Kilns for everything

Hi all, lurker-first poster-newbie here.

Here is my dilemma:

I have temporarily moved in to a small apartment in Chicago. I will
be here about a year. The apartment has about 3 sprinklers in every
room, arrgh. I currently have a little torch, which is fine for
everything I need it for, except annealing. I also have a Prestolite,
which I had previously used for annealing. I am not comfortable with
using the Prestolite in this place. I am thinking that since I will
need a kiln for future enameling and casting burnout, perhaps I can
find a kiln that I could also use for annealing. First, can I anneal
in a kiln, mostly sterling, and if so, what is a good kiln for
all-purpose use? I have looked at the Paragons, and the less
expensive ones seem capable, but I am not sure if certain features
matter. Such as–top loading or front loading, does it make a
difference for what I would like to use it for? Is it nec. to have a
digital kiln? And, do I need a window? My daughter may use it for her
beads and PMC as well. Is it possible that I can find a small kiln
that does all of this?

Extremely grateful for you Orchidians!

Note From Ganoksin Staff:
Looking for an electric kiln for your jewelry projects? We recommend:


  • you should be fine with the sprinklers, provided they have been
    certified/tested and work (call your local fire company and ask them
    to come inspect if you a) want to know B0 are prepared for the

  • Regarding kilns: paragons, other digital models, etc…use more
    electricity than older ones. I have a 350 watt kiln that gets up to
    3200 degrees farenheit, with a front opening door. it does it all,
    without digitization most efficiently with a simple dial 1-10, 10
    being max wattage/temp…try posting to craig’s list first for an
    older model( pre beading trend), or put a" wanted to buy"add in the
    newspaper. No doubt some older person no longer able or interested
    in using a small kiln would love to sell theirs for a reasonable yet
    nominal price…

  • A great tip is to put the kiln -whatever you wind up with, on a
    dedicated fuse/circuit breaker. Newer models suck watts down, and if
    in a kitchen running a lot of electrical conveniences can blow many a
    fuse since most are 15 or 20 amp fuses. Take a look at your box, and
    see if you have a free space ( also a generally good idea in an
    rental situation anyway – as most people never think to take a look
    at the insides of their homes electrical brain, so to speak…
    another thing your fireman could assist with!)

  • You can anneal with a little torch, or even a butane torch for that
    matter. a kiln as well…If you use the prestolite, try it on a
    balcony, or very near a window, french doors, etc. as they consume
    oxygen rapidly in a small space and will trigger a near ceiling
    mounted carbon monoxide detector in a minute or so if you have a
    large bushy flame… actually depending on the size pieces you do, i
    would perhaps pack it up or only use it outside for the year. It
    consumes more cfm than the little torch at any rate.

Ventilation ( as many windows as are possible!), low wattage kiln,
and if you do use the prestolite, definitely install a low alarm (
for propane) or a ceiling alarm for acetylene… and put the torches
away when the fireman comes to check your space! consider apartment
renters insurance, or speak with an agent you know and trust about
your situation…as it sounds volatile if you need to ask if you need
a window! Dont skimp on safety, alternatively dont be paranoid either
invite your daughter to schedule a time to sit down with you and
discuss the very real hazards and conditions for using the equipment,
friends present, etc so everything is crystal clear and heard the
same by all ears present at the meeting…

R. E. Rourke

  1. Not only can you anneal in a kiln, it’s the best way. People use
    torches for convenience and because they do, but a kiln gives you
    even, equal heat.

  2. Digital kilns are nice, I guess - never used one, but I would if
    the price was the same as analog.

  3. A kiln is pretty much a kiln. There are high-fire kilns for
    porcelain and stuff, but otherwise a kiln is a kiln.

  4. We had a very small kiln at one point - don’t remember the brand,
    but it was about one foot square, probably cost under $100. It
    worked fine for it’s size.

  5. I’m not one to say you should put in some huge ventilation
    system, but you will definately want ventilation - absolutely, if
    you burn out wax.

