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Author Topic: Thinking about buying a tiny kiln  (Read 1590 times)
Gerry Hunter
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« on: December 09, 2014, 09:01:39 am »

I've a bit of extra money in a form that isn't redeemable in cash but expires soon. So I'm looking to make use of it.
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I'm debating the purchase of a small tabletop kiln. specifically http://www.paragonweb.com/QuikFire_6.cfm 
Quote
The QuikFire is rated to 2000°F. It fires on 120 volts and needs no other heating source. At only 1560 watts, it uses less power than many hair driers.


it's supposed to be good for: ceramics, glass fusing, enameling, and china painting. which could be fun in and of itself, but it's also the right temperature for things like copper precious metal clay work; and wouldn't you know it, I happen to have a recipe for making copper precious metal clay in bulk for less than half the cost of the commercial stuff (might take some experimentation to get it just right).

And on top of that it looks like that temperature would be about right for melting and casting both brass and aluminum. I might have made mention before that I have a 3d printer that prints in PLA, a plastic that I can then set in a block of plaster and heat to burn out the (starch based and nontoxic) plastic to leave an empty plaster mold for casting metals in.

But I'm not so much of a dreamer that I don't like to hear advice from those more experienced than I. I have the money but even I don't like spending funds poorly.

so, crafty folks, given the temperature: would the ceramics aspect be viable for glazing and making things other than ash trays and flower pots? Is it viable for aluminum and brass ingots to be melted and poured into molds?

would you say this sounds worthy of a months rent worth of spare change?
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Narsil
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« Reply #1 on: December 09, 2014, 12:09:54 pm »


I'm a bit dubious that something like that would be very effective at melting either aluminium or brass. The quoted maximum temperature isn't that  much higher than the melting point of aluminium, and you need a substantial amount of extra heat for casting and there is no guarantee that it will reach the theoretical max temp.

Casting aluminium and copper alloys is usually done with a gas torch and a metal casting furnace has somewhat different requirements from a ceramics one. I suspect that be main issue is that ceramics furnaces are intended to be run through a complete heating and cooling cycle closed up so you can get away with much lower heating power compared to a metal melting one which needs to be able to maintain temperature with the top open.

On the plus side  a small gas fired furnace is not at all a difficult thing to make.
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« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2014, 03:58:52 pm »

I can't comment on the metal bits (but that's OK, Narsil has nailed that!) but I'd be dubious about its usability for ceramics. At a max of 2000°F / 1090°C your range of clays will be severely limited. You wouldn't be able to get the temps required to fire anything but a small range of Earthenware and Terracotta clays. It might work well for firing glazes onto pieces though (either the limited clays it can do or by getting bisque blanks from somewhere). If you planned to do glazes in it (or, probably ceramics in general coz they can be right funny about cooking methods), then you'll probably want the control system PCB that the blurb mentions as well so you've got more control than on/off.

It does look pretty cool for what it appear to be its main aims - Warm glass work; enameling, fusing, shaping etc. (although the company do point out that for enameling there are better options) I'd imagine it'd be a nice mobile solution for home crafty people who've limited space and a suitable range of products to work on and a limited budget with which to buy products.

If you have the space and extra money and don't need to be moving it around a lot then I'd probably opt for something like the Q11A it's quite a bit more money but can handle a much higher range of temps (max 2350°F / 1285°C) making it suitable for a lot more materials. It's also front loading so less of an pain to work with a top loader or strange cloche as the Quickfire 6 appears to be (though it might be fun to go 'Ta-Da!!!' everytime you take the top off and unveil the cooked contents).
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Narsil
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« Reply #3 on: December 09, 2014, 10:04:59 pm »

Something else to bear in mind is that there doesn't seem to be a great deal to that kiln, and it would be pretty straightforward to make one yourself. Fire bricks are pretty cheap so you're really just paying for the heating  element and I'm pretty sure you can get element kits easily enough.
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Gerry Hunter
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« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2014, 11:47:09 am »

I live in what is essentially a single bedroom apartment. I don't have a studio, or garage or basement to put a full size kiln in. I've looked in local listing and saw some large units that I can't imagine filling, let alone being able to handle long firings or intricate procedures with. Part of the appeal of this one for me I think is the simplicity and the ability to move it and use it on a trivet in the kitchen if I chose to.

make one piece of pottery at a time in case it goes wrong I don't lose twenty other pieces and damage a years food budget worth of kiln.

