It was back in 2012 that I took an exciting new step in my artistic works, by starting to create mini landscapes in metal clay. I then decided to buy a kiln; however, this was a step I did not properly research and the consequence was my choice to buy a cheap, generic, untested and un-recommended kiln.
The beauty of having your own kiln is that you can fire multiple pieces at the same time and you can fire larger pieces of work. In addition, you no longer need to fire your metal clay with a blow torch on a firing brick, which takes a painfully long time. The piece below was one of my first simple bowls I created, featuring metal leaf, which was later sold with my representative gallery Degreeart.com.:
Above: ‘Fallen’ by Laura H Elliott – Sold with Degree Art Gallery
Later on I created a larger design, a clock made from two slabs of clay and a copper sheet, shown below:
Above: ‘A Stitch In Time, Saves Nine’
When I bought the kiln I really only looked for the most affordable kiln which offered me with the most space. I came across a generic or none branded kiln and bought it. My kiln was shipped to me by courier and the first one arrived damaged. The company delivered me another kiln and I began to use it. Having no knowledge about kilns and no advice really meant I was buying ‘blind’.
As you can see, the element was in-set into the back of the kiln wall and you could see the element turn bright orange when you opened it, having fired your work. Having the element exposed in the back wall created just 1 of number of issues, all detailed below:
1) The Hole In The Door:
The most dangerous aspects of the kiln lay in the instructions. The kiln stated that the small hole on the kiln door could be used as a peep hole.
Warning: Do NOT look through the hole in the door!!!! To look into the kiln would be absurd, as you would need to get so close to see anything that you would damage your eyes.
This is a crazy suggestion so please do not do this. This hole is a vent for smoke and a way oxygen enters the kiln during firing. Every kiln has a vent hole to remove fumes as shown below; however, this is not a viewing hole!! You can see in the left picture below that the hole glows red during firing, so always a danger sign:
2) Keeping The Set Temperature:
The kiln temperature during firing was never even. The front of the kiln was cooler than the rear, thus causing uneven firing. This meant my hard work creating metal clay designs where ruined 6+ times due to the temperature difference (see below):
3) The Dangerous Element:
The element was open and vulnerable to damage. Eventually the element burnt out and was irreparable (see below)
4) The Element/ Heat Distribution and How It Broke Down:
Surrounding the element was firing brick and as the kiln was used the rapid temperature change cracked the bricks. Once the bricks where cracked this meant the temperature was even more uneven (see below):
The Prometheus Pro 7 kiln has a muffled design which distributes heat throughout the kiln evenly, as shown below:
5) The Dangerous Door:
The door was very hard to open and shut which is very dangerous, especially at temperatures of 900 degrees (see below). The door was covered with a thin plastic covering and went soft and was NOT heat-proof. I had to use my Kiln gloves to open the door to avoid being burnt.
In comparison, the Prometheus Pro 7 kiln has a lift door, much safer if you lift it fully back, slowly:
6) The Outside Surfaces of The Kiln:
The external surfaces of the kiln where dangerously hot. I suspect that this worsened as the firing brick wall cracked, broke the element and would no longer work.
7) Controlling The Temperature:
The kiln temperature it stated on the controller was incorrect and was always firing about 150-200 degrees higher. This caused my work to be ruined. In addition, during the allotted firing time the temperature never stayed at the same level.
So…out with the old and in with the new…
…The Prometheus Pro 7 PG kiln:
This kiln is of “muffle” construction which means that the element is wrapped around the chamber and so is safely hidden away, leaving the kiln safe to use without a door switch.
Above: Image Courtesy Cookson Gold
Prometheus Pro 7 Official Kiln Text
About this kiln:
“Prometheus 7 Programmable Kiln is our larger kiln (similar in size to the Paragon Lilly Kiln and Paragon SC2), suitable for both personal and professional use. It is perfect for Art Clay, PMC, and glass fusing. It is also great for enamelling, low fire ceramics, and china painting, as well as annealing and hardening silver, gold and other metals.
It’s a 1100°C front-loading kiln, with a built-in, easy-to-use, 3-key digital programmable controller.
The programmable controller means you can set what temperature you want the kiln to fire at (target temperature), and also tell it how fast you want it to heat up (ramp speed), and how long you want it to hold at the firing temperature (hold/soak time), and the kiln will then turn the heating off once it has completed the programme. If you want you can also say how slow it should cool down, and if it should hold at a temperature whilst cooling down.
You can set 9 programmes, and each programme can have up to 8 segments. A segment could be like this: heat up at 300° C per hour, until you get to 800°C, then hold that temperature for 45 minutes.
To be able to set several segments with different heating speeds and temperatures are very useful if you’re firing base metals, like copper and bronze (where you want to heat up slower and hold steady to burn the binder out at a lower temperature before the full firing at a higher temperature), or doing glass fusing (which needs a slow heating, and a slow cool down, with a soak/hold at a low temperature to anneal the glass once fused).
A good thing with programmes is that you only set them once, and they will stay there until you change them. So you could set one programme for firing silver clay, another for fusing glass coasters, and another for that perfect BRONZclay firing schedule you’ve come up with.
This kiln has a Orton AutoFire Express Digital Programmable Temperature Controller (like the one on Paragon, Sierra, and Evenheat kilns) which is programmed exactly like the one used on the Paragon SC2 Kiln.”
Sources and Recommendations:
- Cookson Gold: http://www.cooksongold.com/
- Prometheus: https://www.prometheushobby.com/
- Prometheus Kilns: https://www.prometheushobby.com/Kilns/Prometheus-Kilns-PRO-7-PRG-p123c59.html
All artworks & designs displayed are © Copyright artist Laura H Elliott BA (Hons)
Laura Elliott represented by Degree Art Gallery: http://www.degreeart.com/artists/laura-elliott
‘Laura Elliott BA Hons – Artist & Metal Clay Designer’ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/laurahelliottart
The Palette Pages Artist Interview Laura Elliott: http://www.thepalettepages.com/2016/03/28/lauraelliott/
Laura Elliott Art Website & Blog: https://laurahelliott.wordpress.com/
View my Professional Profile at Linked In: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/laura-elliott/6b/959/533
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