I’m really new----afraid to even open my first pack of PMC (it was
so expensive!) I have so many questions! I don’t know who to ask)
but does this mean that you can actually use a little torch IN
DOORS? I thought you had to be outdoors in the open or in your


Hi Eve,

I have a Neycraft fiber Furnace. I use it for both enameling and
annealing (copper mostly). The door opens from the front to allow me
to remove the enameling trivits easily. I’ve had it for years and
love it. I have to add though, it worries me that you are thinking of
enameling in your apartment. Enamels and living quarters don’t mix
well. I have a separate studio which had a great ventilation system.
The fan to the system broke a couple of weeks ago. I have been
enameling with an open skylight and cross breeze from open windows.
I’m not comfortable at all with the situation. I believe that all
fumes, especially enamel and flux should be vented away from you at
all times. An open window just doesn’t give enough draw. Also, if you
dry sift the enamel there will be dust and that dust is not healthy
for you, your pets or your children. I believe in taking chances.
Hey, my husband and I are about to go full time into the jewelry and
fine crafts business. But I don’t believe in taking chances with your
health. Oh, Does anyone know if Harbor freight carries squirrel cage


If you want a kiln for absolutely everything, then digital is the
way to go. You certainly can do PMC with an analog, but, it’s a heck
of a lot easier with a programmable one-it allows for controlling the
ramp, which can sometimes be an issue if one’s using terracotta and
alumina hydrate for 3D forms, and I don’t have to be present watching
the kiln-it shuts itself off after its done. I run my kiln on top of
my stove under the vent hood, so I’m not really worried about
anything combusting, just like I don’t watch my oven when it’s on
self clean. Also, i suspect programmable might make annealing glass
beads easier as well. As for the the current, the newer digital ones
take normal household current-about as much as a toaster oven (or so
I’ve heard over and over again from others-I’ve not made the literal
comparison myself.) The main issue you might have, is with PMC,
there’s a little bit of smoke at the beginning-the binder burns off
and it smells a little like burnt paper or toast. I have the paragon
SC2 and I’ve both enameled and used PMC in it, and both do just fine.

As far as price goes, I think the lower end digitals can be had for
around $400, and the paragon Firefly is under $400.

Lastly, you mentioned firing PMC with a torch. Yes, technically it
can be done, do I recommend it? Not so much. Torch firing is a cute
parlor trick, but for serious, or even occasional production, I find
it tedious and a huge PITA. Also, torch firing is only really
practical for PMC3 (it can be fired for about a minute, I believe
PMC+ takes about 5 minutes with a torch.) My main problem with torch
firing, aside from the PITA factor, it doesn’t give a really great
sinter. The primary reason I use PMC3, when I use it, which is rare,
is it’s strength and density-. Well, torch firing negates that, and
leaves you with a weak product. I’d certainly never torch fire a ring
or a toggle clasp, I’d be afraid they wouldn’t hold up to wear and
tear. If you really really really want to fire PMC without a kiln,
I’d recommend a speedfire cone, which is a propane burner with a
pyrometer attached. However, I’m endorsing the concept, I’ve never
used one before.

I kiln anneal silver often in my Paragon SC2. I also use my kiln for
metal clay and for glass fusing. If you may be looking at using your
kiln for beads in the future, you will probably be best served by
having a kiln with a front-loading bead door. Enameling also works
well with a front-loading door. Glass fusing works with either front
load or top load styles. A window is optional, but not available on
a bead door. Do spend the money for a digital computerized
controller - it will save a lot of kiln-sitting time and pay for
itself over time.

Sandi Graves, Beadin’ Up A Storm
Stormcloud Trading Co (Beadstorm)
Saint Paul, Minnesota USA

Regarding kilns: paragons, other digital models, etc..use more
electricity than older ones. I have a 350 watt kiln that gets up
to 3200 degrees farenheit

I do not know of any electric kiln that can go up to 3200 degrees
farenheit, normally they go up to 2000 degrees. Coils tend to

Richard Hart

I'm really new----afraid to even open my first pack of PMC (it was
so expensive!) I have so many questions! I don't know who to ask) 

To get you started:

my blog: with lots of info. and links
to more

Join the Metal Clay Gallery list. There is a link at my blog, or just
do a search on yahoo groups.

If you can, take a class, even if it’s only one afternoon.

but does this mean that you can actually use a little torch IN
DOORS? I thought you had to be outdoors in the open or in your

Yes, you can use a torch in doors. I personally don’t love torch
firing PMC, but lots of folks do. For an affordable kiln alternative,
I recommend the JEC Products Ultra Light Bee Hive Kiln from or Rio.

