Are you an aspiring glass artist considering fusing in your own home? Creating a home studio can be a great investment for a hobbyist wanting to take their passion to the next level, and an important step in that process is purchasing a kiln.
There are many aspects to consider as you begin your search for a glass fusing kiln, so to make the process less overwhelming, we’ve put together a guide addressing the most important things you’ll want to take into account.
At the end, we’ve also included our recommendations so that you can find the kiln that best fits your needs and interests.
When buying a kiln, there are many different factors to consider, both in terms of what you’re creating and the space in which you’ll be creating. Here are some of the most important questions to ask yourself:
Due to the fact that glass is a low-fire material, temperature maximums don’t vary significantly between different glass kiln models. However, depending on the project you’re making and the techniques you’re employing (tack fusing vs full fusing, for example), you will require different temperatures and firing schedules.
Consider not only the size and temperature needs for the pieces you want to create, but also how necessary it will be for your kiln to perform and maintain different programs and temperature changes easily.
Every time you fire, you will want to be able to fill your kiln to maximize efficiency, so to determine the size of the kiln you should buy, consider not only the dimensions of the pieces you’ll be making, but how many.
Before deciding on a kiln size and model, you’ll need to consider the maximum length, width, and height you’re willing to accommodate for. It’s also important to note that a glass kiln needs to be a minimum of 12 inches away from any walls. Additionally, be sure to think about what kind of ventilation the space has and what kind of access to breakers and outlets are available.
The bigger the kiln, the more energy is required to run it, so try to match the voltage and amperage requirements of your desired kiln to what you have available in the space you’ll be housing it. If you decide on a kiln that has higher energy requirements, be prepared to make further investments in its installation.
When sifting through the vast number and variety of kilns offered, it’s useful to have a list of specific qualities and characteristics you want your kiln to have. Here is an overview of attributes to consider when searching for your perfect match:
Unlike other materials fired in kilns, glass rarely fires over 1700 degrees Fahrenheit. Because it is a low-fire material, and due to its flat nature, even heat distribution is extremely important for fused glass firing.
It is possible to fire glass projects in a ceramics kiln, and you may be tempted to simply buy a ceramics kiln so that you can create art in different mediums. However, ceramics kilns typically only have side elements, while glass kilns insure that heat radiates not only from the sides, but from the top of the kiln as well. This helps counter glass’ sensitivity to temperature variation.
Also, shallower kilns are better for even heat distribution, so if this is something you are concerned about, be sure to look into the depth of the kiln you’re interested in purchasing.
When it comes to what procedures require which temperature ranges, slumping typically occurs between 1215-1250℉, tack fusing takes place between 1350-1370℉, contour fuse is around 1400-1450℉, and a full fuse occurs between 1450-1480℉.
All glass kilns should be capable of these temperatures, but consider how many of these firing procedures you’re likely to use when considering what kind of kiln controller might be a best fit for you.
Primarily, the size of the kiln you chose should depend on the types, size, and number of projects you intend to do, as well as the space you have available for the kiln itself.
In general, larger kilns take longer to heat up and cool down, so while they may be more practical for pieces larger in size, you will be able to fire more projects per day with a smaller kiln. Smaller kilns (up to 9” x 11”) are best for firing beads, jewelry, small pieces, and test items.
A kiln ranging in size from the aforementioned dimensions to 18” x 18” is perfect for those who are interested in creating slightly bigger fused glass pieces, shallow slumping, or more jewelry than can be fired in a single round in a small kiln.
A 23” x 27” kiln is a common purchasing size for average glass artists creating medium-sized fused pieces and deeper slumping projects, while anything larger than a 29” x 27” kiln is best for large production use.
Firing a full kiln is important to achieve maximum efficiency, so consider not only the size of what you’re firing, but how long it will take you to fill the kiln.
Soul Ceramics guarantees the lowest prices available, with glass fusing kilns ranging from just over $300 to close to $6,000.
Within the under $500 price range, Soul Ceramics offers the Jen-Ken GS-Fuse Box Glass Kiln for $322.99 and the AIM Kiln 84J Small Glass Fusing Kiln for $339.99. Both of these are small, table-top kilns ideal for jewelry and small fusing projects.
