Can you tell I’m excited?
After being without a kiln for the last 11 month, I finally got my kiln! It’s an L&L Davinci x3236-D Automatic. I have been asked many times how I chose my kiln. It is a huge decision to make, so I wanted to share my thought process and maybe it’ll help someone out there make their choice a little easier.
First decision: What kiln manufacturer did I want to go with? This was the easiest part of my decision. I’ve long coveted an L&L. They have a number of design features that strike me as both brilliant and completely logical. The big ones are:
- The element holders are hard brick. Makes sense, right?
- The electric controls are separate from the kiln. Sensitive computer parts are kept far away from the heat. Again, very logical.
The other thoughts I had about what manufacturers to go with.
- I have had a lot of experience with Skutt kilns. Lillstreet had a ton of them. The 2nd floor set of kilns didn’t get particularly high usage, but it seems like there was always one down for one reason or another. More often than it seems like they should have. I’m sure there are lots of people who swear by their Skutts, but based on this experience, I didn’t want to go in that direction if I didn’t have to.
- Any kiln is going to run into a problem at some point. So the question is- how are you going to fix it? If you’re super handy, it might be something that you can tackle yourself. If not, then who? A friend of mine, Donovan Palmquist of Master Kiln Builders is a dealer and repair person for L&L so I knew I had that covered. Plus I was able to order my kiln through him. You can also contact your local ceramics supply place and ask them if they have a repair person for a particular manufacturer. If you don’t have a supplier nearby, ask other potters in your area. Or you can also call a company directly and ask them to give you the name and contact information of a dealer/repair person in your area. Hopefully it’s not something that you’ll need for a while, but it’s good to know ahead of time so when the kiln breaks right before your last firing before a show, you’ll know what you need to do in the midst of your state of panic. Also, L&L has a 3 year warranty.
Second part of the decision: Size and shape.
My long term plan: Sometime next year, I am planning/hoping to build a soda kiln in my back yard. But I want to progress with making work right now, and not just wait until the soda kiln to happen. So I wanted a kiln that I can take up to cone 10. Even after I build the soda kiln, I want to be able to high fire non-soda pieces. A couple of years ago, I started making a lot of c.10 (reduction) dinnerware, or sometimes designed place setting that were a mix of soda and straight reduction (specifically tried to avoid dinner plates in soda). I wanted to build that option into the kiln I got. For the interim, I want to be ready to fire work in friend’s kilns- soda, wood, salt, etc… and not worry about clay bodies, etc… And hopefully there will be some glaze overlap too.
The other part is that I didn’t want to outgrow the kiln in 6 months. I want to make larger work- wide platters and tall bottles. Especially once I have the soda kiln- so I need to be able to bisque larger pieces. At this moment, I plan on having the footprint of the soda kiln be two 14″by 28″ shelves. The interior of my new L&L is 30.5″ square and the height is 36″ which will allow me to make the size pieces that I want to. I ended up getting a larger, more expensive electric kiln than I had originally planned, but it would ultimately be more expensive for me to buy a 2nd kiln in a year or two. So I had to wait a little longer to get the kiln that I knew would fit my needs now, and in the long term.
Shape. The square makes sense to me. Whenever I load octagonal kilns, I often get frustrated. Do I need to say more than that?
Below I’ve included the specs of the kiln (from L&L):
- Internal Size: 30 1/2″ square x 36″ high
- Number of Sections: Four
- Brick: 3″ of premium select K23
- Max Temp: 2350F, 1287C, Cone 10
- Control Panel Mount: Floor Standing, Plug-in, separate from kiln
- Control: Handheld DynaTrol with Dynamic Zone Control, 4 preset programs, 6 user defined programs
- Industrial Thermocouples
- Hinge: Spring Loaded Counterbalance
- Stand: Heavy-Duty Welded Angle Iron
- Power Hook Up: Direct Hook-Up
- Heavy Duty Elements
- Three Year Warranty
- Listed to UL499 Standards
And this is the vent system for the L&L kiln:
VENT-SURE KILN VENT SYSTEM
- WALL MOUNTED VENT BLOWER
The vent blower motor is mounted on the wall. This keeps the heat of the kiln away from the motor (for long motor life) and keeps the motor vibration away from the kiln (which can cause ware to move, damage to the kiln, and misfiring of cones on a Kiln Sitter).
- VACUUM IS SAFER THAN PRESSURE
The vent tubing is kept under vacuum instead of pressure (unlike competitive brands). This insures that any leak in the tubing does not blow noxious fumes into your room.
- EXTERNAL VENTING IS BETTER
External venting is safer and surer than venting to the inside of your kiln room with a filter.
- LARGE CAPACITY
The blower vents up to 130 CFM (cubic feet per minute). This will handle up to a 20 cubic foot kiln (and usually larger). More than one vent can be attached to a kiln. Only 1.37 amps.
- SIX FOOT POWER CORD WITH ON/OFF SWITCH
The blower motor features a 6 foot long 120 volt 15 amp power cord. An On/Off switch is located on the cord.
- ADJUSTABLE VENT CONTROL
A vacuum bypass on the kiln bypass/collection box adjusts the amount of venting from the system. Don’t waste heat and energy by venting more than you need. Adjust vent to kiln size.
- 15 FEET OF FLEXIBLE ALUMINUM DUCT
15 feet of flexible expandable aluminum 3″ diameter duct is included along with necessary hose clamps. Longer lengths or lengths of 3″ stove pipe can be used as well. Length can be as great as 60 feet horizontal or vertical with up to four 90 degree bends.
So there is still some work to be done. We had our electric service upgraded so it can handle the kiln. Every kiln manufacturer website has these specs listed.
I have taken a lot of safety precautions since my kiln is in the basement of my home, and I have a couple more that I’m going to add in before I do my initial firing. I know all about being overly cautious of the out-gassing, etc… But if you have any specific safety features that you have taken in your space, I’d love to hear about them. I will do a future post on that part of the kiln installation since I think it deserves it’s own post.
I’m going to spend some serious time reading the manual now. It is a very full 3 ring binder. One caution that’s in the book is not to plug it into an extension cord. That totally cracked me up. Seriously, though, there is a little more electric work that has to be done before I can fire. We just did a major service upgrade to accommodate the power draw of the kiln. Before you actually purchase your kiln, look up the kiln on the manufacturer’s website and look up the electrical specs. Print out the info sheet and have it when you have an electrician come do a bid. And get at least 3 bids. Really.