Lessons Learned Buying My First Glass Kiln

Evenheat Studio Pro

I suppose it was only natural that as a stained glass artist I would eventually want to create fused glass items. My husband actually predicted it before I did. He knows me so well.

Early this year I began my search for a glass kiln. It was a frustrating experience. I hoped to find reviews and opinions on the internet. Surely there were others who had already gone through this process. While I did find articles and forums offering suggestions, none of them made a specific recommendation. I wanted someone to say, “I bought xyz kiln, and I love it because…..” No such luck!

Most of the articles talked about three specific things to consider.

–          How much workspace do you have?

–          What are the electrical considerations?

–          What size kiln do you need?

They suggested considering the type and size of projects you plan on making to determine what size kiln you should purchase. That seems to make sense, but do you really know what you want to make when you are starting out? It’s like buying a sewing machine because you want to make skirts. Eventually you’ll want to make pants, or pillows, or curtains. So do I buy a bigger, expensive kiln to cover my possibilities? Medium size kilns can cost up to $2000! What if I find out I don’t like fusing glass? (By the way, anyone want to buy a used sewing machine?).

In the end, I went with a smaller kiln. I got an Evenheat Studio Pro with a digital pyrometer.  My decision was based on not really knowing how far I wanted to go with fused glass. I convinced myself that if I did want to continue with fused glass art, it would be good to have a smaller kiln for testing and jewelry items.

Here’s what I like and don’t like about my baby kiln.

I love the fact that it has a window in it. You pay extra for this, and it is not something you have to have. But as a new student of glass fusing I found this invaluable. It helped me to understand what glass does at what temperature. I am a visual learner. Without it I am sure I would be lifting the kiln lid all the time.

Another feature I really like is that it has dual access. It has a lid on a hinge that lifts, or you can lift it from the base giving you direct access to the kiln floor. This allows you to assemble your glass project directly on the kiln shelf. You avoid having to carry the kiln shelf over to the kiln. This is much easier than working down into the kiln from above.

I upgraded from an analog to a digital pyrometer. I’m not convinced it was worth it, but it does make it easier to record temperatures when testing different firing schedules.

What I don’t like is the size. At 8″ wide x 4.5″ deep you really are limited to what you can do. Jewelry, coasters, pocket vases, and small plates are about it. I thought in 4.5″ deep kiln I would be able to do some small 4″ draped vases. But by the time you take out the space for the kiln shelf and leave some head space, the vase is a tea light holder at best.

The thing that is really the most difficult is the manual controls. To fire larger projects, you have to spend a lot of time babysitting the kiln and making adjustments to keep the temperature at the correct level. Very time consuming, and definitely not fun!

Six months after purchasing by first kiln, I am already looking for my next one. If I had to do it again, I would have gone for a bigger kiln right away. If you are a hobbyist, however, and this is the hobby du jour or you plan on making mostly jewelry, this is a great kiln.

So who’s got a big kiln out there? Tell me about it……

9 thoughts on “Lessons Learned Buying My First Glass Kiln

  1. Brenee Carvell says:

    Well this is funny. I’m at this point exactly; trying to find my first kiln and searching for advice….and finding nothing more than you have described, and it’s a year later. I was told by a class eacher that paragon kilns are very good, and thinking about the Fusion 7. I’m hoping the 14″ internal size will be good for beginning items and growing to slumping…etc.
    I do like your advice on the window, especially while I’m learning, and about the two ways of entry to the kiln- forgot how beneficial accessing the kiln floor directly would be. In the class I took, it was a small issue keeping stacked pendants where they were supposed to be while loading. Thanks!
    Any thoughts on a bead door? Thats not the first reason I want a kiln, and don’t really know if it’s something I will want to do in the future… Not sure how I will know that. Any advice would be great. Have you bought your second kiln?

