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Snap-Ring Pliers as a Kiln Tool

Snap-ring pliers, which are used by auto mechanics, spread the element coils apart. This pushes a bulging element back into the firebrick corner.


Snap-Ring Pliers as a Kiln Tool

Recent Q&As: Are cones necessary in digital kilns

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News: Paragon In-Plant Kiln Seminar This Weekend



One of the most useful kiln maintenance tools comes from the automotive world. Snap-ring pliers expand engine rings so they will fit into the grooves of a piston. Snap-ring pliers can also expand the distance between heating element coils. The tool costs $9.00 - $25.00.

Two types of pliers are needed to repair an element that bulges out of a firebrick wall:

Needle-nose pliers press the element coils together slightly where the element bulges past the straight section of a firebrick wall groove. This shrinks the element back into the groove.

Snap-ring pliers widen the distance between the coils where the element bulges out of a firebrick wall corner. The element is then long enough to fit back into the corner.

How to Use Snap-Ring Pliers

Be sure the kiln area is free of flammable materials such as paint, gasoline, lawn mowers, etc. You will need to heat the bulging section of element with a propane torch. Use the type that has a push-button igniter. The torch is available from home improvement centers. When the propane torch is on, do not reach for tools or do anything that would take your attention away from the torch.

1) Before shrinking a bulging element, disconnect the kiln from the power.

2) Press the igniter and hold the propane flame near the bulging element. You will see the element turn red in just a few seconds. Then release the igniter button.

3) Use snap-ring pliers to expand the distance between the element coils. This will position the element back into the corner wall 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 button, reheat the element, and repeat the process until the element is in the corner. Do not bend the element while it is stiff, or it will break.

4) After the coils are positioned above the brick groove corner, heat the element again and press it down into the groove with a blunt kitchen knife.

The next time you replace elements, push them all the way to the back of the brick groove corners. This will help prevent the elements from bulging out of the grooves later.



Last week’s Kiln Pointer was on reusing underfired cones. A reader asked a related question:

Q. I've never used cones in a computerized kiln, and the clay has fired really well. Are cones necessary?

A. Cones indicate that the ware has received the correct amount of heat work. Some people are so familiar with their clay and glazes that they can tell, after removing the ware from the kiln, if it has been under- or over-fired. So they don’t bother using cones. They can tell how much heat work the ware received just by looking at it.

If you cannot tell visually if the ware has received the correct amount of heat work, then cones are valuable. They can warn you if the thermocouple ever begins to drift in temperature.



"What one skill, if you developed it, could have the greatest positive impact on your career? This is the key to your future." --Brian Tracy



We are holding a Basic Kiln Maintenance Seminar this Friday and Saturday. The seminar includes a factory tour, two lunches at Paragon, and a restaurant dinner. Seminars are an exciting time at Paragon; the factory takes on the atmosphere of a large family gathering. I look forward to meeting those of you who are attending.


I enjoy dealing with companies that have a sense of humor. Last week I ordered 30 cartons of paper from Xpedx. I asked the salesman over the phone if he watched "The Office" TV comedy. He said they not only watched the show, which is about a paper company, but their employees all wear "The Office" t-shirts to company conventions and play "The Office" characters in skits.

I hope you are enjoying the cooler fall weather. It feels relaxing after an especially hot Texas summer.

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 2010, by Paragon Industries, L.P.

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