Hard to Find Tools for Metal Clay


I do not know of any electric kiln that can go up to 3200 degrees
farenheit, normally they go up to 2000 degrees. Coils tend to

Most kilns go 1100 degrees Centigrade (approx 2000 F) but there are
many electric kilns that reach 1300 C (2400 F) used for some sort of
clay (not my field). I have an old German kiln that goes up to
1500-1600 C.

You are absolutely right about the coils though. The type you have
in mind does disintegrate at higher temps. To go beyond 1100 C the
coils must be made of another metal. Think of all electric
casting/melting equipment. I belive some use platinumwire but I could
be wrong.


I also have a relatively new Paragon, and it only can go up to 2000
degrees Fahrenheit. I normally fire it at 1650 for 2 hours, and even
at that firing schedule, the exterior gets hot to the touch, but it
isn’t burning hot. The newer kilns are pretty well insulated.


Hello Eve,

Unfortunately, I can’t comment on the ability to anneal in a kiln,
but I can try to offer a little insight for the other queries. I
recently bought a Paragon SC-2 kiln, with bead door. Some day I hope
to do lampworking, so I invested in the bead door, although that’s
really not a big jump $$-wise. For now, I use it for PMC, glass
fusing & enamelling. I considered spending the extra money for the
window, but because I was already putting out more than enough $$ at
the time, and to get the window could have added another few weeks
to the delivery time (which I did NOT want to wait for!), and the
window can only go up to 1700 deg and I didn’t want to restrict
myself, I didn’t get the window. Sure, there are times when it could
be helpful. Since I have the bead door, though, if my shelf isn’t set
on high supports I can open the bead door quickly & peek in. If you
don’t mind a few more bucks and you don’t mind waiting longer to get
it, though, it could be a good thing. The only other thing, then, is
the 1700 deg restriction.

As for top vs. front loading, I wanted the front loading because I
didn’t want to have to reach in there to put things in & take them
out. I don’t know how you’d do it, actually, with the top loader.
The only time I’ve seen one in use was for my fusing class, and then
she waited until the oven was 500 deg or lower, then picked each
piece up with her gloved hand. I’d rather just open the door & pull
the whole shelf out with my big fork. Plus, I don’t have to lean over
it & have all that heat on my face. I have MS and I like to avoid
heat like that, although it’s extremely hot no matter one’s health
issues (or lack thereof). With some things, you would put them in
cold (or relatively cold), and maybe even take them out cold (or at
least, again, relatively cold), so it might not be a big issue. With
enameling, though, they go in & out with the kiln super hot, and you
can’t just reach in and pick them up.

For the digital, it makes it super easy to use the kiln. I can’t
imagine having one without it, although I’m not totally versed on
what the alternatives would be. I’ve always heard, though, if you
can get a digital one, do it!

I hope that helps a bit. By the way, I got mine at
They had the best price I found, and Shauna was very helpful in
answering all of my questions. No affiliation, just a happy customer.

Designs by Lisa Gallagher

Go ahead and open the metal clay. If you want to know more about the
media before playing with it, just start googling - there is a vast
array of knowlege and sharing artists out there who will be happy to
help you get acquainted with the product. And then, when you have
your item dried and ready to fire, go ahead and use your torch. You
can use a small hand-held butane torch (similar to what you would use
in your kitchen) or a plumber’s torch. You don’t have to have a
larger and more expensive set-up unless you feel it is necessary. And
yes, you can use a torch indoors. You do want to make sure that you
are firing on material that is compatible with the heat of a torch,
and that the basic area around this is fireproofed. But this is basic
common sense. Playing with fire can be fun - let yourself experience
the fun of it.

Sandi Graves, Beadin’ Up A Storm
Stormcloud Trading Co (Beadstorm)
Saint Paul, Minnesota USA

yes - not a problem at all…you can do it indoors with a torch, on a
gas stove’s burner, with an almost obsolete at this point “PMC Hot
Pot”…or shuck out the bucks for a kiln, which unless you want to do
some raku, enameling, glass work, make dichroic cabs from pre-pared
sheets of dichroic material, you don’t need a kiln…so open the PMC
and get creative. feel free to contact me off list with all the
questions you care to ask…or go to pmc guild, art clay silver or
pmc supply, or, and you’ll find a virtual
world of there too.


Note From Ganoksin Staff:
Looking for an electric kiln for your jewelry projects? We recommend: