Today, we’re going to be talking about what ceramic kiln for home use I would suggest you buy as a beginner. Maybe you’re in the market for a brand new kiln, or maybe you don’t know anything about kilns and you just came here to see what things you might need to set up in your house before you even think about getting a kiln. Whatever your needs might be, we’re going to do a broad stroke of all the kilns that I’ve had experience with. And I’m also going to give you my recommendation at the end of this article for what I would have got if I had the money, time, set up, and the knowledge that I have now as a potter.
Before you get a kiln for home use
Before we get started, we’re going to talk about the things that you absolutely need before you even think about getting a kiln. You can’t just buy a kiln, bring it into your house, and think it’s just going to plug into an outlet or a socket and you’re all good to go. For example, you need a dedicated breaker for your kiln.
Every single kiln has a certain amount of amperage, much like most of the stuff in your house, for every single type of breaker. For example, my kiln takes a 60 amp breaker. But this is a little bit troubling, especially for someone like me, because my house only outputs 100 amps at a time. Which means, when this thing is running, it’s taking about 60% of my house as power while I run it at a time.
Technically speaking on the specs, it says it only takes up to like 48 or 50 amps, but for safety reasons, you probably understand why they need to put a 60 amp breaker in there. Because my kiln takes 60 amps out of the 100 amps that it puts out, that means that I’m running this kiln in the dead of night. My dishwasher takes 30 amps. My washer for my clothes takes 30 amps. My dryer takes 30 amps. And my microwave probably takes like 10 or 12 amps.
I cannot run my kiln, my microwave, my dishwasher, my washing machine for my clothes and my dryer, all at the same time. One of those breakers is going to flip, and I pray to the clay lords that it’s not the one of my artwork in it. So I heavily suggest you go ahead and check that breaker box before you decide to actually buy your kiln.
Not only do you need your own dedicated breaker a little bit above the amount of amperage that your kiln probably takes, you also need to fit a plug into your wall. It’s like a brand new socket. Every single kiln comes with a special form or a special type of plug that goes into a socket. So before you even think about getting to kiln, you need to check it.
Aside from those two things, you’re going to have to have adequate space for your kiln. My kiln is at least two feet away from any wall or burnable substance. You’re not supposed to have anything burnable close to your kiln. This is a box that goes well over 2000 degrees.
It’s kind of sad because if you don’t have your own house, it’s a little bit difficult to set up a kiln. If you’re at the apartment, you probably don’t have access to the breaker box. And if you do, I’m willing to bet they’re not going to let you install an entire kiln. And even if you did get that far, even in a magical world where you got that far, you can’t really put a kiln, especially if you’re on the upper level, in an apartment, unless you live in a condo where you happen to have your own garage. It’s a very rare circumstance in which somebody can put a kiln in an apartment.
The other thing you kind of need definitely goes with the space thing I was talking about. You need enough space for the heat and air and chemicals that come out of the kiln to air out. This is especially important. Considering you might not want to buy an entire ventilation system for your kiln, I would suggest getting a ventilation system when you buy a kiln, although it is absolutely not necessary. The high majority of potters that I know do not have a ventilation system. But I will say having one definitely helps the longevity of your kiln.
Best Ceramic Kilns for Home Use
This is the part where we start talking about the actual kilns, the different types of kilns, the different brands of kilns. There are a lot of different brands of kilns. And no one brand is better than the other. But each brand does seem to specialize in a certain thing. For example, even heat kilns make fantastic tester kilns. They’re very small and they have like this panini press kind of style to them, where you put stuff in there. They’re fantastic for textiles. They’re really good.
Skutt Kilns are fantastic for production potters. Olympic Kilns come anywhere from really small, to really, really big. Amaco Kilns are super standard, especially for the homestead potter that’s constantly just selling work. Skutt Kilns are kind of the same way, but Skutt Kilns also go down to a small range. Unlike Olympic Kilnshttp://www.greatkilns.com/ which go from small to super-duper like industrial science big.
Let’s start off with Skutt. And let’s go with the Skutt all the way from the small to what I would suggest is the big.
Skutt KM FireBox 8×6 Kiln — best kiln for home studio
KM stands for KilnMaster. KilnMaster is the brand of kiln that Skutthttps://skutt.com/ usually puts out. Usually, whenever you see a Skutt-brand kiln, it’ll be a KM, something, something. The dimensions of the firebox are 8x8x6, and it only takes 115 volts. It’s actually not that expensive. I’m willing to bet that you can just plug this thing right in.
Technically speaking, it does say that these are for dolls and jewelry, but many potters that I know will usually use these as tester kilns. Tester kilns are basically small kilns. A tiny little box that you can fire one or two pieces in. They’re very good for jewelry, for making little tiny sculptures of dolls, for testing glazes and things of that nature. You can fit a large amount of them in a very small space. This is also awesome because it saves your back.
Skutt KM-818 — best pottery kiln
KM-818 is fairly good for hobbyists. This is a really good kiln for a beginner. The awesome thing about the KMT-818 is that it only takes a 30 amp breaker. Technically, every breaker is going to take less amps. For example, if your kiln takes 48 or 50 amps of energy, you need a 60 amp breaker. The KM-818 is going to need a 30 amp breaker, but it takes 26 or 27 amps of energy.
This size of kiln is considered a small size kiln. It’s awesome for hobby potters because it goes all the way up to cone 10. Also, it doesn’t take a lot to fill. You can fill it within two-three weeks. The KM-818 can probably fit 75-100.
