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Buying Your First Glass Kiln

Updated on September 22, 2009

Don't Be Tempted

Microwave Kilns - No Thank You
Microwave Kilns - No Thank You

Your First Glass Kiln

Buying a Glass Kiln. It sounds easy enough, right? Well, buying a kiln is easy, the problem is deciding what is the right kiln for you.

In order to shop for a kiln you have to ask yourself a few questions first.

If your just starting out you may think that a small microwave kiln or a tabletop model is for you. But if you have any aspirations at all to create any bowls, platters or wall art, you definitely want to think about something a little bigger.

The picture at the right of this paragraph shows a small microwave kiln. The price is right, around a hundred dollars. But don't make this mistake. These microwave kilns are very popular because of their price, but they really are more of a discouragement then an encouragement for many beginning fusers. They are extremely small and allow you to only create one or maybe two pieces at a time. They have no temperature control so it is extremely difficult to get consistent results.

Do yourself a favor and save your hard earned money for a kiln you can grow into instead of out of!

Great Choice for Jewelry and Beads
Great Choice for Jewelry and Beads

Table Top Kilns

If you plan on making small pieces such as jewelry, and jewelry only you may want to consider a small tabletop kiln. These little tabletop kilns are nice because they are portable and can be easily stored if you are pressed for space.

Many of these table top kilns come with peep holes or bead doors built into the front opening main door. These are handy to keep an eye on your work, and for annealing beads if that is what you are looking to do.

Once again, if you have any hopes of graduating up to larger pieces, (believe me this hobby is addictive) you might still want your first kiln to be a bit more roomy and perhaps have a few other nice features.

Medium Sized Kiln
Medium Sized Kiln

Mid_Sized Studio Kiln

This is a great choice for a first kiln. These medium sized kilns are roomy enough for several pieces of jewelry at once, They can accommodate some small plates, coasters and slumped bowls as well.

Most of the medium sized kilns that are available for sale these days are operated on normal household current (120 volt) which is a nice feature and still keeps the kiln portable enough to be moved around, from the garage to the basement to a workshop. You get the picture.

When you're shopping for a kiln you definitely want to find one that offers and electronic controller. An electronic controller allows you to set up your firing schedule ahead of time and keep control of how fast your kiln heats up, what temperature it stops heating at, how long it holds your piece at a certain temperature. An electronic controller is a must have. Don't be fooled into buying something less.

A pyrometer is not an electronic controller. Ceramic kilns come with pyrometers, and glass kilns are equipped with electronic controllers.

Large Format Kiln - Extra Deep
Large Format Kiln - Extra Deep

Large Kilns

I have managed to get along with a mid-sized kiln for a few years now, but I recently decided that i wanted to move up to larger pieces of artwork and I wanted to do some larger glass wall art.

Some of the things I wanted to accomplish when looking for a larger kiln were to be able to produce pieces that were at least 18 to 20 inches wide and at least 30 inches long. I settled on a kiln that had interior dimensions of 25 inches by 40 inches, plenty of room for a nice sized piece of glass art. The large interior size of my new kiln also allows for firing several smaller pieces at the same time. This comes in handy when you are slumping flat panels into molds for dishes and bowls.

One other feature that I definitely wanted to include in my large kiln purchase was more interior depth. My mid-sized kiln provided me with only about 7 inches of depth which sounds like a lot when you are talking about slumped glass bowls , vases or platters. But, I recently started to play around with a glass technique called pot melts and I was severely restricted by the 7 inches of depth. My new kiln will have 14 inches of interior depth and should be sufficient for the work I hope to do in the future.

Something else to think about when you are considering a large glass kiln is that when you step up to this size you will need to be able to provide a larger electrical service for the kiln. These large format kilns require a 240 volt electrical line similar to what you might need for an electric dryer. Make sure you have this service available or make arrangements with an electrician to provide it for you.

When shopping for a glass kiln of any size it is important to take into consideration what kind of work you hope to be doing in a year or two down the road. I can't wait for my new kiln to be delivered and I am so excited to be able to plan out larger projects.

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