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How to Make Kiln Sanding Tools

Left to right: sanding tool, hacksaw blade, sanding tool with handle.


How to Make Kiln Sanding Tools

Reader Response: Freddy; “Clay in the Schools” e-book

Recent Q&As: When a new element burns out too soon; pros and cons of a downdraft kiln vent

A Kiln Story: Firebrick Abuse

Memorable Quote

News: Paragon Produces Video On Element Repair



Repairing firebricks sometimes entails shaping brick pieces so they will fit together. Firebricks are easy to carve with the right tools, which you can make yourself.

Firebrick sanding blocks are made from sheet steel typically around 1/8” thick or less. In the photo, the sanding block on the left is 1-1/4” x 8”. Because it has no handle, it can be used in tight spaces.

The sanding block on the right is 1-1/2” x 6”. A small handle welded onto the sheet metal makes the tool easy to hold for intricate firebrick shaping.

Use very coarse self-adhesive sandpaper such as 28 grit. Cut the sandpaper to the size of the blocks, peel away the paper backing, and press the adhesive side to the blocks.



Steph Klauser of Madison, Wisconsin wrote, “Thank goodness Freddy is doing better. I always enjoy reading your newsletters--especially the entries at the end. This one, by far, was the best!”

Nancy Altimus wrote, “Thanks ever so much for the 'Clay in the Schools' e-book. I no longer work with clay but took it in high school with a teacher who had a similar attitude as these writers. Reading the material brought back so many wonderful but forgotten feelings.”

The e-book is a great resource for clay teachers. You can download it from the Paragon website:



Q. Sometimes when someone replaces one element, another one fails. Why does that happen?

A. A new element can fail if the old element left a glazed spot in the groove that wasn't cleaned out. The glazed spot can destroy the new element just as it did the old one, and in the very same place. As you remove the old element, check the groove for contamination, especially at the point where the old element burned out. Dig out the glazed spot with a screwdriver, and then vacuum the groove before installing the new element.

Q. Are there any disadvantages to downdraft vents such as the Orton Vent Master?

A. The downdraft vent pulls fresh oxygen into the kiln for brighter colors. it prevents fumes from entering the firing room, helps burn carbon out of the clay, and improves temperature uniformity in the kiln.

The vent also eliminates one more step in firing a kiln, which is lowering the lid after venting. This is because the lid is kept closed throughout the firing.

If the air intake holes are too close to the ware, glazes can develop crazing. That is the only disadvantage I can think of to having a downdraft vent. It is a great product.



John Post of Sterling Heights, Michigan wrote, “Most electricians in schools have never seen a kiln firing. Most are great at getting you the right breaker, receptacle, and the proper gauge wiring for the length of the run, but they have no idea how the internals of an electric kiln work. Every time I have seen an electrician change the elements in a kiln, they beat the hell out of the firebrick. Right after they set their 500-pound toolbox on the lid of your kiln, you know you have some explaining to do! (I change all of my own elements when no one is around; it's easier on the kilns.)”



"If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours." -–Henry David Thoreau



Last week we finished a video on repairing a bulging element. The procedure is easier than most people would imagine. You can watch the video on and on Paragon’s website:

The video on our site is in low and high resolution, so you can watch it even if you have a dial-up connection:


One of the older employees here told me recently that her children wonder why she still goes to her job. She said, "I have arthritis in my knee. I feel it when I'm home, but at work I don't feel it."

There is power in staying busy. Some of the happiest people I know stay busy doing the things they love.

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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