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Exploring 9 Different Kiln Formed Glass Art Techniques (Plus Examples!)

An overview of different kiln formed glass techniques such as fusing, casting, and slumping.
What is kiln formed glass? When exposed to heat, glass becomes soft and malleable. This allows glass artists to alter its shape or fuse multiple layers of glass together to create new textures or color combinations. At high enough temperatures, glass even liquefies, allowing artists to pour it into (or over) a mold or contour to create new forms. Once the artist has achieved the desired effect, the glass is allowed to slowly cool and stabilize (or anneal). And the result is kiln formed glass!

9 Types of Kiln Formed Glass Techniques

One of the most exciting parts of being a glass artist is combining various kiln formed glass techniques to create unique, one-of-a-kind glass art. Once you understand these different glass firing techniques, the only limit is your creativity (as well as the capabilities of your glass kiln and glass kiln controller)!
Glass artists like Jill Gary from Jill’s Design combine multiple kilnforming glass techniques to create one-of-a-kind kiln formed glass pieces using her TAP Controller.
Glass artists like Jill Gary from Jill’s Design (who’s a proponent of TAP Controllers!) combine multiple kilnforming glass techniques to create one-of-a-kind kiln formed glass pieces.
Below is an overview of nine different kilnforming techniques – to give you inspiration for your next kiln formed glass art project!

1. Fused Glass

Fusing glass is a kilnforming technique that involves heating two or more layers of glass, and then allowing them to cool, so that they join together to form a single piece of kiln formed glass. How fully the multiple layers of glass fuse together depends on your firing temperature. The hotter the kiln, the more uniform the fuse! Below are several different types of glass fuses:
  • Full Fuse: The layers of glass are heated up until they liquefy and completely merge together, cooling to form a single, smooth piece of kiln formed glass. Full fusing can be used to create unique and beautiful color combinations.
  • Contour Fuse: Contour fusing uses a lower firing temperature than a full fuse. In contour fusing, the different layers of glass are heated up enough to fully join together while remaining distinct separate layers. In contour fusing, both layers of glass get hot enough to lose some of their initial shape, becoming smooth at the edges.
  • Tack Fuse: Tack fusing involves even lower temperatures than contour fusing. In tack fusing, different pieces of glass are heated up just enough to join together at the point of contact, with both layers retaining their original shape. Tack fusing can be used to create new textures or shapes.
Barbara Elias used a tack fuse technique known as “freeze and fuse” to create a three dimensional effect for the flowers in this glass art piece.
Barbara Elias (another artist who uses TAP!) used a tack fuse technique known as “freeze and fuse” to create a three dimensional effect for the flowers in this glass art piece.
As you can imagine, glass fusing is a versatile kilnforming technique that lets you craft new textures, colors, and even shapes! However, it’s important to make sure that the different layers of glass are compatible. Fusible glass has a higher quality grade than standard glass. Additionally, the different layers of glass need to have compatible viscosities (which isn’t always indicated by matching COEs!).

2. Glass Draping

Glass draping is another popular kiln formed glass technique. Glass draping uses heat and gravity to change the shape of a sheet of glass. For glass draping, you “drape” the glass sheet on top of a convex mold and heat up the glass until it at least partially liquefies. Gravity ensures the molten glass drapes around the convex mold. Higher temperatures lead to more dramatic results. Glass draping can be used for everything from creating conventional plates and bowls to producing abstract, other-worldly shapes!

3. Slumped Glass

Slumping is just like draping, only inversed! For slumping glass, a glass sheet is placed inside a concave mold. The glass is then heated up until it partially liquefies, taking on the shape of the mold. Since slumping glass occurs within the mold, it leads to more predictable results, and is used to create plates, bowls, cups, or decorative molds. The higher the temperature, the more fully the glass takes on the shape of the mold.

4. Glass Casting

Glass casting is similar to slumping. However, with glass casting enough glass is placed within the mold to fill it entirely – so that when the glass melts and then cools, it anneals into a solid object. Glass casting is a kiln formed glass technique that’s used to create ornaments, paper weights, and standalone glass art.
Brittany Gabel, VP & Chief Creative Officer of SDS Industries, used glass casting to create the distinct texture on the outside of this glass cup.
SDS Industries’ very own Brittany Gabel (VP & Chief Creative Officer) used glass casting to create the distinct texture on the outside of this glass cup.

5. Glass Crackle

Glass crackle is a decorative kilnforming technique that most typically involves fusing together three layers of glass. The middle layer of glass is then shattered in a controlled method – or you can create the “crackled” middle layer using glass frit and fiber paper to create a crackled effect once it’s heated and allowed to melt. During glass crackling, the three layers of glass are fused together, and the outer layers are left intact so that the final piece retains a smooth (and safe!) outer layer. There are also several alternative methods to create a crackle effect, some of which use distilled water and glass powder, which you can read about here!
Glass frit powder is used in kiln formed glass art projects for filling spaces or creating textures.
Glass frit is ground fusible glass that is used for filling spaces or creating crackled, mosaic, grainy textures, adding fine details to glass art, or for casting. Picture courtesy of Oceanside Glass & Tile, which can be purchased through our partners at Delphi Glass.

6. Pot Melting

Pot melting is another decorative kilnforming technique that involves allowing glass to melt through a hole in the bottom of a pot – onto a primed kiln shelf or into a contained mold – to create swirls and ripples and other textured effects!

Watch our partners at Delphi Glass walk you through how to incorporate pot melting into your kiln formed glass projects.

7. Fire Polishing

Fire polishing is a “finishing” technique. Typically used after cold working glass, the glass is then heated up until it returns to its original shiny and smooth state.

8. Bubble Squeezing

A bubble squeeze is a “preparatory” technique before kilnforming glass. Bubble squeezing is used to create more even fuses by slowly heating up glass to allow trapped air to escape. Bubble squeezing reduces the number of bubbles, as well as their size, resulting in more uniform (and structurally sound!) kiln formed glass.

9. Annealing

Finally, we get to annealing, which is the final step in kilnforming glass. Annealing glass is less of a technique, and more of a necessity! Annealing is a controlled cooling process. If you allow kiln formed glass to cool too quickly, it leads to all kinds of issues – like thermal shock, breakage, shattering, stress fractures, and structural weakness. An advanced glass kiln controller like TAP or TAP II by SDS Industries automatically (and precisely) cools glass at a controlled, highly specified ramp rate – keeping both glass and artists from being exposed to unnecessary stress!

Glass Supplies for Kilnforming Glass

Excited to get started? Before getting started on your next kiln formed glass project, you’ll need the right supplies! Below are brief explanations of the different glass supplies you’ll need for kilnforming!

Glass Kilns and Glass Kiln Controllers

Of course, to kiln form glass, you’ll need a kiln – and a kiln controller – that’s capable of glass firing. Glass kilns are specifically designed to heat glass to very precise temperatures so it can be fused, slumped, or cast.

(Some glassblowing artists also use a dedicated annealing kiln to slowly cool down blown glass that’s been heated outside of kiln to improve its durability and prevent the glass from experiencing thermal shock).

However, in addition to your kiln, it’s important to choose the type of kiln controller. TAP Kiln Controllers by SDS Industries provide glass artists with an advanced programmable digital controller that’s precise, simple, and easy-to-use. TAP Controllers are capable of executing complex schedules with multiple ramp rates to ensure your kiln formed glass comes out just the way you wanted! With TAP Controllers, you can store an unlimited number of firing schedules – so you always have all your glass firing schedules on-hand for when you need them. And with TAP Kiln Control Mobile, you have the convenient option to control and monitor your kiln formed glass firing right from your phone or tablet!

