If you want to practice pottery at home, one of the biggest investments you will have to make is a good kiln.
Most types of clay need to be fired above a 1000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is a much higher temperature than your standard kiln or oven can reach.
So let’s take a look at how expensive pottery kilns are and some cheaper alternatives.
Average pottery kiln price
The price for a new pottery kiln starts around $1000 and may cost over $4000. If you are looking to buy a good pottery kiln for home use, expect to spend around $1500 for an entry-level model.
So a good kiln is considerably more expensive than a pottery wheel.
Below you can find some of the most popular pottery kilns and their prices from the 4 major kiln brands. Besides the prices, you can also find the maximum temperatures and how big the kilns are inside.
Of course, there are many other factors you want to consider before buying a kiln. But the temperature and dimensions are definitely the two most important things to look for. A good pottery kiln such at least be able to reach temperatures above 2000 Fahrenheit.
Not very surprisingly, the kilns that can reach the highest temperatures and are the biggest are generally also more expensive. So if you are looking for a cheap pottery kiln, try to go for a smaller model.
|Model||Max Temperature (°F)||Inside Dimensions*||Price ($)**|
|Jen-Ken AF3C 11/9||2100||11″ x 9″||910|
|Evenheat High Fire 810||2300||11″ x 9″||1240|
|Olympic Doll E||2350||11″ x 7″ x 9″||990|
|Olympic MAS1823HE||2350||18″ x 23″||1860|
|Evenheat RM II 2322||2300||24″ x 22″||2350|
|Paragon SC2 Pro||2000||8″ x 8″ x 6″||1165|
|Jen-Ken AF3C 15/13||2300||15″ x 13″||1110|
|Paragon SC3||2000||8″ x 8″ x 8″||1260|
*If the kiln has a circular shape, the first number indicates the diameter and the second number the depth. If the kiln is rectangular, the three number stand for width, length, and height respectively.
**Prices were rounded off and may have changed since the time of writing.
Are pottery kilns expensive to run?
When it comes to kilns, the majority of the money goes towards buying the kiln. But the cost of operating a kiln is also not negligible.
To reach and maintain high enough temperatures, the kiln will require a significant amount of electricity. So if you frequently use your kiln to fire pottery, you might see an increase in your electricity bill.
The exact cost of using a pottery kiln depends on various factors such as the firing temperature, the duration and the type of kiln you are using.
But let’s just take some average numbers to give a rough estimate of how expensive it is to run a kiln. I’ll try to explain the steps as simple as possible, so you can calculate it for your own kiln as well.
- Find the price of electricity. This can vary a lot from state to state, or country to country. So let’s just take the average price in the U.S. of $0.14 per kWh.
- Check the wattage of your kiln in kW. You can normally find this written somewhere on the kiln, in the manual, or online. If the wattage is given in watts, you can convert it to kWh by dividing by 1000. For example, the Jen-Ken ceramic kiln has a wattage of 1800 watts, which equals 1.8 kW.
- Check how long your clay needs to be fired. This changes for each type of clay. Don’t forget to include the time required to heat up and reach the right temperature. Let’s assume a firing time of 8 hours for this calculation.
- Estimate the duty cycle. The duty cycle indicates how long and how much electricity the kiln actually uses. To heat up the interior, the kiln will require a lot of electricity. But once the right temperature is reached, only a little bit of energy is required to maintain the temperature and the heating element might even be turned off from time to time. Some kilns with digital controllers will indicate what the duty cycle of your last firing was. If you don’t know, you can use an average duty cycle of 0.55, which equals 55%.
Once you have all the numbers, you can plug them in the following equation:
Firing Cost = Price of Electricity x Kiln Wattage x Firing Time x Duty Cycle
So for our sample calculation, the cost of firing would be 0.14 x 1.8 x 8 x 0.55 = $1,11.
As you can see, using your kiln once isn’t going to break the bank. But if you are planning on using it on a regular basis, you might want to keep the firing cost in the back of your mind.
Moreover, if you use a bigger kiln, the wattage and firing cost can be much higher because there is more space to heat up. In that case, a single firing could easily cost more than $5.
There are also some other small factors that can influence the firing cost. For example, as kilns get older, they tend to become less efficient and require more electricity. In that case, you can lower the duty cycle to get a more accurate estimation of the cost.
Is a small pottery kiln better than a big pottery kiln?
So by now, you might be wondering why someone would every go for a big pottery kiln. The bigger kilns can cost several hundreds of dollars more and are also more expensive to operate.
However, when firing you also have to consider how many pots you can fire at the same time.
So a bigger kiln might cost twice as much to fire, but you can fire three times or even four times the number of pots compared to the smaller model. So if you can fully load the kiln to the brim, the firing cost per pot is cheaper when using a bigger kiln.
As a rule of thumb, you only want to fire the kiln if it’s completely filled.
However, as a beginner or home potter, you normally don’t have enough pots to fill a big kiln anyway. So for most hobby potters, going with a smaller kiln is the right choice.
However, if you are more serious about pottery and trying to set up a pottery studio at home, you might want to go with a bigger kiln.
How much does it cost to have pottery fired?
Most big cities have a pottery studio that will fire your pots for a fee. So if you don’t want to buy a kiln yourself and you live close to a major city, you could try to contact the local pottery studios.
Some studios will charge you per piece, other by kilo, but most will charge per volume. And if you don’t have a lot of pieces, your pots might be combines with others to fire the kiln as efficiently as possible.
The firing cost can vary a lot per studio and per city. So it’s best to ask at several places to see how much they charge.
As a reference, the Berkley Potters Studio charges around $30 to $55 per cubic foot, depending on the firing temperature.