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How does a beginner get over the fear of a new kiln?

Recently a friend told me that she had been afraid of her Paragon glass kiln until she began firing glass bottles. The bottles were free, so she could experiment all she wanted without worry about ruining expensive stained glass. Firing bottles took away her fear. She now enjoys glass fusing more because the fear had been a brake on her creativity.

Experiment with inexpensive materials in your kiln before investing a lot of time or supplies on new ideas. When you fire a load of ceramics, place experimental glazed pieces on empty shelf areas. Before firing a full load of production ware, perfect single pieces.

For instance, if you are making glass pendants, fire one pendant at a time in a small test kiln such as the Paragon QuikFire. Perfect the design before you fill a larger kiln with duplicates. A small test kiln takes away the stress of firing a large kiln.

People are also afraid of the high temperatures inside kilns. I know of customers who wait for months to fire their new kiln. If the kiln is installed properly and you monitor the kiln during firing, there is no reason to fear it. The heat is contained safely inside the kiln.

Some people find digital controllers intimidating. It may be because the manual is so thick. But most of the information in the manual is for reference. For instance, the section on options contains information on advanced features that you may never use.


1) The light around the edge of the door or lid: The line of light that glows under the lid is normal. As long as the lid or door is closed all the way, there is little heat loss.

2) Discolored paint: This is inevitable and doesn’t affect firing results.

3) Clicking noise: It is the sound of relays or infinite control switches cycling. Once you become familiar with the sound, you may find it reassuring that the kiln is firing normally.

4) Cracks, chips, and breaks in the firing chamber: Ceramic fiber and insulating firebricks undergo tremendous stress during firing. These imperfections are inevitable and do not affect the firing.

5) The digital controller shutoff temperature varies for repeat firings to a particular cone: Controllers are designed to change the shutoff temperature to compensate for firing speed. All is well as long as the witness cone bends correctly.

6) The pilot light flickers: This doesn’t indicate low voltage. It is normal for the small neon lights.

7) The elements hum: This is only the sound of element coils vibrating in their brick grooves.

8) The inner lid surface peels: Kilns have a refractory coating that hardens the brick surface. If the coating is too thick, it will peel. Simply remove the old coating with grit cloth and apply a new one with a paint brush.


1) Bulging element: Repair bulging elements before you fire the kiln again.

2) Popping noise from switch: A popping noise means the switch is about to fail. Keep a spare on hand.

3) Chattering noise from relay: A chattering relay is either about to fail or is not receiving enough power to operate properly. Keep a spare relay on hand.

4) Water dripping from the kiln case: You are most likely firing moist greenware. This increases electrical consumption and also rusts the kiln.

5) You smell burning plastic: Please check the wall outlet. A loose connection may be overheating the wiring.

6) You hear a crackling noise: This is the sound of a loose electrical connection.

7) Your ceramics or glass makes a plinking noise: This is the sound of clay or glass breaking inside the kiln. The clay and glaze probably have a poor fit, and the glass pieces are either incompatible or they were fired or cooled too rapidly.

8) The lid rises in the front: If you have a lid counter-balance spring system, it is probably out of adjustment. This should be repaired before the next firing.

Arnold Howard

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