Types of Accessory Glass

Once you have the right kiln and the right kiln controller, you’ll also need glass. Glass used for kilnforming – also known as accessory glass – comes in several forms:

  • Glass Frit: Glass frit is ground fusible glass that is used for filling spaces or creating crackled, mosaic, grainy textures, or for adding fine details to glass art.
  • Sheet Glass: Available in a variety of sizes, sheet glass is used for kilnforming, fusing, and mosaics.
  • Glass Rods, Noodles, Stringers, and Ribbons: Glass rods, noodles, and stringers are long, narrow strips of glass that are fused to other pieces of glass to create patterns, textures, or other artistic effect. Glass ribbons are a flatter, wider alternative that are perfect for fusing.
  • Glass Confetti: Glass confetti consists of small, irregular, ultra-thin flakes of glass and are used for adding touches of color to your kiln formed glass.
  • Glass Billets: Billets are precisely cut sheets of fusible glass that are the perfect size for casting.
Glass rods, noodles, and stringers are used for kiln formed glass projects.
Photograph of glass rods, noodles, and stringers courtesy of Oceanside Glass & Tile.

Accessory glass comes in all sorts of colors and levels of translucence – so that you can create the perfect effects for your kiln formed glass projects. Just make sure that when you’re shopping for accessory glass, that the glasses you choose are compatible. A good place to start is by making sure that the glasses have matching COEs – or coefficients of expansion – which means they’ll expand or contract at the same rates when heated up or cooled down. However, there are other factors that affect compatibility, so it’s always recommended that you do plenty of research before purchasing glass and start by doing a test fuse for glasses you’re not familiar with!

Explore Glass Kiln Controllers by SDS Industries

The TAP and TAP II Controllers by SDS Industries provide artists with the most advanced, precise, and easy-to-use glass kilns controllers on the market today. With responsive touchscreen controls, an intuitive graphical UI, and integration with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile app, TAP Kiln Controllers can pair with any relay-controlled kiln or oven.

We invite you to explore our selection of programmable kiln controllers, standalones, and conversion kits on our online store. You can also purchase TAP Digital Controllers or TAP Controlled Kilns and Heat Treat Ovens through one of the following distributors:

Upgrade Your Glass Kiln with TAP Digital Kiln Controllers

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Standalone Kiln Controllers: Wall Mount Kiln Controllers and Tabletop Kiln Controllers

TAP Standalone Wall Mount Kiln Controller allow you to upgrade from manual to automatic kiln controls.

For newer artists, figuring out what type of kiln controller you need for your kiln or oven build can be an intimidating prospect. Do you need a conversion kit? A standalone kiln controller? A tabletop kiln controller? Don’t worry, below is a simple cheat sheet for understanding kiln controller categories:

  • Digital Controllers: For new kilns or oven build or competent DIYers. Digital controllers include the controller, the faceplate, and a wiring harness pigtail.
  • Conversion Kits: For upgrading automatic kiln controllers that are already installed on your kiln or oven. Conversion kits include the controller, the conversion box, a wiring harness adapter, and mounting hardware to facilitate seamless installation.
  • Standalone Kiln Controllers: For easily upgrading manual kilns to automatic controllers. Standalone kiln controllers include the controller, standalone controller housing, a power cord, and a thermocouple for plug-and-play installation.

Configurations of Standalone Kiln Controllers

For easily upgrading a manual kiln, a standalone kiln controller is the go-to choice. With standalone kiln controllers you can completely transform your kiln firing experience – from having to constantly monitor and manually adjust the temperature of your kiln to automatically executing your firing schedules with a precise, easy-to-use touchscreen controller that offer features like remote kiln control and temperature monitoring.

SDS Industries offers TAP Standalone Controllers in two different configurations: wall mount kiln controllers and tabletop kiln controllers.

The Difference Between Wall Mount Kiln Controllers and Tabletop Kiln Controllers

From a feature and functionality standpoint, TAP Wall Mount Kiln Controllers and TAP Tabletop Kiln Controllers are exactly the same. In either configuration, you have the option to choose between a TAP or a TAP II, both of which give artists the most precise, easy-to-use kiln control experience available.

Tabletop kiln controllers make upgrading your manual kiln extremely easy.

TAP Standalone Controllers give artists the ability to:

  • Seamlessly upgrade their manual kiln to the most advanced digital kiln controller on the market.
  • Easily manage and execute your firing schedules with an intuitive touchscreen and logical menus that allow you to immediately begin programming and operating your kiln.
  • Enjoy the ability to create, save, edit, and name an unlimited number of firing schedules – each with an infinite number of custom steps – so that you never have to recreate a schedule again!
  • Find the schedule you need when you need it with full alpha-numeric text displays.
  • Save time and maximize peace of mind with remote kiln control and real-time monitoring through the TAP Kiln Control Mobile app.
  • Ensure maximum consistency and stay fully informed with PID-driven precision, advanced diagnostics, error reports, graphical firing logs, push notification alerts, and more!

The only real difference is which setup fits your workspace or studio better.

Pros and Cons Wall Mount Kiln Controllers

For smaller workspaces, or ones where flat surface space is at a premium, a wall mount kiln controller allows for a compact, semi-permanent installation. With wall mount kiln controllers, there is minimal risk that the controller gets damaged by gravity or other environmental exposure. Additionally, it’s easy to mount the controller close to the kiln for clean installs in terms of having the wiring to the power outlet and to the thermocouple out of the way.

However, a wall mount kiln controller does require more work in terms of installation – and will require a surface that you can mount the controller to.

Wall mount kiln controllers allow for a clean, semi-permanent installation for your kiln controller upgrade.

Pros and Cons of Tabletop Kiln Controllers

While standalone kiln controllers are designed for easy installation, installing tabletop kiln controllers is as simple as it gets. All you need is a flat surface in proximity to the kiln to set down the controller! However, there is the risk that you accidentally knock over your controller, or the controller gets damaged by setting down another item on its tabletop.

Additionally, tabletop kiln controllers may require modifications to your workspace for a clean installation depending on where the tabletop is in relation to your kiln.

Explore TAP Standalone Kiln Controllers

Whether you’re looking for a wall mount kiln controller or a tabletop kiln controller, SDS Industries has got you covered! The TAP and TAP II Controllers are available as standalone kiln controllers in both configurations! With responsive touchscreen controls, an intuitive graphical UI, and integration with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile app, TAP Standalone controllers make the perfect upgrade to your manual kiln or heat treat oven.

We invite you to explore our selection of programmable kiln controllers, standalones, and conversion kits on our online store. You can also purchase TAP Digital Controllers or TAP Controlled Kilns and Heat Treat Ovens through one of the following distributors:

CTA for TAP Kiln Controller Shop Pages

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Setpoint Controllers: Single Setpoint vs Multi-Setpoint Controllers

Multi-setpoint controllers are capable of executing schedules with multiple steps, while single setpoint controllers can only automatically execute schedules with a single setpoint.

During a firing schedule, a setpoint is the pre-set firing temperature the kiln must reach in order to successfully complete each step. A setpoint controller measures the kiln’s temperature and cycles the relays to ensure the kiln reaches the desired temperature.

Setpoint controllers, also known as process controllers, are programmable digital devices that automatically execute firing schedules. All the user has to do is enter the desired setpoint(s), and the controller takes care of the rest!

What Is the Difference Between a Single Setpoint and a Multi-Setpoint Controller

When it comes to kiln firing schedules, there are varying degrees of complexity. For firing glass or ceramics, the kiln often has to reach multiple setpoints over multiple steps. However, most heat treat processes – such as those used for making knives, jewelry, or firing metal clay – only involve a single setpoint.

A multi-setpoint controller is capable of executing complex schedules with multiple setpoints. For instance, the TAP and TAP II Controllers by SDS Industries can accommodate schedules with an infinite number of steps! However, that level of robustness might be a little excessive for users who only work in heat treat, which is where single setpoint controllers come into play.

The TAP II is capable of executing schedules with an unlimited number of setpoints.
The TAP II Kiln Controller is capable of automatically executing schedules with an unlimited number of setpoints.