I've a book on pit, saggar, raiku, and barrel style firing, as well as some information on brick or cob kilns, if I ever get a place where I can take things to a bigger level.

Right now though I'm mainly interested in single small ornaments and vessels, maybe some jewelry or bead making, and something to experiment with in some creative ways I've not had access to before.

the other difference is that making my own will not only require learning how to put it all together and exactly how to make it all work before I even begin a process of designing and building it, whereas this is something that lets me get to the part of learning what I can do with it by practice, no complex build to start with. I'll get to learn what I'm most likely to use it for and what I don't need in a kiln for later kilns.

I'm a subscriber to the idea that buying the cheapest sets of tools you can will get you a bit of practice and tell you which tools you use enough to justify getting the quality ones. I think I'm just hesitating because I'm a cheapskate and it seems like so much money to spend on something.
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Sir Henry
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« Reply #5 on: December 10, 2014, 12:19:42 pm »

Misread thread title as "tiny kilt". Probably shouldn't post any more than that.  Grin
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« Reply #6 on: December 11, 2014, 09:49:42 am »

My Dear Monsiuer Hunter -
As our good Narsil stated
- there isn't much there for $500
- it definitely will not melt brass and most likely will not melt aluminum
further,  a 6" cube makes for very small pots.

I myself built a dirt simple kiln with home-made refractory lining a large tin bucket, heated by a 110v stove burner coil.
I melted and cast aluminum and fired a number of pots. I then discarded it in favor of a building a larger one around a discarded freon tank and using this propane weed burner: 
http://www.harborfreight.com/propane-torch-91033.html

the thing is like a jet engine and melts aluminum fast, works nicelky as a gas forge. never tried brass yet.

Whilst you are in a na apartment you may find you don't really want to be melting metal or cooking pots -
it can  smell up the place and leave hard-to-explain holes....

for further ideas try these:
http://lmgtfy.com/?q=diy+kiln
http://lmgtfy.com/?q=diy+forge
http://lmgtfy.com/?q=bean+can+forge

yhs
prof marvel
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« Reply #7 on: December 11, 2014, 07:50:23 pm »



I was given a small electric kiln similar to this one a few years back.  I finally found a crucible that fits in it but no tongs yet so I have not used it.  My hope is to be able to use it to cast aluminum, brass, and bronze in soapstone molds someday. 

Any "how to" YouTube videos out there that would show me how to do more with this kiln like enameling? 
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-Karl
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« Reply #8 on: December 12, 2014, 01:30:22 am »



I was given a small electric kiln similar to this one a few years back.  I finally found a crucible that fits in it but no tongs yet so I have not used it.  My hope is to be able to use it to cast aluminum, brass, and bronze in soapstone molds someday. 

Any "how to" YouTube videos out there that would show me how to do more with this kiln like enameling? 


what's wrong with the crucibles and tongs on amazon.com?
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« Reply #9 on: December 12, 2014, 01:52:06 am »



I was given a small electric kiln similar to this one a few years back.  I finally found a crucible that fits in it but no tongs yet so I have not used it.  My hope is to be able to use it to cast aluminum, brass, and bronze in soapstone molds someday. 

Any "how to" YouTube videos out there that would show me how to do more with this kiln like enameling? 


what's wrong with the crucibles and tongs on amazon.com?


I would have never thought about searching for tongs on Amazon. 



Now that I see what they are selling I probably will not need to buy the tongs from Amazon.  I need the pair on the right since I have a similar crucible to the far upper right hand one.  I have seen these tongs at local yard sales and thrift stores, cheap.  Because of the local gold prospecting there is a lot of this sort of stuff floating around if you know what you're looking for.  I was picturing tongs like I had seen used in labs not this simpler, longer pair. 
I could also probably make a pair of tongs like this with the forge that I fire up about as often as the kiln.  I am just a bit of a packrat. 
Maybe I'll have a moment over the holidays to see if my soapstone molds can handle cast metals besides pewter and zinc. 
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Wilhelm Smydle
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« Reply #10 on: December 13, 2014, 06:25:50 am »

Paragon makes decent stuff.
That paticular model will work for PMC but for glass you want something a little better.
Once closed and started all you can do is pray things turn out.

