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Using Locking Pliers to Install Elements

Adjust the Vise-Grips with the knurled bolt. The tension should be tight enough to prevent the element connector from turning.


Using Locking Pliers to Install Elements

Recent Q&As: The purpose of Ramp-Hold mode; checking the elements of a used kiln

A Kiln Story: One Big Glob Inside the Kiln

Memorable Quote



I have owned the same pair of Craftsman locking pliers since I was 19 years old. It is one of my favorite tools at home. The pliers are also useful in tightening barrel-type element connectors. Locking pliers are usually called Vise-Grips, which is the most famous brand of locking pliers.

Before using the Vise-Grips to tighten the element connectors, examine the teeth where the pliers clamp onto the connector. The element connector tends to slide if the Vise-Grips teeth are worn smooth.

You will find a knurled bolt at the end of one of the Vise-Grips handles. Place the element connector near the outer end of the Vise-Grips jaws. Close the handles. Adjust the bolt until the gap in the jaws is just wide enough for the element connector. Then open the jaws and turn the bolt a little more so that an extra squeeze of the handles is needed to lock the element connector under tension. Practice this on an old element connector. (Element barrel connectors should be replaced when you install a new element.)

Once the barrel connector is firmly clamped, tighten the stainless steel element screw with either a 1/4” nut driver or box-end wrench. Tighten the screw to 30” pounds, which is about 1 1/4 turns past the point of firm resistance. Moving the small lever, which is near one of the handles, releases the Vise-Grips.

Besides a multimeter, what are some of your favorite kiln-working tools?



Q. I use commercial glazes and wonder if Ramp-Hold programming would produce better results than Cone-Fire. What is the purpose of Ramp-Hold?

A. Ramp-Hold mode allows you to adjust each firing and cooling rate. Suppose you needed to fire slower than the slow speed in Cone-Fire because you produce extra thick ware. Ramp-Hold will fire as slow or as fast as your kiln is capable of. Cone-Fire mode in the Sentry controller includes an adjustable controlled cooling rate. It begins after the cone fires to maturity and ends at 392F / 200C. In Ramp-Hold you can determine exactly when to start and stop the controlled cooling. Ramp-Hold is also useful for glazes that require precise adjustments such as crystalline glazes. You can use Ramp-Hold to duplicate a favorite firing schedule from, for instance, a manual kiln that you've used for years. (To duplicate a firing schedule from a switch-operated kiln, you will need to monitor the manual kiln with a pyrometer. Then create a firing schedule based on firing rates.)

Q. How does one tell that the element coils are in good shape? This is for a used kiln I am considering buying.

A. Find the wiring diagram for the kiln you are looking at. It should include the ohm readings for the elements. If you cannot find the diagram online, call the kiln manufacturer for the ohms readings. Test the elements with an ohmmeter. Ohm readings that are 10% higher than the specifications listed on the wiring diagram indicate worn elements. The higher the readers, the more wear on the elements. The ohmmeter, however, could give a false reading if it is out of adjustment, so the best way to test the elements is to fire the kiln.



Susan McGarry of Fairfield, California wrote, “I have a small jewelry kiln with an infinite switch that sits on my laundry room counter so I can check it often. I used to turn it on and convince myself I wouldn't forget it only to remember the kiln much later once everything I was firing was one big glob. My worst time was when I turned it on, forgot the kiln, and went to bed.

“So I came up with a solution that I have used successfully for over a year now,” Susan continued. “I bought a used baby monitor with the tiny black & white screen off Craigslist. I point the monitor at my digital pyrometer and clip the other half onto my waist band. This has worked so well I thought I'd share it with you.”



"You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him." --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


A famous potter named Kurt Wild of River Falls, Wisconsin just passed away. We at Paragon send Kurt’s loved ones our condolences. For me this is another reminder that our journey through life can end at any moment, so we should fill our hours with worthwhile endeavors. For you, this would undoubtedly include making beautiful things with your kiln.

I am compiling photo essays of people who use Paragon kilns. You can find them on . Would you like to participate? Just send high resolution photos of you and your kiln, your artwork, and your studio to the email address below. I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you,

With best wishes for a great weekend,

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 / / /

Copyright 2011, by Paragon Industries, L.P.

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