23 December 2016

Top 10 Platemaking Tips

Bullseye Glass Studio Tip:

As many people are receiving their first kiln this holiday season, we thought it would be helpful to share a Tip Sheet on Platemaking that contains our favorite Top 10 platemaking tips.

Plates and platters are popular projects for both advanced and beginning kilnworkers, and platemaking is a perfect way to learn kilnforming’s two most frequently used methods: fusing and slumping. The tips shown in this sheet are basic and they are the building blocks for more advanced kilnforming methods. Because the object is to make functional plates with smooth surfaces, these notes assume that the first firing will be to full fuse temperatures.

On the final page of the tip sheet, Bullseye lists a basic fuse and slumping schedule. While many variables can impact a schedule, it's a great place to start!

17 December 2016

Volume & Bubble Control

Bullseye Glass Studio Tip:
No matter if you are new to fusing, or have been doing it for years, bubble control is part of your life. For many kilnformers and glass artists, nothing is more frustrating than when a project emerges from the kiln distorted or full of large bubbles. For others, controlling distortions and bubbles may be an integral component of their work.
Whether you wish to avoid them or control them, you will need a fundamental understanding of the factors that cause distortions in kiln-glass.

In TechNote 5: Volume and Bubble Control, Bullseye Glass shares a number of great tips on how to mitigate trapped air and control volume, which will help you manage distortions and bubbles in a variety of kiln-glass techniques.

Another way to minimize the look of bubbles is detailed in this Quick Tip from Bullseye: Powder Power for Bubble Control. It states... Add a light application of Clear powder between the layers with a full-fuse firing schedule. That’s right: between the layers! You’ll actually trap more bubbles, but they’ll be smaller than the usual “champagne” bubbles—and to that we say, “Cheers!


10 December 2016

12 Ways to Improve Your Cutting

Bullseye Glass Studio Tip:
Glass cutting is a fundamental skill any kilnformer needs to be able to master.
If you’ve never cut glass or you’re unconfident in your abilities, there is good news. This is a skill you can improve! With proper cutting tools and techniques, even beginners can learn how to produce clean, accurate glass shapes. Your glass cutting skill level will not only affect the quality of work you produce, but also how much money you spend. Think about it: better glass cutting skills mean fewer mistakes and less wasted glass.
Ready to sharpen your skills? Of course you are...

#1: Dowload the 12 Ways To Improve Your Cutting from Rudi Gritsch of the Glasfachschule in Kramsach, Austria. Rudi is former Director of Research at Bullseye Glass Co. and a world-class glass cutter.

#2: Watch the video lesson below. This will teach you how to properly score a piece of glass and how to break the score as well as how to cut circles in glass.


24 November 2016

Don't be a gambler with your kiln..

I'm declaring November "National Kiln Problem Month!" 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 all 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 vitually 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 manufacturers 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 you 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. 



12 November 2016

Ready, Set, Fire!


From initial heating to annealling, and finally to cooling... knowing the details of your firing stages is an important part of your success.

The Kiln Academy: Firing Stages

10 November 2016

Keeping a Kiln Log

There is no “one program fits all” firing schedule for kilns. Even supposedly identical kilns behave slightly differently. Keeping a kiln log can be tedious but, it will help you learn as well as help you to prevent mistakes along the way.


04 November 2016

Safety Precautions for you and your kiln

Kilns are as safe as any other electrical appliance when used under normal and proper operating conditions. All safety precautions should always be observed.

The Kiln Academy: Safety Precautions

02 November 2016

Kiln Care and Maintenance

Caring for you kiln is an easy task that, if you pay attention to the small things, can save you down time and lots of maintenance dollars. 

The Kiln Academy: Care and Maintenance

31 October 2016

How do I ship a kiln to Alaska, Hawaii or Canada?


The free shipping offered by Kiln Frog is great for those of you who live in the Continental US, you know... the 48 adjoining states, but what about Alaska, Hawaii, and, our neighbor to the north, Canada? No problem... we've got you covered!  

If you live in Alaska, Hawaii, or Canada, we are happy to ship to a freight forwarder in the continental US for free, then you pay the freight from there. This saves you money and also lets you take advantage of the free shipping benefits on our site. So, all you pay is from the freight forwarder to you and, we promise, that's a really big savings.


30 October 2016

Glass Glossary and more...




This glossary is designed to assist you in finding and understanding all of the various terms associated with glass, ceramics, metal, clay, enameling, and more! We hope you will find this a useful resource as we have emptied our brains and have nothing left to share with you!

26 October 2016

After installing new elements, should I fire the kiln empty or is it OK to just start firing normally?

