the turns of the wires ‘tangled’ themselves together.
“This did not work well; when the wires heated, they would come apart again. I found this repair more prevalent amongst the potters, who seemed to be the ones with more initiative. A couple of school electricians also tried the ‘wire twisting magic’ with little luck. Most of the time, the heating elements were already past the maximum wear point, and the repair did not last. There is nothing better than to replace a broken heating element for proper kiln performance.”
A KILN STORY: MOVING A 1,350 POUND KILN DOWN BASEMENT STAIRS
[Note: Erik Markow and Thom Norris own a 1,350 pound Paragon Pearl-56 glass kiln, which has a 30” wide x 56” long interior. Erik and Thom live in Bowie, Maryland with their two parrots, Simon and Sydney.]
By Erik Markow and Thom Norris
We had to move our Pearl-56 from our main floor garage, around the back of our house, and into our newly built basement studio with eight stairs at the entrance.
The 36” door opening was too small for the intact kiln. So we disconnected the top of the Pearl from the bottom. Then six very strong, young body builders from the gym carried each separate section across our back yard and down the basement stairs. We had plywood in the yard so they could set the pieces down half way to rest. The top weighs approximately 500 pounds and the bottom 900 pounds.
We had to turn each half on its side and place it on sliders to push it through the three doorway openings to get to the kiln room. The kiln sections would barely fit through the doorways, so the guys had to push and pull from either end. We had half an inch of clearance on either side through the smallest doorway.
We reconnected the kiln and fired it up for the first time, and it has worked beautifully ever since. In the future we must sell our house to glass artists since we don't ever want to move the kiln again!
“There are no problems--only solutions [waiting to be discovered].” --John Lennon
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Not long ago I finished reading, “Will Your Next Mistake Be Fatal?” by Robert Mittelstaedt. The many stories about preventable calamities--stories from Enron, the Titanic, etc.-- make the book worth reading.
The biggest lesson that I learned from these stories is that when you see a looming mistake in your organization or family, speak up. Crew members aboard the Titanic knew that mistakes were being made before the ship hit the iceberg, but they didn’t speak up.
With best wishes,
Arnold Howard Paragon Industries, L.P. – Better Designed Kilns 2011 South Town East Blvd., Mesquite, Texas 75149-1122 Voice: 972-288-7557 & 800-876-4328 / Fax: 972-222-0646 / firstname.lastname@example.org / www.paragonweb.com / www.facebook.com/paragonkilns
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