Whether you’re a glass artist looking to invest in your first kiln or your tenth, trying to determine which one to buy can lead you down a maddening and exhausting internet rabbit hole. Choices can be good, but with so many of them these days, how can you assess which kiln is the best for you? In this guide, we’ll help you to determine what differentiates a good glass kiln from a great one, and provide pointers on what factors you’ll want to consider. Then, we’ll highlight what our best-selling models have to offer, hopefully helping you to narrow your search and ultimately find a kiln that best fits your needs, interests, and skill level.
There are many factors that can make for a great kiln, and depending on your interests and level of proficiency, what may be a great kiln for you may not be the right choice for another artist. Here are some of the characteristics and capabilities we took into consideration when determining what made these top kilns stand out:
If you are a beginner or a hobbyist looking to invest in your first kiln, your needs are going to differ significantly from a professional, experienced artist looking to create bigger or more complex projects. A fantastic kiln is one that is specifically designed for your level of experience.
All kilns come at a significant cost, but a kiln that is a good price for its size and capabilities, or is an economical choice for a beginner, marks it as a good find. Additionally, costs that include a digital controller, kiln furniture, or other accessories are important to look for.
A kiln that has low electricity requirements and is not awkward and bulky in size is a good kiln for an artist looking to place it in a home studio. Mobility and the convenience that comes from easy installation is what can make a kiln great in this particular situation.
For artists interested in firing larger pieces, like plates, vases, bowls, and bottles, finding a kiln that has the ability to accommodate these projects is extremely important. A kiln of good size, accompanied by an automatic controller, and made specifically with larger projects in mind is perfect for an artist with an interest in creating these glass pieces.
Bead annealing is a special process that requires a bead collar, bead door, and a glass window or porthole for seeing inside the kiln. If you will be annealing a lot of beads, a kiln with these characteristics is highly suggested.
For some specific projects, such as boiling glass and canes of glass, higher than average temperatures (at least 1700℉) will be required. Be sure to check a kiln’s maximum temperature so as to know if it can accommodate for such projects.
The best kiln for embossing, shaping, and reforming glass pieces during the firing process is one that allows for easy access. Some kilns are specially designed for this with peepholes, front-loading or clamshell doors, or other ways to easily see and access the kiln while firing.
Taking into consideration the factors that contribute to a kiln’s success, we’ve put together a list of some of the most popular kilns sold at Soul Ceramics and described what makes them great. Each of these kilns offer a number of benefits, and represent a variety of proficiency and interest fits. Below is a list of 5 of our top kilns, ranked by suggested skill level from beginner to expert, as well as an account of what makes each one stand out:
Perfect model for beginners: Because of its size, low energy requirements, and low cost, the 104J is a good starter kiln. At 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.
Excellent price: This kiln is only $399.99, making it a worthwhile purchase, especially for glass artists who aren’t yet ready to commit to big projects or a complete home studio.
Great fit for a home studio: The energy required for this kiln is relatively low, at 120/240 volts and 15/9 amps, meaning using it in a residential setting shouldn’t require any extra electrical preparation or changes. Additionally, its small size makes it easy to move around in a multipurpose space.
Can accommodate high temperature projects: This kiln has a maximum temperature of 2381℉, meaning it is more than capable of firing the highest temperature glass projects.
Additional benefits: Though this model includes a manual controller, you are given the option of purchasing a digital controller with it, leading to more possibilities if you’re interested in trying your hand at more complex procedures. 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.
Perfect for beginners: At 6” x 6” x 4.5”, this kiln is compact and portable. For those who don’t have a large space to dedicate to a new hobby, would like to be mobile with their work, or would like the option of easily packing it away when firing is finished for the day, this kiln can be your solution. It is also the perfect size for jewelry and other beginner glass fusing projects.
Great value: This kiln is $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. Additionally, this kiln is a good value because complementary with this kiln is a kiln shelf, posts, kiln wash, base brick or stand, and a manual controller (digital is available but at a higher cost).
Great fit for a home studio: The AF3P Fuse Box requires 120 volts and 8 amps, meaning it can be used with a standard home outlet, making it incredibly easy to incorporate into any garage or new home studio, big or small.
Capable of firing high-temp projects: Firing up to 2000℉, this kiln can definitely accommodate projects featuring techniques that require the highest temperatures.
