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Without kilns there would be no ceramics. Since the very beginning when primitive man discovered the soil around a fire changed to rock, learning how to contain the heat and control it has been an ongoing endeavor. Many types of kilns have been constructed over the millennia and today we're fortunate to have such a wide selection to choose from. You can choose the type of kiln atmosphere you want (oxidation or reduction), the type of fuel you want to use (oil, gas, electric, or wood) and maybe even the special surfaces you want (salt, soda, raku, or pit). This Ceramic Arts Daily guide to types of ceramic kilns will help you make all these decisions.
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Kilns and Kiln Design
by Richard Zakin
A kiln is a chamber made from refractory (nonmelting) materials. The ceramist places ware in the chamber. Heat created in this chamber (or in a firebox close by) is contained there and so builds up to high temperatures. The ceramic ware undergoes the firing and cooling process. While clay can be fired in an open fire and does not require a kiln, kilns must be used to attain high temperatures. Furthermore, they allow the ceramist excellent control of heat rise and fall and protect the ware during the rigors of the fire. Therefore, almost all contemporary potters use them.
The kiln designer’s job is to make a kiln that keeps its structural integrity over a period of many firings while being efficient and keeping heat loss to a minimum. The kiln must allow the ceramist to efficiently control temperature rise and fall inside the kiln. It must be carefully designed for safe and efficient use of the fuel and must protect the ware during the firing. It must allow the ceramist access for loading and unloading and must have a “spy hole” to provide a view of what is going on inside the kiln during the firing.
Ceramic firing can be done with two types of kiln atmosphere, oxidation or reduction. The one you choose for your own work determines the type of kiln you need.
Certain kinds of visual effects can only be produced with fuel-burning kilns. Find out why you might consider a wood kiln or using oil and gas as fuels, or maybe you to learn more about salt and soda firing.
Potters use electric kilns more than any other type of kiln. They're easy to operate and you can choose between many commercially made models, including small test kilns and front loading varieties.
How and Why to Use a Kiln Exhaust System
by Dave Finkelnburg
If you are looking to buy a kiln, you will need to consider a kiln exhaust system too. Typically we think of kiln vents as primarily a ceramic studio safety precaution, but a proper kiln ventilation system benefits both the work inside the kiln and the people (and don’t forget studio pets!) around it. In addition, a good kiln exhaust system is good for your kiln! In this article, Dave Finkelnburg explains how a kiln exhaust system works and why all kilns should be vented.
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Jennifer Poellot Harnetty
Editor, Ceramic Arts Daily