On the other end of the spectrum are kilns like the Jen-Ken AFG Oval 9 Glass Kiln for $2,119.99 and the Evenheat Glass Kiln Studio Pro 41 for $3,689.99. These kilns are capable of firing the biggest pieces in a studio, come equipped with many special features, and are intended for very prolific artists or communal use.
Between the extremes are dozens of other kilns, ranging in both size and price.
Voltage and amps are two important elements to factor into your kiln decision as well.
The voltage of a normal household is 120V. For smaller kilns, this should not be a problem. However, larger kilns often require 240V; if you are interested in installing this kind of kiln in your home, you might want to consult an electrician.
Additionally, you will need to be certain you have a breaker that meets the amperage requirements for your kiln. First, determine how many amps you have available - look in the fuse/breaker box of the plug you want to use to see what number is indicated. Most U.S. homes are protected by 15-20 amp breakers, but a large kiln may require 40. Even if you have the correct voltage for a larger kiln, the kiln won’t work if the amp number is not high enough.
In general, the larger the kiln, the larger the energy requirements, thus providing another motive for beginners to start with a kiln smaller in size.
Considering location is important not only for the size kiln you purchase and electricity available; it can also determine the necessity of certain kiln attributes.
Mainly, if your kiln is going to be in a place that is frequently populated, like a studio, you’ll need to heavily consider ventilation needs. Make sure your kiln is near a window, and look at models with good venting systems. However, if your kiln is going to be in a garage or shed, where there aren’t a lot of people, you don’t need to worry about purchasing a kiln with an excellent venting system.
Additionally, based on where you’d like to place your kiln, you’ll need to consider its height. Many small glass fusing kilns are top-loading, meaning you’ll want to be sure your new kiln’s height, combined with the height of the stand you’re placing it on, isn’t too high for you to load it comfortably. Your kiln should stand about waist-high for easy loading.
All Soul Ceramics kilns come with a control, but most models offer you the choice of different types.
The most basic, elementary kilns come with a manual control, which requires you to start the kiln at the lowest setting and be responsible for all changes in temperature throughout the rest of the process. While this kind of control does require more effort, it also allows you the most power to regulate the firing process.
Electric controls are more expensive, but they are easier to operate, due to their ability to regulate temperatures independently. These range from the Set-Pro Control, a three-button system that lets you choose between 4 different firing programs, to the TAP Control, a touchscreen device that allows you to create your own personal firing program, chose one of many pre-programed options, or use its wifi connection to develop and edit programs from a computer, tablet, or phone.
For your first kiln, the argument can be made that the cheapest option - the manual control - is a smart choice, but on the other hand, an electric control is a good investment if you’re going to be doing a variety of firings, since reprogramming is a nuisance.
More detailed descriptions of specific controls we offer can be found here.
It’s a good idea to consider ordering furniture with your kiln so as to minimize shipping charges. Here are some of the most important accessories to consider investing in:
Kiln shelves: The benefit of using kiln shelves, as opposed to firing directly on the floor of your kiln, is that then the texture of the kiln floor won’t transfer onto the pieces you’re making; kiln shelves provide you a flat, untextured surface to fire on. Additionally, if you have an accident, kiln shelves can create a layer of protection between the hot glass and the floor bricks, which could be seriously damaged from the material.
Kiln posts: Kiln posts elevate shelves from the floor of the kiln and provide support while optimizing space within the kiln for firing. They are available to order in many different levels of thickness and height.
Bricks: Used as an insulator by lining the inside of a kiln, bricks come in a variety of shapes and two main materials. Hard bricks are strong and dense, and are great for structural support. Soft bricks are less capable of withstanding high temperatures, but retain heat more effectively.
Furniture kits: Instead of puzzling over what kinds of shelves, posts, bricks, or cleaning materials you need, one easy option is to invest in a furniture kit, which can be purchased automatically with many kilns offered from Soul Ceramics. Kiln furniture kits are an easy way to acquire the most essential accessories in a single purchase.
Taking into account all of the important attributes that contribute to a good glass fusing kiln, here’s the list we’ve compiled of the top 5 models we feel are a good fit for home studios:
Size: 10” x 10” x 4.5.” This table-topper is small, but not too small. Its size makes for a speedier firing process, and it provides ample space for small projects, such as beads and jewelry. It is also a great test kiln.
