08 December 2018

Big Power in Small Multi-Use Kilns

We know that everyone loves their big, very capable kilns, but so many times they just are not the right solution for smaller projects. Having a smaller multi-use kiln for test tiles, making jewelry, firing metal clays, small ceramic projects, pulling vitrigraph stringer, bead annealing, or enameling is just a must in our studio. We'd be lost without our little wonder of a kiln!

Here are some kilns that we really like as they do A LOT for the money... It's definitely hard to choose which one is best. It really just depends on what smaller projects you like to do and how much flexibility you need.

Evenheat Copper Kiln 
We love this kiln because of its front-loading capability as it makes for easy access and loading. The other really nice thing is that this kiln pulls fewer watts than most other kilns, while still making the temps we need. If you have power challenges in your studio, this kiln plugs into any household 120V receptacle, so you'll have an easy time getting the "juice" you need. The Copper is also built entirely of firebrick to offer the metal clay artist the opportunity to explore materials in the higher temperature ranges. Many clays require temperatures up to 2200F and the Copper has the capability to get you there. The Copper also finds use in china and porcelain painting, ceramics, and glass making it a true multi-use kiln!

Not to be left out... we also love the Evenheat V8. The V8 multi-purpose kiln is sized perfectly for home studios, teachers, instructors, and test kiln use. It's capable of all firing types and techniques including glass, vitrigraph, ceramic, metal clays and more. Its stackable design makes placement easy, especially with vitrigraph work. The V8 easily transforms into the ultimate Vitrigraph kiln with its Vitrigraph base accessory. Vitrigraph use highlights include a corner mounted thermocouple which offers more usable floor space and allows for larger pots up to 7.25".

Olympic HB86E 
This kiln is a rocket because it heats very quickly! The reason this kiln is special is that it's super-powered, going really fast up to temp and having the ability to hold that temp for long periods. That is especially important when pulling vitrigraph stringer. This nifty little kiln is truly multipurpose! We use it to fuse, anneal beads, fire Metal Clay, and as a vitrograph. You can even fire small ceramics. The top and bottom are removable for the ultimate in versatility. This little wonder does it all! It is important to note, that when the bead collar or blank collar are added, the maximum temperature on the HB86E reduces to 2000°F.

The Olympic HB89E is another great option. Same flexibility as the HB86E and fires to 2,350°F on just 120 volts but, with more space and a hinged lid. Plus, the attached stand allow this kiln to be used on any surface, including countertops.

Paragon Caldera Digital 
This kiln is a solid workhorse that has a great reputation. It is one of vitrigraph kiln because it fires fast and stays there!  Also, with a separate top and bottom, the Caldera is stackable and completely portable. The kiln is easy to carry to seminars or take on vacation. Paragon's best sellers because it literally can do anything! The Caldera fires rapidly to 2350°F so, it's used in a lot of studios as a dedicated. The basic Caldera is part of a unique kiln expansion system. You can order extra collars for bead annealing, enameling, or just depth! For a digital kiln that can do this much, the Caldera is surprisingly affordable.

Jen-Ken Fuse Cube 9/9
The AF3P Fuse Cube 9/9 is perfectly powered for its size. This kiln is bigger than other small kilns. The inner dimensions are 9" square letting you stack shelves for metal clay, or put in a really big vitrigraph pot without having to purchase an extra collar! That makes this kiln a bargain. Depending on which model you order, you can do everything I listed above. You can even order additional bottoms to make this a vitrigraph. The height is a real advantage for this kiln!  It is also nice and deep allowing you to fire a metal clay carbon vessel inside. In addition, you can slump and drape small items, make tons of glass jewelry and fire ceramics up to 8" tall! Fuse Cube 9/9 Flex: Add the "take-a-part" feature and this kiln comes apart to allow you to utilize your maximum creativity!

22 November 2018

"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” – John F. Kennedy

17 November 2018

Why we LOVE Quart Tubing!

Paragon CS-26
Whether it's offered as standard or an upgrade, we always love kilns that have quart tubing!

Quart tubing provides a cleaner kiln interior and magnifies the heat to the glass. They also support and protect the elements from contamination with foreign materials that could shorten the element life.

In addition, quartz tubes protect the glass from any falling debris from exposed elements. If you fire enamels, the metal oxides can cake onto the elements causing them to sag, and drop colored debris... yuk!

Gail has two kilns at her studio with quartz enclosed tubes and never has to worry that anything will drop on her, or her students' glass.

10 November 2018

Little Wisp Bowls

Bullseye Glass Quick Tip:

In this Quick Tip, you will learn to create your own streaky color palette! And, it's so easy!

Start by layering Clear and White Streaky sheet glass over transparent tint glass styles. Then, slump in the Cone Bowl mold to upturn the edges and achieve luscious color at the rim. You might just find yourself making bowls for days!

The Cone Bowl mold is a crowd pleaser and has always been a Bullseye Glass favorite!  Glass fusers have dubbed it the original “the ice cream dish mold” and who doesn't love ice cream! The steep drop of this mold into a narrow space means this is one slumping project that requires special attention to preparation, firing schedules and placement in the kiln. Check out this additional tip from Bullseye... Cone Bowl Molds for additional best practices.

Also, if this is your first time using clear, white streaky sheet glass, keep in mind that it may become more translucent upon firing. Remember to remove any needle pointed edges with a diamond pad prior to slumping to ensure you get a smooth, clean edge. Finally, for handy for minor adjustments of the flat, fused blank in the mold, as well as removing the slumped dish from the mold... just use this handy Small Suction Lifter.

03 November 2018

Is it time to change your mechanical relays?

It seems like every November we get the same phone calls and the same e-mails... "My kiln has stopped working and I have a show this weekend. Please HELP!" With that in mind, it's important to remember... owning a kiln is like being a Boy Scout, it's important to always BPREPARED! 

Murphy's law says that whenever you need your kiln most and are firing the most, that's just when it's going to have a problem. So.... we all know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of I told you so. This is not directed to any one of our clients who've contacted us this month with an OMG moment! This is for all of us, who are just very busy and forget to take care of the basics. And yes... this has happened to me so, you're not alone.

If you don’t already know, a relay is the part of the kiln that controls the power or current to the element, allowing the element to either receive current and get hot, or to interrupt the circuit thus not allowing the element to receive current and cool down. The mechanical relays, which come standard on most kilns, are what is responsible for the ubiquitous opening and closing clicking we hear while our kilns run.

ALL MECHANICAL RELAYS in U.S. kilns are virtually the same... no matter the manufacturer. 

Mechanical relays have a life of up to “X” amount of clicks and then they fail. This failure can either be in the closed position (Yikes, my kiln temperature keeps rising and it won’t turn off… everything is ruined!”) or they can fail in the open position. (Yikes, my kiln won’t heat up at all!)

If they fail, it is not the manufacturer's fault, since they do not make the relays. They test them to make sure they work at the factory, but after that... it is your responsibility. We know that all failures stink and that is why we recommend changing your relays every 12-24 months. If you are a heavy kiln user, you should be smart and change your relays once a year.

Think about it like an oil change or new tires... you wouldn't let your car drive on bald tires or your engine run on old oil. Pick a month and make it kiln maintenance month. Install new relays, paint the bottom with kiln wash, etc. and give your kiln a thorough inspection. Don't be the cautionary tale!!

Finally, if this is something you don't want to hassle with... you can eliminate the problem by upgrading to mercury or solid state relays and almost never have to change a relay again. In our opinion, it's the best upgrade money can buy.