Element(ry) My Dear Kiln Repairer…

Look what I got…


The post’s title seems to be a bit misleading in retrospect. I got the elements a week or so ago and was waiting for a warmer day to spend in the cold basement replacing them. So yesterday it was balmy out… typical January weather in KY (and certainly nothing to be concerned about). After spending all day I felt a little stoogie about the whole endeavor…


I replaced the elements first because I figured even if that wasn’t the problem, it was long overdue as I haven’t changed them since I got the kiln and I’ve never changed them on this brand of kiln. Coneart kilns have a groove that the element rests in and the entry gap is just slightly smaller than the diameter of the element itself. Although this is a pain to remove the old one because if one is not gingerly about it the area of the joint between the bricks can easily break off, it really is simple to put the new ones in. See how nice and clean it looks for a change…


Here’s a closeup…


Anyway, after that I put in a new thermocouple and tested it. I opened the kiln at about 900 degrees and the middle elements still were not glowing. Next, I replaced the associated relay and tested again… no luck. So now I don’t have any idea what to do although it’s been suggested that at 900 degrees or so maybe the middle elements just aren’t required yet. Guess I have to talk to someone at Coneart or do the test again only at a significantly higher temp. While in this mode I decided to clean my shelves and kilnwash them and the two new ones I got. It seemed like a good time to try Mr. Jeff Campana’s self-leveling kilnwash recipe that one can read about here if you get a hankerin’. Aside from the self leveling aspect, Jeff has replaced half of the EPK with calcined kaolin (glomax… which I cannot believe that I had on hand. Must’ve purchased it over 6 years ago and can’t for the life of me figure out why I got it) and added Darvan 7, ostensibly to reduce the shrinkage of the kilnwash. Darvan is a deflocculant and I never get tired of the apparent magic of adding a deflocculant to a pasty mess and seeing it instantly get less viscous. Here’s a short video about flocculated and deflocculated glaze preparation by the inimitable John Britt…

I followed the recipe to a T but tried to use a roller and the shelf soaked up the water in the kilnwash instantly. After removing that, I soaked the shelf with more water and tried a brush. This worked much better but not what I wanted exactly… so I tried something else. I took one of my brand new shelves and ran it under the kitchen sink until it was completely saturated then poured the kilnwash out of a measuring cup and let it “level” out. There was much tilting of the shelf back and forth to get coverage but look at this beautiful pool of kilnwash on the new shelf…


It dried nicely too. I don’t usually get carried away like this on this type of activity but thought that may the thing to do next would be to add a little ridge along the perimeter of the shelf and “fill” the space with a perfectly level shallow pond… we’ll see. Last but not least, there’s been a lot of shellacking goin’ on. This pic has all the pieces with two of the three coats of shellac…


Might be able to fire in another month or so.

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5 Responses to “Element(ry) My Dear Kiln Repairer…”

  1. meredith Says:

    this is a good time of year to do the maintenance. I hope you are enjoying a mild winter like we are.

  2. Herb Says:

    This past summer my kiln wouldn’t go up to temp, so I thought I had a a bad relay. As I was going to replace the relay, I noticed that one of the feeder wires which supply power to that relay has burned through. I ordered some ring connectors and feeder wire, and made a replacement, and the kiln works fine.’Check those power feeder wires.

  3. Po-Wen Liu Says:

    Hi Jim, I can email you an instruction on how to do “Full Power Test” to check relays. I know Cone Art kiln well.
    Natural Green Pottery/ Po-Wen Liu ; p_liu@uncg.edu

  4. ang Says:

    jim!!! awesome work, hope you get that kiln sorted schnappy!!!

  5. Herb Says:

    If your kiln is computer controlled, it should have thrown an error code, which will help you figure out what the problem is. It probably also has diagnostics which will help you; amperage readings for the different sections will tell you if you have an open circuit, you should get amp readings like 14 amps (or whatever your kiln elements should be) for all three sections. If you don’t get readings, it means you have open circuit, which could be broken element, bad relay, or bad feeder wire. Checking this way, you don’t have to wait for the kiln to get 900 F or higher to check the circuit.
    If you do replace the relay, you might as well replace all of them at the same time, because the other two are probably going to go soon as well.

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