If you’re looking to find a kiln that will fire your precious metal clay (PMC) projects, you’ve come to the right place.
We’ve put together a guide on the best kilns for metal clay, complete with everything you need to know to make an informed purchase. By the time you’re finished with this article, you’ll not only know more about these metal clay kilns, but you’ll also be able to choose the right one for your particular situation.
Ready to learn more about the perfect kiln for PMC? Let’s get started.
Got no time to read? Here are our best picks and why we picked them.
|Kiln Name||Why We Picked It|
|Skutt Firebox 8 x 6 Kiln||Easy to use pre-set programs|
|Skutt Firebox 8||Versatile and portable|
|Tabletop Furnace Company RapidFire Tabletop Kiln||Front loading with lots of automation features|
What to Consider When Buying a Kiln for Metal Clay
Here are a few characteristics you’ll want to pay attention to as you browse through PMC kilns.
As with any purchase, you’ll want to look at your finances first. Metal clay kilns can cost a fair amount, but they’re definitely a worthy investment if you plan on firing PMC projects.
Relatively speaking, some of your basic kilns are going to cost around $500-$700. These kilns are enough to get you started and may or may not include kiln furniture. Most of these kilns are large enough to fit the majority of projects, but there are larger kilns available. With more room, however, comes a higher price point.
You’ll want to verify the size of both the metal clay kiln itself, as well as the interior chamber. If you plan on choosing a kiln that loads from the top, you’ll also need to verify height requirements.
Many of the tabletop kilns out there are just that: optimally sized kilns meant for sitting upon a workbench. Compact kilns like these are great for firing glass, annealing beads, and any other processes within the jewelry making art.
These tabletop kilns work well in areas where space is limited. If your work is small enough to fit in these kilns, you could also save on power bills. You won’t have to heat such a large unit, and the kiln should also reach temperature faster as well.
At the same time, having a larger unit could save you money, too. For example, if you plan on firing projects for other artists, or even in a classroom setting, larger kilns can make a huge difference.
The majority of the kilns on our list run off your typical three-prong outlet, or 120V. This makes it easy to plug your kiln in and start the warming process. However, you should double check the power requirements on any kiln you’re considering to make sure it fits with the power capabilities you have in your work space.
Besides price and size, temperature range is one of the most important features to consider as you look at PMC kilns. While the lower part of the range might not be as important to you as the higher end of the spectrum, you should still carefully consider this factor.
Whatever material you work most with should have a label on it that specifies a certain firing temperature. It’s a good idea to shoot a few hundred degrees above this temperature if you can. Clays slowly lose the ability to reach higher temperatures with each firing, so having that cushion can mean extending the lifetime of your firings.
As you scroll through kiln options, you may see a note about cone temperatures. Metal clay kilns that achieve a Cone 6 rating are ideal for firing metal clays.
Kiln Interior Materials
There are two main different types of kiln interior materials you’ll see on most commercially available precious metal kilns: brick and ceramic fiber.
Kilns with firebrick interiors can take longer to heat up than those with ceramic fiber. However, they can handle higher temperatures. Since the bricks themselves are heavy and fragile, they’re not the best when it comes to portability. And because the heating elements are exposed, they can break more easily. That said, replacing these elements isn’t as much of a hassle as it sounds.
Since brick-interior kilns are able to reach higher temperatures, they are ideal for firing metal, glass, enamel, and porcelain. Alternately, these kilns are slow to cool, so annealing is possible.
“Muffle,” or ceramic fiberboard kilns heat up much quicker than firebrick interior kilns. While that one-piece shell interior translates to a shorter firing time, it can also mean that the entire ceramic fiber interior must be replaced when the heating element goes out. A ceramic fiber kiln is much more mobile, but it also can’t reach temperatures higher than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
When it comes to reaching into the kiln, it’s not much different than doing your laundry. Like most washing machines and even dryers, kilns are either top- or front-load. This refers to how you are able to access the interior of the kiln.
