Kiln Advice

Hi everyone!

We have a small on-site jewelry studio here at Halstead and we’d like to purchase a kiln.

We would like to be able to do annealing, depletion gilding, enameling and possibly metal clay. From researching it, I’d like a temperature control on it, small so that it will fit on top of a workbench & front-loading so it’s easy to reach in and grab the pieces. However, any input is helpful since a kiln is entirely new to us and there are a lot of brands and styles out there.

Congratulations on adding a kiln to your studio!
Most of the small electric kilns will probably serve you well. The four things to make sure to have are 1) an orton programmable controller 2) with a temperature cut off switch. If the kiln gets too hot past what is intended, it turns itself off. It also helps to have the controller as a separate unit, so that if it fails, you can still manually control your kiln. 3). I also have a separate dedicated twist plug and 30 amp circuit. 4) I also have exhaust ventilation.
I use my kiln mostly for flask burnout for casting, and for annealing. I picked out a satellite kiln direct from the mfg who is local to me in southern California. The one I chose had the interior space to hands 5-6 decent size flasks with a bit extra height for efficiency in air circulation. It was about 4 " taller than most of the small jewelry kilns I found online. It’s wise to look at the size and volume of what You want to put into the kiln. Select your kiln based on that parameter. It’s a just another “work space” with a controlled environment. I love the programmable controller and that you can reprogram projects on the fly. You cam also see exactly what the temperature is all the time.
You will have immense creative fun with the equipment addition.

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Thank you so much, Eileen. You gave us a lot to consider here and it’s really appreciated. We don’t have casting equipment here, and I don’t see us ever needing one, but we are growing the studio so you never know. I would love to ask you what kiln you have, so that I can look it up to compare the size as to what I think we would need. Also, did you choose a top or front loader? Since we will be using it for annealing, I was under the impression that it is easier to grab pieces from the front rather than reach and get them through the top.Thanks again for the advice.

Erica, I have a front loader. Love it. Top loaders IMHO are ackward. I’ll go measure and send a pic later. Eileen

I second having a front loading kiln. I started with a top loader and it was awkward to load so added a ring so I can front load. I use it for enameling.


Here’s a link to a Neycraft Fiber Furnace. It’s everything you listed in your wish list, and not much more. I found a bunch on Ebay for $500 on up, so you have that option as well.

From what you said, I don’t think you need a computerized controller. It’s a nice option if you’re doing overnight burnouts, but it’s probably not necessary for your needs. If you have the cash and would like one, the Neycraft Vulcan 3-550 might be the right one. Here’s a link.

I have an older Neycraft kiln and separate Rio Grande controller (essentially a two-part version of the Vulcan 3-550) that have both worked flawlessly for 25 or more years. I use it for enameling, annealing and burning out. It’s efficient and with the controller, extremely accurate. The gauge on the front of my kiln used to be pretty accurate too until I accidentally hit it with my platinum casting torch flame. Now it’s stuck at 650 degrees. I used ceramic cones to check the accuracy of the thermocouple about 15 years ago and it was right on, both the gauge and the controller were within 10 or 20 degrees.

Highly recommended.


Thanks, David! I won’t ever use it for an overnight burnout but I definitely want precise control of the heat. Something simple that can be set, maintain that even temperature until I choose to turn it off. I’ll go check out your link now. Thanks again! :slight_smile:

Thanks for the advice, Nancy. From everything I’ve read, that seems like the way to go. I don’t want it to be awkward in any way, plus multiple people will be using it and I don’t want it to be a situation where it may be too tall for some people to safely use. Thanks for sharing your experience with a top loader, it was helpful.

Hello Dave,
I have an additional kiln question for you. I’m in a Metal Arts program at my local community college. I was told by my casting instructor that I would need a separate kiln for enameling and another to burnout flasks. She said the burnout would cause soot that would contaminate any enamel pieces put into the same kiln. But, I noticed in your post you mentioned you use your Kiln for enameling and burnout. Did I get incorrect or over cautious advise from my instructor? Is it possible to use one kiln for everything?
Thank you for you feedback,

If I were you I would not use the same kiln for both enameling and burnout.
The wax that starts to coat the inside of the kiln will effect the
enamels. You want a clean, as clean as possible, kiln for enameling.
Or you might find some contamination on the enamels and the metals,
especially silver.

Now I am guessing some people will say they use one kiln for both but this
is just my experience and opinion.
And a thermostat will help with quality enameling.
Again, just my own views.

Sharron…in a cold house in sunny central Mexico where the houses will
not warm up until April.

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I’m using a satellite j-200. The interior is 8.5"tall × 12"×12". The extra height is great for taller flasks and adding a set of kiln mini architecture stands / legs to allow for cleaner wax burnout. That of course isn’t your particular need. But, the height would allow you to use a small kiln shelf with supports top layer for stacked work set up for production efficiency in two layers. Think two oven shelves versus working on the kiln floor alone.

