15 October 2017

How to Level Your Kiln with a Smartphone

I'm always reading about new things you can do with your iPhone but, this one is really cool! Did you know that your iPhone has a level hidden in the compass application? So, if you can't find your level... just break out your iPhone and you are all set to go!

  1. Remove the phone case for better accuracy.
  2. Touch the Compass icon. 
  3. Tilt the phone at different angles to calibrate the level. When this is finished, a compass will appear.
  4. Slide your finger from right to left and magically the spirit level will appear.
  5. Place the phone on a kiln shelf, and adjust the shelf until the two circles overlap. 
  6. A green screen will appear, indicating that the shelf is level.
Other brands of smartphones can also level a kiln and the directions would be similar. Before you trust the accuracy of any smartphone, please test it with a good spirit level.

08 October 2017

The Confusion about 120v Outlets

About once a week, someone tells us, “The 120 volt plug on my new kiln doesn’t match my wall outlet.” Many people do not know the difference between 15 amp and 20 amp, 120 volt wall outlets, because they look almost the same. But a 20 amp, 120 volt kiln cannot be plugged into a 15 amp, 120 volt wall outlet.


Image result for 120v 15 vs. 20amo
The common 15 amp, 120 volt household outlet (also called a receptacle) is used throughout North America. Lamps, vacuum cleaners, refrigerators, etc. plug into it. The outlet has two vertical slots; the U-shaped hole is for the green safety grounding wire.

The 20 amp, 120 volt outlet looks like the 15 amp outlet, except one of the vertical slots is shaped like a sideways T. 

NEMA, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, has standardized these designs and designated them NEMA 5-15R and 5-20R. (The number after the hyphen indicates amperage.) Standardized plugs and outlets are so ubiquitous that we rarely think about them. But they helped to bring electricity into millions of homes and factories.

01 October 2017

Why do circuit breakers trip?

The circuit breaker is a switch that shuts off the electricity to protect the wiring from overheating. When I was growing up, the circuit breaker at my house would trip every time my mom and I were both drying our hair at the same time. So, as you can probably guess... that created an interesting dilemma.

According to Arnold Howard from Paragon, "Breakers trip because both appliances pull more amperage than the circuit is designed to handle". With that said, the same scenario would apply to kilns.  Too much amperage "pull" will cause immediate issues with your breaker. And, since we know that the circuit breaker is triggered by heat, Arnold suggests "that you keep your kiln at least 3’ - 4’ from the circuit breaker box".

Other reasons that Arnold says circuit breaker can trip include:
  • Older Circuit Breaker: Breakers can become sensitive as they age. An overly sensitive circuit breaker can trip even when the wires are not overloaded with too much amperage. 
  • Loose Connection: A circuit breaker is triggered by heat. A tiny heating element heats a thermostat inside the breaker. A loose connection on the circuit breaker can cause the breaker to trip prematurely, because heat builds up at the loose connection. Loose connections get hot because tiny sparks form between the surfaces of the loose connection. An unusually warm circuit breaker panel indicates a loose connection.
  • Corroded Connection: This can also trip the breaker, and is more of a problem in humid areas such as Hawaii.
  • Dead Short: This will trip the circuit breaker, because the short causes a large amount of electricity to flow through the wires. Dead shorts trip the breaker immediately after the appliance is turned on. If the breaker trips when you turn on your kiln, open the kiln’s control panel and look for a wire or heating element that touches the kiln's steel case.
If you encounter any of these situations, please reach out to an electrical professional for assistance as you more than likely will have to replace your breaker.  

24 September 2017

OMG... My beloved fiber kiln has a crack!

Aging is never a pretty thing, but just cause your outside is starting to show a little wear, doesn’t mean your insides aren’t perfectly strong! You can always spruce up cosmetic flaws with a little filler. Wait... are we talking about faces or kilns? 

It’s perfectly normal for every kiln to to develop heat generated cracks over time and use. We all know that firebrick cracks, but so can ceramic fiber. As each material heats and cools, it will expand and contract with each firing. This will inevitably cause those pesky cracks. Most cracks in your fiber are minor and mostly cosmetic, but they can also occur on a firing surface on an all fiber kiln. Since the fiber is such a good insulator, those cracks you see on the surface hardly allow any heat to be lost. That is... unless you have a gaping hole to the outside.

If you’re not sure what kind of material your kiln is made from, here’s the lowdown on how can you tell a ceramic fiber kiln from a firebrick kiln from Arnold Howard, Engineer at Paragon, "Ceramic fiber is white, light-weight, and has a fairly smooth surface. Firebricks are porous. A firebrick firing chamber has seam lines where the firebricks are cemented together." 


For fiber kilns, if you are concerned about those ugly surface cracks, you can fill them with a product called Pyrolite E-Z Fill, a refractory adhesive that comes pre-loaded into a caulking tube. 

Arnold’s easy to follow instructions for filling damaged areas of ceramic fiber are listed below... so, go get yourself a caulking gun and let’s get to it!


HOW TO REPAIR A CERAMIC FIBER KILN WITH PYROLITE

1) Unplug the kiln. Scrape/sand the ceramic fiber to remove glass, ceramic glaze, or other melted contaminants. Remove as little fiber as possible. If a heating element is located where you are scraping, avoid touching the element.

