While the initial decision to invest in a new hobby is exciting, the research process can erode your exhilaration and confidence as you try to navigate a daunting number of options. If you’re a beginning ceramic or glass artist looking to buy your first kiln, this guide should help ease the stress by providing you with a list of important factors to consider while also providing specific recommendations for a kiln that best fits your needs.
Whether you’re looking to avoid the restrictions of a communal studio, test processes before firing bigger pieces, or fire ceramic or glass pieces for the first time, this guide will give you the wherewithal to peruse your options without feeling like an amatuer.
Before you even start your search for a kiln, you’ll need to pin down details about what you want to create and where. Here are some important things to consider:
In order to determine the the kiln size, temperature range, and accessories you require, it is crucial to think about what kind of art you’ll be making. What kind of clay or glass will you be using? What kind of glazes will you be applying? What kinds of firing processes are you interested in pursuing? Also, consider the size of the pieces you expect to make, and how many you’ll be making per firing. Finally, in five years, do you imagine you’ll be firing the same type and number of pieces, or do you expect to move onto bigger, more complex projects?
Since most of us are not fortunate enough to have unlimited monetary resources, determining a reasonable price range for your kiln is a must. Soul Ceramics guarantees the lowest prices available, with kilns ranging from just over $300 to close to $4,000. Kilns have a long life-span, so you may benefit from thinking of a kiln as a long-term investment. However, since this is your first kiln, and especially if you are a novice ceramic or glass artist who is uncertain of how much time and energy you will be devoting to the practice, you don’t want to spend too much. Additionally, do not forget to factor in delivery and sales tax; if you buy from Soul Ceramics, however, we provide free shipping and no sales tax on all orders.
There are many kilns with gadgetry and accessories that you will only need if you have plans to pursue more complex firing processes with complicated ramp downs in the future. If you are interested in investing in a model that can advance with you, you’ll want to pay attention to such details in each product description. However, for your first kiln, don’t feel pushed into buying something you don’t need; if you are simply interested in a model you can experiment with, stick to a more basic model.
Before deciding on a kiln size and model, you’ll need to consider the space in which the kiln will be housed. Consider length, width, and height, and remember that a kiln needs a minimum of two feet on each side for breathing room. Also be sure to think about what kind of ventilation the space has as well as what kind of access to breakers and outlet are available.
When you look at different kiln models, here are the most important elements to hone in on in product descriptions:
Primarily, the size of the kiln you chose should depend on the types of projects you intend to do, as well as the space you have available for the kiln itself.
Smaller kilns (up to 9” x 11”) are best for firing beads, doll parts, tiles, small pieces, and test items, and are suggested for beginning artists. An 18” x 18” kiln is perfect for those who are interested in creating slightly bigger pieces, like pots, plates, or bowls, but not in large numbers, or for those interested in making more small pieces than can fit in a small kiln.
A 23” x 27” kiln is a common purchasing size for average ceramic and glass artists, while 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.
As a beginner, smaller kilns are typically the recommended option, but if you have plans to pursue this hobby long term, it’s also good to consider buying something you’ll grow into so you don’t have to pay for an upgrade when the time comes.
The type of kiln you should choose depends largely on what materials you work with. Here are some important specifics for both ceramics and glass artists:
Ceramics: As mentioned earlier, you will need to determine whether the materials and glazes you would like to use require a high, medium-high, or medium-low temperature ceramic kiln. Low-fire materials include earthenware, stoneware can be intended for either mid-firing or high-firing kilns, and porcelain requires the highest temperature levels.
Since a kiln’s abilities to hold high temperatures decreases over time, it is important to buy a kiln that exceeds the maximum temperature needed for your work. After you have decided the minimum temperatures needed for your projects, overestimate the temperature by 200-300 degrees fahrenheit.
Additionally, glazes don’t all melt at the same temperature. Some glazes, like Raku, require a low-fire range of temperatures, whereas others, like oxide stains, may require mid- to high-fire ranges in temperature. Be sure to check the types of glaze you will use for indicators on required temperature ranges.
Glass: Unlike ceramics, glass kilns rarely fire over 1700F because glass is a low-fire material. While you can fuse or slump glass in a ceramic kiln, a specific glass kiln insures 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, and is better for the flatter nature of most glass pieces.
