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Use the Right Tools

Locking pliers make it easy to tighten the element connector.


Use the Right Tools

Reader Response: Dichroic glass; the fear of kilns

Recent Q&As: Glass slumping molds; firing stoneware over the gap between half shelves; what to do about dust falling from the kiln top

Memorable Quote

News: Advanced Kiln Maintenance Seminar February 20 – 21, 2009



In replacing the faucet in my kitchen, I crawled under the sink to remove the nuts that held the faucet in place. The nuts were in a narrow recess up high behind the sink. With the glow of a lamp, I could barely see them let alone reach them with pliers. After I struggled for ten minutes, it became obvious that someone must have designed a special tool for the task.

I drove to Lowe’s home improvement center and asked a salesman for advice. He immediately showed me a basin wrench. I took it home, crawled under the sink again, and removed the nuts in only several minutes.

Sometimes the difference between a professional and an amateur is that the pro has the right tool, and the amateur doesn’t even know it exists. Think about that the next time you operate or repair a kiln. Find the correct tools or supplies to increase your efficiency and enjoyment. Several examples:

1) If you are having trouble with kiln wash, experiment with different brands until you find one that is easy to remove yet does not readily flake off. Finding the right formula could save you many hours later.

2) Learn to use witness cones in ceramic firings. They are invaluable in troubleshooting and in recording your results.

3) Use a multi-meter to test your kiln, and save the instructions that came with the tool. Learn to use the voltmeter, ammeter, and ohmmeter.

4) Use a pair of locking pliers (i.e. Vice-Grips) to tighten barrel element connectors. It is the most useful tool I own. Locking pliers make it easy to tighten the element connector.

5) Buy the best glass cutter you can find. It should have an oil reservoir. It may be expensive, but it will begin paying for itself in the glass that you will save. It will also make fusing more enjoyable.



From an anonymous reader: Do not fuse the coated side of dichroic against the coated side of another piece of dichroic. They usually will not stick.

Grace Brenneman of Vacaville, California wrote, “I bought my Paragon kiln about two years ago but was too nervous to fire it. I read the directions, took a couple of classes, and read several books but was worried I would set my house on fire. I finally got up the nerve and fired the kiln last month and have been firing it a few times a week since. I am having a ball working with glass, and my friends are amazed. I only regret I didn't buy a larger kiln.”



Q. What is the main difference between slumping glass in ceramic and stainless steel molds?

A. Glass is slumped into ceramic molds and draped over stainless steel molds. This is due to the difference in expansion and contraction between the glass and the mold. Glass contracts more than a ceramic mold and less than a stainless steel mold during cooling.

Q. Is it okay to fire stoneware pieces over the gap between half shelves?

A. Yes, as long as the gap between the shelves is not too wide. If your clay sags into the gap between the shelves during firing, then space the shelves closer together the next time.

Q. My kiln lid is cracked and drops dust onto glazed ware. How can I get around the problem until I replace the lid?

A. Position large ware on the lower shelves and smaller ware on the top shelf. Arrange the smaller pieces so they are not directly under the crack where the dust is falling.

You could also fill the firebrick crack with ceramic fiber. Roll the fiber and press into the lid crack with a knife. This method works only with wide cracks.

Sometimes dust comes from the kiln coating that has been applied too heavily. This is easy to recognize by the tiny cracks in the lid surface. They look like the cracks in crazed glaze. Sand the lid, vacuum, and apply a new coat of kiln coating.

Please handle the lid gently. Dropping the lid causes cracks in the firebricks.



“Never, never, never give up.” --Winston Churchill



We are holding an Advanced Kiln Maintenance Seminar February 20 - 21, 2009 at the Paragon factory in Mesquite, Texas. If you wish to attend, please call 972-288-7557 or 800-876-4328.

The seminar will cover kiln design, extensive trouble shooting, three-phase power, and much more. Participants should complete the basic repair seminar or have experience repairing kilns before attending the advanced seminar. You do not need to bring tools. The seminar fee is $105.00.

Meals, Airport Pickup, Hotels

As a seminar student, you are a VIP guest at Paragon. We furnish lunches on both days and dinner the first evening. The seminar is an exciting way to meet new friends.

If you arrive before 4:00 p.m. the day before the seminar, we will pick you up at Love Field or D/FW International Airport. Please call ahead with flight number, arrival time, airport, and gate number.

We will pick up students from the offices of the following hotels at 7:30 - 7:45 a.m. each seminar morning and return them at the end of the first day:

Hampton Inn 800-426-7866

Holiday Inn Express 972-288-9900

After the seminar, a shuttle will leave Paragon at around 12:30 - 1:00 p.m. to take students back to the airports.

For more information and to register, please call 800-876-4328 and ask for customer service. I hope you can come, and I look forward to visiting with you.


Dan Fenton is one of the pioneers in the glass fusing movement. He has taught since the early days and helped to develop the industry. Much of what we enjoy in glass fusing today is due to the work of teachers such as Dan Fenton.

Dan is undergoing cancer treatment. He is selling his glass artwork for $500 per piece to pay for his medication. He would also like to teach glass fusing seminars. Teaching and working with glass helps him to forget the difficulties he is facing. If you are interested in purchasing artwork or hosting a seminar, please call Dan Fenton at 510-638-1313 or send an email to Patti at I appreciate your help.

Thank you,

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 /

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

Copyright 2009, by Paragon Industries, L.P.

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