Ok folks, your instructor is being vague, because without telling you/us the temp to which he runs his burnout , his advice is useless.
IF you have a kiln that will run with an oxidising atmosphere to 900/1000C any soot carbon will have long gone! just try it!.
I bought my kiln some 45 yrs ago, it runs up to 1100C it has a front opening door, with a peep hole as well as a second small door in the 1st .
Internal dimensions are 12 in by 12 in by 6 in high.
used primarily for enamelling .
A pyrometer, platinum/iridium thermocouple driving a 0 to 1300C scale gauge.
Here in the UK it runs off a standard 13 A socket through an ordinary domestic electric oven control. The heating elements are in grooves in the side walls and in grooves in the floor.
then theres a kiln bat 11 by 11 in by 1/2in thick above the floor supported on 1/2in ceramic blocks.
Takes approx 1.5 hrs to reach stable saturation temp of say 850C. temp control via whats called here a simerstat.
As to height above normal table height, preferably at chest level. you dont want to have it at a normal bench height and sit in front of it to use. If you drop something it will go right through any clothing and probably into your legs as well. Best used with the operator STANDING!
With other folk using it, its likely to be a source of trouble.
Those temps with red hot metal! and students! No thanks. Will have to be used under instructor supervision only. Check with your community liability insurance before you spend your money. They may refuse to cover the risk.

I just looked it up and that looks like the perfect kiln for our use. I like the thought of two shelves. 5-6 small pieces at a time could fit in there during classes, it looks like. Do you know what the difference in the voltages is? We are set up for 110V but we can put in a 220V if necessary.

I’m also interested in purchasing a kiln for the same purposes and really appreciate the advice in this thread. BUT… the space I have is in my basement and I’m worried about safety.

Can anyone comment on safety issues for a kiln this size? I’m thinking of the heat - how much clearance around the kiln is needed? Will it set off the sprinklers? What about ventilation? If I use it solely for annealing/gilding/hardening? Enamel? Will not use it for burnout. I’ve heard Vcella kilns are pricey but good - any experience to share?

While you certainly can do annealing and depletion gilding with a kiln, it makes more sense to do both with a torch, in my opinion, It is quicker and takes less energy and also helps students learn to gauge temperature when using a torch. When making a jewelry piece, you often anneal multiple times, and going back and forth to a kiln makes little sense. The same is true for depletion gilding, which takes multiple cycles of heating and pickling. Enameling can certainly be done in one of the front loading cube kilns, as can metal clay, but both can also be done with a torch or with a much cheaper hotplate enameling kiln. The hotplate kiln is about $175, whereas the cubes are about $1000 or more, esp. with the programmable feature. Temperature of the hotplate could be gauged by eye or using orton cones. You could get two or three of the hotplate kilns for less than the cost of the cube and spend the rest of the money on something else. You would need to exercise some care with the hotplate kiln, but students will need to exercise just as much care with torches, which I assume they would be using.

A programmable kiln might be nice, but not entirely necessary, for heat hardening sterling or Argentium. A programmable kiln is very useful, as has been mentioned, for flask burnout and it’s also great for heat treating gems, but almost no one does that. If someone is telling you you need a programmable kiln for annealing, depletion gilding, enameling and PMC, perhaps they don’t know much about these processes. It would make more sense to me to use a low tech option, as many students would not be able to afford a $1000+ kiln and should learn alternate, cheaper methods they can duplicate at home.

It’s not uncommon for school workshops to end up with all kinds of stuff someone decided they needed that isn’t used, so consider who will use the kiln and whether it is really necessary or efficient for your uses.

The satellite j-200 that i have is 110. As I recall is 17amp (I’d have to check). It’s pretty practical. It also doesn’t kick up my electric bill much at all.
Ted is right about instructor supervision. Prior to having my own studio, I never ran a kiln or operated one. It had bumps during the learning curve at times. Now I supervise my students.

I’ve heard the same thing about having a separate kiln to burnout flasks. I thought it was because a burnout kiln had an exhaust system.

I’ve used 4 brands of small front opening kilns. The Vcella was newer and had been used less than the others.

The Vcella kiln stayed cool on the outside, even around the door opening. And it reheated much faster after closing the door compared to the others I used.

The Vcella did not have a window nor a controller.

The other brands had windows and controllers which were not in the best condition, which probably explains why I never found those features important.

A small kiln only needs 110V, but the seller can tell you otherwise.

To be confident an electrical system matches electrical needs, find out the following:

  • the total AMP rating on each circuit (it might be printed on the circuit switch in your electrical switch box),
  • which combination of electrical plugs share a circuit and
  • how many AMPS your tools draw. AMPS are shown on the tool’s electrical cord or in the owner’s manual.

You can always have this information at hand by creating an electrical drawing of all your plugs and the AMP rating of their circuits, as well as keeping a list of the number of AMPS each tool draws. Then it is simple math.

I want to sell a PARAGON SC2, which I think fulfills the needs you describe.
Made, supported, and serviced in the USA, it’s a popular kiln.
Mine is new, never fired. I bought it a few years ago, and for some reasons, haven’t used it.
(I covered & enclosed it so it would stay clean.) I also have some kiln “furniture”–shelves, posts, and I forgot what else.
A search for Paragon SC2 will give you current prices and exactly what it is.
I am in the San Francisco Bay area.
I’m asking $500 or best offer.

Thanks, Betty. That’s great to know. I’ll see where the kiln well be placed and then check the studio tools with the circuit. I really liked what Ted said about standing, and I’ll definitely put it at chest height and stand when using it. That’s the first time I’ve heard that.

Thank you Sharon, you and my casting teacher agree.