 

Single setpoint controllers are greatly simplified and only require the user to enter the single setpoint they need for each individual heat treat process.

Single Setpoint Heat Treat Processes

While a multi-setpoint controller is capable of executing schedules with a single setpoint, below are metal heat treat processes that only require a single setpoint:

  • Normalizing: The metal is heated to an extremely high temperature for a defined period of time and then air-cooled. Normalizing relieves internal stress and ensures uniformity, resulting in harder, stronger metals.
  • Hardening: The metal is heated until it forms an even solution and then allowed to cool to increase its hardness.
  • Case Hardening: Only the outside of the metal is hardened, creating a durable outer layer while ensuring the metal retains flexibility and doesn’t become brittle.
  • Quench Hardening: After heating, the metal is cooled rapidly by dipping it into an oil, polymer, or water, resulting in very hard, very brittle metal.
  • Tempering: After hardening, the metal is heated to a lower temperature to reduce excessive hardness and relieve internal stress. Tempering makes metals less brittle.
  • Annealing: The metal is heated beyond the upper critical temperature and then slowly cooled to soften it and increase its workability. Annealing increases ductility and toughness, while relieving stress, making the metal more resistant to fractures. While annealing can be completed with a single setpoint controller, it will be necessary to use sand or insulated blankets to make sure the metal doesn’t cool down too quickly outside of the oven. However, a multi-setpoint controller can be used to slowly anneal metal within the oven.

Introducing TAP&Go: The Most Easy-to-Use, Streamlined Single Setpoint Controller

In the past, single setpoint controllers were far less featured than their multi-setpoint counterparts. This forced heat treat artists to choose between advanced multi-setpoint controllers that required paying for functionality they didn’t need, or simplistic single setpoint controllers that lacked precision, ease-of-use, or required constant monitoring to know when the oven had reached the right setpoint.

SDS Industries has set out to change that with our soon-to-be released TAP&Go Single Setpoint Controller! Designed specifically for heat treat artists, knifemakers, or users who don’t need to execute complex firings, TAP&Go takes the precision and ease-of-use of TAP and simplifies it into the most advanced single setpoint controller on the market.

The TAP&Go is a simplified single setpoint controller designed specifically for heat treat.
The TAP&Go is a simplified single setpoint controller designed specifically for heat treat.

 

With TAP&Go, heat treats artists have the ability to:

  • Easily enter the temperature you want the kiln or oven to heat to – from the 2.4” touchscreen or the TAP Kiln Control Mobile app – and let the controller do the work.
  • Enjoy complete remote monitoring and control through the TAP Kiln Control Mobile app with a premium subscription.
  • Use TAP&Go’s built-in WiFi and Bluetooth to automatically pair with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile app.
  • Prevent eye strain with light and dark modes and large, full-text displays.

Explore Single Setpoint and Multi-Setpoint Controllers by SDS Industries

Whether you’re looking for a single setpoint or multi-setpoint controller, TAP has you covered! The TAP and TAP II Controllers by SDS Industries provide users the most advanced, precise, and easy-to-use multi-setpoint temperature controllers on the market today. With responsive touchscreen controls, an intuitive graphical UI, and integration with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile app, TAP Kiln Controllers can pair with any relay-controlled kiln or oven.

The soon-to-be-released TAP&Go takes the design principles of TAP but streamlines everything into a single setpoint controller so that heat treat artists only have to pay for the functionality they need!

We invite you to explore our selection of programmable kiln controllers, standalones, and conversion kits on our online store. You can also purchase TAP Digital Controllers or TAP Controlled Kilns and Heat Treat Ovens through one of the following distributors:

Explore our line of TAP Electric Kiln Temperature Controllers.

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Complete Guide to Kiln Firing Temperatures

A definitive guide for understanding kiln firing temperatures.

Whether you work in pottery, glass, or heat treat, kiln firing temperatures play a critical role in achieving your desired result. Reaching the correct kiln firing temperature during each stage of your firing schedule is the difference between successfully completing a project…or creating a total mess!

Why Are Kiln Firing Temperatures Important?

Changes in temperature affect the physical properties of a medium. Heat alters a medium’s molecular structure, potentially affecting its hardness, brittleness, malleability, color, water resistance, and more.

Every kiln firing and heat treat process involves exposing material to heat to transform its physical qualities to give it a desired set of characteristics. Whether that’s transforming green clay to bisque, tempering a blade, or casting glass to fit a mold!

Different materials undergo specific physical (and chemical) changes at specific temperatures – so kiln firing temperatures are super important and vary according to medium and technique.

Kiln Firing Schedules

However, kiln firing temperature isn’t the only factor affecting outcome. The relationship between changes in temperature over time is super important. That’s why kiln firing schedules define the following:

  • Step #: The order in which the different kiln firing temperatures occur.
  • Ramp Rate: The speed at which changes in temperature occur (measured in degrees per hour).
  • Setpoint: The desired temperature the kiln reaches during each step (measured in degrees).
  • Hold Time: The length of time (defined in days, hours, or minutes) the kiln stays at a specific kiln firing temperature before advancing to the next step.

Kiln firing schedules vary greatly in kiln firing temperatures, as well as complexity. For instance, normalizing steel for a handmade knife might only involve a single setpoint over a specific hold time. Whereas, bisque firing pottery might involve five different setpoints, each with a specific ramp rate.

In addition to increases in firing temperature, decreases in temperature are equally important. Often, heating up an object and then cooling it down too rapidly jeopardizes its structural integrity, leading to cracks and brittleness.

Kiln firing 1095 steel to 1600° F relieves internal stress and ensures uniformity, making it stronger and harder.
Normalizing 1095 steel to 1600° F relieves internal stress and ensures uniformity, making it stronger and harder.

 

Categorizing Kiln Firing Temperatures

There are multiple ways to categorize kiln firing temperatures – whether by temperature range, material, process, or cone temperature. Artists in different media generally have different ways of categorizing kiln temperature:

  • Heat Treat: By and large, heat treat artists categorize kiln firing temperatures according to process (hardening, normalizing, tempering, etc.) and material. There are very few “one-size-fits all,” standardized ranges or schedules – specificity is key.
  • Kilnformed Glass: Glass artists categorize temperature according to technique (slumping, casting, fusing, annealing, etc.) and glass “coefficient of expansion” (how fast glass expands based on changes in temperature). Glass thickness is equally important, but that has more to do with changes in hold times or ramp rates as opposed to temperature.
  • Pottery and Ceramics: For pottery and ceramics, kiln firing temperatures are still largely categorized based on cone firing temperatures and ranges – which we’ll be covering more in-depth below! Each ceramic material is rated for a cone that corresponds with a specific temperature, allowing for a more standardized scale.
For a full fuse kiln firing for 90 COE glass, the kiln must reach a setpoint of 1490° F.
For a full fuse kiln firing for 90 COE glass, the kiln must reach a setpoint of 1490° F.
 

 

 Understanding Cone Firing Temperatures

 

Unlike heat treat and glasswork, which require a greater level of specificity, potters deal in pre-defined temperature ranges – which correspond with pyrometric cones. Before the advent of modern programmable digital kiln controllers, kiln temperature control relied on manual kilns and the use of pyrometric cones and kiln sitters to measure when the proper kiln firing temperatures were reached.

Pyrometric cones melt at specified temperatures, providing a range for measuring (and categorizing) kiln firing temperatures. So, for instance Cone 06 for “low fire” clay softens and bends at 1832° F (1000° C), while Cone 14 for “high fire” porcelain softens and bends at 2552° F (1400° C).

Today, digital kiln controllers and digital pyrometers have largely made pyrometric cones obsolete. But cone numbers are still widely referenced for categorizing kiln firing temperatures. While cone firing charts are predominantly used in pottery, they are still sometimes referenced for heat treat and glasswork.

