In order to make pottery, you need to fire your clay to turn them into ceramic. Having a reliable kiln that can reach temperatures that are high enough is crucial for success.
Heating some pots might sound easy, but it’s crucial to use the right temperature, the right thermal ramp rate, and even heating. If any of these three factors is missing, your pots might be fired unevenly or may even break in the process.
As a beginning potter, buying a kiln will definitely be the biggest investment you’ll have to make in your new hobby. Fortunately, the pottery kilns for home use are a lot cheaper than the big ones you can find in professional pottery studios.
In this article, I’ll let you know everything you need to know to choose the right kiln for you!
If you are just looking for the quick summary, here are three of the best pottery kilns:
How to choose a pottery kiln?
Before buying a pottery kiln, there are a few important questions that you need to ask yourself to narrow down what kind of kiln would suit you best.
Of course, you could just buy the biggest and best kiln available. But it will cost you a pretty penny.
Instead, use the following questions to determine what kind of kiln you need:
What temperature do I need? Not every ceramic kiln can reach the same maximum temperature. This can be a problem if you are working with high-fire clays. For example, porcelain clays need to be heated at much higher temperatures than earthenware clays. Also, don’t forget to check which temperatures you need for your glazes as well. Sometimes the temperature needed to apply a glaze can be higher than the temperature needed to fire the clay.
How big should my kiln be? The price of a kiln quickly goes up with size. When choosing how big your kiln should be, consider how many pieces you are planning to fire on a regular basis and how large your pieces are. Firing pottery takes a long time, so if you produce a lot of pieces a very small kiln might not be enough.
How much room do I have available? Let’s not forget that the dimensions of a kiln are a lot larger than just the inside chamber. Kilns have thick walls of insulation to keep the heat in. So make sure that you have enough space available at home. You also want some free space around the kiln to prevent any fire hazards.
Do I have enough power available? The bigger the kiln is, the more energy it will need to reach those high temperatures. With a small electric pottery kiln, you can normally plug them into a regular socket and use them without a problem. But with bigger kilns, you might need special installation to make sure you have the required voltage and amperage.
What to look for in a pottery kiln?
Now that you roughly know what type of kiln you want, let’s take some time to discuss what specific features to look for in a pottery kiln.
Size: when choosing which size kiln to buy you should consider how much volume of pottery you produce and the size of each piece. Small pottery kilns up to 9″ x 11″ in size are best used for small pieces such as beads. Larger kilns roughly 18″ x 18″ are great if you are interested in making plates, pots, and bowls in small numbers. If you make bigger pieces such as vases or if you are planning on making a lot of pottery a kiln 23″ x 27″ or larger would be more appropriate.
Maximum temperature: different types of clays and glazes need to be fired at different temperatures. So make sure to buy a kiln that can reach the temperature needed for the clay and glaze you are working with. However, since kilns tend to lose power over time, it’s safest to go with a kiln that can go 100~200 degrees above what you need. Sometimes in pottery, the temperatures are indicated with a cone system. You can easily convert cone to Fahrenheit or Celsius using a pottery cone chart.
Top loading or front loading: pottery kilns are either front loading or top loading. The top-loading models are normally a little bit cheaper but are also less comfortable to work with. Constantly leaning forward and bending over to load/unload your kiln isn’t good for your back. On the flip side, a front-loading kiln is often cheaper and puts less strain on your back when using it.
Controller: most electric kilns come with some kind of controller nowadays. You want to make sure that the controller is easy to work with and quickly accessible. Moreover, you want to check how much control over the heating program the controller gives you. Ideally, you want to be able to change the temperature, control the thermal ramp rate, and have several programs available that you can use for each clay/glaze you work with.
Voltage & Amperage: the voltage required to operate a kiln can vary from 120V (for a small kiln) to 240V (for a large kiln). Since most household sockets operate at 120V, you could use most small pottery kilns without any problem. Besides the voltage, you also need to consider how many amps you have available. Most homes have 15-20 amp breakers, but a large kiln may need up to 60 amp to run. So if you want to buy a big kiln, you’ll have to consult with an electrician beforehand to see what your options are.
Price: of course price is always an important factor. For a kiln on the cheaper end of the scale, expect to pay around $1000. Whereas you’ll have to cash out over $4500 for one of the expensive kilns. The biggest factor that drives up the price is the size of the kiln. Buying a smaller model is a good way to stay within budget. But going with a bigger one might give you more options in the future if you want to increase your output.