2) Vacuum the dust from the damaged area. Remove all the contaminant. Otherwise it will melt and embed deeper into the firing chamber. Keep the vacuum cleaner nozzle at least 2” from the thermocouple and the controller. This is to avoid damaging the controller with static electricity, which can build up on the nozzle.

3) Squeeze the Pyrolite into the gouge. Pyrolite is similar in consistency to window caulking. Smooth the Pyrolite with a small putty knife or credit card and smooth it evenly. Allow it to dry before firing the kiln. You can send to level and smooth after the Pyrolite is fired.

I hope this little cosmetic tip helps you spruce up, and makes you and your kiln feel young again!

10 September 2017

Things to think about before your order your kiln!

As we have been selling and shipping kilns for more that 15 years, we have had a lot of experience with customers not being prepared for their kiln delivery... including some truly epic fails!  With that, we wanted to share with you our TOP 10 things to think about BEFORE your order your kiln!

1. Is my door wide enough for the kiln to fit through? 
The outside dimensions are typically six to eight inches BIGGER than the inside dimensions. Use a tape measure to ensure the kiln can fit through the door. We hate to see you have to take off the door frame to get it inside.

2. What tools do you need to uncrate the kiln, and do you have those? 
Tools are NOT included. You’ll most likely need a crowbar, an electric drill with a Phillips-head bit, a pair of scissors as these do not come with the kiln, so be prepared.

3. If you don't have friends, family, or neighbors that can help, and you are not capable of unpacking the kiln alone, how will you handle this issue? 
Our free shipping offer covers delivery to the curb and most times the freight driver will be kind and roll the pallet into a garage. But, it’s not always the case. For an additional charge, most delivery companies have a “white glove" service that will unpack the kiln, get it set up for you and even dispose of the trash. If the extra fee is just too much, think about how you’ll handle this issue.

4. Your driveway… Do you live in a rural area with a gravel road or driveway? Do you have beautiful overhanging trees? 
You’ll need to let us know, in advance, so that we can notify the freight company and have your kiln transferred off of the 18-wheeler and onto a smaller truck. Be prepared that the truck could lop those limbs right off, or worse yet, the driver could refuse to drive up the driveway because of them. It’s happened, and it’s no fun. So, if your driveway is a mile long and uphill, and a large panel truck cannot make the trip, you need to prepared to meet the truck at the end of your road or driveway.

5. Are you a residential delivery, but are ordering a kiln that can’t fit on a lift gate because it’s too deep from front to back?
Kilns over 24” from front to back can be too large for the lift-gate, requiring loading dock only delivery. This means you’ll need a friend with a fork lift. Do you have a friend with a fork lift?

6. Did I check to see how much electrical capacity is available on my breaker box before I ordered the kiln?
Make sure you have the electrical capacity you need BEFORE making your decision. Don’t assume you’ve got what you need. Ask a person in the know, or call a professional.

7. How far is the breaker box from where the kiln will be plugged in? 
The further away you are from the breaker box, the more “drag” or electrical loss there will be on the line. This means that the further you are from the breaker box, the less amperage is getting to the kiln. Kilns need all their specified “juice” to run efficiently, so long electrical runs might make the kiln really slow, or even worse, the kiln could fail to make temperature.

And, the most important thing I might ever say... NO EXTENSION CORDS! Kilns must be plugged directly into the wall receptacle to do their job safely. Most extension cords are not rated for the amperage necessary to run a kiln and safety is our number one concern. Beside safety, see the previous paragraph for another reason this is ill-advised.

8. Do I have a dry, well-ventilated place to run my kiln?
Kilns can’t get wet, and moreover, kiln controllers cannot get wet. If they’re wet, they just won’t operate. They could short and be a safety hazard, and nobody wants that. They’re not waterproof like cars, so it’s important to place your kiln inside of a building. A garage is fine, a car port might not be, due to driving wind and rain. An enclosed porch may be okay, but a screen porch might not be for those same reasons. A balcony may be fine to run a kiln, but how will you handle a hot kiln if rain starts during a firing? This may see obvious, but it’s not always clear to some. Be careful and make sure you protect your investment by having a clean, dry, safe place to operate the kiln.

9. Ergonomics... Can a stand be too tall?
A tall stand is great if your tall, but if your on the shorter side, will ordering that prevent you from touching the bottom of your kiln? Yes, folks, this actually happens. Think about your hip height, your arm length and your eye level when ordering the kiln. Will its size, shape and configuration allow you to best operate, load, clean, and unload the kiln? Will how and where you place the kiln allow you to get to all parts of it for servicing, cleaning, and placing and leveling your shelves, molds, etc.?

10. Is this a safe area for my kiln?
Kilns need to be placed on a heat proof surface. Carpeting is a just a disaster waiting to happen, so go get yourself some concrete/hardy backer board from a home improvement store. Wooden tables are also a no-go. You can use large ceramic tiles on those and concrete board to ensure your safety. If you have animals, consider the kiln room a “safety zone”... no animals allowed! Lastly, make sure you place your kiln in area that is well ventilated, so closets and pantry spaces aren’t a very good idea.