15 September 2018

Nothing is More Important Than Workshop Safety!

As we have heard a million times, “We're here to have fun, not to get injured.” Nowhere is that more imperative than in your studio or workshop. Protecting yourself from common issues is the first step.

From Safety Gloves to Safety Glasses, sometimes it's just hard to find exactly what you need! With that in mind and a little inspiration from the epic song lyrics of Tina Turner... we have put together a few Kiln Frog favorites for you.

The BEST Eye, Ear, and Lung Protection

Your EYES - Keeping your eyes – and in some cases, your face –covered is the easy way to prevent injury.  Using safety goggles when running most machines is plenty.  In the case of a lathe or some saws, you may need the greater protection of a full face shield to keep dust and debris out of your eyes.

Your EARS - Any time you have equipment running – peculiarly for an extended length of time – you need to cover your ears. Brief amounts of high noise levels won't instantly cause a problem, however long-term exposure to loud noises can damage your hearing permanently.

Your LUNGS - Not only is dust an eye irritant, it can irritate your lungs, nose and sinus passages too. Covering your nose and mouth with a simple dust mask will take care of most exposure. Keep in mind, dust isn’t the only irritant to your lungs. Finishes and other workshop chemicals can let off fumes that can cause your problems as well. In this situation,
you may need a more powerful mask with replaceable filters.

The BEST Safety Gloves

Workshop safety is synonymous with hand safety! Even something as small as a splinter can become an issue if left untreated, and sharp things are all over your studio or workshop. As for what type of gloves to use, there are many, many options to chose from. Just make sure to look for and use gloves that have the proper protective ability for the situation you’ll be using them for.

The BEST Workshop Safety Equipment

Did you know? Fires double every 30 seconds so, it's VERY important to stop fires fast! With that said, workshop safety equipment is a top priority! It is important to make sure you are properly prepared with good personal shop safety equipment so that you can be completely comfortable with whatever you are doing.

This is especially true when it comes to talking about Carbon Monoxide. Carbon Monoxide is colorless, odorless, tasteless and toxic gas produced as a by-product of combustion. Any fuel burning appliance, vehicle, tool or other device has the potential to produce dangerous levels of CO gas. So, having a reliable detector can really be the difference between life and death.

09 September 2018

Why is my Kiln or Oven Not Heating Properly?

We all love our kilns and heat treat ovens. I'm even thinking about creating a big sign for Gail's studio that says "Have you hugged your kiln today?"💖 But, let's be honest... using a kiln comes with its share of emotional ups and downs. Knowing how to be a good troubleshooter can help at the time when you are starting to feel the most frustrated. So, let's look at some troubleshooting tips from our friends @ Evenheat!

⚠️#1 issue - Not Heating
  • Start by check for a "blown" fuse or tripped circuit breaker. This is a good time to double check that these devices are properly sized... meaning do you have the correct breaker for the number of amps your kiln requires. 
  • Check for voltage at the kiln plug/receptacle. 
  • Kiln not plugged in. (Don't laugh, it's happened!)
  • For digital controllers, check the control fuse located on the control panel. 
  • For kiln sitter controllers, make sure the plunger is pushed in or the kilns' power switch is ON. Also, check the limit timer as it may be set to "0".
  • Make sure kiln is plugged into the correctly specified receptacle. 
  • Possible element failure. It's always wise to have extra elements, pins, and relays available!
  • Kiln panel component failure.
  • Check for worn or broken wires. This is especially important as damaged wires can be an immediate fire hazard. 

⚠️#2 - Fires Too Slowly
  • Elements are wearing out. Elements age when fired and increase in resistance. Firings gradually take longer, and longer until the kiln will not reach temperature. Replace all elements. High firings wear the elements out faster than lower firings.
  • Make sure all elements are firing. You can check this by carefully lifting the lid while the kiln is on to make sure all elements are glowing. In some kilns, especially kilns with Digital Controllers, the top and bottom coils appear to become hot quickly while the center elements appear to be slow in becoming hot and are less bright. WARNING! Do not touch the elements when doing this as they are HOT!
  • Voltage too low. As voltage falls, so does power. Check voltage while under load for a more valid reading. Sometimes, the voltage may vary in certain areas due to heavy electrical use. This is especially true in the summer with a heavy demand for air conditioning and refrigeration. Older homes may also have a lower voltage due to older wiring. 
  • Improper operating voltage. Check the rated voltage (printed on the nameplate) against the measured voltage. A kiln designed for 240V will be slower when connected to 208V.
  • Long runs of wire from the main service can cause lower voltage, which lowers power.
  • Service wired incorrectly. The kiln may have inadvertently been connected to 120V instead of 208 or 240V. (Yep... this has happened, too!)
  • Loose connections between the fuse box and kiln.

