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Kiln Pointers

Organizing the Kiln Area to Save Time

Consultant Connie Speer (left) with Michele Harmon, owner of The Bisque House in Granbury, Texas.


Organizing the Kiln Area to Save Time

A Kiln Story: The Sonic Boom

Reader Response: Ceramic beads

Recent Q&As: Ceramic beads


When we are very busy, organizing the kiln area seems like the last thing we have time to do. Yet this is one of the best ways to save time.

I was reminded of this when I visited The Bisque House in Granbury, Texas this week. It is one of the cleanest, most organized studios I have ever seen. It looks more like an expensive restaurant than a pottery and glass studio.

Organizing the kiln area will not only save you time but also increase your enjoyment of the kiln.

1) Keep the kiln on a stand with casters if you need to move the kiln out of the way when you are not using it.

2) Sort boxes of pyrometric cones by number. Not only will you save time looking for the right cones; you will also lessen the chance of using the wrong ones.

3) Keep kiln posts sorted by length.

4) Vacuum dust from the kiln area with a HEPA-filtered vacuum cleaner. Dust can accumulate inside the switch box and eventually overheat electrical connections. Keep glaze dust away from the kiln. It can burn out elements.

5) Store flammable materials out of the firing room. Keep paint, gasoline, and the lawnmower in a storage shed if your kiln is in the garage. Otherwise you will spend time removing these items every time you fire the kiln.

6) Do not store anything on top of or inside the kiln. You will waste time moving stored items out of the way to use the kiln. Storing anything on the lid may also be a fire hazard, because someone may inadvertently place something flammable on it not realizing that the lid is still hot from a firing.

7) Keep steel shelves near the kiln to stack ceramic ware. This places the ware near the kiln for easy loading. The heat from the kiln will also help dry the clay.

8) Keep important firing instructions on the wall at a convenient height so you don’t have to spend time hunting for it. Examples would be a pyrometric cone chart and controller programming instructions.

9) Find a convenient place for your firing logbook and kiln instruction manuals. A document holder on the wall is a good location.


John Toki in Berkeley, California knows a woman who lived near an air base. Loud jets flew overhead regularly and shook the windows on her house. She filed a report with the United States Air Force for a sonic boom that caused her kiln to shake so much that the pottery inside the chamber fell over while the kiln was firing.

Then she found out that the washer/dryer repairman forgot to tell her that he scooted the kiln over to access her laundry equipment. (John owns Leslie Ceramics and co-authored the recently revised 640-page “Hands in Clay.”)


The last Kiln Pointer was “How to Fire Glazed Ceramic Beads.”

Joseph 2bears of Lomita, California suggests, “Why couldn't a stainless steel bead mandrel with bead release be used to fire ceramic beads? Would this allow the glaze to cover the hole in the end of the bead and still release from the mandrel? A used stainless steel kitchen whisk picked up at a garage sale would provide a lot of wire for this use. Nichrome wire is fairly expensive. Would stainless steel be a good alternative?”

Newy Fagan of Ocklawaha, Florida wrote, “Sometimes I cast glass beads. After removing them from the investment, I cold work them to take off the outside layer, then suspend on bead mandrels with 975 or 1100 degree F Fusemaster overglaze. The little ugly ducklings transform into another bird.”

RECENT Q&As Q. What do you use to make the hole in the clay beads?

A. Press the hole into the clay while the clay bead is still soft. If you wait until the clay is dry, you will have to drill the hole and risk breaking the bead. Use a metal rod to form the hole in the clay with a slight twisting motion. Clean the opening of the hole on each side of the bead. After the bead is given its final shape, clean the holes again.

Q. What can my students use that would require the least amount of instruction and fine motor skills to color the beads?

A. Brush the glaze onto the bead while the bead is positioned on a rod. Your students can handle the rod without disturbing the glaze. Suspend the bead so that it doesn't touch anything while the glaze dries.

Q. Where can I purchase the rods to fire the beads?

A. The rods, which are called bead rods or stilt rods, should be available from most clay suppliers. (Paragon sells them too.) The rods come in 6 and 10 gauge and lengths from 3" to 12".

Q. What prevents the beads from closing up on the rod from shrinkage?

A. Make the hole in the beads a little wider than the stilt rod. That way the beads will remain loose even if they shrink during firing.


This week Shelia Collins, Connie Speer, and I visited the new Bisque House in Granbury, Texas. Granbury is a quiet little town where people go out of their way to be courteous. Cars on side streets stop so pedestrians can cross.

I wish the new store much success.

Thank you,

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 /

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

Copyright 2008, by Paragon Industries, L.P.

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