Sunday, March 21, 2010
The Most Expensive Item in Your Studio---The Glass Kiln
The purchase of a glass kiln is likely to be your largest expense for your studio. Glass kilns come in all shapes and sizes. They can be "front loading" meaning they have a door that opens like a refrigerator door or "top loading" meaning you have to flip open a heavy lid with elements. The front loading kilns tend to be much more expensive. Always try to buy the largest kiln you can afford and for which you have sufficient space. I guarantee you that if you opt for a smaller one, you will regret it a month later.
I have a Jen Ken electric glass kiln that uses a 20 inch round shelf and is about 11 inches deep. Mine opens from the top. Most glass kilns are far more shallow than ceramic kilns and have elements on both the top and sides. An electronic controller is really essential for any glass kiln. The electronic controller allows me to create unique programs for each glass project. I can program it to increase the temperature a certain rate per hour, to hold at certain temperatures and to decrease temperatures at a specifed rate.
Note that the larger glass kilns are typically 240 volt so you may need to have an electrician install a special outlet and wiring.
Larger glass kilns also have something called a "peep hole" on the side which is a 2-3 inch clear window for viewing what you have on the kiln shelf.
Although I rarely fire clay in my glass kiln, remember that not all glass kilns go high enough to fire ceramics. Some glass kilns only reach 1700 degrees since glass is typically fired at a temperature much below 1700 degrees. Ceramic kilns are made to fire various types of clay which require temperatures over 2200 degrees or higher. If you use your glass kiln for ceramics, you will need to replace your kiln elements more often. If you are using a lot of plaster/silica molds, remember to vacuum all the loose particles after each firing.
When I transitioned from using fusible art glass to recycled glass, I noticed that my kiln shelf cracked and had to be replaced every few months. I assume it was due to the much higher temperatures needed to melt recycled glass.
I also have a smaller kiln (Evenheat)with a 6 inch square shelf that I use for jewelry and to test compatibility of different pieces of recycled glass.