The Ultimate Guide to Buying the Perfect Ceramic Kiln

There are several factors that must be considered when purchasing a kiln. The following guide has been created to ease your research in deciding what type of home kiln to purchase. The guide includes information on the difference between electric and gas kilns, temperature range, price, kiln size, electric voltage, kiln controllers, and lastly kiln accessories. All of the following sections are important components to consider so you can ensure you buy a kiln that meets your needs.

Soul Ceramics carries the largest selection of ceramic kilns online at the guaranteed lowest prices. If the answer to your question is not answered below please do not hesitate to contact us.

Electric vs. Gas Kilns

The type of art you want to create will ultimately decide whether you chose to buy a gas or electric kiln. Certain materials and styles are better in electric kilns and others in gas.

The majority of kilns sold today, specifically for home use, are electric. This is for various reasons, primarily the high quality of finished pottery from electric kilns, known for producing bright colors. Electric kilns are also used for convenience - gas kilns tend to require permits for fire safety, which can add additional barriers for use. However, gas firing tends to result in earth like colors such as dark browns, giving the end piece a more rustic, aged look. One of the advantages to gas kilns is that “reduction” firing can be achieved. Gas firing is specifically used in raku pottery however, due to new advances in technology electric raku kilns are now available.

Soul Ceramics specializes in the sale of electric kilns ranging from small electric kilns to larger kilns capable of handling the biggest ceramic projects.

Kiln Temperature

When in the market for a home kiln the maximum temperature needed will ultimately dictate the kiln you buy. With that said, when looking to buy a kiln,the product you select will depend on what your project or focus is, and the temperature level required.

To put this into perspective the following types of materials require the following temperature ranges, in descending order:

  1. Porcelain requires the highest temperature levels

  2. Stoneware

  3. Earthenware

  4. Low-fire ceramics

The materials that require the lowest temperatures are typically glass. Therefore, in the case of pottery, ceramic work a high, medium-high, medium-low temperature ceramic kiln would be ideal.
Additionally, it is important to buy a kiln that exceeds the maximum temperature needed for you work. Overtime the power of kilns will be reduced and hence the energy and heat they produce. Therefore, after you have decided the minimum temperatures needed for your projects, over-estimate the temperature by 200-300 degrees fahrenheit at a minimum, or various cone numbers. Additionally, voltage use also influences kiln capacity. If voltage use is low then a kiln with higher temperature capacity will help ensure that the product is still able to reach the temperature needed.

What is a Cone and Why is it Important?

One of the reasons the term cones is still used among potters, instead of quantifying temperature in fahrenheit, is the fact that the term cone represents a measurement of temperature overtime, as well as a measurement of energy.

Cone numbers indicate the color of clay, final temperature achieved, end product to material i.e. matures, melts, begins, burns out, etc., and the types of wares and glaze that can be used with said cone number.

Higher cone temperatures are labeled as i.e. 13, 14, 15 etc and lower cone temperatures appear with a 0 in front i.e. 019, 020, 021. The 0 indicates a negative number within cone temperatures.

The placement of cones within a kiln also help indicate heat uniformity. Cone placement occur within different levels of the kiln to asses temperature variance, and the number of cones placed within the kin can also range.

Cones measurement abilities also range by manufacturer. Therefore, it is important to consider cones varying measurement abilities when switching between cone brands.
Additional information on cones can be found here.

Price: What are the Different Price Levels

Soul Ceramics offers a variety of kilns at different price levels. The following are a few examples of the kilns offered at distinct price levels as a reference for individuals interested in buying a kiln.

Soul Ceramics guarantees the lowest online price and will beat our competitor’s prices every time. If you see a lower advertised price anywhere online just let us know and we will beat it.

Size: What Size Kiln Should You Buy?

The size of kiln you buy will depend on the size of the pieces you intend to create. Some first time kiln purchasers may choose to begin with a small electric kiln or home electric kiln, but they are simple to operate at any size.

The following factors should be considered when choosing between a small or large kiln since each kiln has unique benefits and disadvantages, again depending on the intention of the potter.

As is evident in the name, a small kiln is best for smaller items, and a large kiln for larger items. However, apart from the obvious characteristics that differentiate these kilns there are additional variables that help buyers differentiate between kiln sizes.

If you are a beginner potter a small kin may be an ideal first kiln purchase. Small kilns can be ideal for testing pieces and for beginner potters. However, the kiln size you will ultimately purchase is dependent on the project size. For example, if you're a beginner potter who desires to make large pieces, perhaps you are in the market to buy a large kiln.

As a potter advances larger scales will be come of advantage for larger, more complicated pieces. Therefore, large kilns are typically used by more advanced potters and/or potters designing larger pieces.

Another factor to consider when choosing what size of kiln to purchase is the space that the kiln will be located. The kiln will need a minimum of two feet on each side for breathing room, so don't purchase a product that can't be properly ventilated.

Soul Ceramics offers a variety of kiln sizes for sale, just let us know what you are looking for and we are happy to help.