In the ideal situation, after installing new elements, the kiln should be empty for the first firing. This allows the elements to form an oxide coating without interference from external sources. However, if you are under a tight schedule, you can fire with items in the kiln during that first firing. This will only slightly affect the life of the element.

15 October 2016

Announcing Paragon Touch Screen Controllers

Manufactured by Bartlett Instruments, Paragon Kilns is excited to offer a new touch screen digital controller called the Sentinel Smart TouchSentinel Smart Touch Controllers are in stock and are available on any Paragon kiln that comes with the Sentry 2.0 Controller.
The Sentinel Smart Touch has a modern and intuitive user platform with touch-screen technology for an effortless user interface. It can store up to 12 custom user programs with up to 32 segments per program, and has the ability to make adjustment during a firing such as add segments, add temperature, and skip segments. The easy-to-follow screen descriptions and graphical display of the firing process, allowing the Sentinel Smart Touch to make firing kilns extremely straightforward.
Additionally, new Paragon kilns equipped with the Sentinel give a continuous amperage and circuit voltage readout during firings. This is to inform the kiln user of voltage drops during times of heavy electrical demand, such as hot summers. The amperage reading indicates when the elements are beginning to wear.


09 April 2016

My Visit to 2016 The Glass Craft Expo in Las Vegas!

Hi Everyone!

Its been a while since I’ve had a lot to say about the kiln world. We’ve been very busy working on the site, teaching classes, and working with artists to help them get the most from their kiln choice. I spent the week at the Glass Craft Expo in Las Vegas and it was a great opportunity to see all of the kiln manufactures and what's new in their product lines. Here are a few of my thoughts and some reviews of what’s coming in the next wave of technology.

Controllers:
This is always a touchy subject because we become very attached to our brand of controller. It’s an extension of our intensions and helps us get the most out of our kiln work. There’s always debate about what is actually better and why, but for my money, you just can’t beat the TAP Controller. Their new IPhone/Android Phone monitor interface connection is exactly what we’ve dreamed about for the last 10 years. It’s a huge step forward from the rigged up baby monitor that we all thought was genius.

http://kilnfrog.com/pages/tap-controllerIt’s been a year since the TAP Controller hit the market and many predicted doom and gloom for the upstart company with the “new” idea. It’s almost as though many were waiting for it to fail.  They equated “new” with risky, or even dangerous, and I can’t tell you how many times I heard that just because it was “new” didn’t mean it was “good.” Well I can tell you that those “nay” sayers have been proved wrong. In this case, new IS good, and now better. Of course there are always glitches in software in early releases, and the TAP crew had their share of snafus, but they were mostly small and fixable, and the new software update took care of the few bugs that existed. It was a hit this year at the show, and their plans are to continue adding functionality to the already stellar leap forward in technology. For larger kilns (with shelves over 12”) I think it’s worth the upgrade. This controller is only available on Jen-Ken and Evenheat kilns right now. Not so sure why the others aren’t on board yet, but I’ve been assured that it’s coming on other brands soon. No dates have been divulged, even though I pressed and was a little snoopy about it.

Also coming in with a new product was the Bartlett Genesis Controller. Bartlett is now entering the arena of the smart control touchscreen interface with this entry. It’s been in the development phase for a year or more and finally it hit the show with not that much fanfare. I was surprised how little promotion was done for the new entry and how relaxed about it the manufacturers were over the new entry. After some questioning and a bit of asking around, I found out that the new controller is built on the existing RM3-12 key architecture and basically adds the touch screen mode to the current control functions. It looks fine to me, but with only 12 program entry options, that have been pre-populated, the only way to enter a user program is to overwrite a preprogrammed entry. That seems a clunky and not that much of a win in comparison to the TAP Controller which holds over 10,000 entries. Bartlett, being the “old line” more conservative company is clearly entering this technology race with a slower horse. They may see this as a marathon and not a sprint. Only time will tell if this was a good choice for them, and for kiln owners. It’s also an upgrade over 12-key digital controllers available on Olympic and Evenheat Kilns.
Paragon has yet to commit either “smart touchscreen” controller as of yet, saying that they’re still “in testing mode,” but when they do, you can be sure they’ll be going at it with those Texas guns blazing!

Controller Upgrades:
Both Jen-Ken Kilns and Evenheat Kilns are soon to announce pricing on Plug-N-Play upgrades to their legacy kiln controllers featuring TAP and Genesis upgrades to your existing 3-key or 12-key digital controllers. The configurations will be determined by you kiln model and age and may consist of add-on boxes to your controller panel or outright remote boxes that re-route controls away from your current box to the new smart upgrade box.  We’re working with those companies to determine the package pricing and costs. Both companies anticipate their upgrade boxes to be available for almost every brand of kiln on the market today. You can realistically anticipate that kilns with a single relay will upgrade at a lower price than those with 2-4 relays. We think we’ll have this nailed down in the next 60 days.

