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Kiln Pointers

Evaluating a Used Kiln

Turn off the power before opening a kiln’s switch box or checking the heating elements with an ohmmeter.


Evaluating a Used Kiln

Reader Response: A potter’s involvement in the movie “A Time to Kill”

Memorable Quote

News: Paragon Hires Maria Garcia as Plant Manager



New kilns have the latest technology and include many refinements. You can order a new kiln with options such as a lid safety switch, mercury relay, or S-type thermocouple. The newest kilns are time savers. Nevertheless, you can find beautiful used kilns, too.

A more important consideration than condition of elements in buying a used kiln is the condition of the bricks. If the bricks are in mint condition, the kiln was cared for. One time someone brought a used Paragon to the factory for repair. The firebricks were in perfect condition. Yet the kiln, a Paragon A-82B, was over 30 years old. I could tell the age by the style of the switch knobs and the coat of glossy gray paint on the top of the firebrick lid. Parts are still available for that kiln. So, you can get parts for used kilns including Kiln Sitter parts.

Before driving a long distance to look at a used kiln, ask the owner to email photos. This will help you decide if the kiln is worth looking at.

If you won’t be able to turn on the kiln because it is not close to a power source, take an ohmmeter with you so you can test the elements. Examine the switch box wires carefully with a flashlight. Signs of heat damage are loose push-on connectors and discolored components.

Will you need a new electric circuit for the kiln? If so, follow the specifications recommended by the kiln manufacturer. I mention this because Paragon A-series kilns (last made in 1987) need a 4-wire circuit. To save money, some people install a 3-wire circuit for A-series kilns. But the 4-wire system is safer. So before installing the circuit, look at the kiln’s wiring diagram. Don't necessarily depend on the cord plug as a guide.

Read the electrical data plate on the side of the kiln. The plate lists the electrical data and the kiln's maximum temperature, which will help you determine whether to buy the kiln. Ask if the wiring has been altered since the kiln was new. Sometimes a used kiln has been converted to a different voltage. A used kiln that was converted to 208 volt operation may still have 240 volts listed on the data plate.

One of the signs that a heating element has been over-fired is that the element coils begin to collapse, or lie flat, in the element grooves. If you are buying a used kiln, use a small mirror to look at the elements. Another sign is vertical cracks and shrinkage of the firebricks.



The last Kiln Pointer included a story about the movie “Pretty in Pink,” which shows pottery made by Vince Pitelka, author of “Clay: A Studio Handbook.” Bonnie Staffel of Charlevoix, Michigan wrote, “I had an event with a movie company as well. I was living in Canton, Mississippi back in the early 90s, where we started an art school. After three years of renovating the old buildings on the village square for the new school, I was needed at home back in northern Michigan. I gave notice, put my house up for sale, and it sold the next day. I had to find a temporary place to store my furniture and belongings as the buyer was a school teacher and wanted to occupy in 30 days. A citizen offered to rent a bedroom to me and store my belongings until I could move back to Michigan.

“After I got back up north,” Bonnie wrote, “the movie ‘A Time to Kill’ was filmed in Canton. In the movie was the porch of the house where I took up temporary residence. The townspeople and art instructors we had hired acted in the movie’s KKK parade scene. What a hoot to see the new school used as the movie sets. Our first classes were held in the historic jail where we also had our office. Lots of memories in that movie for me.”



“Everyone of you out there in Clayart land has had those moments when you feel like you can fly. You get that perfect pot, that perfect glaze . . . and it belongs to you.” --Mel Jacobson, potter



We welcome Maria Garcia as the new plant manager at the Paragon factory. Maria is a specialist in lean manufacturing (the art of eliminating waste) and 5S (sort, straighten, shine, standardize, and sustain). She led lean operations at two large factories before coming to Paragon. “I have come to Paragon because I love being part of a growing company, and I love a new challenge,” she said.

“Manufacturing is all I’ve ever done,” Maria added. “I fell in love with manufacturing when I was 18 years old working as a seamstress at Levi Strauss in Plainview, Texas.” Maria believes in Robert Greenleaf’s servant leadership. “If you want to be a leader, you first have to know how to follow,” she said.

“I’m pleased that Maria is here,” said Todd Lokash, company president. Todd and Maria previously worked together in other manufacturing operations. “She walked in the door understanding my vision and has the ability to quickly implement the desired process improvements and cultural changes to the entire operation. I couldn’t be more thrilled to have her back on my team.”

Maria is working closely with assistant plant manager Mariana Flores. “In the short time I’ve been here, I have already learned a lot from Mariana about the kiln factory,” said Maria. Mariana has worked at Paragon for 19 years and started out wiring kiln switch boxes.

Cross training will be implemented throughout the kiln factory. “Cross training is a motivational tool,” explained Maria, “because a highly cross-trained employee receives higher wages. This also adds variety to the work day.”

The simpler lean is, the better. “You’re never there,” she said. “You are never finished. There is continuous improvement. You never arrive.”

Maria loves to read. If she has to wait somewhere, she reads the titles on book shelves. She has read all of Stephen King’s books. After she retires she wants to write an autobiography.


Frances Darby, the woman who founded Paragon, would have liked Maria, our new plant manager. Maria’s driving determination to do an excellent job reminds me of Frances Darby, who was one of the most determined people I’ve ever known.

I hope you are enjoying your summer and finding time to fire your kiln.

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 2015, by Paragon Industries, L.P.

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