Like many people, I too have been thinking of building a small kiln. I need a couple of features together, which are not available in commercial kilns. Here are a few resources I've put together. I will be adding to this document as I find more.
Instructional Video on Building a Bead Kiln
Mark Laucker’s excellent video on building a small kiln.
Other Instructional Videos useful to a Glass Artist
Mark Lauckner's main page of Instructional Videos related to Glass
http://www.mayneislandglass.com/instruc ... ideos.html
Design/Construction Paper on building a "Beadmakers Studio Kiln"
Written by Dudley Giberson. Contains 20 detailed drawings on building a small studio kiln. Looks like money well spent in the time that it would save on a design. http://www.joppaglass.com/papers/constructions.html
Excellent article on building a "Mailbox Annealer"
Written by Dudley Giberson. Mr. Giberson invented the Mailbox Annealer. Take a look at his Online Drawings, I think they are good enough to build from. You can order a Parts Kit that contains all of the hard-to-find items direct from Dudley at Joppa Glass, which will save you a lot of time and money in chasing them down. http://www.joppaglass.com/mailbox_kiln/mailbox.html
The first link listed here is excellant. It walks you through everything needed to figure out exactly what you need for a particular element.
http://www.users.bigpond.com/dcoggins/e ... esign.html
e-Paper on Elements and Element Mounting
Written by Dudley Giberson. Shows various methods of mounting element wire including grooves, ceramic donuts, and rod-supported elements.
Pre-Made and Replacement Kiln Elements
If you are building a kiln similar to an existing kiln on the market, then you might want to buy a replacement element for that kiln, to be used in your kiln design.
The most common resistance wire used in kilns is Kanthal A1, also known as Alloy 875. Euclid’s seems to have the best price per pound, but Resistance Wire will gladly handle small orders.
Omega has a LOT on information on their website, including free literature. In addition to temperature controllers, they also have thermocouples and relays. http://www.omega.com/products.html
Almost as good as Omega, more of a product-oriented website. http://www.ttiglobal.com/
The cheapest new kiln/annealer temperature controller on the market is the Fuji PXR3. This is a ramp-soak controller, with 4 segment capability. Very flexible as to type of thermocouple, and output device. Somewhat difficult to program, but once you've done it a couple of times, it isn't too bad. One of the neat things about this controller is that you can customize the operating menus, to skip over parameters you don't need. Using this feature, you don't even see the all the unnecessary parameters when scrolling thru the menu items. This vastly simplifies the use of this controller. http://www.ttiglobal.com/Product.aspx?ProductID=4712
Reference/Educational site for Electronic Controls used in heating applications
Another very good site for reference information. Go to their home page and enter "Educational Series" using their search link. Wonderful, general information here about many aspects of heating devices.
Reference Data: http://www.watlow.com/reference/refdata/
Reference Guides and Tutorials: http://www.watlow.com/reference/guides/
Enclosing your Kiln
In addition to using sheet metal, here are a couple of other possible ideas. Build you kiln into the metal casing of an old washer or dryer. This would make for a pretty good sized kiln, with lots of room to pack frax around the firebrick. A discarded "apartment-size" referigerator would make an excellant enclosure too. Another enclosure choice would be the large military surplus metal containers that resemble ammo boxes. I've seen these approaching 20" square at http://www.surpluscenter.com
. A large toaster oven might make a good starting point for a small kiln too. Speaking of ammo boxes, these make good enclosures for your controller.
Insulated Fire Brick
The best firebrick for hobby kilns is something called a K-23. These have very low heat loss, which is important in a kiln design. This is because the K-23 bricks have low “thermal conductivity”. The lower this number, the less heats flows through the brick into the air surrounding the outside of your kiln.
( These appear to be K-23's, from their chemical makeup. They also have fiber paper and frax too.)
http://www.uu77.com/groupslist.aspx?Cat ... lection=13
This company is worldwide, but is headquartered in Augusta, GA. Check their 'Surplus Inventory' link on the far right of their homepage. Sometimes they have very low prices on excess K-23 brick.
Some general information on Anealers
Craftweb is THE forum for hot glass furnace people. There is quite a bit of crossover to lampworking and fusing, with the hot glass people. Some of the suppliers listed here may be helpful too. Search the General Discussion forum too, particularly for the term "annealers".
Just be aware that this site and their users are not very tolerant of lampworkers in general and 'newbies' specifically. But, you can learn a LOT by just reading through the archives.