Sunday, November 6, 2011

Cone Sitter Kilns vs Digital Kilns

People often ask me what the difference is between electric automatic kilns and electric manual kilns.  Digital kilns offer a lot in convenience.  However, in my own studio I'll always have one or two manual kilns because they offer some advantages that the digital kilns don't.
Manual Kiln Pros:
  • Less electrical components to replace.
  • No error message to stop your firings.  Let's say you have an old kiln and it needs extra time to reach target temperature, but it will get there.  The manual kiln won't get shut off by the computer, which is designed to monitor the rate of temperature increase, and halt the firing if the increase is slower than it's supposed to be.
  • You can stack or remove your kiln rings.  This comes in VERY handy if you plan to fire different sized loads.
  • You have the option of setting up a wall mounted digital controller, which let's you use the best of both worlds.

Digital Automatic Kiln Pros:
  • No need to "baby sit" your kiln, as the controller does the firing for you.
  • Convenience of customized programs.  This allows you to fire the kiln in the EXACT amount of time you desire.
  • More firing features such as delay and hold time.  Delay and hold come in very handy for ceramics, and are absolutely necessary for glass.
  • Error messages.  Although I listed this in the last category as a hindrance, error messages can actually provide some valuable information if your kiln were to malfunction.
  • Built in temperature display.  Gotta love knowing what temperature your kiln is currently at.
So there's actually more benefit to having an automatic kiln, and if I were to setup a new studio, that would be my first choice.  However, there ARE advantages to having a manual kiln.  
Then there's the Firemate model kiln made by Cress...

These Firemate kilns are automatic, but not digital!  Cress is the only manufacturer who makes an electric kiln, which operates by a motorized thumbwheel.  This thumbwheel slowly increases the temperature of your kiln until it reaches target temperature. This still doesn't offer some of the conveniences of an automatic digital kiln, but is a step up from the standard manual kilns.

In an ideal situation, I'd choose to have one automatic kiln, one manual/stackable kiln, and one Firemate kiln.  This kind of setup would allow you to have the best of both worlds, and a variety of options depending on your firing needs.

No comments:

Post a Comment