For both fusing and slumping glass, you don’t need to worry too much about the access you have to a kiln once firing has begun. However, if you intend to use your kiln for lampworking, you might want to consider kilns specifically made for this procedure, seeing as kiln accessibility is much more important to lampworkers.
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 60. 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.
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.
For most beginners who don’t have a full home studio, this just means one less thing to concern yourself with when looking at a given kiln model.
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 beginners, 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.
As far as accessories go, as a beginner, you’ll only need the basics. However, it’s a good idea to consider ordering furniture with your kiln so as to minimize shipping charges. Instead of puzzling over what kinds of shelves, stilts, posts, or bricks you need, one easy option is to invest in a furniture kit, which can be purchased automatically with some kilns offered from Soul Ceramics. Kiln furniture kits are an easy way to acquire the most essential accessories in a single purchase.
Based on the above considerations, here are our top 4 ceramic kilns and top 4 glass kiln suggestions for beginners looking to invest.
Size: 6.5” x 4.5.” This kiln is a small table-topper, and is perfect for the artist who enjoys creating small items like beads or doll parts. It also makes a great test kiln.
Price: $309.99. This is a great price for an introductory kiln. For beginners who would like to give ceramics artistry a try but aren’t yet ready to commit to big projects, the AIM 64K is a perfect choice.
Energy required: 120/240 volts, 14 amps. The volts and amps required for this kiln are easily available in a residential setting.
Maximum temperature: 2381℉. This kiln is capable of firing low-fire clays, including earthenware, as well as mid- and high-fire stoneware clays.
Additional information: As a starter kiln, you’ll find it will retain value and can be sold if you want to upgrade to a larger kiln in the future. Additionally, you can chose between a manual control and a 3-key digital control.
Size: 8” x 8” x 9.” Slightly larger than the AIM 64K, this kiln is still small and portable. It’s best suited for small projects and test items.
Price: $439.99. This kiln is very reasonably priced, like the AIM 64K, and allows you the opportunity to try firing on your own without breaking the bank.
Energy required: 120/240 volts, 14.5/8 amps. The volts and amps required for this kiln are easily available in a residential setting.
Maximum temperature: 2381℉. The AIM 88 has the same maximum temperature as the AIM 64K, so this kiln is also intended for low-fire clays and mid- and high-fire stoneware clays.
Additional information: If you would like a little more space than the AIM 64K, the AIM 88 is a step up but still exchangeable for a bigger model in the future. The choice between a manual and electric 3-key control is also available for this model.
Size: 11.25” x 13.5.” This kiln gives you about twice as much room as the AIM Kiln 64K, but is still intended for smaller pieces.
Price: $834.99. Still under $1,000, this kiln serves as a great starter for a home studio or a beginner who’d like to fire more projects than can fit in one of our smallest kilns.
Energy required: 120 volts, 15-17 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.
Maximum temperature: 2250℉. Like the aforementioned two kilns, the Jen-Ken AF3C 11/9 is best for low-fire clays and mid- to high-fire stoneware.
Additional information: This kiln comes with an electric controller with several easy-to-use firing programs. As a step-up from the AIM Kiln 64K and 88, the Jen-Ken AF3C 11/9 is an excellent kiln for a confident home studio starter who enjoys working on smaller ceramic pieces or for someone who’d like a kiln for test items.
Size: 23.5” x 22.25.” This kiln falls into the category of the most popular size available. In this kiln, you will be able to easily fire larger amounts of bigger pieces like pots, plates, and bowls.
Price: $1,479.99. Though this kiln is a bigger investment, the benefits of increased size and more versatile capabilities make it worth the increase in price.
Energy required: 240 volts, 39 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.
Maximum temperature: 2300℉. Similar to the three kilns mentioned above, this kiln is intended for low-fire clays and mid- to high-fire stoneware.
Additional information: This kiln has a wide diameter and easy to load depth, and comes equipped with a controller of your choice, ranging from the 3-button Set-Pro to the high-tech TAP control for easy and accurate firing. Additionally, it has a full set of strength and durability features, a two position lid vent, durable stands, and an extra wide lid handle designed for easy removal while wearing gloves. If you’re ready to take the plunge and start a thriving and diverse home studio, the Evenheat RM II 2322 will be a great fit. Additionally, this model has a two-year warranty.