Click the button below for an in-depth cone temperature chart – which notes firing temperatures for each cone and describes the changes clay undergoes at each temperature:

 

Kiln Firing Temperature Ranges in Pottery

As you can see on the cone temperature chart, there are also temperature ranges that are used to categorize kiln firing temperatures for clay. The ranges below also correspond with three different categories of clay: earthenware, stoneware, and ceramics:

  • Low-Fire Clays: Cone 06 – Cone 1: Low-fire clays, also referred to as earthenware, are fired at temperatures ranging between 1828° F to 2079°F.
  • Mid-Fire Clays: Cone 4 – Cone 6: Mid-fire clays, which can be earthenware or stoneware, are fired at temperatures between 2142° F to 2232° F.
  • High-Fire Clays: Cone 10 – Cone 14: High fire clays, which can be used for stoneware or porcelain, are fired at temperatures between 2345° F to 2552° F.
Cone 04 clay, which is a common “low-fire” clay, fires at a kiln firing temperature of 1945° F.
Cone 04 clay, which is a common “low-fire” clay, fires at a kiln firing temperature of 1945° F.

For an in-depth explanation of the different types of clay, check out “Kiln Firing Chart for Pottery and Ceramics [Infographic].”

How to Ensure Your Kiln Reaches the Correct Kiln Firing Temperatures

Now that you understand the importance of kiln firing temperatures, how do you ensure your kiln reaches the correct temperature? That’s where kiln controllers come into play! There are three general phases when it comes to using a kiln controller to manage firing temperatures:

  • Input: First, the user has to enter what temperatures the kiln needs to reach, usually through creating a firing schedule or selecting a pre-set schedule.
  • Execution: Next, the temperature controller automatically executes the schedule, ensuring the kiln reaches the correct kiln firing temperatures over the correct timeframe.
  • Measurement: Throughout the execution phase, it’s important that either the controller itself (or an independent pyrometer) is able to precisely record kiln firing temperature based on input from the thermocouple.

Different kiln control methods handle these three phases more or less effectively. For instance, some temperature controllers are able to precisely execute schedules but are so difficult to use from a User Experience (UX) standpoint that it’s hard to know if you input the correct kiln firing temperatures to begin with! Others allow for too much variability in response times or temperature overshoot, meaning the kiln might not reach the precise temperatures you need during execution. And most kiln controllers require the user to be physically present at the kiln at all times to monitor its temperature.

The TAP Kiln Controllers by SDS Industries were designed to solve all these problems – with a touchscreen and intuitive menus to help artists input the correct kiln firing temperatures, as well as PID control algorithms to ensure maximum precision in the execution phase. Furthermore, all of the products in the TAP Ecosystem include integration with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile app – allowing for artists to remotely control and monitor their projects from their smartphone or tablet!

Explore Temperature Controllers by SDS Industries

The TAP and TAP II Controllers by SDS Industries provide users the most advanced, precise, and easy-to-use temperature controllers on the market today. With responsive touchscreen controls, an intuitive graphical UI, and integration with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile app, TAP Kiln Controllers can pair with any relay-controlled kiln or oven.

We invite you to explore our selection of programmable kiln controllers, standalones, and conversion kits on our online store. You can also purchase TAP Digital Controllers or TAP Controlled Kilns and Heat Treat Ovens through one of the following distributors:

Shop the most advanced programmable digital kiln controllers for sale.
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Understanding and Preventing Kiln Relay Failure

Learn all about kiln relays and how to prevent kiln relay failure.

Three words no artist wants to hear: kiln relay failure. At best, kiln relay failure can be an annoyance that disrupts your project mid-schedule. At worst, kiln relay failure can pose a threat to the safety of your household and your property. However, the good news is that with foresight, proper maintenance, and the right equipment, kiln relay failure can mostly be avoided.

Over the course of this article, we’ll be discussing:

  • How kiln relays work.
  • Why (and how) relays fail.
  • How to choose a kiln relay that minimizes the chance of failure.
  • How to easily track preventative maintenance to know when to replace relays.
  • Kiln safety equipment to invest in to mitigate damage in case of relay failure.

How Kiln Relays Work

To understand why kiln relays fail, first, it’s important to understand how they work. In simple terms, kiln relays are a switch. Based on input from the kiln controller, relays cycle on and off – closing and opening the circuit to the kiln’s element.

When a relay closes, electric current flows to the kiln’s elements, increasing kiln temperature. When a relay opens, no current flows to the element, and the kiln cools down. Relays open and close at variable rates, allowing the kiln to reach precise firing temperatures.

Types of Kiln Relays

Different types of kilns relays have different types of mechanisms that allow them to cycle on and off. In modern kilns the most common types of relays are mechanical relays and solid-state relays. However, some older kilns still use mercury relays – so we’ll be explaining all three mechanisms:

  • Mechanical Relays: Mechanical relays have the most moving parts. Mechanical relays use an electromagnetic switch that physically moves each time the relay cycles on and off. That’s why you can hear them click each time they cycle when the kiln is operational!
  • Mercury Relays: Mercury relays work through gravity and displacement. Mercury relays use a metal weight in a tube of mercury. Gravity causes the metal weight to fall, displacing the mercury until it closes the circuit. A coil at the top of the tube electromagnetically lifts the weight when it receives current, causing the mercury to recess and open the circuit.
  • Solid-State Relays (SSRs): Solid-state relays use semiconductors and electronic parts to turn the circuit on and off based on signals from the controller. They do not rely on any moving parts to open or close the circuit.

Why Relays Fails

Kiln relay failure largely comes down to failure of their switch mechanism. As you might expect, mechanical relays have the most moving parts and are subject to normal wear and tear. They will fail eventually, it’s just a matter of when.

Mercury relays only have a single moving part and aren’t subject to the same contact erosion in high current applications. They’re extremely reliable, lasting for millions of cycles.

Solid-state relays have no moving parts. As such, they are supremely reliable and aren’t subject to any wear and tear. Their only Achilles heel is heat. Solid-state relays must be appropriately cooled via heat sink to maintain proper performance and prevent melting.

Kiln relay failure can occur in one of two positions. A relay can get stuck open, in which case your kiln will fail to heat up. While this is inconvenient and can put your project on hold, it’s far preferable to when a relay gets stuck closed! When kiln relays get stuck in the closed position, the kiln heats up indefinitely, posing significant risk to your household and property.

However, there are safety precautions you can take to circumvent any potential damage, which we’ll be discussing later in the article.

Choosing the Right Type of Kiln Relay

As you can see from the descriptions above, mechanical relays are far more likely to result in kiln relay failure. Mercury relays, while reliable, use the highly toxic liquid metal, mercury, to perform switching. As such, they’re largely obsolete and are even outlawed in states such as California.

That means that, realistically, your best option to prevent kiln relay failure is to purchase a solid-state relay. Not only are SSRs superior in lifespan and environmental concerns, but they cycle on and off significantly faster than other types of relays, resulting in superior performance and precision.

Most new kilns have the option for solid-state relays. While TAP Kiln Controllers are compatible with all three types of relays, we strongly encourage our customers to invest in a solid-state relay. The upside far outweighs the cost. If you’ve got an older kiln with mechanical or mercury relays, consider swapping them out for solid-state the next time they need replacement!

Additionally, whether you’re shopping for mechanical relays or solid-state relays we suggest purchasing from reliable, reputable manufacturers.

Preventative Maintenance

In addition to selecting the right type of relay, preventative maintenance is key to preventing kiln relay failure – especially if you’re using a mechanical relay.

As far as preventative maintenance for solid-state relays, really the biggest consideration is making sure that they are rated properly for the application and that you install the relay correctly with a heat sink to prevent the relay from overheating. Beyond that, we encourage you to store your kiln inside to avoid exposing electrical components to the elements and pay attention to your controller’s error notifications (assuming you’re using an advanced controller such as TAP that provides real-time diagnostics, as well as detailed error and firing logs).

