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……