Bluebirds are fairly common in lampworking and a step or two up from the quick fire.

For those of you looking to make a small scale kiln joppaglass has a decent set of instructions.

Usually the expencive parts are the digital controler.
Basically its a termo coupler and control box that cycles the power via a relay to reach working temp,
Then cycles back down to avoid thermal shock that often happens with glass projects.


There are a few other instructions on building your own kiln.
It should be easy enough to buy parts and build something that will closer fit your needs.

« Last Edit: December 13, 2014, 06:32:00 am by Wilhelm Smydle » Logged
Captain
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« Reply #11 on: January 01, 2015, 05:54:24 am »

http://liquid-metal.sfglobe.com/2014/12/30/how-to-melt-soda-cans-for-a-very-good-reason/?src=fbfan_30774
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Prof Marvel
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« Reply #12 on: January 01, 2015, 10:52:49 pm »



Thank you my Dear Captain.
That fellow made the perfect example of a "steel bucket" forge/furnace much like the one I built. One can use charcoal as shown, or hard coal ( I recommend low-sulfer blacksmithing coal) , which will produce somewhat higher temperatures.

One can use an industrial strength propane burner ( like my weed burner) inserted through the side like the fellows air blower, which gets close to 2000 deg F.

Or one can install a 120 v electric hotplate burner and easily melt aluminum.

As always, one does not want to use these inside an apartment ...  Cry

He also demostrated "lost foam casting" in the making of is toy aluminum sword.

The fun part of lost foam casting is that one can cast the exact shape one desires, in metal, preserving excellent detail and complex internal and external shapes whilst requiring very little machining.

yhs
prof marvel
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Maets
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« Reply #13 on: January 01, 2015, 11:19:23 pm »



Great video.
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Gerry Hunter
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« Reply #14 on: January 09, 2015, 08:53:26 pm »

yes, I'm aware and planning things like that, and a similar setup for reku pottery at some point, but they would all be quick up and away things not something to set up and use regularly. Just the sort of thing I can do batches of things on a free day when I can get to a place I can do things outside.

But once I have chocolate bar ingots and a heat resistant mold (actually something a bit more like a die) and letting it just melt again in the kiln directly into it. Just some thoughts.

but it looks like this should work with terracotta and glazing of such pottery. for small decorative pieces and maybe even individual small vessels.

even more interesting would be enameling work, and breaking up glass bottles to melt into sort of crackled glass ornaments or parts to use in stained glass. maybe even shaped pieces to help make stained glass panels more 3 dimensional.
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Narsil
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« Reply #15 on: January 09, 2015, 10:16:53 pm »



I always get a bit concerned when I see videos like this and this one is a case in point. The danger is that you can do this dozens of times and not have a problem but the time it does go wrong it goes badly wrong if you are not properly prepared.

I would say that the protective clothing in that video is grossly inadequate for aluminium casting.  The quantity of aluminium is that crucible is more than enough to do you very serious harm.

Aluminium is particularly dangerous because it has a tendency to stick to clothing and indeed flesh. At the very least you should be wearing thick, non-synthetic clothing for something like this as well as a leather apron and leather boots. Your outer layer of clothing should e able to be removed quickly is metal does splash onto it Molten aluminium will burn straight through canvas shoes and probably quite a long way through your foot as well. Equally importantly you should wear a full face shield made from either a plastic rated for molten metal splash or fine steel mesh and safety glasses. You should also be wearing leather gloves of a type that you can flick off with one hand, not the tight fitting synthetic ones shown in the video.

Quite apart from the foolishness of using salad tongs to lift a crucible the biggest risk occurs when you get moisture in a mould, particularly is you are using a burn-out method in sand. Any sand you do use needs to be bone dry and metal dies should be pre-heated. If your mould isn't dry then there is a very real danger that the moisture will flash into steam and course the mould to explode, spraying molten metal everywhere. This is something which can and does happen.
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