Finding the best electric pottery kiln can be a trying experience, especially if you're fairly new to pottery. There are so many things to think about, and it can get overwhelming really fast.
How do you know what to look for? What size should you choose? Where should it be located?
With all the questions you probably have about kilns, it's no wonder it all gets so confusing! Luckily, there are a few key things to look for when trying to find the best electric pottery kiln for you.
What Is the Best Electric Pottery Kiln for Me?
The best electric pottery kiln for you depends on a variety of factors. There are a lot of things to consider.
But the most important question to ask yourself is “What are my needs?” You'll want to know what the kiln will be used for, where you'll place it, and what modifications you need to make to operate it safely.
The first thing you want to think about is the loading style. Most electric kilns are top-loading, meaning that the top of the kiln is hinged, and to place your potter inside, you open it and bend over the side.
A front-loading kiln, on the other hand, has a door that opens on the side. This door allows you to bend more naturally when placing your ceramics.
A front-loading kiln is definitely easier to use than a top-loading kiln. However, they also tend to be significantly more expensive — up to three times as expensive, as a matter of fact. And they're a bit harder to find.
So unless you've got back or joint problems, you'll probably want to stick to top-loading kilns.
The next thing you'll want to think about is the size of the kiln. The best electric pottery kiln for you will depend on the type of pottery you make.
Do you make smaller pieces like jewelry? Then you probably want something small. Anything up to 9 inches by 11 inches is great for a beginner or someone who makes smaller pieces; something like 18 inches by 18 inches is great for a “weekend warrior” type of hobbyist who makes slightly larger pieces but not many of them.
However, if you're planning to make larger pieces frequently, then you'll want something a bit heftier. The most common size of kiln is 23 inches by 27 inches, but you can get 29-inch by 27-inch kilns for larger production needs.
Anything over 15 cubic feet is considered a jumbo kiln and is really only used for industrial purposes.
The next thing you want to think about is the electricity requirements. If you're using the kiln in your home, you'll need to find out what the voltage is at your house.
Homes in the United States can run either 120 volts or 240 volts. A qualified electrician will be able to tell you which voltage you have and will be able to modify your power capacity if needed. Many kilns operate at 240 volts, so there's a good chance some modifications will be necessary.
Type of control
There are two main types of controls on electric kilns.
The more traditional, manual control is a kiln sitter or a limit timer. You'll put a junior cone in the kiln and set a backup timer for 10 to 14 hours. The type of cone you use will depend on the firing temperature of the clay.
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Once you have your kiln sitter set up, you'll start your kiln on the lowest settings and will have to adjust the settings as needed. Some models of kilns have switches you can set to make these adjustments for you.
The other type of control is an electronic one. These are simple to program to fit your needs, and they also have certain preprogrammed profiles. You can literally push a button and walk away.
The type of kiln you choose will depend on which method you prefer.
In order to pick the best electric pottery kiln for you, you'll need to figure out the maximum temperature you'll need. If you're more interested in low firing clays, you may only need a maximum temperature of around 1800 or 1900 degrees.
However, many clays fire at a much higher temperature. Porcelain, for example, is a very high-fire clay. In this case, you'll need a kiln that can reach temperatures of at least 2100 degrees and up to 2400 degrees.
Ceramics don't just fire based on temperature, but also based on time. A better way of thinking about it is the amount of heat absorbed rather than just the temperature reached.
So we use the term “cone” to describe the best firing temperature and time for a particular clay. Most potters only fire regularly to a cone 6 or 8. Make sure you find a kiln that fires at least one cone level higher than you're planning to regularly use.
Benefits of Electric Kilns
There are many benefits of electric kilns over gas kilns. At one point, there wasn't any choice in the matter: you had to buy a gas kiln, and you had to change all the settings manually.
Now, we have the option of using an electric kiln if we so desire.
Of course, whether you want an electric kiln or a gas kiln will still depend on what you're trying to accomplish with your pottery. So make sure you weigh the pros and cons of each.
More accessible than gas kilns
Electric kilns are more accessible and convenient than gas kilns. Gas kilns are more of a safety hazard and require a permit to run.
Electric kilns, on the other hand, require no additional permit or safety precautions. They are easier to run and maintain, and they tend to cost less when firing. Especially for beginners, electric kilns are a safer bet.
Most kilns sold today are electric, especially those sold for use in homes. However, some may prefer to buy gas kilns if running additional power to the home is necessary because that can be quite expensive.
Electric kilns produce high-quality pottery and can result in much brighter colors than pottery fired in gas kilns.
Gas kilns, on the other hand, are much better at creating more earthy, subdued colors. They are especially useful in raku pottery, which requires reduction firing.
As with anything, kilns run a wide range of prices. However, you can find electric kilns at very reasonable prices. Gas kilns tend to cost more than electric kilns, at least in upfront costs.
Once you've decided on the best electric pottery kiln for your needs, you might think that you have finished the hard part. In some ways you have, but you should know that there are many other things to think about as well.
For one thing, you need to think about how to run the kiln safely. You will also want to decide what accessories you need or want. Again, the type of pottery you choose to make will play a large role in determining this.
