Sunday, May 15, 2005

Awaiting the Kiln Gods

About two years ago, my wife, Julie, and I bought an electric kiln on eBay. Its an L&L Industries K230 Econo model. I named it "Figaro".

Julie was a ceramics instructor at a day camp, and I had been doing pottery on and off for the last twenty years. She leans more towards hand building, and I towards throwing on the wheel. We have a small studio in our basement that hasn't really seen much use, since we had to rely on either the kilns at camp or having me take a class. A home kiln makes a lot of sense for us.

At the time we bought it, we drove down to Virginia to pick it up. When we rebuilt our master bath that year, and had to have additional circuits run through the house for the jacuzzi tub and heater we installed, we also put in a fifty amp circuit from the breakerbox to the garage. The wires were pulled, but the breaker and outlet were never installed. The kiln sat in the garage, near "Monstro", a never-used, 22 cubic foot, gas fired kiln that has followed us through four moves in the last ten years, and "Bubbles", a small test kiln that a former co-worker donated to the cause.

There were a few issues with the kiln when we bought it. The plug at the end of the electrtical cord was fused and melted. Some previous owner had installed a 30 amp clothes dryer cord, which couldn't stand the load. I finally ordered a new cord from L&L at the beginning of May, and a couple of peep hole plugs. Once the cord was ordered, we knew what kind of outlet needed (NEMA 50-6, two hot wires plus ground, no neutral) to be installed, so the parts were purchased, and the wiring was completed.

On the fourteenth of May, I plugged it in for the first time, and tested the circuit and the kiln. Figuro has three rotary switches to control the three banks of elements. Each switch has four settings, OFF, LOW, MEDIUM, and HIGH. I jury rigged the kiln sitter with a piece of wood (when firing, I'd use a pyrometric cone), and threw all of the switches to LOW.

The top two banks functioned fine, glowing orange, but the bottom bank remained cool. Turning off all but the bottom bank, then fiddling with the switch, I discovered that the switch had been rotated ninety degrees by a previous owner, so the element bank was off when I thought it was LOW. I unplugged the kiln, popped the switch housing off, loosened the cord, rotated the switch, then reinstalled everything.

The kiln is fully wired and functional. We bought some kiln shelves this last weekend, and we have kiln furniture that I had purchased for Monstro, years ago.

Now we need to fill it for the first firing. One of the traditions of a first firing it to bisque a clay 'kiln god', which will then watch over the kiln for as long as it used.


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