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Kiln Pointers

Tools for Element Maintenance

With a few tools, you can change elements and shrink a bulging element back into the groove.


Tools for Element Maintenance

Reader Response: Slumping glass bottles

Recent Q&As: Firing bronze clay; brittle silver clay; top and side elements

Memorable Quote

News: New Temperature Rating on Glass Windows



You can quickly change elements and repair bulging ones if you have the correct tools. Here is a list of tools that we recommend; most will also work with other brands of kilns. (These tools are for kilns that have element grooves rather than embedded elements.)

At the top of the photo:

PROPANE TORCH: Used to heat a bulging section of element, which is necessary before shrinking it back into the groove. Use a trigger-activated torch such as the BernzOmatic TS4000 shown in the photo.

Tools shown from left to right:

VOLT/OHM/AMMETER: The ohmmeter tests whether the element is burned out. The ammeter tests how much amperage the elements are drawing. The model used at our inspection station (and shown in the photo) is the Fluke T5-1000.

1/4” NUT DRIVER: Tightens barrel element connectors and switch-to-element lead wires.

VICE-GRIPS: Holds the element connector securely when tightening the connector.

SNAP-RING PLIERS: Lengthens sections of a bulging element to fit the element into the corner of element grooves. (The element must first be red hot.)

NEEDLE-NOSE PLIERS: Shortens bulging heating elements that are too long to fit into the element grooves. (The element must first be red hot.)

DIAGONAL CUTING PLIERS: Cuts off the excessive length of the element after the element connector has been installed.



The last Kiln Pointer showed a photo of a slumped glass bottle. The glass was shiny except for a section that had devitrified as part of a coating experiment. Bonnie Hellman, a CPA in Ouray, Colorado wrote that the glue from a label can cause the same effect on glass as devitrification. “The first few times I fired wine bottles, I thought the labels would burn off. The paper burned off, but the glue (which can be pretty tenacious) left a dull finish.

“I have found it necessary to clean off all labels and glue and have not ended up with marks such as the one you showed, which you've called a devitrification mark. Some wine bottles have labels that are attached with a glue that is hard to remove, and I've found I need to soak them, often overnight, and then use a metal scrubbie to remove the label and all the glue. It is also important that the bottles are dry before firing.

”I fire glass in my 7-cubic-foot ceramics kiln,” Bonnie continued. “I end up with 2 full shelves of glass and fill the rest with wine bottles. I've found that Grey Goose and others with painted labels keep the paint in a glass firing, even though I fire to full slump. Texture bottles retain most of the texture, so they're pretty cool, too.”



Q. Bronze clay firing produces dust. Can you fire enameling in the same kiln that is used to fire bronze clay?

A. Yes. Bronze clay is fired inside a stainless steel container, which sheds black oxidation particles in the kiln. Since copper enameling requires a dust-free kiln, vacuum the black oxidation particles after each firing. This will leave the kiln clean enough to fire copper enameling and ceramic glaze.

Q. Why is my silver clay brittle after being fired?

A. The silver clay did not fire hot enough, or the hold was too short. You may be able to save the piece by firing again to the correct temperature and hold time. Fire a test piece 25 degrees F (14 degrees C) hotter.

Q. Do I need elements in the top and sides or only the top?

A. Glass does not like temperature variation. Though top elements offer even heating across a flat piece of glass, top and sidewall elements are recommended for firing tall or deep pieces with molds. Side elements offer more even heating of the sides of drape molds or deep castings. Side elements are standard in the Paragon Fusion-8 and Fusion-10 and optional on all the GL-series front-loading kilns.



“The only reward of virtue is virtue; the only way to have a friend is to be a friend.” --Ralph Waldo Emerson



The glass windows on Paragon kilns are now rated to 2300 degrees F (1260 C). The window is optional on the Fusions, FireFly, Caldera, E series, Ovation-10, and SC-series.


Among my glass and pottery collection are Bonnie Hellman dichroic glass earrings, a Veena Raghavan porcelain vase, and a Mel Jacobson stoneware pot. Bonnie’s earrings sparkle in even the dimmest light; Veena’s blue vase has a beautiful ethereal quality; and Mel’s pot has a long and colorful story behind it: a design feature from ancient China, the chattering tool that he made from scrap steel found in an alley, and the black specks from the shores of Lake Michigan. I have a Judy Killian glass bowl that glows in the dark.

Every time I see these pieces, I think of the friends who made them. Imagine someone thinking of you almost every day. That is what happens when people see your kiln-fired art.

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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