Mechanical relays require much more proactive preventative maintenance. Mechanical relays have a finite lifespan that’s impacted by how often you use your kiln and the types of kiln firing schedules you use. However, you can find an estimated life expectancy for the number of cycles your mechanical relay is rated for from your kiln manufacturer or the relay manufacturer’s product sheet.

With advanced controllers from temperature controller manufacturers like SDS Industries, you can input life expectancy for your relay(s), elements, and thermocouples. The controller will then track the usage of these components and send you preventative maintenance alerts. This helps you replace your kiln relay before it fails.

The TAP Kiln Controller tracks kiln relay usage to provide preventative maintenance alerts to help users replace relays before kiln relay failure occurs.
The TAP Kiln Controller tracks kiln relay usage to provide preventative maintenance alerts to help users replace relays before kiln relay failure occurs.

 

Kiln Safety Equipment

Investing in the right type of kiln relay and being diligent about preventative maintenance significantly reduces your chances of facing kiln relay failure. But there will always be a non-zero chance that your relay fails, and an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

We strongly encourage our customers to invest in kiln safety equipment that keeps you safe in case of kiln relay failure. This equipment includes:

  • A reliable fire extinguisher to keep nearby your kiln to mitigate any damage in the case that your relay gets stuck closed.
  • An advanced kiln controller that provides precise inputs to your kiln relay and monitors your kiln for discrepancies to provide you with real-time error alerts.
  • A kiln control mobile app that provides real-time temperature monitoring and push notification alerts and alarms to your smartphone, so that you can spot any warning signs in real-time and respond appropriately.
  • A safety limit controller (such as the soon-to-be released TAP Monitor!) that can be wired to a safety relay to provide max temp safety shutoff even if your primary kiln relay fails.

 

Explore Kiln Control Solutions by SDS Industries

The TAP Ecosystem includes a host of solutions to enhance kiln safety and help you prevent (or safely respond to) kiln relay failure. In addition to being the most advanced, precise, and easy-to-use programmable digital kiln controllers on the market today, the TAP and TAP II Controllers by SDS Industries provide advanced diagnostics, preventative maintenance alerts, and remote real-time kiln monitoring and error alerts via TAP Kiln Control Mobile App. These features help you prevent and proactively address any potential failures in your kiln or oven build.

Additionally, our soon-to-be released TAP Monitor Digital Pyrometer & Limit Controller can be added to any kiln or oven build, regardless of your current kiln control method, to provide safety redundancy and real-time remote kiln monitoring.

We invite you to explore our selection of programmable kiln controllers, pyrometers, standalones, and conversion kits on our online store. You can also purchase TAP Digital Controllers or TAP Controlled Kilns and Heat Treat Ovens through one of the following distributors:

Shop programmable temperature controllers.

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The Difference Between a Limit Controller and a Process Controller

Learn more about the difference between limit controllers and process controllers.

When it comes to kiln temperature controllers, there are two broad categories: process controllers and limit controllers. So, what’s the difference?

Process Controllers vs Limit Controllers: Function & Use Cases

If you use an at home kiln or a studio kiln, chances are you’re more familiar with a process controller. Process controllers, also known as programmable digital controllers, automatically adjust kiln temperature to execute kiln firing schedules with very little user involvement.

Limit controllers, on the other hand, are currently more commonly used with ICS control systems, industrial kilns, and manual kilns. Also known as high limit or safety limit controllers, limit controllers monitor kiln temperature and ensure that the kiln automatically shuts off if the kiln exceeds a specified temperature.

Process controllers execute process; limit controllers enforce limits. Process controllers are a primary kiln control method. Limit controllers, while not usually suitable to be the primary control method, are an important part of kiln safety and can protect you, your equipment, and your property in the case of relay or system failure.

The TAP II Kiln Controller is an example of a process controller that allows users to automatically execute full firing schedules.
The TAP II Kiln Controller is an example of a process controller that allows kiln operators to automatically execute full firing schedules.

 

If I Already Have a Process Controller Why Would I Need a Limit Controller?

If you’re reading this article and you already have a process controller, you might be asking: Why would I need a limit controller?

The answer? Safety.

Even though advanced kiln controllers, such as TAP and TAP II, provide max temperature safety shutoff in case of relay failure, redundancy is the key to safety. Safety limit controllers such as TAP Monitor add an additional layer of safety. When installed and wired to a redundant safety relay, TAP Monitor will automatically shut off your kiln if it exceeds a specified temperature – even if your primary relay fails.

Benefits of TAP Monitor Limit Controller

TAP Monitor is an advanced, user-friendly kiln limit controller and pyrometric device that can be paired with any manual or automatic kiln controller to provide safety shutoff and remote temperature monitoring.

Available as a plug-and-play standalone pyrometer limit controller or as a set of configurable components for DIY installs and oven builds, TAP Monitor gives ceramicists, potters, glass artists, and bladesmiths the ability to:

  • Wire TAP Monitor to a safety relay to provide redundant safety shutoff.
  • Precisely monitor the temperature of their kiln, oven, or forge via the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App.
  • View digital pyrometric readouts from any manually controlled kiln, including remote readouts via TAP Kiln Control Mobile when TAP Monitor is connected to a local network.
  • Easily add precise, real-time digital temperature readings to their manual kiln or oven.
  • Pair TAP Monitor with their existing automatically or manually controlled kiln for remote monitoring.

The TAP Monitor is a limit controller that adds remote temperature monitoring and safety shutoff for kilns.

Explore Kiln Control Solutions by SDS Industries 

In addition to the TAP Monitor Limit Controller, the TAP Ecosystem includes a variety of programmable kiln controllers that give artists complete control of their kilns. The TAP and TAP II Controllers by SDS Industries provide users the most advanced, precise, and easy-to-use programmable digital kiln controllers on the market today. With responsive touchscreen controls, an intuitive graphical UI, and integration with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App, TAP Kiln Controllers can pair with any relay-controlled kiln or oven.

We invite you to explore our selection of programmable kiln controllers, pyrometers, standalones, and conversion kits on our online store. You can also purchase TAP Digital Controllers or TAP Controlled Kilns and Heat Treat Ovens through one of the following distributors:

Shop programmable temperature controllers.

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How to Use a Kiln Temperature Monitor

Using a kiln temperature monitor lets you monitor kiln firing temperatures and adds kiln safety.

A kiln temperature monitor is a device that monitors kiln firing temperatures. Typically, when people refer to a kiln temperature monitor, they’re referring to a device specifically dedicated to temperature measurement, such as a pyrometer or a limit controller.

In the next section we’ll explain the difference between limit controllers, pyrometers, and process controllers – because all three devices technically monitor kiln temperature. Then, we’ll explain the benefits and use cases of a dedicated kiln temperature monitor.

Understanding the Difference Between Pyrometers, Limit Controllers, and Process Controllers

Wait, but doesn’t my programmable digital kiln controller already monitor my kiln firing temperatures? Yes, digital kiln controllers (such as TAP Controllers!) receive temperature inputs from the thermocouples and display your kiln’s temperature on the controller interface (or your smartphone with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App!).

However, digital kiln controllers are process controllers, meaning their primary role isn’t to monitor temperature but rather to adjust kiln firing temperatures according to the programmed firing schedule.

Pyrometers, on the other hand, are devices whose sole function is to monitor kiln temperature. And limit controllers, or high limit controllers or safety limiters, are pyrometers with additional control functions that allow users to pre-program their electric kiln to automatically shut off if the kiln exceeds a specified temperature.

What’s The Point of a Dedicated Kiln Temperature Monitor?

Okay, but if your primary process controller already lets you monitor kiln temperature, then what’s the point of a dedicated kiln temperature monitor? The answer: kiln safety.

More advanced kiln controllers, such as TAP, provide max temperature safety shutoff in case of relay failure. But even then you’re still relying on a single controller, a single relay, and a single thermocouple to ensure the safety of your kiln, yourself, and your property.