Relays:

This year Evenheat hit the market with Solid State Relays (SSRs) available as upgrades on all of their models. This is a major move forward and the rest of the manufacturers took notice. You can be sure that they all will add this option as an upgrade to their lines throughout 2016. This year every manufacturer made mercury relays available as stock upgrades, but certain states, e.g. California do not allow them, so SSRs now solve the availability issue.

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 all kilns, are what is responsible for the ubiquitous opening and closing clicking we hear while our kilns run. 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!)  Either failure stinks and is why we recommend changing those relays out every 12-24 months in an effort to prevent scenario number one. An SSR is a relay that has no moving parts-TA DAH! The current jumps between nodes on the relay thus never producing wear, allowing for “X10” amount of what I’ll call “click life.” Having an SSR on your kiln will mean changing a relay every 10-15 years instead of the standard 1-2 years. The upgrade cost for is probably equal to the total replacement costs of the mechanical relays over time, but the aggravation - risk factor elimination is absolutely worth the cost. Marketers call that the Positive Value Proposition. It’s basically worth the cost over the life of the kiln. I personally have lost more than one kiln load to this killer, and now I change out my relays like the good girl I am!

I’m not sure how, or even if, the manufacturers will address their legacy kilns that are already in the marketplace in regard to SSRs. Although SSRs are not a new relay option in other electronic appliances, this is the first time that kiln manufacturers have made them publically available as stock upgrades. The word on the street is that Jen-ken will be the next to introduce this fantastic option in their line.

Other Cool Stuff:

Olympic Kilns introduced a sliding kiln tray/bottom to their “Unicorn,” the GF314ETLC kiln and their GF146ETLC. I call their GF314ETLC the unicorn because it’s the only kiln that size on the market giving it a very unique position. It’s bigger than a 24” and smaller than the 48” kilns.  We sell a bunch of these each year due to their uniqueness. The Slider” allows the bottom of the kiln to slide completely forward like a drawer out from under the clamshell top to allow for greater access to the shelf/bottom of the kiln. I loved this option on the 14” model that was table top.

GF314ETLC 

The booth was full with people road testing the new option when I arrived so I didn’t get to give the bigger drawer a tug. I’m sure the new configuration will be popular. I can see the value if you do a lot of damming and casting work. I also think it would be great for detailed frit work when you just don’t want to be moving that shelf in and out of the kiln. It will be interesting to see if this becomes something the other manufacturers lock into or not.  Olympic also had a few new square kilns that were interesting. We’ll be adding them to the site in the next few weeks.

Evenheat introduced their new relay access port. Which isn’t really very exciting to anyone, except for when you have to change your relays. This door, which is really only applicable to the standard mechanical relays allows users much, much, much easier access to the actual relay and pulls the relay and appropriate wires out of the controller box. So basically it’s a quick switch door that keeps your hands out of the box where all the other wires are. This eliminates the feeling that you are changing your relays in a bowl of spaghetti. It’s a nice little convenience that now will be standard on all of their kilns. My big kiln has 4 relays and this feature sure would have been great when I had to change them out.

Paragon Kilns didn’t introduce anything particularly new this year, but they were there in full force with their tried and true “blue” kilns. The classrooms were full of 16” Fiber Fuse kilns that were very roomy. The students loved them. The Pearl 44 casting kiln looked to be further streamlined, which was impressive.

Not to be outdone by the competition, Jen-Ken Kilns introduced wonderful new hard fiber shelves for their fiber kiln line, the Pro-Fusions 16-26-36-52’s. The hard 1” shelves are the same size as the firing areas so that customers have the full surface protection of the bottom of their kilns. The shelves are available now and we’ll be adding them to our site ASAP! We really like them and think they are a “must-buy” option when getting any fiber kiln.

Pricing:
Olympic held their prices steady this year and won’t be making any pricing changes until November. That’s a great thing for our customers. Evenheat hit early with their pricing changes in January with their introduction of the new V-8 kiln and the introduction of the SSR. Paragon was right behind in February with their pricing changes. Jen-Ken pricing changes will likely occur in the next 60 days, which is always their yearly time frame.

In Summary:
You just can’t beat the fun of going to the Glass Craft Expo in Las Vegas. The classes offer a lot of great techniques, the show floor shows all of the latest-greatest stuff, and the people… well that’s the best part! I got to hang out with current and former students, current and former kiln clients, plus vendors, and I got to teach a few classes and share the love! Next year I hope you can join me!

Your Kiln Gal,

Gail