Owning a personal kiln can take the hassle out of having to find a place to fire your clay projects. At the same time, purchasing a kiln takes an investment of money and that alone can complicate the process. After all, you want to be sure you’re getting the best kiln possible for your money.
That’s why we’ve put together this guide on the best pottery kiln for beginners. As you gain experience in working with clay and various kilns, you’ll learn the characteristics of a good kiln and what you need in particular for your situation.
But rather than spending years going through trial and error, we’ve consolidated years of experience into this handy guide. After you’re finished reading this, you’ll know more about what a pottery kiln for beginners is and how to make the most of that investment before you’ve even made the purchase.
Are you excited to purchase your first ceramic kiln? Before we get to our list of pottery kilns for beginners, let’s talk about what you should consider.
Got no time to read? Here are our best picks and why we picked them.
|Kiln Name||Why We Picked It|
|RapidFire’s Tabletop Kiln||Compact, portable, and front loading.|
|Paragon Dragon Front-Loading Kiln||Reaches temps of 2,350 degrees Farenheight|
|Skutt Firebox 8 Kiln||Convenient programming options|
|Paragon Caldera Kiln||Great for classroom or pottery studio|
|Skutt 1014 GlassMaster kiln||Great for glass projects|
|Amaco Excel 22-inch Kiln||Fires up to cone 10|
|Olympic MAS1823HE Kiln||Easy programmable controller|
|FireBox 8×6||Perfect Starter Kiln|
What to Consider When Buying a Pottery Kiln
As you search through pottery kiln listings, here are a few characteristics you’ll want to keep in mind. These features will help you set certain kilns apart from the rest in order to find the one that best suits your needs.
There are a few things you’ll want to pay attention to when it comes to your budget for a beginner’s kiln. Obviously the price of the main unit is going to be the first concern, especially given you will have to pay a few hundred dollars to purchase a quality setup.
That said, you also want to consider pricing of the support features that go with a kiln. This includes accessories such as kiln furniture, as well as how much power each firing will pull, thus costing you more on your power bill. Most ceramic kilns that heat up faster may draw more energy, but those that heat up slower could do the same as well.
Paying attention to the size of your kiln matters when it comes to both external and interior measurements. For example, you’ll want to make sure that the assembled kiln can fit through whatever size doorway you have to your studio.
If this studio is located within your garage, it’s not as big a deal as if the studio was located in a basement where the only access is a pedestrian door. Smaller kilns are easier to move around, but they may be too small for your particular pottery studio.
That said, internal sizing matters as well. Getting your ceramics kiln in the house is one thing, but being able to place your project within said kiln is another. If you’re someone who creates larger works, you’ll want to prioritize looking for a large internal firing chamber over other characteristics.
Many kilns are often categorized by their size, but a small kiln can accomplish just as much as large kilns can. The size kiln you choose should be based on your available room, as well as how much firing you plan on doing.
Many potters will choose some of the smallest kilns over other kilns because their home kiln is meant for special projects.
One subsequent factor of size is weight. This may be something you want to pay attention to as well, since you may need to move the kiln at a later time. While weight doesn’t necessarily affect the kiln’s ability to heat up and/or fire properly, it’s a consideration that might rank high on your list.
The kilns we’ve featured below are either top- or front-loading kilns. While there are many arguments for both types of kilns, the difference really lies in what your preference is.
For example, top-loading kilns tend to have deeper firing chambers that accept taller pieces. However, there are front-loading kilns with similar firing chamber dimensions as well. Many top-loading kilns also incorporate fire kiln bricks to retain heat.
That said, top-loading kilns designed for large pieces can also allow you to stack layers to fire more projects at once. Older models might have lids that don’t open fully, which can restrict movement. However, a lot of newer models have adapted by using spring-assist mechanisms.
Front-load kilns are safer in some cases, since you won’t have to lean over the kiln itself to place your work within. They also make it easier to work with if you’re working on larger or heavier projects. Many smaller kilns are front-loading to fire pottery.
When it comes to pricing, both types of kilns can be affordable and/or expensive. Price does not typically dictate which type of loading you’ll receive. It’s more about how the manufacturer wanted to design the kiln itself than anything else.
Investing in Your Own Kiln
When choosing your own kiln, think about how you’d like to load your pottery pieces and you should have a better idea of which types of kilns to look for. A top-loading kiln could work best for your space, or a front-loading kiln could be just the ticket.
As a beginner, you know that most kilns are basically like large ovens that you bake your pottery in. However, having the advantage of a controller can make the (not-so) simple process a whole lot easier.