When it comes to safety, especially at high kiln firing temperatures, redundancy is key. A dedicated kiln temperature monitor adds an additional level of safety by acting as a safety redundancy device. When installed and wired to a redundant safety relay, TAP Monitor will automatically shut off your kiln if it exceeds a specified temperature – even if your primary relay fails.

TAP Monitor integrates with your kiln to provide remote kiln temperature monitoring to your smartphone.
TAP Monitor integrates with your kiln to provide remote kiln temperature monitoring to your smartphone – when installed with a redundant relay, TAP Monitor also provides additional kiln safety.

Introducing TAP Monitor Digital Pyrometer Limit Controller

While previous kiln temperature monitors only added kiln safety shutoff or a temperature readout, TAP Monitor by SDS Industries adds a whole lot more than that!

TAP Monitor is an advanced, user-friendly kiln temperature monitor that gives kiln operators the ability to precisely monitor kiln firing temperatures – remotely! – regardless of their existing kiln control method.

Available as a plug-and-play standalone pyrometer limit controller or as a set of configurable components for DIY installs and oven builds, TAP Monitor gives ceramicists, potters, glass artists, and bladesmiths the ability to:

  • Precisely monitor the temperature of their kiln, oven, or forge via the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App.
  • View digital pyrometric readouts from any manually controlled kiln, including remote readouts via TAP Kiln Control Mobile when TAP Monitor is connected to a local network.
  • Easily add precise, real-time digital temperature readings to their manual kiln or oven.
  • Pair TAP Monitor with their existing automatically controlled kiln for remote monitoring.
  • For added safety, use TAP Monitor as a standalone or safety relay controller.

Explore Kiln Control Solutions by SDS Industries

In addition to the TAP Monitor Digital Pyrometer, the TAP Ecosystem includes a variety of programmable kiln controllers that give artists complete control of their kilns – without complicated controls or clumsy user interfaces. The TAP and TAP II Controllers by SDS Industries provide users the most advanced, precise, and easy-to-use programmable digital kiln controllers on the market today. With responsive touchscreen controls, an intuitive graphical UI, and integration with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App, TAP Kiln Controllers can pair with any relay-controlled kiln or oven. We invite you to explore our selection of programmable kiln controllers, pyrometers, standalones, and conversion kits on our online store. You can also purchase TAP Digital Controllers or TAP Controlled Kilns and Heat Treat Ovens through one of the following distributors:

Shop TAP Monitor Digital Pyrometer for kilns

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What Is a Pyrometer? Understanding Pyrometers for Kilns

What is a pyrometer? A pyrometer is a temperature monitoring device for high temperature applications.

What is a pyrometer? A pyrometer is a device that measures high temperatures for applications beyond the range of a mercury thermometer (673° F or 356° C). Pyrometers, also referred to as pyrometric devices, are used to monitor temperature for a wide variety of applications. From kilns, furnaces, heat treat ovens, and industrial processes, to measuring the surface temperatures of distant planets!

Contact vs Non-Contact Pyrometers

Pyrometers can be contact or non-contact. Contact pyrometers, such as pyrometers for kilns, use thermocouples that are in thermal contact with the object or atmosphere. Non-contact pyrometers, on the other hand, use optical systems to measure the radiation of a surface without the need for thermal contact.

Both types of pyrometers have their pros and cons. Contact pyrometers, also known as resistance pyrometers or thermocouple pyrometers, are subject to degradation from heat exposure and are limited by the range of the thermocouple. However, they are highly accurate and usually less expensive.

Non-contact pyrometers, also referred to as optical pyrometers, radiation pyrometers, or infrared pyrometers, have far greater range – both in terms of physical distance as well as maximum temperature. Non-contact pyrometers can measure temperatures exceeding 7232° F or 4000°C – nearly three times higher than most contact pyrometers. Non-contact pyrometers can also measure temperatures of moving objects or objects that cannot be touched. However, they are significantly more expensive and less accurate.

Pyrometers for Kilns

As you can probably imagine from the comparison above, contact pyrometers are generally more suitable for kiln temperature monitoring. Affordability and accuracy, as well as the temperature range of most kiln firing schedules, makes using a thermocouple pyrometer with your kiln a pretty obvious choice!

A Brief History of Pyrometers for Kilns

While the earliest known pyrometer dates back to the “Hindley Pyrometer” in 1732, the first pyrometer for kilns was invented by English potter Josiah Wedgwood in the 1780s. Josiah Wedgwood is an interesting figure in the history of pottery. He was a wildly successful potter, industrialist, and entrepreneur – a savvy marketeer, technological innovator, prominent abolitionist, and fashion tastemaker in 18th century England, possibly the closest thing pottery has had to a ‘rockstar.’

(An interesting aside, the fortune Wedgewood amassed selling his line of pottery to the aristocracy of England and the rest of Europe, including Queen Charlotte of England and Queen Catherine of Russia, helped fund the research of his grandson, Charles Darwin. Yes, that Charles Darwin. Wedgwood was quoted as saying, “Fashion is infinitely superior to merit,” although his pottery was widely considered to possess both due to his dedication to utilizing the latest advancements in technology).

Wedgwood’s pyrometer was an optical pyrometer that was used to visibly compare the color of the clay in the kiln to the color of clay fired at known temperatures (similar in principle to this firing chart!). Later he replaced this early pyrometric technology with using of shrinking clay rings or expanding metal bars to measure the temperature of his kilns.

In 1885, Dr. Herrmann Seger developed the pyrometric cone, another pyrometric device based around a similar principle, which remained the standard in pyrometry for at home kilns all the way up until the invention of digital kiln controllers and digital pyrometers in the 1980s. For industrial kilns and furnaces, the Siemens brothers developed a platinum thermometer that could measure temperatures up to 1832° F or 1000° C in the 1860s through the 1870s.

Alternatively, for higher temperatures, the disappearing filament pyrometer was invented by L. Holborn and F. Kurlbaum in 1901. This was another optical pyrometric device that worked by adjusting current through a filament until it matched the color (and thus temperature) of an incandescent object. Evolutions in disappearing filament and brightness pyrometers continued throughout the 20th century.

Modern Digital Pyrometers for Kilns

In the 1980s, the world became digital, and the modern thermocouple pyrometer was born. Digital pyrometers for kilns use thermocouples that attach to a temperature sensor to precisely monitor kiln temperature.

While digital kiln controllers can be used to monitor kiln temperature, a dedicated digital pyrometer adds additional capabilities. For instance, you can use a digital pyrometer to add digital temperature monitoring to a manual kiln or use it in addition to a programmable digital kiln controller to act as a safety redundancy device to provide automatic safety shutoff in case of relay failure.

TAP Monitor is an advanced digital pyrometer that brings precise temperature measuring and remote monitoring to any kiln or heat treat oven.
TAP Monitor is an advanced digital pyrometer that brings precise temperature measuring, remote monitoring, and safety redundancy to any manual or automatic kiln or heat treat oven.

The TAP Monitor Digital Pyrometer Limit Controller

The latest evolution in digital pyrometers for kilns is the TAP Monitor, which is now available for preorder! The TAP Monitor is an advanced, user-friendly limit controller and digital pyrometer that gives kiln operators the ability to precisely monitor kiln temperature – remotely! – regardless of their existing kiln control method.

Available as a plug-and-play standalone pyrometer limit controller or as a set of configurable components for DIY installs and oven builds, TAP Monitor gives ceramicists, potters, glass artists, and bladesmiths the ability to:

  • Precisely monitor the temperature of their kiln, oven, or forge via the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App.
  • View digital pyrometric readouts from any manually controlled kiln, including remote readouts via TAP Kiln Control Mobile when TAP Monitor is connected to a local network with internet access.
  • Easily add precise, real-time digital temperature readings to their manual kiln or oven.
  • Pair TAP Monitor with their existing automatically controlled kiln for remote monitoring.
  • For added safety, use TAP Monitor as a standalone and safety relay controller. 

