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Firing Your Kiln After a Long Absence

Vacuum the kiln if the lid has been left open for a long idle period.


Firing Your Kiln After a Long Absence

Recent Q&As: Contamination of elements

A Kiln Story: Burnt Pizza

Memorable Quote


This newsletter includes a kiln story about firing a pizza. I welcome receiving a kiln story from you. Please include your name and the city where you live.


For many people, firing a kiln is the high point of the week. But sometimes obligations interfere with creative activities, and the kiln is left in the background for six months or a year.

If this has happened to you, the following guidelines will help you to take up where you left off the last time you fired your kiln.

1) Make sure the kiln is still safely installed. For example, remove flammable materials from the firing room.

2) Look through the kiln instruction manual and reread sections that you highlighted the first time you read it. Reread the safety rules.

3) Reread your kiln notebook. (If you don’t have a notebook, it would be a good idea to start a diary where you record discoveries about firing your kiln. A spiral notebook will do, or keep notes in a computer document.)

4) Did your kiln come with a Quick Start card? If so, review the card before firing the kiln. This is especially important for a digital kiln that you don’t remember how to program.

5) Make sure the materials you fire are compatible. Glazes must fit clays, and glass that you are fusing must be compatible. If materials are unlabeled, you may have to test them in small batches.

6) Vacuum the kiln if the lid had been left open while the kiln was idle.



This question is based on an answer that I wrote in the last Kiln Pointer.

Q. You wrote, “At 1350 F, your elements will last a long time unless they are damaged by exposure to foreign materials.” My follow-up question is, what constitutes a foreign material in this case? For example, I use glass powders and sheet glass over organic matter to capture the details in leaves. The organic materials burn away during firing to 1425 F. (I always vent the kiln.)

A. Glass, kiln wash, ceramic glaze, sand, and enameling powder are among the contaminants that can ruin a heating element. You can use these materials inside the kiln without worry, though, because they do not ordinarily come in contact with the elements.

It is possible, though rare, for small pieces of glass to fly off of a project and into an element groove during firing. I have heard of this but have never seen it myself. A more likely source of contamination is to spill glass particles into a groove during loading. If this happens, vacuum the grooves before firing the kiln.



Alma Rands of Portland, Oregon wrote, “This kiln disaster happened many years ago when I was taking a college class in enameling. As we were working with a big, slow kiln, the instructor requested that the school custodian set the kiln at the proper temperature for the morning class.

“Imagine our surprise when we opened the kiln, which had been set for 1500 F, to find a completely charred mess on the kiln floor, and soot all over the kiln,” wrote Alma. “While the kiln was still cold, the custodian had put a couple of slices of pizza in to heat them, then could not figure out how to get them out when the kiln got hot, so he just left them there. Our instructor was not pleased.

“Moral: Don't mistake a kiln for a cooking oven.”



"I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university." -- Albert Einstein


Last weekend my son and I drove to Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts to attend an Enamelist Conference. Arrowmont is in quaint Gatlinburg, Tennessee at the base of a mountain. It feels secluded amongst the trees though the school is only a block from downtown Gatlinburg.

At the conference I met a 75-year-old woman who started making copper enameling at age 15. “Do you still enjoy enameling?” I asked.

“I enjoy it more than ever after 60 years,” she said. “There is always something new to learn. I am excited about the classes I’m attending at this session.”

You can see photos of the conference at

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 / / /

Feel free to email this Kiln Pointer to friends. To read back issues Click here or go to, select “Support,” and then “Kiln Pointers” from the drop menu.

Copyright 2011, by Paragon Industries, L.P.

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