Top loading kilns are typically the cheaper of the two. Most top-load kiln models require you to remove or lift the lid in order to get to the interior, which can be difficult for some folks, especially if your kiln is already high off the ground. Larger top-load kilns can make it easier to fill all the shelving within, since you won’t have to contend with a door.
On the other hand, front-load kilns can optimize space as well. These kilns are easier for moving pieces in and out, since they work similar to a refrigerator. If you’re someone who needs to remove shelves or anything else during the firing, front-load kilns allow you to do that. This is especially true if you are working with enameled pieces that must be removed quickly at higher temperatures.
The first kilns may have been the equivalent of a large oven, but these days, there’s plenty of technology available to help you set the firing process up and then leave the kiln to do its thing. These programs are referred to as “controllers” and can either be manual or digital.
As you may have guessed, manual controllers don’t have much automation built into them. In fact, they only include basic features. There’s an on/off switch and a dial to increase/decrease the temperature. Kilns with manual controllers must be started at the lowest setting and any temperature changes have to be made by hand.
Since you have to do everything yourself, these machines are a bit cheaper than those with digital controllers. Note that manual-controlled kilns cannot anneal.
A large portion of the kilns on our list are digitally controlled. These controllers are more expensive but aren’t as intuitive as manual controllers. However, they can allow you time to work on other projects while your kiln fires what you’ve already completed.
Digital controllers allow you to adjust the temperature, even at a scheduled rate if desired. You can skip steps within the firing process as well, and once the firing process is complete, the kiln will also turn itself off. Having a digital controller can be a lifesaver in some cases, especially those with pre-set firing programs.
As we mentioned earlier, if you decide to branch out and try your hand at other types of jewelry making, you’ll want to have a kiln that can take on those projects as well. Having a single kiln that can handle multiple types of firings adds an element of versatility that will save you money and time in the long run. You won’t have to worry about investing in another setup, and any time you may have spent on researching a kiln could be better spent learning more about your new hobby.
There are plenty of accessories to choose from when it comes to kilns. Examples include kiln shelves, kiln furniture, kiln forks, supporting media, copper tongs, bead doors, fiber blankets, and many other materials. Kiln shelves come in a variety of types and sizes.
Bead doors and viewing ports are a few of the more sought-after accessories or built-in components. Bead doors give you the ability to work within a small space, while viewing doors ensure you have an eye on your work at all times. Look for these components if they’re critical to your creative processes.
Best Metal Clay Kilns
Skutt Firebox 8 x 6 Kiln
The Skutt Firebox 8 x 6 Kiln should be first on your list if you’re new to the firing world. This starter kiln was created with the beginner in mind, but that doesn’t mean you have to make any sacrifices when it comes to quality.
For example, this kiln runs off 120V and fires ceramics, glass, and PMC. There are preset programs you can choose from for ceramics and glass, as well as custom programs you can set up. No matter if you’re annealing, tempering, fusing or slumping glass pieces, or even firing PMC or silver/gold jewelry, this kiln has you covered. This kiln is able to fire up to Cone 6, or 2,250 degrees Fahrenheit.
Included with this top-loading kiln are a kiln shelf kit, kiln wash, and an instructional DVD to get you started. Compact enough to fit on a standard workbench, this kiln gets you the most bang for your buck. Plus, the wood handle keeps your fingers safe for the next project.
- Large chamber (8 inches by 8 inches by 6 inches)
- Kiln shelf and wash included
- No bead doors or viewing window
Skutt FireBox 8 Kiln
Another great starter kiln is the Skutt FireBox 8 Kiln. With a maximum temperature of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, this particular kiln has plenty of power and capability to get you started in PMC. The kiln can be plugged into a typical home outlet and heats up to fuse glass within 20 minutes.