Explore Kiln Control Solutions by SDS Industries

In addition to the TAP Monitor Digital Pyrometer, the TAP Ecosystem includes a variety of programmable kiln controllers that give artists complete control of their kilns – without complicated controls or clumsy user interfaces. The TAP and TAP II Controllers by SDS Industries provide users the most advanced, precise, and easy-to-use programmable digital kiln controllers on the market today. With responsive touchscreen controls, an intuitive graphical UI, and integration with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App, TAP Kiln Controllers can pair with any relay-controlled kiln or oven.

We invite you to explore our selection of programmable kiln controllers, pyrometers, standalones, and conversion kits on our online store. You can also purchase TAP Digital Controllers or TAP Controlled Kilns and Heat Treat Ovens through one of the following distributors:

Shop TAP Monitor Digital Pyrometer for kilns

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How to Easily Track Your Electric Kiln Firing Cost

Tracking electric kiln firing costs on a kiln firing cost calculator

Did you know that you can easily program your TAP Controller to track your electric kiln firing cost? And with the latest update to the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App, we’ve made the kiln firing cost calculator function free for all users!

Why is this important?

There are several benefits to being able to accurately track your electric kiln firing cost. If you sell (or plan on selling) your work, knowing kiln costs for each firing schedule, along with materials and labor costs, allows you to accurately price your work. Additionally, knowing your electric kiln firing cost allows you to accurately track cost growth as utility rates rise.

But even if you don’t sell your work, the kiln firing cost calculator function can help you gain insight into whether your kiln is operating as effectively as it did when it was new, helping you stay ahead of possible kiln maintenance needs. Plus, with how easy it is to program cost settings on your TAP Controller, it’s just cool information to know!

How to Use the Kiln Firing Cost Calculator on Your TAP Controller

Setting up your TAP Controller to track your electric kiln firing cost is super easy. For the original TAP Controller, you can input cost settings right from your controller screen or via the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App. For the TAP II Controller, as well as the other kiln controllers in the TAP Ecosystem, you will set up your kiln firing costs via the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App, so you can skip ahead to the next section for instructions!

Steps for Programming Kiln Cost Settings on the Controller UI

TAP Kiln Controllers have a kiln firing cost calculator for tracking your electric kiln firing cost.

  1. From the Home Screen, go to Menu > Settings > Cost.
  2. Enter your kiln’s power rating in watts in the field for ‘Kiln Power.’ If you’re unsure of your kiln’s power rating, you can usually find it on the kiln’s data plate or in your kiln’s user manual. If your kiln’s power rating is in kilowatts, just multiply that number by 1000 to convert the power rating into watts. So, for instance, if your kiln was rated for 2.16 kW, you’d multiply that by 1000, and enter 2160 in the field for ‘Kiln Power.’
  3. Enter your utility provider’s cost per kilowatt hour in the ‘Cost per kWh’ field. You can find this information on your latest electric bill or on the website for your electric utility provider. In the example below, we’ve highlighted the Cost Per kWh (so, for this example, you would enter $0.041 under ‘Cost per kWh): Once you’ve input this information, your TAP Controller will automatically calculate your electric kiln firing cost – so you can ditch the pencil, notebooks, timers, and calculators!

Example of Electric Service Details

How to Setup Electric Kiln Firing Cost Tracking on the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App

You can also program cost settings for the TAP or TAP II Controller (as well as our upcoming kiln temp controller options) on the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App – and track your electric kiln firing costs on the go!

  1. In the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App, select your kiln from the Summary Screen.
  2. Press Settings on the bottom center of your screen.
  3. Scroll down to Cost. Here you will find the field to input ‘Cost per kWh’ and ‘Kiln Power’ (refer to Steps 2 & 3 from the previous section):

Tracking electric kiln firing costs on a kiln firing cost calculator

You can download the latest version of the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App, which makes this feature free for all TAP users on the App Store (for iOS) or the Google Play Store (for Android).

As you know, electric kiln firing costs aren’t the only cost of owning (and maintaining a kiln). For additional information about the cost of kiln ownership – from purchase and installation to maintenance costs – check out our definitive guide on kiln costs!

Explore Programmable Digital Kiln Controllers by SDS Industries

When it comes to providing features that make life easier for artists, electric kiln firing cost tracking is just scratching the surface!

The TAP and TAP II Controllers by SDS Industries provide users the most advanced, precise, and easy-to-use programmable digital kiln controllers on the market today. With responsive touchscreen controls, an intuitive graphical UI, and integration with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App, TAP Kiln Controllers can pair with any relay-controlled kiln or oven.

We invite you to explore our selection of programmable kiln controllers, standalones, and conversion kits on our online store. You can also purchase TAP Digital Controllers or TAP Controlled Kilns and Heat Treat Ovens through one of the following distributors:

Download the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App for remote kiln control from your smartphone or tablet.

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How Much Do Kilns Cost? The True Costs of Owning a Kiln

Description of kiln costs - from purchase and shipping to installation, operation, and maintenance.

For most artists, purchasing a kiln is a pretty big investment. Newer artists, especially, will probably have a lot of questions about what they’re getting into! How much do kilns cost? What about installation and kiln maintenance? Are kilns safe? What type of kiln is right for me? What kind of controller should I use for my kiln?

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! You can find our guides on kiln maintenance, kiln safety, types of kilns, and kiln control methods below. And by the end of this article, you’ll have a complete understanding of kiln costs!

Note: For the sake of this article, we’ll be primarily focusing on kiln costs for electric kilns, which are the most common kilns for the hobby kiln and studio kiln market. Gas kilns are typically more expensive, ranging from $3,000 on the extreme low-end to $30,000+ for a high-capacity gas kiln and have their own unique operating and installation costs.

Understanding Kiln Costs

When people think about kiln costs, a lot of the time they only think about the upfront cost of purchasing their kilns. While we’ll be covering purchase costs in depth, there are additional costs to consider. These include installation costs, kiln maintenance costs, material costs, as well as firing costs.

For the hobbyist, understanding these costs will help avoid unforeseen expenses. It will also help determine the most suitable type of kiln and possibly save some money! But for the professional artist, accurately tracking kilns costs can help make sure they’re pricing their wares correctly.

The Cost of Buying a Kiln

For most artists, purchasing a kiln is by far the most expensive part of kiln ownership. Kiln costs vary tremendously, ranging from around $700 for compact kilns to $20,000+ for large, higher powered, industrial grade kilns. There is also a robust used kiln market on Craigslist, eBay, Facebook Marketplace, and other online markets, where pre-owned kilns range from $275 to $3,000+ dollars.

Factors that influence kiln costs include:

  • Size: Generally speaking, the bigger the kiln, the more expensive – both at the time of purchase and in terms of potential installation, maintenance, and power costs.
  • Power Rating: Larger kilns and hotter kilns typically require more power and are generally more expensive.
  • Maximum Temperature: Generally, kilns with a higher maximum temperature are more expensive than comparable kilns with lower maximum temperatures.
  • Materials Fired: Glass kilns, ceramic kilns, knife kilns, and metal clay kilns (for jewelry) have different price ranges (which we’ll be covering more in-depth below).
  • Temperature Controller Method: The type of kiln controller that comes included with your kiln will impact its price by up to several hundred dollars – but your controller will have a major impact on your kiln firing experience and the functionality of your kiln.
  • Shipping Costs: As a larger item, shipping costs for kilns can add a substantial amount to your purchase price. When comparing prices between kiln suppliers, check to see whether shipping costs are included with the purchase of your kiln.

Whew, that may seem like a lot of factors to keep in mind! Don’t worry, we’ll be covering each of these considerations more in-depth. To help narrow your focus when purchasing a new kiln, it’s important to ask yourself the following questions:

  • How will I be using my kiln? What types of kiln firing schedules will I need to be able to execute?
  • Based on the media and techniques I use, what kiln firing temperatures and element placement will I need for my projects?
  • How big does my kiln need to be? How much space do I have to install the kiln at my home or studio?