Kilns release harmful chemicals like carbon monoxide into the air. You have to make sure you have proper ventilation in the area where you put the kiln.
Clay also needs oxygen to fire correctly, as does the glaze. A proper vent helps protect your clay from defects, keeps the colors true, and can let out steam for when you are bisque firing.
Kiln furniture refers to the shelves and posts that hold your pottery inside the kiln. It's better to go ahead and order this when you order your kiln because ordering it separately can cost a pretty penny for shipping.
If you want to fire at high temperatures, you'll want extra insulation. A 3-inch thick firebrick helps kilns fire hotter than cone 5 and also allows the temperature to cool more gradually. That is especially beneficial for glaze development.
Zone control is exactly what it sounds like. It helps each area of the kiln heat up consistently. It will cause the kiln to heat up more slowly, but slow firing is typically better anyway.
How We Reviewed
In order to find the best electric pottery kiln, we aggregated professional reviews and reviews by real users. It is important that the kilns be user-friendly and offer a variety of options.
We also included kilns that cater to a range of experience levels. The best electric pottery kiln for a beginner will be quite different than the best electric pottery kiln for an experienced professional.
The Best Electric Pottery Kiln
The best electric pottery kiln is different for each person. However, they have to have a few qualities in common.
First of all, they must be easy to use and manipulate and have a large enough capacity to fit the most common types of pottery projects.
They also need to have great reviews from professionals and customers alike.
Finally, they need to have the option of firing at a fairly high temperature since clay needs more heat than glass does.
The EvenHeat RM II 1413 is a great starter kiln for a beginner potter. It reaches up to cone 7, which is one cone higher than most potters use.
It has a diameter of 14.5 inches and a height of 13.5 inches. Its small size makes it easy to fit in a home studio and is perfect for smaller projects.
This kiln runs on 240 volts, but EvenHeat does have other RM options that run on 120 volts.
The EvenHeat HF 1210-B is perfect for the beginner who wants to use high fire clays. It has a high fire capability and can reach up to cone 10, which is useful if you intend to fire porcelain.
It is constructed with 3-inch firebrick, so the kiln is insulated for quicker heating and slower cooling.
At 11.25 inches in diameter and 13.5 inches deep, it is large enough for most home projects and can fit easily into almost any space.
It does run on 240 volts, which might necessitate an electrician. If that is not an option, then you can go for the smaller HF 810, which runs on 120 volts.
Olympic's SQ169HE Test Kiln is a great step up from a starter kiln. This kiln is for the slightly more experienced beginner. It does fire up to Cone 10, so you'll have more options for different types of clay.
It has a square construction rather than a circular one. At 16.5 inches wide and 9 inches deep, it is suitable for most beginner projects and can handle some larger ones as well.
It comes with the option of running on 240 volts or 208 volts. Though 208 volts is not common for household use, some commercial buildings do run on 208 volts. So if you're planning to use it in a commercial studio space, it might be the best option for you.
L&L is a well-known brand that makes kilns of very high quality. The E23T-3 is no exception. It is more of an intermediate level kiln and therefore is a bit more expensive than the EvenHeat models. This kiln fires up to cone 10, so it will be perfect for any project you want.
It is also constructed with a 3-inch firebrick. That ensures a faster and easier firing. It also is beneficial in the cooling process since glazes develop better when cooling is slower.
It has a diameter of 22-3/8 inches and a height of 27, giving it a capacity of over 6 cubic feet and making it large enough for any project you need.
This kiln runs on 240 volts, so it's optimal for someone who has been producing pottery for a while and has already modified the electrical circuit.
The Skutt KMT1027 is the brand's best selling kiln. It's perfect for the intermediate potter in that it fires up to cone 10.
It comes fully assembled and includes a manual, stand, and an extra thermocouple. Additionally, all the Skutt models come with a touchscreen controller with built-in Wi-Fi, making it one of the easiest kilns to program and use.
The 23-inch diameter and 27-inch height make it perfect for just about any project you want to make with a capacity of 7 cubic feet.
This model runs on 240 volts and is great for someone whose studio has already been modified.
This front-loading kiln is great for experienced potters who use their kilns fairly frequently. As a front loader, it does run you more than a top-loader would, but the increased ease in loading makes it worth the extra cost. It fires to cone 10 with ease.
It is built with a 3-inch firebrick as well as a 1-inch non-organic block insulation, giving it a total of 4 inches of insulation. That will save money on firing costs and will also improve the quality of your projects.
The Super Dragon is quite a large kiln, with a capacity of over 15 cubic feet. It has a square construction of 27 inches wide and 36 inches tall and can fit very large projects.
It is probably not particularly suited for home use because of its size and because it does run on 240 volts. This kiln is better suited for a studio that is not attached to a living space.
Time to Fire It Up!
You can't go wrong with any of the kilns on this list. From beginners to experienced professionals, there is a kiln out there for everyone. Now that you have all the information to choose the best electric pottery kiln for you, it's time to get to work!
Let's fire that bad boy up!
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