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How to Visually Check Elements of a Used Kiln

Badly corroded element pins indicate that the wrong type of pins were installed. Non-standard element pins can burn out the element.

If you are considering buying a used kiln, you can make a quick visual check of the elements to determine how much wear they have.


How to Visually Check the Elements of a Used Kiln

Reader Response: A kiln stand with casters; kiln safety

Recent Q&As: Auto-Cone (Kiln Sitter) button won’t stay engaged; what not to fire in a kiln

A Kiln Story: The Employee Who Bought France Darby’s Used Ford

Memorable Quote


How to Visually Check the Elements of a Used Kiln

If you are considering buying a used kiln, you can make a quick visual check of the elements to determine how much wear they have. Use a dental mirror and flashlight to see the elements in the grooves of a top-loading kiln. Check the elements while they are cold.

Reddish-colored elements are worn out. As iron-chrome-aluminum elements age, the aluminum eventually wears away, leaving the iron. That causes the elements to look reddish.

Element coils that have fallen flat against each other have been fired too hot. This often, but not always, indicates that the elements may not last much longer.

Are the elements bulging out of the grooves? If the elements have not broken, you can heat them with a propane torch and press them back into the grooves.

For a more detailed element test, obtain the wiring diagram for the used kiln you are looking at. The resistance of the elements should be within 10% of the ohms shown in the wiring diagram. You can check the resistance of each element with an ohmmeter. The ohmmeter will also indicate whether an element is burned out. Please disconnect the kiln from the power before testing the elements with an ohmmeter.



A recent Kiln Pointer was about a kiln stand with casters. Bonnie Hellman, a CPA in Ouray, Colorado, wrote, “I stand on a step stool, because my electric kiln sits on a stand with wheels, which makes it even taller than a non-mobile stand. However, having the wheels was a big benefit in the kiln’s previous location. It allowed me to store the kiln under the basement stairs and pull it out for firing.”

A pointer from Kerry Atkins of Cocoa, Florida: “Just a word of caution . . . have your hair pulled back if looking through the peephole during firing. I've singed more than a few locks!”



Q. The plunger on my Orton Auto-Cone won't stay in after I press it. I can't find any obstruction inside the Auto-Cone that would prevent movement of the locking slide. Do you have any suggestions?

A. Answer by Thomas McInnerney of the Orton Ceramic Foundation: The button has a notch cut in it that is supposed to allow the metal cam to slide into it when the button is depressed. There is a spring on the back that applies pressure to the cam. The spring could be loose or broken. The notch on the button has to be sharp so that it allows the cam to catch. It may have become dull. If the spring is intact, you may need a new button. It can be removed by unscrewing it.

Q. What are some of the things that should not be fired in an electric kiln?

A. Excessive amounts of paper in paper clay; moth balls; reduction or salt firing; marbles; pieces of concrete or rocks; moist greenware; or plastic, to name a few. Also, do not spray anything into the kiln while it is firing.



We received a letter from Ray Guidry, who worked at Paragon during the early 1960s. He knew the company founder, Frances Darby. Ray wrote, “Mrs. Darby was an astute business woman and treated us fairly. She was close to her foremen and put her faith in them. She never interfered with us. Her word was her bond.

“She sold me a 1955 Ford,” he continued. “I wanted it but did not drive it. When I went to pay her for the car, she asked me, ‘You're not going to drive it before you buy it?’ I said, ‘No. I trust what you’re telling me about the car.’ I guess she thought I was naïve, but it turned out to be a great car just like she said. I eventually gave the car to my mother-in-law.”



“Don't try to see where you want (the art piece) to go, but allow the process to take you on this magical journey. If you trust the process, you will never have writer's block or painter's block.” Nils Lou

Nils Lou passed away on December 25th. He wrote “The Art of Play” and “The Art of Firing.” He taught at Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon.


It rarely snows in Mesquite. Last week I came out of a meeting in the conference room at Paragon to the bright glow of snow outside. The snow came down in large, gentle flakes. When I drove home, snow on the hood of my truck swirled in a fine white mist. I hope you are enjoying this unusually cold winter.

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 2014, by Paragon Industries, L.P.

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