The more specifically you can answer those types of questions, the easier it will be to determine which features you need to shop for and the kiln costs you should budget for.

Kiln Size Price Ranges

When it comes to buying a kiln, how big does your kiln need to be? Well, that depends…how big are the projects you’ll be firing? If you only need your kiln for slumping glass or firing jewelry or other small objects, chances are you’ll be able to save a lot of money on upfront costs and installation by purchasing a compact kiln.

However, if you’re firing large ceramic pieces – or firing multiple projects at a time – you’ll probably need to spring for a larger kiln.

Below are the average and median prices for kilns based on size (kiln prices throughout this article are based on aggregate price data from Kiln Frog).*

  • Compact Kilns: Under 15”
    • Price Range: $924.00 – $3318.54
    • Average Price: $1594.83
    • Median Price: $1474.16
  • Medium Kilns: 13” – 18”
    • Price Range: $916.00 – $4623.86
    • Average Price: $2028.56
    • Median Price: $1921.81
  • Large Kilns: 17” – 24”
    • Price Range: $1558.00 – $6889.54
    • Average Price: $3240.21
    • Median Price: $3139.00
  • X-Large Kilns: Over 24”
    • Price Range: $2416.00 – $25328.55
    • Average Price: $6669.63
    • Median Price: $4582.80

As you can see, the size of the kiln makes a big difference in price!

*Price data in this article includes current promotions – prices may vary.

Kiln Costs Based on Power Rating

Another factor that can influence kiln costs – for purchase, installation, and your electric bill – is the power rating of your kiln. When it comes to power rating, there are three ratings you need to understand: voltage, amperage, and wattage.

Voltage is the electric potential of a circuit. Comparing electricity to plumbing, voltage could be considered the pressure in a pipe. In the U.S., kilns typically come in two different voltage configurations: 120V and 240V, which correspond with the electric grid. 120V kilns are typically less expensive and match the voltage of a standard residential wall outlet; however, kilns exceeding 15 amps will need to be installed on a dedicated circuit.

A 240V kiln, on the other hand, needs a special wall outlet (other large appliances, such as wall ovens, AC units, and dryers use 240V outlets). Chances are, you will need the help of an electrician to run a new outlet in order to install your kiln. According to HomeGuide, this will cost anywhere from $250 – $800.

Amperage is the units of electrical current in a circuit. Extending the plumbing analogy, current is similar to the capacity of a pipe: the wider the pipe, the more water that flows. Kilns range from 13 amps to 80 amps. 120V kilns typically only go up to 30 amps, while 240V kilns can range anywhere from 30 amps to 80. At 48 amps or higher, a kiln will have to be wired directly into your power supply – another additional expense!

Watts measure the rate of power flow, calculated by multiplying voltage by amperage. Smaller 120V kilns typically draw between 1500 and 1800 watts, while a large 240V kiln can draw up to 11000 watts. TAP Kiln Controllers by SDS Industries allow you to enter your kiln’s watt rating, as well as the cost per kilowatt hour from your electric bill to automatically calculate your cost per firing.

The kiln costs tracking feature on TAP Kiln Controllers allows artists to automatically track how much they spend per fire.
The TAP Kiln Controller by SDS Industries allows artists to easily track their cost per fire on their electric kiln.

Kiln Costs by Maximum Temperature

Different kilns are capable of reaching different maximum temperatures. Generally, the hotter the kiln, the higher the kiln costs! If you need to fire Cone 14 porcelain, expect to spend more money than if you only need to fire Cone 06 ceramics. Reviewing these firing schedules for glass, ceramic, and metal heat treat can help you figure out which temperatures you’ll need your kiln to be able to reach based on the media and techniques you use.

Kiln Costs by Materials Fired

Speaking of media, when shopping for a new kiln, you’ll find that there are different kilns designed specifically for glass, ceramics, metal heat treat (for objects such as blades and knives), and metal clay (for jewelry and small metal trinkets). How do the materials you fire impact kiln costs?

Kilns have different dimensions and maximum temperatures based on the materials they’re designed to fire. Generally, metal clay kilns will be smaller than glass kilns, which will be smaller than knife kilns. Ceramic kilns tend to be larger and cylindrical, since you can stack pottery during fire. You can expect the price of the kiln to scale accordingly.

Additionally, ceramic kilns and heat treat kilns will typically need to be capable of reaching higher temperatures than metal clay kilns or glass kilns.

Broadly speaking, metal clay kilns will be the least expensive, and ceramic kilns will be the most expensive. Glass kilns and metal heat treat ovens often fall somewhere in between.

Temperature Controller Costs

Finally, an extremely important consideration when buying a kiln is deciding which brand and model of kiln controller to purchase with your kiln. After all, the kiln controller will be your primary interface with your kiln and will largely determine your user experience. Your kiln control method will determine the accuracy of your kiln firing, as well as what you can program the kiln to do.

Upgrading to a fully featured touchscreen programmable digital kiln controller will add a few hundred dollars to your kiln costs compared to a rudimentary 3-key model. Is it worth it?

In our opinion, yes. Definitively. An advanced, easy-to-use kiln controller like the TAP Kiln Controller gives you the ability to:

  • Easily navigate your controller and manage your firing schedules with just a few finger presses.
  • Name, save, and edit unlimited firing schedules with an unlimited number of steps per schedule.
  • Easily find and select the right schedule with alpha-numeric, full text displays.
  • Integrate your controller with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App so that you can remotely monitor your kiln and create, modify, and execute firing schedules from your mobile device.
  • Enjoy peace-of-mind with push notification alerts and alarms to keep you informed of your firing status, notify you when it’s time for preventative maintenance, or let you know when unexpected conditions occur.

Additionally, SDS Industries is working on a lineup of more cost-accessible controller options that contain many of the advanced functions of TAP at a lower price point, with all kiln controller inputs performed via your smartphone.

Read our side-by-side kiln controller manufacturer comparison to compare the features of TAP against what you get with lower-priced controller options.

Additional Kiln Costs

In addition to kiln costs at point of purchase and installation, there are also longer-term costs to keep in mind.

We mentioned installation costs earlier. You should plan on budgeting up to $800 if you will need the help of an electrician in installing your kiln. Additionally, if you’re purchasing a ceramic kiln, you may need to buy and install a ventilation system which can run another $200 to upwards of $800.

For kiln maintenance, you will have to replace thermocouples, elements, and mechanical relays at regular intervals. Depending on how frequently you use your kiln and the temperatures you fire to, you should plan on budgeting at least $100 to $200 dollars every year or two to replace these components.

And, finally, you will have to budget for materials. Material costs can vary greatly per artist, but you should plan accordingly!

Conclusion

There you have it! Hopefully, this article has given you a full understanding of the true cost of owning a kiln. However, you should look at kiln costs as a long-term investment. If you take care of your kiln, it could last you for decades and give you countless hours of enjoyment and self-expression – so it’s hard to put a price tag on that! But it’s also important to know what you’re getting into and budget accordingly.

Explore Programmable Digital Kiln Controllers by SDS Industries

If you’re buying a new kiln, you’ll want to make sure it’s coming with the right controller. Ask your kiln supplier about TAP! The TAP and TAP II Controllers by SDS Industries provide users the most advanced, precise, and easy-to-use programmable digital kiln controllers on the market today. With responsive touchscreen controls, an intuitive graphical UI, and integration with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App, TAP Kiln Controllers can pair with any relay-controlled kiln or oven.

We invite you to explore our selection of programmable kiln controllers, standalones, and conversion kits on our online store. You can also purchase TAP Digital Controllers or TAP Controlled Kilns and Heat Treat Ovens through one of the following distributors:

Shop the most advanced programmable digital kiln controllers for sale.