At first glance, this Skutt kiln looks to resemble any other top-load kiln, but look closer. The firing chamber itself is made up of three parts: the kiln floor, walls, and lid. The base is buckled to the exterior structure of the kiln for stability. The lid hinges back over 90 degrees so that you can reach in without having to worry about a hot kiln lid. However, the body of the kiln also unlocks from the bottom and allows you to situate a large piece within the kiln before replacing the body and lid.
Skutt fits this kiln with a wooden handle that keeps cool to the touch. The kiln is incredibly portable, even with an interior chamber of 8 inches by 8 inches by 4.5 inches. The digital pyrometer is easy to read and runs off an included 9 volt battery. You’ve also got the advantage of the GlassMaster LT3 Button Controller, which can write and store up to 5 programs with up to 8 segments each.
Also included on this kiln is the Skutt Glass Fire Mode. In this mode, you can choose Fuse, Tack Fuse, or Slump and pick a speed based on the size and thickness of your piece. A 2-year manufacturer’s warranty keeps your purchase protected. Plus, Skutt throws in a shelf that’s 7 inches square by half an inch thick, along with three 1-inch supporting posts, a sample sheet of fiber blanket, and one pound of kiln wash.
- Large firing chamber size
- Portable, versatile design
- 2-year manufacturer warranty
- Top-load design not compatible with glass bead-making projects
Tabletop Furnace Company RapidFire Tabletop Kiln
If you’re looking for a bit more automation from your PMC kiln, check out the Tabletop Furnace Company RapidFire Tabletop Kiln. This model works well for firing ceramics and metal clays, as well as glaze testing, enameling, glass fusing, and many other functions.
Unlike the other two kilns on our list, this kiln is front-loading. The door itself latches to the body once closed and the whole unit weighs just over 10 pounds. The firing chamber itself is 6 inches by 6 inches by 5 inches and is embedded with a heating element.
There are plenty of technical features available on this particular model, including a programmable digital controller with 30 settings. The high-brightness, large LED display makes it easy to adjust your settings. With alarm outputs and 0.2% accuracy over the entire input range, there are plenty of modern comforts to enjoy on this kiln.
Even the cooling fan is lit on this kiln. Made in the USA, this kiln rapidly heats up to 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit to sinter your PMC projects to perfection.
- Front-loading kiln type
- Made in USA
- Heats up to 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit
- Exposed heating elements can be tricky to maneuver around
How Precious Metal Clay Kilns Differ
Most people think of ceramic kilns when they hear the term “kiln,” but PMC kilns are a bit different than your standard ceramic kiln.
For example, ceramic kilns need about two feet of room on each side of them in order to fire safely. Precious metal clay kilns don’t require such an area, though it is a good idea to keep the space around your kiln open for safety. You should also let the kiln cool before working around it.
Especially in jewelry making, you’ll need to fire your kiln up to upwards of 1,650 degrees Fahrenheit. Kilns should be able to maintain these high temperatures for anywhere from 10 minutes to 4 hours if necessary. These temperatures allow for the sintering that’s characteristic of PMC firing. In contrast, stoneware and porcelain firings require higher temperatures.
Alternative Methods to Fire Metal Clay Pieces
There are a few other ways you can fire your PMC pieces if you don’t want to use a kiln. While kilns are certainly one of the more precise ways to fire these types of projects, sometimes alternative methods work well in a pinch.
For instance, firing metal clay projects can be done using a butane torch, hot pot, or gas stove. Any method you use should heat up the clay enough to initiate the sintering process. As the water and binding materials burn/melt away, the metal itself should form together.
Many of these alternate methods of firing work best for small pieces, such as rings, earrings, and other types of jewelry, or tiny figurines. You won’t have to spend time heating up a large piece of metal clay, and, at the same time, you won’t need to spend the money to heat a large metal clay kiln for just a single object you can hold in the palm of your hand.
We hope you’ve found this guide useful in picking out which precious metal clay kiln is right for you. Now that you’ve got a better idea of what you need and which features to look out for, you can spend more time in your studio and less time poring over web pages. Let your creativity burn bright with your new PMC kiln.