Skutt KM-1627 — best electric kiln
KM-1627 starts getting into the real dedication point where you’re really producing work. If you have one of these, you need to be making stuff. Otherwise, the payout’s really aren’t that great. You’re also going to need a 90 amp breaker. I would suggest even a 100 amp breaker. It technically takes 68 amps-75 amps, but I would not chance it with something this large. And KM-1627 would probably take up a considerable amount of space.
This is how big they can go for even a hobbyist. We just went anywhere from the small kilns, which are tester kilns, all the way up to the closest. Which is still technically good for a hobby potter, but you really need to be producing some work to pay yourself back dividends from that type of not only electricity drain, but the amount of work you’re putting into something like that. At that point, you need to have a purpose behind what you’re doing and not just feel like doing it for practice. You better be having some products come out of something that large.
Do keep in mind that they all have very specific electrical requirements to them. The smaller kilns you can just plug right into an American-size plug. But the smaller kilns, usually around the 10 in height, 17, 18 inches tall, are the ones that not only need a dedicated breaker, but they also need their own amperage. 30, 40 amps, much like a washer or dryer. It really starts to get into the big boy phase when you go to the 60 amps. And those things are 24, 25, 26 tall. And then you start getting into the almost-industrial type of hobby potter.
And now we’ve reached the conclusion where I am going to give you one solid suggestion to the kiln that I would have bought. If I were a new person who had all those things and the knowledge that I have now, I would have absolutely bought the Skutt KM-818. It is small. It is compact.
The KM-818 is just small enough for someone who’s getting into the art world, and really still practicing their forms, and really still learning to work with their kiln, to fill it up in a month, do the bisque thing, have a nice control over it, have everything set up. And it comes with all the bells and whistles minus the touchscreen. It takes a low amount of amperage.
For most beginners who are looking to buy a kiln of this nature and this type, and they’re a hobby potter, they’re just getting into the art, it’s going to take them a while to even feel the 818.
Also interesting: How to build a pottery kiln.
Best kiln for home use — FAQ
Now, let’s talk about some of the things that I would have liked to know before I bought a kiln.
The one of the things that I really appreciate about the newer Skutt Kilns is that they allow venting at three different levels.
The touchscreen doesn’t cost that much to install. And it comes with an application that attaches to your phone that tells exactly how much money you spent each and every time you fire your kiln, when it’s done, what degrees it’s at whenever it’s on. It has Wi-Fi attached to it. Those are all things I don’t need, but I will say they’re all very comforting.
Please make sure that your kiln is away from anything burnable. And to be honest, you might get away with putting it a little closer to the walls. But don’t put it on a piece of carpet or wood. It’s a box of fire.
Also interesting: Kiln Wash Recipe.
Tester kilns or industrial-sized kilns
Now, as I said before, there are a bunch of different companies that make kilns. For example, I’ve been throwing around the word tester kiln a lot. Tester kilns are something that I’m personally interested in because they seem to be something that an intermediate to advanced person would like. For example, when I make my own glazes, I have to have a way to test them. But I’m not exactly going to make two or three little pieces of textiles and put them in my big kiln and fire it off.
Tester kilns are amazing because you can pretty much just plug them in. I think a lot of them just take regular old sockets, and you can put your two or three little pieces in there and they will test it out. This saves you time, space, money. They fire fairly quickly. And many of them go up to cone 10 even. This is also kind of good for someone who just wants to play around a little bit.
On the other side of the spectrum, there are industrial-sized kilns. They are, as the name suggests, for industry purposes. You can fit an entire huge cartload. These are meant for people who do very, very, very large sculptures. You get a large yield in a long amount of time, but that amount of yield will last you a long time. So this is a way to do a large body of work in one singular time. They’re very expensive. The setup for it is very, very complicated. I wouldn’t suggest them for a beginner, but I just wanted to show you the two different spectrums in between the massively colossus and the very tiny.
Also interesting: What is a kiln.
A pottery wheel or a kiln
There are a lot of things you need before even thinking about buying a kiln. You’re going to need a lot of space. A garage seems to do fine. You’re going to need a lot of time on your hands. You’re going to need a lot of money. This is not a non-expensive art. If you think you can buy a kiln and just be set, then you’re sadly mistaken.
In fact, I would heavily suggest buying a wheel before you think about buying a kiln. This is me not trying to discourage you or gate-keep you from the art form of ceramic art. I’ve seen far too many people with money burning holes in their pockets, who usually just retired and are like, “I just want something to do.” And so they go out and buy themselves a $3,000 kiln and a wheel thinking that it’ll be just as easy and rewarding as they see on YouTube. And it’s not. In my experience, they usually give up within a year.
But if you don’t know anything about wheels or kilns, and you think that you’re just gonna make dinky little bowls all day, and raking a bunch of cash and be a famous artist, you are sadly mistaken. That is very untrue. This craft takes a very long time, a lot of dedication, and you will definitely have to put in your 10,000 hours before you even get to a place where you are considered to be good enough to start selling your stuff if that is your interest. And I only named the wheel and the kiln, I didn’t mention the glazes, or the clay.
So I would heavily suggest you go get more experienced with mostly a wheel first instead of a kiln. Please get a little bit of practice in beforehand. At most, if you really have a money burning hole in your pocket, buy yourself a wheel and practice with a little bit. Because I would safely say, if you can’t center and make a bowl, there’s no reason you need to buy your own kiln.