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Kiln Pointers

How to Choose an Electrician

Make sure your electrician installs copper wire instead of aluminum.


How to Choose an Electrician

Reader Response: Paragon employee honored

Recent Q&As: Gap under a lid at room temperature

Memorable Quote

News: Glass Artist Dan Fenton Passes on October 9, 2012



Several years ago I helped an electrician diagnose a kiln problem over the phone. He worked in freezing weather on his customer’s porch, a flashlight in one hand and a wiring diagram in the other. With an opened kiln switch box in front of him, he traced the wires I described and quickly found a disconnected one. In moments he had the kiln firing again.

“I’m impressed that you fixed the kiln so quickly,” I told the electrician.

“I’ve never seen a kiln before,” he said, “but I’ve worked with machinery, so a kiln is simple to work on.” The electrician knew how to read a wiring diagram and understood circuits.

If you need an electrician to install or repair a kiln, look for one who has had experience working on machinery. Be wary of electricians who want to install a smaller gauge wire than the kiln manufacturer recommends. Make sure your electrician installs the gauge of wire that you and he agreed upon. Check the gauge printed on the wire insulation. The wire should be copper wire, not aluminum.

Responding to a recent Kiln Pointer entitled “Do You Have Enough Electrical Capacity?” Nancy Krug of Arcana Tileworks LLC in Winter Garden, Florida wrote, “A tip for kiln owners working with electricians: Ask about the electrician's comfort and familiarity with equipment, especially if using a residential electrician.

“I purchased two Dragon kilns at separate times,” Nancy wrote. “The first one was installed in my home garage since I was not yet in a commercial space. It was a single-phase. I had to tell the residential electrician that I wanted a safety switch box between the main breaker panel and the kiln. I had to tell him why I wanted it to convince him that it was of value. He did a fine job, but I felt that I was not going to get the best equipment advice from him. I also know that the kiln's disconnect would have been much more difficult and time consuming if the connection box with the safety switch had not been installed at the outset.

“Later, in my commercial space, I got a second Dragon, which was a 3-phase. I moved the first single-phase Dragon over. My new electrician did hospital electrical work and loved working on equipment and on electrical service for an equipment set up. Not only did he re-wire my pugmill/extruder (factory fault correction), but he knew to advise conversion of my single-phase Dragon to 3-phase. He knew about and recommended safety switches. He recommended a future equipment purchase strategy to avoid adding extra electrical service to the rental space. He also added a small plaque to the converted Dragon so its 3-phase wiring (versus the single-phase listed on the factory plate) would be evident.

“I didn't feel I had to learn things beyond my very basic electrical expertise to get a good result and a feeling of safety and professionalism,” Nancy added. “I am not knocking the residential electrician, but now know that there are areas of specialization within the profession, so I can select my electrician wisely.”



We are fortunate to have good employees. Recently Pam Fyvie of Oxford, Oxfordshire wrote about Susan: "Cannot believe how helpful Paragon Kilns are being over getting my kiln sorted. They have phoned twice today for absolutely ages from the USA taking my husband through the wiring step by step and also checking photos of the wiring sent to them and getting straight back in touch. They are awesome! I am so impressed with their customer service, and Susan is just fantastic!"



Q. I have a Pearl-22 (top-loading kiln). Is it normal to be able to see from one side of the kiln to the other through the crack/opening between the kiln top (lid) and the bottom? This is at room temperature.

A. Yes, this is normal. When we assemble the kiln, we temporarily put a piece of sheet metal between the sections at the rear of the kiln. The metal acts as a spacer that creates a gap between the top and bottom sections of the kiln. This space allows for expansion so the top and bottom sections do not push against each other when hot.

The front of the kiln may have a small gap also. The kiln has pistons to assist in lifting the top. A small gap is designed to compensate for the pistons, which will lose a little of their force over time.



"If you go to work on your goals, your goals will go to work on you. If you go to work on your plan, your plan will go to work on you. Whatever good things we build end up building us." --Jim Rohn



Dan Fenton helped to reawaken glass fusing, an art that dates back to ancient Egypt. He taught workshops all over America. He was generous with his time and helped even students who phoned late at night. Dan, with the mischievous Irish twinkle in his eyes and his bright red hair, developed an intense bond with his students. Teaching was as important to Dan as his own glass work.

Patti O’Doherty, Dan’s partner of 24 years, said, “In all the time I knew him, he never raised his voice. He was always a gentleman to me. He was quiet, shy, and respectful.” What did Patti and Dan talk about? “Glass, glass, and glass,” Patti said. “And we were never bored.”

Dan’s students often heard him say, “Never let the sun go down on a cold kiln.” Until the end, Dan loved glass. Three days before he passed, he was still fusing. To share your condolences, personal stories of Dan Fenton, and photos, please email Patti: She would love to hear from you. Patti is collecting stories for a memorial website to preserve his knowledge and memories.

All of us at Paragon send Patti and Dan’s family our heart-felt condolences.


Several weeks ago a large cardboard box covered with tape arrived by UPS. It contained an ancient computer server from the American Ceramic Society. For years the server had run Clayart, an email discussion list for potters. The Society sent the computer to Paragon because we are going to host Clayart.

I turned the server off this morning, and the room became noticeably quiet. Yesterday Josh Berkus, Greg Relaford, and Mel Jacobson put Clayart back on line. Mel went through the entire Clayart address list of over 4,000 names and manually reformatted the text for a new email program. And Greg worked on Clayart even while on vacation in Hawaii.

Clayart is running again from a temporary web address. I will post the permanent address when it becomes available. The best part of the Clayart project has been phone conversations with Mel. It is a privilege to have him as a friend and a mentor.

All of us at Paragon send our good thoughts to those of you in the path of Hurricane Sandy.

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 2012, by Paragon Industries, L.P.

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