Top-Loading vs Front-Loading

Although, it may seem silly you should also consider your height when deciding between a top-loading or a front-loading kiln. Top-loading kilns can be difficult to load due to height, which can be addressed through other means, such as stools, but height should definitely be considered prior. Additionally, strain on your back may be another issue with top-loading kilns, but do tend to be more affordable than front-loading kilns. Front-loading kilns will tend to be more expensive, due the convenience allowed in relation to loading and unloading of work pieces.

As many potters agree the question between purchasing a top-loading versus a front-loading kiln is back over wallet and vice-a-versa.

Electricity and Voltage

120v Kilns vs 240v Kilns

Voltage, just as the other factors, is important to consider when purchasing a kiln. For residential use, smaller voltage power of 120V is likely to be available whereas, if the kiln will be used in a industrial space higher voltage capacity may be accessible. Depending on the voltage of the kiln, additional resources may be necessary, including the aid of an electrician. If purchasing a 240V kiln, a electrician will likely be required, considering that most homes in the US are wired for 120V.  In addition, a dedicated line will be necessary for a 240V kiln.

This information is intended as a reference, additional concerns should be addressed with an electrician. As a side note most electricians will come to your home and give you a quote for free, this way you can ensure to get the best offer for the work required.

Electrical Plug Types

Below are a few example of the types of electrical plug types often seen in ceramic kilns.

5-15: 120V, 15 Amp Receptacle

Most common in US homes, protected by a 15-20 amp breaker. Double check the breakers within your home prior to purchasing your kiln. Again, with the aid of a electrician the breakers can be adapted for kiln use. Less common are the 5-20, 15 amps, 120V and 5-30, 20 amps, 120V.

220V, 230V and 240V

Are also common in homes in the US and typically used for larger electronics devices such as washing machines, dishwashers, etc.

208V

Is a voltage power most commonly found in industrial buildings, schools, etc. Before purchasing your kiln it's important to know what type

240V

There are various ceramic kilns that will require 240 voltage. Again 240V kilns will almost always require the aid of an electrician.

Similar to the need for temperature requirements to exceed the actual temperature required for firing, circuit/breakers require around 20% more power than the amp required.

The following three factors need to be considered for ceramic kiln electric and plug requirements:

  • Ensure wiring is suitable for project
  • Ensure plug matches the ceramic kiln plug
  • Verify the wiring of the breaker

Kiln Controller Types

Although the kilns at Soul Ceramics come equipped with remotes, picking exactly what model of control is desired is dependent on the kiln buyer. The following examples give a brief explanation of various kiln controls, a more detailed example can be found here:

The TAP Smart Control

The Temperature Automation by Proportional-Integral Derivative (TAP) control is a technologically advanced control which includes a touchscreen and allows for wifi connection. The technology includes in this control allows for very precise firing and is user friendly.

Rampmaster Control

The Rampmaster control is an automatic control that allows the user to select both the cone number and firing speed. It also has additional user benefits and modes that can ease the firing process.

Set-Pro Control

This is an economic control option composed of a 3-button system. The benefit of this control is that its economic and efficient.

Genesis Control

The genesis control is a touchscreen device, user-friendly with easy to follow instructions, allows for storage of up to 12 different unique programs, adjustments can be made during firing process.

Manual Control

Unlike the following kiln controls, the manual control is operated manually by switching controls throughout the firing process.

Kiln Accessories

There are various accessories available for kiln buyers. Below are a few examples of kiln accessories that are good complements to a kiln. Kiln furniture is designed to withstand repetitive firings, but will need to replaced overtime.

Furniture Kits

Furniture kits can increase kilning efficiency, allowing potters to fire several pieces simultaneously. Furniture kits come in various forms depending on the needs of the potter.

Kiln Shelves

The most common kiln shelves are Coerdierite (alumina) shelves. They can repeatedly be fired at cone 10 and are the most common shelves to come with ceramic kilns. Corelite shelves are another option that are both lighter and more durable. Higher firings may be required silicon carbide shelves. There are additional kiln shelves apart from the shelve examples above. Shelves can also come in different shapes rectangular or round.

Kiln Stilts

Kin stilts are ideal for low to medium-low firings because as the kiln reaches higher temperatures above cone 6 the stilts can begin to deform. Some stilts may be an exception able to reach cone 10 temperatures. The stilts can be used to hold pieces, protecting the edges of the piece.

Bead Racks

Jewelers and potters can both benefit from the use of bead racks. Ideal for smaller items hence the reference to jeweler use.

Kiln Posts

Kin posts are used to support kiln shelves within the ceramic kiln, and are used to optimize space within the kiln for firing.

Bricks

Bricks are used to help retain energy and heat within ceramic kilns. Bricks come in a variety of shapes, as well as are available in different materials, in order to best fit the potters firing needs.

Relays

Relays are housed within the kiln control box and are used to switch the kiln power on and off. The relay will make a settle clicking noise when the kiln is powered on or off.

If a relay is worn out it will impact the power and ability for the kiln to operate.

Mechanical Relays

Mechanical relays can be used for small control boxes, are small and tend to be more economical.

Solid-State Relays

Solid state relays are more prone to overheating than mechanical relays.

Conclusion

We hope that this guide has helped to better understand what type of home kiln you should buy, and the additional factors that should be considered when buying a kiln. If you have any additional unanswered questions please do not hesitate to contact us.