For example, some of the controllers on this list are digital, meaning they automate and monitor the firing process so you don’t have to. Many include programs that can be chosen for particular types of materials, while others offer the option to create your own custom programs as well.
The best controllers for beginner kilns are those that automate the process in an easy-to-understand manner. They’re meant to be there as a convenience, rather than a hang-up.
As you’ll learn going through our list of the best kilns for beginners, achieving a high maximum firing temperature can make it worth paying a bit extra.
In fact, there’s a strategy of choosing a kiln with a higher maximum firing temperature, as the unit will likely not be able to achieve that kiln temperature as time (and firings) goes on. Thicker bricks help to insulate a large kiln, so high temperatures are possible, but thicker bricks don’t always make for an efficient kiln either.
Besides choosing kilns that fire to as high a temperature as possible, you’ll also want to consider what medium you’re working with. Pottery kilns range anywhere from 1,800 to 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on what type of clay and/or glaze you’re firing.
Glass doesn’t require such a high temperature, but it’s a good idea to get a kiln that can support multiple types of firings in case you choose to branch out in the future.
As we mentioned with controllers, there are particular presets you can choose from in order to fire your pottery. Depending on the type of material you’re working with, you could choose from a set of preset programs that would automate the entire process for you.
For some beginners interested in pottery, these presets can help reduce the variability of one component so they can focus on working the clay, not the kiln.
If you’re someone who’s not as interested in figuring out the kiln as you are manipulating clay, choosing a kiln with presets already installed could mean a world of difference.
Buying a kiln is expensive enough, but sometimes the best kilns are those that come with a lot of accessories. After all, you are going to end up purchasing these materials later on, so consolidating that search into one can save both time and money in some cases.
Many of the kilns we’ve chosen for our list include kiln furniture, which is just a fancy way of describing the shelving and other components typically found within a kiln. Basic furniture items such as shelves are often included, but you will need to likely invest in specialized accessories with a separate purchase.
Best Pottery Kiln for Beginners
Here’s our list of the best pottery kilns for beginners. You’d be hard-pressed not to choose the right pottery kiln from these picks.
RapidFire Tabletop Kiln
We chose to include RapidFire’s Tabletop Kiln on our list for the value built into this particular setup. With this tabletop kiln, firing pottery in your own home is possible and potentially even more affordable than you may have thought.
This front-loading kiln is compact and portable. The top features a carry handle and the entire unit only weighs about 12 pounds. While it’s not a good alternative for casting procedures, it will work for jewelry making, enameling, glass melting, ceramic firing, heat treating metals, and more.
One of the best things about this kiln is that you won’t have to have any special wiring to run it in your own home. The kiln runs off household 120V power for even, efficient heating. Plus, it can reach temperatures of 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit in 8-10 minutes. The firing chamber measures 6 inches by 6 inches by 5 inches.
With an embedded heating element, high-temperature thermocouple, and digital PID controller, this tabletop kiln is also available with programmable ramping controllers. Your first burn off with the RapidFire Tabletop Kiln will result in a black interior, but after the second firing, the white returns.
- Reaches temps of 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit
- No automatic presets for specific materials
Paragon Dragon Front-Loading Kiln
For those of you who are a bit more serious about pottery kilns and are looking for a more industrial setup, the Paragon Dragon Front-Loading Kiln has everything you need to get started the right way.
This ceramic kiln can reach temperatures of up to 2,350 degrees Fahrenheit, or Cone 10. The extra insulation provided by the 4 inch thick walls, made up of 3 inches of firebrick and 1 inch of ceramic fiber block, ensures even heating that’s supported by the 4.5 inch thick firebrick floor.
Paragon’s Dragon kiln is 9 cubic feet, or 24 inches by 24 inches by 27 inches tall. It includes two spring-loaded latches to close the firing chamber door, as well as dual built-in peepholes. Fuses are built in as well, and the entire unit runs off 208V or 240V in single or three phase variants.
Paragon fits this kiln with the Orton Sentry 2.0 electronic controller that includes user-programmable firing options, as well as a programmed cool-down feature. Though the kiln fires up to Cone 10, the exterior typically reaches a maximum temperature of 170 degrees Fahrenheit.
This kiln is finished in black with a stainless steel optional case. An optional two-foot stand can be placed on casters if desired. An additional door element provides faster heating, while an available furniture kit includes shelves, posts, and a bag of kiln wash.
