Building your own Kiln

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Building your own Kiln

Postby Bill Brachhold » Wed Nov 09, 2005 7:06 am

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 ... 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.

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.

Element Design
The first link listed here is excellant. It walks you through everything needed to figure out exactly what you need for a particular element. ... 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.

Element Wire
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.

Digital/Electronic Controls
Omega has a LOT on information on their website, including free literature. In addition to temperature controllers, they also have thermocouples and relays.

Almost as good as Omega, more of a product-oriented website.

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.

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:
Reference Guides and Tutorials:

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 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.) ... 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.

Frax/Fiber Blanket

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.
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Bill Brachhold
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Building modular kilns

Postby cleargls » Sat Dec 27, 2014 1:48 pm

I am trying to build two kilns but have each kiln (when individually in use) connect to the same 220 VAC power supply and to the same controller (Fuji PXR-3). The idea is to make use of one place in my garage where a single power and controller connection exist but use this space (not at the same time) for different size kilns.

I took a look at the above suggestions and came across this schematic for a 220 volt kiln: ... 20Plan.pdf

If each kiln has its own built-in thermocouple and heating elememts and the Fuji controller will use SSRs then I need some way to isolate each leg of the 220 VAC going to the elements since the SSRs will still allow current to flow even if power is off to the controller.

How do I wire this for a mechanical switch on the door?

The diagram shows 120 VAC returning to (leaving ?) the SSR via the mercury relay. Is that one leg of the 220VAC on its way to the heating element?
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Re: Building your own Kiln

Postby Bill Brachhold » Sat Dec 27, 2014 6:49 pm

Looking at that schematic, both legs of the 220VAC going to the heating elements are switched, so there will not be any way to get shocked on the elements, when the controller is not energized.

The wiring going to the mercury relay from the SSR is only to energize the mercury relay and is electrically isolated from the load carry section of the mercury relay.

As most kilns have a peep hole in the side, that is where I would stick the thermocouple. I'd leave the thermocouple attached to the controller, and move it between the two kilns. And, I'd wire the new controller with matching sockets, so all I'd do is unplug one kiln from the controller, and plug in the other kiln, when switching kilns.

Honestly, I have worked with many kilns over the 18 years I've been doing this that do NOT have lid switches, and have never even come close to getting shocked. But, that's just me, you might not be so lucky. Any easy fix for this would be a nearby 120VAC wall switch and simply switch off the 120VAC going to the mercury relay before entering the kiln. On the Jen-Ken kilns that I sell, they have a flat tab of metal and a push-button switch, that opens when you lift the lift the lid.

I can post pictures of a typical peep hole and switch/tab arrangements, if you'd like


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Bill Brachhold
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