New Studio - New Kiln - WarmGlass.com

New Studio - New Kiln

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Sharol
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Joined: Sun Mar 05, 2006 2:45 pm
Location: Tennessee

New Studio - New Kiln

Postby Sharol » Thu Feb 06, 2020 7:03 pm

I'm hoping this will start a discussion regarding people's experiences with fiber vs brick kilns.

I'm looking to replace 2 kilns. A Glass Glow 24" x 24" x 18" (brick walls, fiber top) and a Skutt GM 22 clamshell (all brick). I need the capacity to handle a 24" shelf and I prefer a clamshell because a lot of my work involves combing. In a perfect world I would buy 2 kilns, one for deep work (replacing the Glass Glow) and a clamshell for combing. However, my new studio is limited on space and so one kiln it will have to be.

I'm looking at the Evenheat Studio Pro 28" (fiber top) and the Jen Ken Profusion 26 Deep (all fiber). Having little experience with all fiber kilns, I'd like input on their durability. The Jen Ken looks good to me, but it also apparently has exposed fiber on the outside of the kiln body which makes me a bit nervous. I am pretty clumsy and can see myself whacking those soft sides. The Jen Ken is also a bit deeper at 15", while the Evenheat is just 13.5" deep. I'm also curious about Jen Ken's description of it's fiber being rigid. I own an all fiber, small Denver kiln, which has soft fiber and I'm not sure yet how I like it. It seems to easily be damaged and also sheds a bit.

I would sure appreciate hearing people's opinions.

Thank you.
Sharol

Buttercup
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Re: New Studio - New Kiln

Postby Buttercup » Thu Feb 06, 2020 11:19 pm

Hi Sharol, glad to see you're almost up and running again.

My experience of an all-fibre kiln, from many years ago, put me off ever going that route again. I'd taken a picture of a brick kiln I'd used at Pilchuck to a large industrial-kiln manufacturer in Vancouver and requested a kiln of similar size and configuration but was told the fibre products available for kiln building were far superior to the old brick technology. After various dramas it was ready for pick up. The base of that light weight, easy to move around, fibre kiln, quickly became brittle and the bottom disintegrated after only two firings to 1200 F. Fortunately it fell apart when it was picked up, gently, to move it, not while it was being fired.

When I contacted the manufacturer my attention was drawn to the invoice. It stated ' Kiln parts' so I had no recourse, but a valuable lesson.

I happened to mention the problem to an electrician friend, who, it turned out, had built ceramic kilns before. He built me an exact replica of the brick kiln I'd used at Pilchuck, brick walls and base, and fibre lid in an expanded metal frame, all in an angle iron frame with rod threaded through the bricks. It also moved from Canada to Oz easily, disassembled and packed into boxes. I'm still happily using it decades later. It's had one new set of elements, that's all. I'm also still using the Digitry controller purchased around the same time. It had some parts exchanged so it functions on 220v now. It was originally built for 110v.

The Pilchuck kiln was designed and built by Richard La Londe I believe.

That's my 2c. worth. There may be superior products available now but fibre is still not as sturdy as brick and I wouldn't want to risk it. Good luck with whatever you choose.

Sharol
Posts: 117
Joined: Sun Mar 05, 2006 2:45 pm
Location: Tennessee

Re: New Studio - New Kiln

Postby Sharol » Fri Feb 07, 2020 8:42 am

Thanks Jen. Really appreciate your input. What an ordeal you went through with that fiber kiln!

I’m definitely starting to think a custom built kiln is the best way for me to go. I think that’s likely the only way I’ll end up with what I really need.

I’m loving living in TN, but feeling a bit isolated when it comes to accessing glass-related stuff and now kiln options. I would sure like to see someone’s work before commissioning a kiln. My experience with Phil Teefy’s Glow Kilns is that they are sturdy and well made. I’m thinking now I should talk with him about building me a custom clamshell.

Does anyone have a recommendation for someone else I should check with?

Thanks!
Sharol

Brad Walker
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Re: New Studio - New Kiln

Postby Brad Walker » Fri Feb 07, 2020 9:39 am

I owned a Nabertherm GF240 fiber kiln for nearly 10 years. It performed flawlessly, required less electricity than a smaller brick kiln, and was my go-to kiln for larger projects. Nabertherm is German; the kiln has fiber sides and top, with a brick floor. The fiber is rigid, not blanket. I eventually sold the kiln to someone who still uses it today.

There are many European kilns that are similar in construction to the Nabertherm. The British made Kilncare, for example, is also a well made fiber kiln that is durable and dependable. I've not owned one, but I've been impressed with my experience using them when visiting the UK.

I'm not aware of any fiber kilns made in the US that are as well constructed as the European ones. Of the major US kiln manufacturers, most concentrate on brick kilns. The main exception is Jen-Ken, which does offer a line of fiber kilns.