⚠️#3 - Fires Too Quickly
  • Improper operating voltage. Check the rated voltage (printed on the nameplate) against the measured voltage. A kiln designed for 208V will fire faster when connected to 240V. This situation is dangerous and may cause amperages to exceed design limits. Do not allow this condition to exist and cease using the kiln immediately.
  • Check element ohms to make sure they meet the factory specifications.
  • Improperly programmed digital controller. ALWAYS double check your programs! Sometimes, it's the easiest answer!
Please remember that for many of these suggestions, it is highly suggested that a licensed electrician is called to assist you with troubleshooting these remedies!

30 August 2018

Everyone Needs a Good First Aid Kit!

A good first aid kit is a must in all studios and workshops, as accidents can happen anytime, anywhere, and it’s better to be prepared than to find yourself scrambling around for a bandage or disinfectant. Been there, done that!

Let's face it... we all know it's gonna happen! A small cut may seem insignificant at the time, but if it gets infected you could be out of action for weeks. This is especially important in a teaching environment so, if you have students, make sure you are prepared! An effective first aid kit provides plasters, bandages, scissors, tweezers, and antiseptic wipes, as well as burn ointment, eye wash, and gauze pads.

Here are links to our favorite First Aid Kit essentials:

Be Smart - 250 Piece FIRST AID Kit

This Deluxe 250 piece Be Smart First Aid Kit from Total Resources is a necessity for the workplace and meets or exceeds all OSHA requirements for small business. It's in a hard carrying case designed with a multi-compartment organizer. It can be carried around or mounted on a wall in a central location. Airtight rubber seal around a durable plastic case creates the perfect storage for all your first aid essentials. No matter the situation or location, the contents of your kit will always be safe.

Johnson & Johnson Red Cross All Purpose First Aid Kit

Clean, treat, protect, and care for cuts, scrapes, minor burns, itches, pain, skin rashes and insect bites with the Johnson & Johnson Red Cross All Purpose First Aid Kit. This versatile kit contains 140 first aid essentials, including cleansing wipes, gauze pads, antibiotic ointment, itch stopping cream, acetaminophen caplets, an instant cold pack, bandages, non-stick pads, rolled gauze, and more. Supplies come packaged in a durable, plastic box that keeps your items accessible, and organized!

Medipoint Splinter Out Splinter Remover

If you have anything in your studio or workshop, this is a MUST! Maybe, we should have made it #1... as everyone who works in glass knows that those splinters are the worst!

Splinter Out is better than a needle because it is steam autoclave sterilized, and has a sharp tri-bevel point that is designed for loosening and pulling out splinters. There are 20 sterile splinter removers per box.

Wall Mountable Eye and Skin Flush Station 

Eyewash Stations are critical! They are intended to mitigate eye injuries when control methods (eyeglasses or protective eyewear) do not prevent exposure to a physical or chemical irritant or biological agent. This Eye and Skin Flush Station includes two bottles of eye isotonic buffered solution with wall mount. Plus, an eyecup for easily focusing the fluid stream into affected eyes.

Natural Burn Ointment / Silver Sulfadiazine Cream

When you accidentally touch the bead or piece of metal because it looks cool... it becomes pretty important to have a good burn cream close by! FYI... This was actually the first thing I ever used from our first aid kit! ASAP365 Silver Gel by American Biotech Labs is formulated using their unique and patented 20 PPM SilverSol Technology solution. This silver gel can not only help to hydrate your skin but has also been shown to promote natural healing so, it's perfect to use as a natural burn ointment. WARNING: If you have a sulfur allergy, this is NOT for you!

Keep in mind that a first aid kit is meant to be used to treat minor cuts, abrasions, and burns. You should never rely on a first aid kit to handle more severe injuries.

As an Amazon Associate, Kiln Frog may earn from qualifying purchases.

25 August 2018

Lone Star Jewelry Retreat — May 15-20th, 2019

Join us for this one-of-a-kind Lone Star Jewelry Retreat featuring Texas Artists, Vickie Hallmark, and Gail Stouffer.

Kick your boots off and immerse yourself in a blend of past and present as we travel to the Heart of Austin for a unique 4-day workshop experience. Hosted by your friends at Kiln Frog, you'll spend 5 nights at the ultra-cool and retro-inspired, Lone Star Court Hotel, soaking up the hip Austin vibes of great music, great food, and modern luxury in Austin's newest hipster paradise, The Domain!

Our time together will kick off with cocktails and a welcome dinner as we settle in for a great week of laughs, learning, and fun. On the first day, our group will split into 2 sections, each beginning their workshop with one of the artists. Each artist will conduct a 2-day workshop with open studio time in the evening. Then, the morning of day three, everyone will switch and you'll begin your new 2-day workshop and open studio with the alternate artist.

This retreat experience is packed with double the techniques and projects, plus you'll gain the experience of two artists to guide you through multiple perspectives on metal clays and metalsmithing. In Vickie’s workshop, you will concentrate on Prong Setting Special Stones and techniques in Argentium & PMC... while, in Gail's workshop, you will concentrate on Realistic Gardens and Faceted Stones while learning techniques in Sterling & PMC!

