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Kiln Pointers

Simplified Digital Controller Operation

As a safety precaution, use Program Review every time you fire the kiln. It takes just a moment.


Simplified Digital Controller Operation

Reader Response: Using a kiln to teach science and chemistry

Recent Q&As: A simple analog pyrometer repair; 240 and 220 volts explained; how fast firing and cooling affects the kiln’s firebricks

A Kiln Story: The Disappearing Witness Cone

Memorable Quote



Some people fire their digital kiln regularly yet never learn much about the temperature controller. They fire the same program and merely press Enter twice to start the kiln each time. That is a perfectly acceptable way to use a controller. Use only the features you need. Guidelines for simplified firings:

1) Read the controller manual. You can skip over some of it, especially the Options section. But do not skip the safety section.

2) As you learn to use your controller, write notes on the basic features you will need, or highlight sections of the manual.

3) Use Program Review every time you fire the kiln. This is your assurance that you are firing the correct program. If necessary, check the program in the display against a written program.

When you are ready to use more controller features, such as the temperature alarm, refer to the instruction manual. The covers of the Sentry and Sentry Xpress manuals show all the controller features at a glance.

If you haven’t fired your kiln in a long time, you may need a programming refresher:

1) Use our interactive controller demo, which is a mock-up of a controller that you can operate from our website. From click the “Kiln Audio & Video” link on the left side of the home page.

2) Save the Sentry Xpress Quick Start Guide. Or refer to the back cover of the instruction manual, which contains shorthand instructions.

3) Keep notes on programming the controller, and review the notes when you need to refresh your memory.



The last Kiln Pointer covered kiln-fired school science projects. Cheryl Farrens of the Fulton School in Heath, Texas wrote, “I teach middle and high school science and use my kiln for both. In 5th grade earth science, I have the students roll out a disk of low-fire clay, press a shell, shark tooth, leaf, etc. into the clay to make a ‘fossil’ mold, fire it to bisque, and have them glaze it and refire. It's a great lesson on chemical reactions and how cast/mold fossils form in nature. The parents love the idea, and the mothers wear their child's fossil medallion with pride.

“In high school chemistry,” Cheryl continued, “we study the effect of oxygen concentration or the rate of cooling on the final glaze color. I also do PMC and glass fusing for TAPPS (UIL) fired art competitions with the older students. They love learning how to cut glass and create their own designs in PMC. I use both my Paragon home studio kiln and microwave kiln.”

Thanks, Cheryl, for the ideas.



Q. My analog pyrometer stopped working after I dropped it. Can it be repaired?

A. I would check the needle. If it is bent and pressing against the face of the pyrometer or the transparent cover, it will not move. You can fix that by removing the plastic faceplate and carefully straightening the needle.

Q. Can a 240 volt kiln be plugged into a 220 volt outlet? I live in Arizona.

A. Many countries, including Mexico, have 220 volts instead of 240. The United States and Canada, though, have 240 volts but not 220. You may get a 220 volt reading on a circuit, but the circuit is actually 240 volts.

Some domestic appliances are rated to 220 volts, which means they can operate on either 208 or 240 volts.

Plugging a 240 volt kiln into a circuit that reads only 220 volts will usually result in slow firings. Since the kiln was designed for 240 volts, it will not have full amperage on 220 volts. This doesn't always matter, though. I know of a 240 volt glass kiln that operated normally on 208 volts. It fired slower than intended, but the customer didn't mind.

Q. Is fast firing or cooling not good for kiln bricks and elements?

A. Fast firing is no harder on kilns than slow firing. So, you can fire as fast as you want provided the materials you are firing can withstand it. Forced cooling doesn’t seem to be hard on kilns, either. However, forced cooling could break a shelf or the ware you are firing.



John Lowes of Sandy Springs, Georgia wrote, “I have always had a problem getting the cones positioned to where they are backlit by the elements, at the right height to be seen, and with no pots in the way of my view. In one instance, the kiln gods and stars seemed to be in perfect alignment, because when I looked through the peephole, I had a clear view of the cone pack, with the elements behind and no pots in the line of view. For the first time I was able to observe the low (guard) cone bend and go out of sight, and then the target cone bend. I manually shut the kiln off perfectly without the Kiln Sitter doing my work. After the long cool down, I opened the kiln to unload, and I observed a pot with the low cone firmly stuck to its side.”

You may find it helpful to raise a cone to peephole level with a short post. Place the cone on a scrap of kiln shelf balanced on top of the post.



“Glass fusing will change your whole life for the good. The only bad side . . . it is addictive!” --Shirley Jones of Heart & Soul Studios in Hastings, Michigan


Sandi (my wife), her mother, and I spent Thanksgiving in Hale Center, Texas with Sandi's 97-year-old grandfather, Casey. He is the senior-most citizen of Hale Center. His memory is still perfect. The drive to Hale Center took 14 hours round trip. As we drove, Sandi and I listened to her mother tell stories of their family. It was like watching a TV mini-series--and just as entertaining.

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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