- Orton Sentry 2.0 electronic controller
- Reaches temps of 2,350 degrees Fahrenheit (Cone 10)
- Built from firebrick and ceramic fiber block
- May require very specific electrical requirements for 208V or 240V
Skutt FireBox 8 Kiln
Skutt kilns are a great investment for all experience levels, including beginners. The Skutt Firebox 8 Kiln is no exception, especially given how much it includes within such a small package.
For instance, this particular kiln is ideal for glass fusing, ceramics, enameling, knife making, and precious metal clay. Within 20 minutes, this kiln can reach temperatures of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to fuse glass. Plus, it can easily be plugged into your 120V home outlet.
One of the coolest things about this Skutt kiln is that you can unbuckle the body from the floor. This allows you unrestricted access to the interior of the kiln itself, which measures 8 inches by 8 inches by 4.5 inches.
Once you’ve assembled your piece within this space, you can easily replace the body and lid and buckle them back in while firing. Compact and portable, this kiln from Skutt also includes a wooden handle that’s cool to the touch.
Speaking of the lid, it’s possible to open it past 90 degrees with an ungloved hand. The lid is hinged to provide its own support so you don’t have to. The easy-to-read digital pyrometer runs off a single 9-volt battery, plus an available accessory kit includes everything you need to get started.
Skutt includes the GlassMaster LT3 Button Controller on this model. You’ll be able to store up to 5 programs at a time, with up to 8 segments each. There’s also an available Skutt Glass Fire Mode, from which you can choose Fuse, Tack Fuse, or Slump. A two-year manufacturer’s warranty on the entire thing protects your investment.
- Reaches temperatures of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit
- GlassMaster LT3 Button Controller with programming options
- Could be limited by the interior space for taller projects
Skutt FireBox 8×6 Kiln
Skutt has another great kiln you should check out, the FireBox 8×6. This particular kiln is also suited to beginners, though it may not offer some of the same features as the FireBox 8 kiln. Really, you can’t go wrong with either one.
This is a perfect starter kiln if you’re not sure pottery might be the right hobby for you. It can handle firing metal, clay, ceramics, and glass by plugging into your standard 120V household outlet. The maximum temperature of Cone 6 covers a lot when it comes to getting started with kilns.
The firing chamber on this Skutt ceramic kiln is 8 inches by 8 inches by 6 inches. You can choose from preset programs for firing glass or ceramics, or create custom programs to fire precious metal clay or jewelry, fuse and slump glass pieces, or anneal and temper. Included as well is a shelf kit, kiln wash, and an instructional DVD to get you started.
- Preset programs for firing
- Custom programming options
- Firing chamber is 8 inches by 8 inches by 6 inches
- Basic ceramic kiln with little in the way of advanced features
Paragon Caldera Kiln
Paragon also sells the Caldera Kiln, another great option when it comes to beginner kilns. This particular model works well in a classroom and/or home pottery studio, even complementing larger kilns as a test firing unit for glazes.
Running off 120V, this ceramic kiln can reach temperatures of Cone 10, or 2,350 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s high enough to slump, fuse, and sag glass or fire ceramics, porcelain, and stoneware. This unit is made in the USA and features a 12-month warranty that protects your investment.
The firing chamber on this Paragon Caldera kiln measures 8 inches by 8 inches by 6.75 inches total. Affordable, portable, and stackable, these units are built to last with heat-dissipating, coiled element connectors and a thermocouple that’s protected by a high-nickel stainless steel sheath.
The firebricks within the Caldera kiln are dropped and recessed within L-shaped notches for longer-lasting kiln walls. The bricks themselves are 2.5 inches thick. Caldera kilns also include a vented switchbox and heavy-duty steel stand that sits atop rubber feet.
A Sentry Xpress Digital Controller will delight many beginners who learn just how easy it is to run a ceramic kiln with this particular setup. You can even choose from Ramp-Hold or Cone-Fire modes via a three-key operation system.
An on/off toggle switch for idle works great for saving money. Programs are available, with up to 8 segments each, along with a Single Speed Mode. Temperatures are always displayed throughout firing and cooling for your reference.
- 1-year warranty
- Sentry Xpress Digital Controller
- Cone 10 capabilities
- L-shaped firebrick notches may make replacement difficult in the future
Skutt 1014 GlassMaster Kiln
Don’t let the name of this particular kiln fool you. While it might be the Skutt 1014 GlassMaster kiln, it’s also useful for pottery firing as well.
As the name does suggest, however, this kiln includes a GlassMaster Controller as well as an 8 inch stand. The hinged control box complements a keypad that allows for quick and simple navigation.
