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Choosing a Propane Torch for Element Repair

A propane torch will make an element turn red in just a few seconds.

Sometimes the biggest improvement comes from making the smallest change. When I was building a house, I found that changing the position of my thumb when I gripped a hammer improved my efficiency.

This idea also applies to choosing a propane torch for element maintenance. The right torch makes a big difference.

If a heating element bulges out of a sidewall firebrick groove, you should repair it as soon as possible. Heat the element with a propane torch until the element is red hot. Then shrink it into place with needle-nose pliers.

You can purchase a propane torch from a home improvement center. Buy the type that has a push-button igniter. When you press the button, a blue flame appears. When you release the button, the flame goes out.

For element maintenance, do not use the older manual propane torches. Turning them on and off is awkward. You first turn a knob to start the flow of propane and then hold a match under the nozzle.

Shrinking a bulging element is easy when using the propane torch with push-button igniter. First, press the igniter and hold the flame near the bulging element. You will see the element turn red in just a few seconds. Then release the igniter. Shrink the element back into the groove. As the element cools, it will become stiff. You can feel it through the pliers. At the first sign of stiffness, press the igniter, reheat the element, and repeat the process until the element is in its groove. Do not bend the element while it is stiff, or it will break.


1) Make sure the kiln is disconnected from the power before working on an element.

2) Use a propane torch only in an area that has good ventilation.

3) Clear the area of combustible materials before using the torch.


Q. My Kiln Pointer email is blank. I am using Outlook Express. Do you know how to correct?

A. A few issues ago we added a photo to each Kiln Pointer. I hope this has not been an inconvenience for those who have turned off the graphics in their email system. To turn on the graphics in Outlook Express:

Click "Tools," then "Options" from the drop menu. Click "Read," and clear the check box for "Read all messages in plain text." Click "Security" and clear the check box for "Block images and other external content in HTML email."


Q. When a digital kiln is taking longer than usual to complete a firing, how do you know whether something has gone wrong and the kiln is over-firing?

A: You should place pyrometric witness cones on the shelf so that you can see them through a peephole.

Another way to prevent an over-fire: Learn to estimate kiln temperature by the color of light showing around the lid and peepholes. That way, you can tell at a glance if all is well when you check your kiln. Even with electronics, you still need the human element.

Q. Is it okay if the thermocouple extends into the firing chamber 1/2” farther than normal?

A. Yes. You will need to be careful not to bump it with a shelf, though.

As a rule of thumb, the thermocouple must extend into the firing chamber four times its diameter. Example: a ¼” wide thermocouple should extend into the firing chamber by 1”.

Q. What causes ceramic ware to break inside a microwave oven?

A. Ware that absorbs water can break inside a microwave. This is because the water in the clay expands and turns to steam. Pieces that are to be used in a microwave should be vitreous, which means they no longer absorb water.

Another reason is uneven heating of the ware.

Q. What type of glue do you recommend for glass fusing?

Use white glue, such as Elmer’s diluted 1:1 with water, to hold the glass pieces together after you place them on the kiln shelf. Use the glue sparingly. Glue is especially important when fusing wire into the glass. The glue prevents the glass or wire from moving out of place before they fuse. The glue disappears during firing.


Have you read any good books lately? Here is a collection on glass fusing, pottery, enameling, and heat treating in all price ranges:


It rained several inches here on Labor Day. I enjoy reading to the sound of rain on the roof.

With best wishes,

Arnold Howard Paragon Industries, L.P. – Better Designed Kilns 2011 South Town East Blvd. Mesquite, TX 75149-1122 Voice: 972-288-7557 & 800-876-4328 / Fax: 972-222-0646 /

Feel free to email this Kiln Pointer to friends. To read back issues Click here or go to, select “Support,” and then “Kiln Pointers” from the drop menu.

To respond to this Kiln Pointer, press Reply. Your email will go directly to Arnold Howard.

PRIVACY NOTICE: Under no circumstance do we share or sell your email address.

Copyright 2006, by Paragon Industries, L.P.

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