Additional benefits: With the accessories already included, you don’t need to worry about deciding which additional pieces to invest in. 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.
Excellent model for confident beginners, pre-intermediate glass artists: The AF3P 11/9 is a medium-small kiln - 11” x 9” - excellent for firing slightly larger flat fuses, shallow slumping, and a larger amount of smaller fused pieces. Because of its increased size and price, it’s best suited for those who have some experience with glass artistry and a desire to invest in a hobby they plan to continue for some time.
Good value: At $724.99, this kiln is a step up in terms of both size and capabilities, but still allows you the opportunity of firing on your own without breaking the bank. Also, like the AF3P Fusebox, included in this price is a kiln shelf, posts, kiln wash, base brick or stand, and a manual controller (a digital option is available but at a higher cost).
Great fit for a home studio: As with 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. It requires 120 volts and 13 amps, making it a perfect addition to a small studio.
Increased size capabilities: Though unable to fire large plates and vases, this kiln is still capable of fitting fused glass pieces that can’t fit in the two aforementioned kilns as well as a larger amount of jewelry and pendants.
Additional benefits: Like the AF3P Fuse Box, the AF3P 11/9 conveniently comes with many useful accessories included. This model is perfect for those who’d like to try their hand at making slightly larger pieces or for those needing extra testing space outside a communal studio. View this kiln here.
Great intermediate-level kiln: At 14.” x 14.5” x 6.5”, the Studio Pro 14 is a solid medium-sized kiln, and a solid investment as well. For glass artists looking to expand their studio or move into bigger, more complex projects while investing in long-term use, this kiln will definitely provide the space and advanced capabilities necessary.
Great value: The Studio Pro 14 costs $984.99, which, though much more than a beginner kiln, is a fantastic deal considering it is one of the biggest kilns you can purchase without being limited by electricity requirements. If you subtract the cost you might spend on an electrician and breaker adjustments, a kiln of this size at this price is a real bargain.
Great fit for a home studio: As mentioned above, the energy necessary to run this kiln is compatible with standard residential electrical systems. The Studio Pro 14 requires 120 volts and 15 amps, eliminating any hassle you may face trying to integrate many kilns of its size into a shed, garage, or room in your house.
Larger project capabilities: Though it might not be capable of firing as many larger pieces as could fit in an industrial-sized kiln, the Studio Pro 14 is still capable of firing plates, vases, and other larger pieces that wouldn’t fit well into the aforementioned three kilns.
Allows user to manipulate glass more easily: Because of its clamshell design, this kiln is safer and easier to open, check on pieces, and manipulate glass in.
Additional benefits: The Studio Pro 14 includes a basic digital controller at no extra cost with the option to upgrade to one of three other options and a 2 year warranty. 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. View this kiln here.
Fantastic professional kiln: The AFG 18-E is 18” x 15,” making it a great choice for an artist who is firing larger and more complex pieces regularly and in greater numbers. A medium-large model, this kiln requires 240 volts and 27 amps, making it better suited for a larger or already established studio prepared to accommodate higher energy needs. Due to the greater commitment to the art it requires, as well as its increased capabilities, this kiln is best suited for intermediate or advanced glass artists.
Worthy investment: At $1,499.99, the Jen-Ken AFG 18-E is significantly more than a beginner kiln like the AIM 104J, but this kiln’s quality, reliability, size, and included accessories make it a worthwhile investment for enthusiastic glass fusers. The AFG 18-E includes a kiln shelf, posts, kiln wash, peep hole plug, stand, and basic 3-button automatic controller (with the option of upgrading to a 12 key or smart TAP controller as well).
Capable of firing large projects: This kiln is capable of firing many larger pieces, such as vases, bowls, and plates, and its depth allows for deeper slumping projects than might be firable in one of the aforementioned four kilns.
Can accommodate high firing projects: The maximum temperature of this kiln is 1700F, meaning it should be capable of firing projects that include boiling glass or canes of glass.
Additional benefits: As mentioned above, the AFG 18-E relieves the user of the need to add the additional cost of furniture and wash to their investment. This is a kiln for a glass artist 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.
We hope that this guide has been useful, and has propelled you one step closer to finding the glass kiln perfectly suited for you! Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you’d like further information or have questions that have yet to be answered!
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