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A Checklist for Evaluating Used Kilns

Cracks around the outer edges of the top of the kiln lid do not affect firing results.


A Checklist for Evaluating Used Kilns

Reader Response: Readers recommend Knipex bolt cutters for cutting element “pigtails”

Recent Q&As: A sloppy firebrick repair; converting a manual kiln to digital

Memorable Quote



Take this checklist along when you visit someone who is selling a used kiln. Visually inspect the kiln and if possible, turn it on. If the kiln is away from a power source and cannot be turned on, then check the elements with an ohmmeter.

---Visual Inspection---

Rust on kiln case and screws? Severe rust indicates high humidity, poor venting, or firing moist greenware.

Are screws on switch box tight?

Condition of stainless steel. Splashed glaze indicates a lack of maintenance.

Condition of paint

Does the kiln have the correct stand? If you are not sure, check the kiln manufacturer’s website for a picture of the kiln, which is always shown with the stand.

Missing rubber feet on the stand or kiln base?

Condition of cord and plug: heat damage? Cracked insulation or a corroded plug indicate heavy usage. You will need a new cord set.

Condition of the firing chamber floor. Minor cracking is normal. Look for embedded glaze or glass, which indicates poor maintenance.

Condition of the kiln walls. Check for dripping glaze and excessive cracking. Vertical, regularly spaced straight cracks in firebricks indicate that the kiln has been overfired.

Condition of the kiln lid.

Are the elements bulging out of grooves?

Digital keypad: Melted plastic or stains?


Test the elements with an ohmmeter if the kiln is not close to a wall outlet and cannot be turned on.

Turn on the kiln and heat to 200F.

Do all the elements turn on? (Check with strips of thermal fax paper.)

Does the controller (or switches) work?

Digital display: Look for burned out digits.

Controller error messages?

Listen to the kiln. Do you hear abnormal chattering or popping noises from the relays/switches?



The last Kiln Pointer was about the Crescent Pivot-Pro CCA5428 diagonal cutters, which I recommend for cutting element “pigtails.” Clive Tucker of Vancouver Kiln Repair and Keith Thomas of the UK recommend the Knipex 8 Inch Lever Action Mini Bolt Cutter (Part # KNP7101200). Keith Thomas wrote, “Knipex makes piano wire cutters. As an electrician, I prefer to use shears to cut cables and wire as it leaves a cleaner cut.”



Q. I am looking at a used Paragon kiln to buy from someone who repaired the firebrick with what looks like globs of plaster. It is sloppy and goes into the element wells a little. I cannot tell if it touches the elements.

A. When buying a used kiln that has been repaired with kiln cement as you describe, just assume that the element in question will fail prematurely. Figure the cost of that element into the price of the kiln. Is the kiln still reasonably priced?

Q. Some of my adult clay students have asked if it is feasible to change a manual kiln to a digital. Is it a matter of changing controller wiring and adding a transformer and relays?

A. The Paragon TnF II controller will convert a manual kiln to digital. You can continue to use the Kiln Sitter as a safety backup shut off along with the controller. The TnF II plugs into the wall outlet; the kiln plugs into a receptacle on the side of the TnF II.



“Whatever you water, grows. Just like the gardener, our water taps are always on. Water the weeds, and they will grow. Water the roses, and they will flourish. By focusing our attention on something in life--whether it be good or bad--we are allowing it to grow.” --Walter Weinman


I hope you find the kiln checklist useful. As a teenager I evaluated a used VW van from a checklist that I made from the book “How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive.” The car salesman sat patiently in the van while I checked the engine cylinder compression, oil-stained, typed list in hand.

I recently finished reading “The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right,” by Atul Gawande. Checklists have saved lives in operating rooms, because they remind surgeons and nurses to check things that are so basic they are easy to overlook.

We hope you have enjoyed the summer.

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 2016, by Paragon Industries, L.P.

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