Size: 8” x 8” x 4.5.” This is a small kiln perfect for beginners who’d like to only make a few pieces at a time, beads, or test items.
Price: $532.99. Though slightly more than our first two recommended ceramics kilns, the Evenheat Studio 8 is still a very reasonably priced kiln for someone interested in seriously investing in a new hobby.
Energy requirement: 120 volts, 12 amps. The volts and amps required for this kiln are easily available in a residential setting.
Maximum temperature: 1800℉. This maximum is all you’ll ever need for any sort of glass project, including all fusing and slumping.
Additional information: This kiln is very user-friendly, with a kiln lid and floor that can separate completely from the firing chamber as well as a standard electrical cord that doesn’t require special setup. This model is perfect for someone trying glass artistry for the first time or for those needing extra testing space outside a communal studio. The Evenheat Studio 8 comes with a manual control as well as a two-year warranty.
Size: 16” x 6.” This kiln is small, light, and portable. It even includes a handle for carrying, so doesn’t require a single storage location like other kilns might, so is perfect for a beginner who doesn’t have a full studio to devote to their practice.
Price: $589.99. Comparably priced with the Evenheat Studio 8, the AF3P Chilipepper is an affordable kiln for a beginner.
Energy required: 120 volts, 8 amps. This kiln requires very little energy due to its size, and will easily be usable in a residential setting.
Maximum temperature: 1100℉. Though lower in temperature than many glass kilns, this kiln is intended primarily for lampwork, which generally requires a lower temperature maximum.
Additional information: This kiln is designed specifically for lampworking, and is the kiln of choice for many practicing this art form. It has 2” of insulatory blanket and an industrial tubular coil, making it capable of annealing glass for years. If you are a beginner whose main interest is lampworking, this is the kiln for you.
Size: 9” x 10” x 9.” This kiln is small, but not nearly as portable as the Chilipepper. It is a very sturdy kiln for more serious hobbyists.
Price: $979.99. 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 requirement: 120/240 volts, 14.5/10 amps. Though requiring more energy than the Evenheat Studio 8 or Jen-Ken Chilipepper, the AIM 99LS Lampworking Kiln is still unlikely to require additional work from an electrician, and should be compatible in most residential studios.
Maximum temperature: 1800℉. This kiln provides a full temperature range and is suitable for all potential lampworking projects.
Additional information: Like the Chilipepper, this kiln is intended specifically for lampworking, but gives you more space to work with. A front-loading annealer, this kiln comes with a bead door, point rests, and a digital control. The AIM 99LS Lampworking Kiln is a great kiln for individuals invested in becoming expert lampworkers.
Size: 17” x 17” x 6.5.” This is a medium-sized kiln that will allow you the opportunity to make larger pieces, such as plates and bowls, while still allowing you to make many smaller pieces.
Price: $1,154.99. Though the most expensive glass kiln we recommend for beginners, the Evenheat Studio Pro 17 is a worthwhile investment due to its increased capabilities and space.
Energy requirement: 120 volts, 18 amps. The Evenheat Studio Pro 17 is the largest 120V glass kiln in the industry, meaning you won’t need any extra installation help and should be able to run easily on the electricity of any residential home.
Maximum temperature: 1650℉. This kiln has a maximum suitable for almost all major types of glass projects, including fusing and slumping.
Additional information: The Evenheat Studio Pro 17 offers high performance in an easy-to-use design. It has surface mounted heating elements for maximum heat transfer, a Superwool fiber lid for efficient firing, and convenient dual access design for precision glass placement. Additionally, the Studio Pro 17 comes equipped with a controller of your choice, ranging from the 3-button Set-Pro to the high-tech TAP control for easy and accurate firing, and a two-year warranty. If you’re confident in your passion and would like to invest in a kiln that will last you a long time, the Evenheat Studio Pro is an excellent choice.
Whether you’re looking for a big investment or a first step on a journey to what could become a life-long passion, we hope the advice in this guide will help streamline your research process. If you have any additional questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us, and best of luck!
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