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Kiln Pointers

Manual or Digital Kilns?

The manual S-23 kiln was originally the A-23B-3, which we introduced in 1980.


Manual or Digital Kilns?

Recent Q&As: When to reapply kiln wash; the cooling rate of K23 and K26 firebricks

A Kiln Story: Melted Plastic in the Kiln Grooves

Memorable Quote


Manual or Digital Kilns?

If you are waiting to buy a digital kiln and in the mean time you find a manual one at a bargain price, would it be useful to have a manual kiln? Perhaps you have found one at a garage sale, or you have inherited one from an aging aunt.

The answer depends on what you intend to fire. If you will fuse thick glass that requires several days of annealing, then you will need a digital kiln. On the other hand, most projects can be fired in a manual kiln: medium-size glass pieces, ceramics, copper enameling, etc.

A digital kiln is convenient and saves time. A manual kiln can be a learning opportunity, though, since it requires more attention than a digital one. Manually adjusting switches will usually teach you more about firing a kiln than will selecting a program in a temperature controller.

Snail Scott, a sculptor in ceramics and other media and a teacher at the University of Missouri - St. Louis, wrote, “I have computerized kilns where I teach and manual kilns in my own studio. Each type is ideal for its specific circumstance.

“As adjunct faculty, I am not paid to hang around and turn knobs after class; I need to get to my next job--another teaching gig or my own studio --and the computer controller allows me to do that. I can set a very long candling period and not have to wait around until the actual firing sequence commences. I couldn't do my job without those computers, and I'm grateful to have them.

“In my own studio,” Snail added, “I can be present for longer periods on a more flexible schedule. Doing a manual candling is no problem, nor is being present to do the manual turn-ups on days when I don't teach.”

Paragon still makes manual kilns, of course. Some people prefer them. What is your preference? Digital or manual?



Q. I dutifully scrape and reprime my kiln shelf each time I fire glass higher than 1300 degrees F (704 degrees C). Is that really necessary?

A. I reapply kiln wash (or shelf primer) only when the old coating has flaked off. I can see the primer on the shelf. If it still covers the entire shelf, I don't apply more.

Q. I have been using K23 bricks for raku, but they break often. I need them to cool down quick, because I travel and take the kiln apart. If I used K26, would they cool as fast, or would I be sitting around a lot longer waiting to dismantle my kiln?

A. K26 firebricks cool faster than K23, because the K23 firebricks are more porous and absorb more heat than the K26. But the difference in cooling rate is very slight.



David Snyder, a kiln technician in Charlotte, North Carolina, had a customer who formed a clay sculpture around tightly wadded plastic grocery bags. The artist carved two holes in the clay so that fumes from the burning plastic could escape from the clay during the firing.

After firing the sculpture, the customer called David and reported that three elements had burned out. David visited the customer’s studio, peered into the kiln, and found melted plastic on the firebrick walls. The wadded plastic bags inside the sculpture had become molten during the firing and had spewed out. The plastic ran down into the element grooves and burned out the elements.

The story has a good ending--David successfully repaired the kiln. He dug out the plastic from the grooves and replaced the elements.

Have you had an interesting kiln mishap to share in the Kiln Pointers? Feel free to describe it in an email to me.



"Read an hour every day in your chosen field. This works out to about one book per week, 50 books per year, and will guarantee your success." —Brian Tracy


We held a Father's Day potluck lunch yesterday in the kiln factory. Music throbbed through the walls and into the office. The aroma of freshly cooked food wafted through the factory. Employees sat in clusters and ate together, laughing and talking.

Fatherhood has been my greatest joy and privilege. I'm sure that fathers reading this would agree. All of us at Paragon hope you have a wonderful Father’s Day this Sunday.

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 2013, by Paragon Industries, L.P.

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