So read through the particulars, and sign up quickly as spots in the Lone Star Jewelry Retreat will fill quickly. View Full Itinerary and Details

Can't wait... Sign me up now! 

18 August 2018

Kiln Q&A

Learning from others is at the heart of the kiln community. So, I thought everyone would enjoy some Q&A as we just love to share knowledge and information! When using or buying a kiln... this extra insight not only saves you time but, often money, too!

Can a small test kiln accurately duplicate the firing of my larger pottery kiln?
A digital controller on a test kiln can duplicate the firing of a large kiln. Find a test kiln that has a simple 3-key controller. It won't have all the features of the more expensive 12-key controller, nevertheless, it can slow the cooling to whatever speed you want. Keep in mind that most 120-volt kilns are rated to 2000 F so, make sure you use one that is rated to 2300 F.

I need a small kiln that can be moved often. What do you recommend?
Since you are going to move the kiln frequently, we would suggest a fiber kiln. They are lighter than firebrick kilns. However, you can move a small, tabletop firebrick kiln without damaging it, you just need to be extra careful. Whether you get a fiber or firebrick kiln, its a good idea to save the carton and foam packing from the original shipment. The packing is designed to protect the kiln. Also, be sure to place a sheet of foam packing material between the kiln body and door or lid whenever you move a kiln for extra security.

Is there a reason to buy a ceramic shelf instead of a fiber shelf? 
A ceramic shelf is recommended for activities like pattern bars, pot melts, high fires, or any there techniques that requires temp to be held at 1450F or above. A fiber shelf will be marred by these activities and won't stay smooth as the glass moves.

Can a kiln be safely operated on a wooden work table? 
Yes, but it's not ideal! You will need a liner to buffer the heat. We recommend a concrete board, i.e. hardy-backer or Duraboard, or at the minimum, a double layer of ceramic tiles. It is easy to find at your local hardware store, and it's fireproof so it will protect the table and the area. Metal is always the preferred surface for a kiln table or cart.

I'm curious how hot a fiber kiln gets on the outside vs. a conventional kiln?
A fiber kiln reflects heat internally and a brick kiln absorbs the heat, so a fiber kiln will not be as hot on the outside. With that said, at a full fuse (1480F) the kiln might be 200-300F degrees on the outside.

Is it worth the extra cost for a solid state or mercury relay on a new kiln?
Glass fusing kilns are much harder on relays than ceramic kilns because of the very long glass annealing times that are typical with glass. (The glass is cooled slowly during annealing.) The same holds true for heat treating, crystalline glazes, bead annealing or any kiln that is holding temp for a long period. With that in mind, we think the optional mercury relay or solid state relays are well worth the money. They cut down on maintenance and help you elements last longer too!

How much heat is lost through a kiln’s bead doors when mandrels are inside?
With bead mandrels extending out past the bead door of a kiln, there is some loss of heat, but it is minor. In our opinion, not enough to make a difference. The kiln's digital controller and thermocouple will sense any differential and accommodate for this by firing the elements when needed to make up for any heat loss.

Do I need a top load or a front load glass kiln?
Top load kilns offer the most size for the cost. They can fire most glass projects but they are not good for projects that require manipulating the glass during the firing as the artist is subjected directly to the heat when the lid is opened nor are they recommended for bead annealing. Front load kilns are better for bead annealing and manipulating glass during the firing. They are also easier to load with large glass projects on the kilns shelves.

What type of kiln is best for copper enameling?
Copper enameling is best done in a front-loading kiln. This is because the copper pieces are removed while red-hot. When you open the door of a front-loading kiln and remove the piece with an enameling fork, you are comfortably out of the way of the rising heat. Removing an enameled piece from a top-loading kiln is more awkward and can be dangerous. Before opening the kiln to remove the piece, always turn off the power to the elements, which may mean turning the kiln off if your kiln did not come with a power interrupt switch. To enamel another piece, you can turn the power back on after you have closed the kiln door.

How is depth measured in a kiln?
The interior depth is always front-to-back for a kiln with a door and top-to-bottom for a kiln with a lid. For outside kiln dimensions, depth is the distance from the front to the back.

For glass, do I need elements in the top and sides or only the top?
Glass does not like temperature variation. Though top elements offer even heating across a flat piece of glass, top and sidewall elements are recommended for firing tall or deep pieces with molds. Side elements offer more even heating of the sides of drape molds or deep castings. Basically, the deeper you want to slump, the more side elements become necessary.

How do I get a wide ceramic kiln through a 32” doorway?
Many top-loading ceramic kilns are sectional. You can disassemble them and carry the sections through narrow doorways or downstairs. It can take some time for a beginner to disassemble and reassemble a sectional kiln. If the kiln is front-loading, you can temporarily remove the door handle and the back element cover. If necessary, you could also remove the door itself. Please have a kiln technician remove and reinstall the door for you if you do not feel comfortable with the project.

Have more questions? Call us... as always, we are happy to help!