Price: $399.99. This is a great price for an introductory kiln. For glass artists who’re aren’t yet ready to commit to big projects or a complete home studio, the AIM 104J is a reasonable investment.
Energy Required: 120/240 volts, 15/9 amps. This kiln requires a relatively low amount of energy; the volts and amps required for this kiln should be easily available in a residential setting.
Includes: the choice of a manual or basic digital controller
Additional Information: This kiln is great for beginners and home studios where small, simple projects will be done. Additionally, as a starter kiln, you’ll find the AIM 104J will retain value and can be sold if you want to upgrade to a larger kiln in the future. View this kiln here.
Size: 6” x 6” x 4.5.” Smaller than the AIM Kiln 104J, the Jen-Ken AF3P Fuse Box is compact and portable. It is great for hobbyists and beginners interested in making jewelry and other small fused pieces.
Price: $479.99. Though an $80 increase in price from the AIM Kiln 14J, this kiln is still very reasonably priced for one’s first kiln, especially considering the accessories that come included with it.
Energy Required: 120 volts, 8 amps. This kiln can be used with a standard home outlet, making it a perfect and easy fit for any garage or new home studio.
Includes: kiln shelf, posts, kiln wash, base brick or stand, and controller (digital option available)
Additional Information: This kiln is fantastic for glass artists who don’t have a lot of space to devote to their work, or would like the ability to move their kiln easily. Like the AIM 104J, this kiln can also be traded in for a larger model if you would like to upgrade in the future.
Size: 11”x 9.” Moving up to the medium-small category, the AF3P 11/9 is excellent for firing slightly larger flat fuses, shallow slumping, and a larger amount of smaller pieces.
Price: $724.99: This kiln is a step up in terms of both size and capability, which is reflected in the cost, but the AF3P 11/9 still allows you the opportunity to try firing on your own without breaking the bank.
Energy Required: 120 volts, 13 amps. Like the AIM 104J and the Jen-Ken AF3P Fuse Box, the AF3P 11/9 functions on the electricity found in a standard home outlet, meaning no additional electrician or installation fees.
Includes: kiln shelf, posts, kiln wash, base brick or stand, and controller (digital option available)
Additional Information: This model is perfect for those who’d like to try their hand at making larger pieces or for those needing extra testing space outside a communal studio.
Size: 14.5” x 14.5” x 6.5.” A solid medium-sized kiln, the Evenheat Studio Pro 14 is excellent for slumping and flat fusing, in addition to its larger capacity for jewelry and small pieces.
Price: $984.99: Still under $1,000, this kiln is a good price option for a glass artist interested in investing in increased size and more versatile capabilities for long-term use.
Energy Required: 120 volts, 15 amps. This is one of the biggest kilns you can buy without being limited by electricity; the Studio Pro 14 should be compatible with standard residential electrical systems.
Includes: digital controller (Rampmaster or Set-Pro) and 2 year warranty.
Additional Information: This kiln offers high power and versatility, allowing access to the chamber through both the side and the top. Additionally, this model is designed to work on either a countertop or on the included metal stand. This is a solid kiln to start off your home studio career with.
Size: 18” x 15.” This kiln is a nice, medium-large model, suitable for bigger fusing and slumping projects than might be firable in one of the aforementioned four kilns. However, due to its size, it will take slightly longer to reach an operational temperature.
Price: $1499.99. Though the most expensive kiln we recommend for glass fusing home studio starters, the Jen-Ken AFG 18-E is a worthwhile investment due to its increased capabilities and space.
Energy Required: 240 volts, 27 amps. A potential drawback of this model is that you may have to install a new breaker. Due to the 240 voltage and high amp requirement, some additional work and costs might need to go into this kiln’s installation.
Includes: kiln shelf, posts, kiln wash, peep hole plug, stand, and controller.
Additional Information: This is a kiln for a studio-starter who plans to use it for a variety of projects and techniques. If you’re confident in your passion and would like to invest in a kiln that will last you a long time, the Jen-Ken AFG 18-E is an excellent choice.
Now that you know what to look for, get researching! We hope this guide helps you find a glass fusing kiln that surpasses your expectations and is the beginning of a thriving home studio. If you have any additional questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us, and best of luck!
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