This Skutt GlassMaster kiln reaches maximum temperatures of up to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. It runs off 208V or 240V, so you will need additional wiring for your home if you only have 120V. That said, the firing chamber dimensions are 23.5 inches by 13.5 inches and include porcelain peep plugs that work well for glass projects.
This ceramic kiln also includes an accessories kit with a 19.5 inch full shelf and four 5 inch posts.
- Maximum temperature of 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit
- Keypad navigation
- Porcelain peep plugs for glass
- Requires 208V or 240V power
Amaco Excel 22-Inch Deep Select Fire Kiln
If you’re looking for a top-load kiln that features a deep internal firing chamber, the Amaco Excel 22-inch Kiln should be on your short list. This particular kiln can fire up to Cone 10 and features a firing chamber that measures 22 inches by 17.5 inches.
Amaco’s Excel runs off either 208V or 240V power and features a steel stand with rubber feet to protect your flooring. This modular design includes corrosion-resistant lug connectors, reversible slabs, and Kanthal A-1 elements.
The stainless steel construction gives it a sophisticated look, while a spring-assisted lid helps when you need to access the interior of the kiln itself. Amaco runs this particular ceramic kiln on a Select Fire computer controller.
- Fires up to Cone 10
- Reversible slabs
- Spring-assisted lid
- Top-load kiln may be hard for some to work with
Olympic MAS1823HE Kiln
Olympic is a well-known brand in the industry, and the Olympic MAS1823HE Kiln is no exception to the brand’s reputation. It might be the last kiln on our list, but it’s certainly no slouch when it comes to firing your pottery projects to perfection.
This particular Olympic kiln reaches temperatures of up to 2,350 degrees Fahrenheit, or Cone 10. The unit runs off 220V or 240V power. The high performance heating and controlled cooling is maintained by balanced heating elements. However, the electrical box design includes heat shields as well as top and bottom perforations for cooling.
The firing chamber of this Olympic ceramic kiln is kept hot by 3 inch thick fire bricks and measures 17.5 inches by 22.5 inches. A vent kit is sold separately but a furniture kit is included. Within this furniture kit are an octagon shelf, 4 total half shelves, a half-dozen each of 4, 6, and 8 inch square posts, and a pound of kiln wash.
Olympic features a Bartlett V6-CF programmable controller on this model, which also has a one-year limited warranty.
- Cone 10 capable
- Bartlett V6-CF programmable controller
- Included furniture kit
- Vent kit sold separately
Types of Pottery Kilns
There are two main types of pottery kilns: electric and gas. Let’s take a closer look at each type.
Many a home kiln runs off electricity. These electric kiln models either plug straight into a 120V home outlet or a 208V/220V/240V outlet. Electric kiln units typically include an insulated chamber that heats up with a heating element. As the kiln heats, electric kilns retain temperature ranges with less effort, since they can easily draw power to boost temperatures.
Most ceramic kiln models are electric. Small kilns work well when they are electric, since it doesn’t take much to heat up smaller kiln elements. At the same time, a larger kiln doesn’t have to work as hard to maintain temperatures if it is electric powered.
If you plan on using a gas kiln for your home studio, you will need to obtain a permit. These gas kilns run off either propane or natural gas and tend to be larger kilns in size. Gas kilns resemble electric kilns in their overall look, and the firing process remains relatively the same.
Kiln vs. Burnout Oven vs. Melting Furnace
As you search through the listings for various kilns, you’ll likely come across entries of “burnout ovens” and “melting furnaces.” So what are the main differences between these units and a ceramic kiln?
This difference is especially important to know if you’re looking for a pottery kiln in particular. After all, you don’t want to invest in a setup and then get it home and out of the box to find out that you’ve purchased the wrong machine for your intended use.
To summarize briefly, burnout ovens can be likened to incinerators. While they don’t burn the object placed within the oven itself, any contaminants or other unwanted materials are burned off in a sort of cleansing process. This is much different than the “curing” process that happens in a pottery kiln.
Similarly, melting furnaces are intended to heat metals up to the point where they become liquid. These are also referred to as induction furnaces. Most melting furnaces contain a crucible, so that’s a keyword you can look for if you’re not sure whether or not a kiln you’re looking at is actually a melting furnace.
We hope you’ve found this article on pottery kilns for beginners useful in your search for your first kiln. It’s a momentous occasion we’re honored to be a part of. The important thing to remember is that while there are certainly plenty of great starter ceramic kilns out there, it’s all about what you can make with your brand new kiln that matters most.