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Cosmetically Challenged Kilns


David Hendley's ancient kiln still performs well even though it is cosmetically challenged.

CONTENTS

Cosmetically Challenged Kilns

Recent Q&As: Firing a kiln on a porch; the first firing of a glass kiln

A 45-foot Glass Mosaic

COSMETICALLY CHALLENGED KILNS

Kilns are hard working tools. They don’t stay new looking for long. After the first few firings, the steel case of a new kiln discolors, and hairline cracks appear in the firebricks. This is normal. Yet it alarms some kiln owners.

Mel Jacobson of Minnetonka, Minnesota wrote, “Firebrick kilns all crack. It is natural. One of the most common complaints that come across the desks of kiln manufacturers is, ‘I have a crack in the floor of my kiln.’

Mel is right—that is one of our most common complaints.

“It is like a tiny scratch in your new car,” Mel said. “Does it still run? Yes, of course. The cracked firebrick is cosmetic. But, most people don't understand how kilns work, what they are made of, and the energy of heat, expansion, and contraction.

“A kiln is not handmade walnut furniture. It is a tool, and tools get dirty and crack. What is more beautiful than a hammer handle that has been used for 80 years?”

Though the insulating firebrick is fragile enough to carve with a fingernail, it is a miracle of physics. It can routinely withstand temperatures over 2000°F, which is hot enough to melt copper, bronze, brass, and aluminum. Nevertheless when properly maintained, firebricks can survive many hundreds of firings.

David Hendley, for instance, bought his 33-year-old Paragon kiln used in 1995. After installing new elements, he has fired it 250 times to cone 06. “My Paragon practically fires itself, giving me more time to make more pots,” said David. I’ve included a photo of David with his kiln to show you that the ancient kiln performs well even though it is cosmetically challenged.

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RECENT Q&As

Q. Is it okay to locate a programmable kiln outside under a carport or covered porch?

A. As long as the kiln is protected from the weather and has a roof overhead, it is okay to keep it on a porch even in a humid area. But it will last longer if it is kept inside an enclosed building such as a garage. In the mornings, does water condense on the kiln case? If so, the kiln will rust quickly.

Q. I have a new Paragon glass kiln with element in the firebrick lid. Do you recommend a special first firing?

A. Fire the kiln to 1000°F and hold for 30 minutes with only the shelf and posts inside the kiln.

The element grooves in the firebrick lid are hardened with a refractory coating that helps to prevent brick dusting. As the elements expand during the first firing, any loose particles inside the grooves will fall harmlessly into the empty firing chamber. After the kiln cools, vacuum the lid grooves. Then the kiln is ready for the first glass firing.

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A 45-foot Glass Mosaic

Paragon’s home page features a 45-foot glass mosaic ocean wave that Leslie Perlis made with her Paragon kiln. You can see the wave at the Brigandine Restaurant, 3263 Camino Del Mar, in Del Mar, California.

Leslie’s mosaic wave reminds me of the Isle of Hawaii, where I lived for two years. The beaches on the eastern side of the island are black volcanic sand that the sun turns hot in the daytime. Small green crystals glisten like glass, giving the black sand a greenish hue.

The beaches have a primitive, almost prehistoric beauty. And they are not always gentle. Several times the surf has knocked me down and dragged me.

Thank you,

With best wishes,

Arnold Howard Paragon Industries, L.P. – Better Designed Kilns 2011 South Town East Blvd. Mesquite, TX 75149-1122 Voice: 972-288-7557 & 800-876-4328 / Fax: 972-222-0646 ahoward@paragonweb.com / www.paragonweb.com



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