    • Margot says:

      Ah yes buying kilns! Note the plural s on the word kiln. I did buy my second one and now am considering a third. I have two blog posts on it. Which I just found out my search box is not finding! Grrr… Anyway the two post are http://www.glassartbymargot.com/Blog/uncategorized/isnt-she-lovely/ which is my second kiln a Paragon Pearl 22. I love this kiln. It is a clam shell with lots of room. But! Now I am thinking about a 14″ kiln. See this post http://www.glassartbymargot.com/Blog/fused-glass/thinking-about-buying-kiln/ I’ve narrowed it down to the Skutt Hot Start Pro and the Skutt Firebox 14. The Pro is cheaper, but the Firebox is square and I just think that would make it more practical. Now that I’ve been fusing for awhile, I am not so concerned about the window. Since the kiln is only 6.5″ deep I was thinking I could raise the shelf on higher posts so it would be easier to access the shelf. Also, I learned when doing stacked pendants to use a dot of hairspray in a needle nose bottle to keep them together. You do have to let this dry. Keep me posted on what you get and how it’s going! Now that I’ve made the plunge into facebook!

  2. Mariio says:

    Quiero hacerte una pregunta, porque al traducir la pagina no me ha quedado claro algo.
    ¿Este horno ,tiene la posibilidad de hacerle un a pequeña ventana para mirar los trabajos,o hay que pedir que te lo hagan ala compra del mismo????,Vivo en Valencia- España
    saludos estamos en contacto ,muy lindo tu blog…

    • Margot says:

      From what I could tell from Google Translate, you are asking about the window on the kiln. You can buy this kiln with a window or without. In the picture you can see a small window on the top of the kiln I have. It costs extra. I hope I answered your question. So nice to have a fan from Spain!

  3. Kate Vitulli says:

    These are AWESOME articles. THANK YOU!! I am also just beginning glass fusing & am having a hell of a time figuring out what to get. I want to slump fused glass on a 10″ plate mold. The kiln will reside in my garage (best place?? or basement better??) I want it to run on household electricity (120 i think!!) Don’t want to spend an arm & a leg!! What suggestions can you give a fellow crafty wife.
    I appreciate you suggestions!!!

    • Margot says:

      Thanks Kate. Take a look at the Paragon CS-14 and CS16. If you can afford the bigger 16″ go for it. The 16 wasn’t available when I got my 14. I’d sell you mine and trade up if I could 🙂 Also get the dual lid – the D model it isn’t that much more and worth it. So much easier to peek in when you are just lifting the top lid. Another thing I would recommend is the optional ceramic fiber top. It is an expensive add on but if budget allows, worth it. I originally had a Skutt kiln with regular fiber brick on top and it would sometimes leave little specks of brick dust on my work. Not fun! Here is a link to the Paragon web site http://www.paragonweb.com/CS-16D.cfm But if you are really on a budget and this is just something you will be doing occasionally as a hobby, take look at the Skutt Firebox 14. I don’t have the option to have it in the basement here in Houston. More important is having it close to your work table and glass supplies. Have fun!

  4. Kristen Tyler says:

    My first Kiln was an Aim 96j, about 9″x 4″, but with manual controls and a digital pyrometer I bought. This one needed work but it worked fine after the repairs were made. A few years ago I found an Even heat Studio Pro 14 with digital controls… it’s a few years old but works great! I actually got such a good deal on it I drove all the way to Dallas from San Antonio to get it. I really like the double opening feature, makes getting the kiln shelf in and out a breeze. Everything is pre programmed…yeah!! It runs on 120 v so no special wiring. I looked at lots of used kilns before this one came around.

  5. Angela Zutz says:

    I am a beginner fuser and am looking for some advice on a kiln. Thank you so much for making this blog!
    I started with a microwave kiln and am really enjoying it. I’d like to get into bigger projects like bowls. Any suggestions on what type of kiln. I would really like a viewing window.
    Thanks in advance for any suggestion you may have.

    • Margot says:

      A viewing window is not as important as you might think. I wanted one at first too thinking it would make it easier to see when things were “done” firing. It worked great for my baby kiln, but when I was ready to upgrade in size I wasn’t willing to spend the extra money for a window. I found that I could easily lift the lid and take a peek. Took a little while to get used to it, but works just fine. My only other advice is go with the biggest kiln you can afford. In my opinion, I wouldn’t go with anything smaller than 16 inches. I have a 16″ and a 22″ kiln both are Paragon kilns. Skutt kilns are also good. At the time I purchased my kilns, I liked the way the Paragon kilns were programmed better. Not sure if they have updated this since I bought mine. These are the only two I have experience with. You might want to visit a local glass shop and see what they are using. In one of the other comments, I link to two other posts where I talk about my other kiln purchase. Hope that helps.

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