A little over a year ago I purchased a Jen-Ken ProFusion 26. It's smaller than the Nabertherm I owned, but is similar in that it has fiber sides and top with a brick bottom. I really like the kiln and prefer it to similar size brick kilns I have owned. It takes less electricity, can heat faster, and also cools faster. It's also much, much lighter than a brick kiln, making opening the lid a joy rather than a pain. The main concern I have with the kiln is that I can't say how durable it will be. It has given me no problems for the year or so I've owned it, but for the long run I am concerned that the fiber on the outside is exposed. Although it fairly rigid (not fiber blanket), it isn't protected by stainless steel like the European fiber kilns. The jury's still out on durability, but I'm optimistic that it will last at least as long as the brick kilns I've owned.

All in all, I've had good experience with rigid fiber kilns with brick floors. If I did buy all brick kilns, I'll have them constructed with fiber lids and elements in quartz tubes (to avoid brick dust falling and elements drooping from the top). Right now I have a mix of both kinds of kilns, but if I were starting a studio today I'd lean toward fiber with a brick floor.

david n
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Re: New Studio - New Kiln

Postby david n » Fri Feb 07, 2020 2:44 pm

I have 2 Jen Ken Profusion 26 kilns. I bought them over 2 years ago and have had no problems. However, after the first firing one developed a small crack in the exterior side panel (only on the surface). They sent me patching material to fill the crack ( the same material as the fiber) and it's been fine since. I bought the tap controllers and the mercury relays.
David
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Sharol
Posts: 117
Joined: Sun Mar 05, 2006 2:45 pm
Location: Tennessee

Re: New Studio - New Kiln

Postby Sharol » Fri Feb 07, 2020 5:14 pm

Wow! Brad, that Nabertherm is one heck of a beautiful kiln! I contacted a US distributor and learned they no longer sell to individuals, just schools and businesses. Probably for the best, as I got the impression it was going to be outside my budget comfort zone :D

David - Thank you for sharing your experiences with the profusion 26. I sure would have been upset if a new kiln developed a crack after one firing. Do you know what caused it?

Sharol

Sharol
Posts: 117
Joined: Sun Mar 05, 2006 2:45 pm
Location: Tennessee

Re: New Studio - New Kiln

Postby Sharol » Fri Feb 07, 2020 10:53 pm

Another question I have is in regards to kiln maintenance when operating in humid climates. Up until now, my kiln work experience has been in dry, far northern CA. I’m now in TN with hot, humid summers. Should that be a factor when considering brick vs fiber kilns? My studio will be air conditioned when in use, but I hadn't planned on running it 24/7.

Buttercup
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Location: S.E. Queensland Australia

Re: New Studio - New Kiln

Postby Buttercup » Sat Feb 08, 2020 1:57 am

As noted, my experience with fibre kilns is extremely brief so I have nothing to compare. I can say I'm in a humid sub-tropical environment and haven't noticed any kiln issues. If Haydo reads this thread he may comment as he's in a much more humid climate than my location.

As for my brick kiln, it has a fibre blanket lined expanded metal lid and nothing drops into the kiln. It just has old-style coiled elements.

Here's an old thread discussing kiln lids and potential problems and solutions:

viewtopic.php?f=20&t=41562&p=354029&hilit=Buttercup#p354029

You could save yourself quite a bit and still get the kiln you want by building it yourself, with the help of someone who can handle the electrical and safety issues and help, if needed, cutting up the angle iron and you could buy a piece of expanded metal cut to size. My brick kiln is on a moveable stand so it can be repositioned in the studio if necessary. We did that when it was first reassembled after its long sea voyage from North America. The lid came in one piece, the bricks in a few boxes and the threaded rods in a bundle. No special tools were needed for reassembly as apart from the hinges that are welded on everything else just bolts together.

One of Rick La Londe's books has a good chapter on kiln building, complete with diagrams.

EDIT: The Book is Fused Glass Art and Technique. One of the kilns he illustrates and describes has a drop-down door to make it suitable for combing.

Marty
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Re: New Studio - New Kiln

Postby Marty » Sat Feb 08, 2020 10:09 am

Get Henry Halem's Glass Notes and build your own.
Mine's brick floor and walls (the brick is on the flat, not edge, and is not cemented), top is 2 layers of fiberboard with some blanket on top, protected with expanded metal mesh.
Elements in quartz tubing. Angle iron frame, on casters, counterweighted lid. Variable depth- I can take the 4 corner bolts out, raise the lid and add or remove a layer of brick if I have to. GB1 controller, mercury relays. About 7' wide, 30" deep and currently 18" high inside. Cost about $2000 to build (including controller) about 20 years ago.

Sharol
Posts: 117
Joined: Sun Mar 05, 2006 2:45 pm
Location: Tennessee

Re: New Studio - New Kiln

Postby Sharol » Sun Feb 09, 2020 10:13 pm

Thanks Marty for the suggestion. If it were two years ago, I’d seriously consider taking your advice and build a kiln. Right now I’m neck-deep into rebuilding a home, studio and shops and re-provisioning them from ground zero. I don’t think I’ve got the juice now to take on another project! Plus, I’m really anxious to get back to work and knowing the way I do things, if I were to take on a kiln build now, it would likely be at least a year before I’d get it firing!! :?


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