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An Instructive Kiln Story

Dannon’s kiln woes were due only to loose wires on her circuit breaker. Note: The wires inside the breaker box cover are live! Do not remove cover.


An Instructive Kiln Story

Recent Q&As: Newspaper inside clay sculptures; the accuracy of the controller’s firing cost estimator

Memorable Quote



One time the check engine light on my truck came on, and I thought the repair would be costly. But a mechanic found the problem to be a pinched hose and didn’t even charge me to fix it.

When a kiln stops firing normally, people often assume that they will need new elements or other parts. But often the problem is minor. For example, Dannon’s 48 amp kiln has three Low-Medium-High type switches. During a recent firing, the middle and bottom switches were on High, the top switch was on Medium, and the kiln temperature was at 900F (482C). When Dannon turned the top switch to High, the circuit breaker tripped.

The same thing happened during the next firing. This time the temperature was at 1500F (815C) when the breaker tripped. Dannon replaced the top kiln switch, because the breaker tripped only after she turned it to High.

She fired the kiln a third time. Again at 1500F (815C), she turned the top switch to High, and within 15 minutes, the breaker tripped. So she changed the top element and installed new push-on terminals on the wires that connect to the top switch.

Dannon asked for suggestions, and I said she should replace the breaker. When an electrician took out the 70 amp circuit breaker, he found that the two wires connected to it were loose--one was very loose. “He went ahead and changed out the breaker,” Dannon said, “but he told me to keep the old one, as likely nothing was wrong with it--just a poor connection.

“The kiln appears to work fine now,” Dannon added, elated. “The electrician stayed quite a while to watch the kiln crank up and test the amps. Whew. About time for this saga to end.”

Remember this story if anything goes wrong with your kiln. (The story applies to all brands of kilns.) Before replacing parts, look for the simplest repair solutions. An element may be dead only because of a disconnected wire. Sometimes an element can be repaired by replacing an element connector that has burned off instead of the element itself.

There is nothing wrong with half of all temperature controllers that are returned to Paragon and Orton for testing. Before assuming that you need a new controller, check the kiln’s switch box fuse. Make sure the wire harness plugs and thermocouple wires on the back of the controller are tight.

A Kiln Sitter that is firing inaccurately usually only needs an adjustment with a firing gauge. If you don’t have the gauge, order one before replacing the porcelain tube.



Q. I recently used newspaper inside a clay sculpture. I left the newspaper inside the clay, added escape holes for the smoke, and fired the sculpture after it dried. Does smoke from the newspaper harm the kiln elements over time?

A. We do not recommend firing ware that contains wadded newspapers. It could eventually harm the elements.

Q. How accurate is the firing cost estimator on the Sentry 12-key controller? I have found that the estimates run really high compared to the real cost.

A. The Sentry controller firing cost is calculated by adding the number of minutes that the elements are turned on during the firing. The controller times the signal that turns on the relays. As long as the wattage and cost of electricity are entered into the controller accurately, the firing cost shown in the display will be accurate.

The exceptions are firing with low voltage or worn elements. In those cases, the wattage will be lower than the amount entered into the controller. So, the estimated firing cost will thus be too high.



"We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons." -Jim Rohn


Sometimes in the mornings, when the air is cold and moist, a fog hovers over the fields near my house. The fog settles a couple of feet off the ground and mingles amongst the trees. We don’t have to live in an exotic place to find beauty. It is all around us.

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.

To respond to this Kiln Pointer, press Reply. Your email will go directly to Arnold Howard.

PRIVACY NOTICE: Under no circumstance do we share or sell your email address.

Copyright 2015, by Paragon Industries, L.P.

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