Best pottery kilns
There are a lot of pottery and ceramic kilns to pick from. And even with all the information above, choosing the right one isn’t going to be easy.
So I’ve compiled a list of several kilns that I personally like and/or that I have heard great reviews about. Hopefully, they will make your search a little easier.
1 Amaco Excell
The Amaco Excell might be a top-loading kiln, but it is designed to make loading and unloading extra easy, despite being 4″ deeper than most other models.
It is ideal for firing large pieces up to 18″ tall or for firing multiple smaller pieces.
This kiln is available in several different chamber sizes, ranging from 36″H x 29″W x 22″D to 36″H x 40″W x 34″D. As a result, the price also ranges from roughly $2500 to $3500.
This model offers maximum flexibility for firing low-fire and high-fire ceramics. Depending on the size, it can reach up to Cone 8 or Cone 10.
2 Skutt KM Kilnmaster
The skutt KM kilnmaster is an automatic, digitally controlled programmable kiln with a top-loading design.
The easy-to-use interface allows you to set the desired firing temperature, hold time and ramp rate with just a few keystrokes. You can also fire between cones too, by entering an exact temperature into the program.
The KM’s accurate control and repeatable results will allow you to spend less time monitoring firings and more time creating your art.
Most of the models in this series can reach temperatures up to Cone 10. However, some exceptions only reach Cone 5, 6 or 8. Of course, the kilns that can reach Cone 10 also need a higher voltage and amperage to operate.
The sizes range from 11″diameter x 13″deep to 28″diameter x 31″deep, and the prices vary from only $1300 to almost $4000.
3 Jen-Ken AF3C
Jen-Ken’s kiln is a great option for anyone looking to buy their first kiln or for professionals who are firing many smaller pieces of work.
It is 11.25” x 13.5″ in size, which is enough space to fire several small pots at once. For less than $1000, that is a great deal even for a top-loading kiln.
It reaches temperatures up to 2250 Fahrenheit, so it’s best suited for firing low-fire clays or mid-range to high-range stoneware.
The electric controller is easy to use and comes with several cone fire programs to choose from.
4 Evenheat RM II
This Evenheat ceramic kiln is a popular choice for people looking for a larger kiln. So if you want to fire many pieces, this 23.5” x 22.25″ kiln might be a good option for you.
Depending on your personal preference, you get to choose between a Rampmaster, Set-Pro, Genesis, or TAP control. So if you already have experience using kilns, you can choose the controller you are most familiar with.
It can reach up to Cone 8 or ~2300 Fahrenheit, but you’ll probably have to install a new breaker to meet the energy requirements.
For a price of roughly $2400, this top-loading kiln is worth considering if you are setting up a home pottery studio.
5 Olympic HB64E
I wanted to include at least one front-loading kiln in my top fire. But to be honest, it’s difficult to find one that is large enough that is also still affordable for most people.
This ceramic kiln by Olympic has an inner chamber measuring just 6.5” x 6.5” x 4.5”, which to be fair, is very small compared to other models on the list. But it also only cost around $750.
If you need the extra space, you can upgrade to the bigger Olympic Hot Box kiln which will give you 8” x 8” x 9” for roughly $1000
Despite its small size, this kiln can reach temperatures up to Cone 10, so you can fire almost any type of clay or glaze, giving you lots of versatility.
Frequently asked questions
How do I know which kiln to buy?
As heating elements age, your kiln may lose power over time. So it’s best to buy a kiln that’s rated higher than what you actually need. If you want to fire your clay at 1800°F, buy a kiln that can reach temperatures up to 2000°F.
How much does a kiln cost?
Kilns can cost anywhere from $1000 to $4000, depending on the size and maker. As a rule of thumb, bigger kilns are more expensive. Moreover, firing a bigger kiln will also be more expensive since it requires more electricity.
For more information, you can read our article on the average price of a pottery kiln.
Can you have a kiln at home?
Yes, many potters have a kiln at home. However, you have to make that the room the kiln is in is properly ventilated, since some of the fumes released during firing may be harmful. So placing a kiln in its own room work best. Moreover, you have to make sure that you have the required voltage and amperage available to run your kiln.
You might also be interested in reading our article on setting up a home pottery studio.
Are kilns expensive to run?
Kilns require a lot of energy to reach temperatures high enough to fire pottery. Firing a standard electric kiln once can cost between $2 ~ $10 depending on the size, temperature, and heating time.
If you want to know exactly how to calculate the cost, you can read our article on the price of pottery kilns.
Can you put a kiln in a garage?
Yes, a garage is a great place to place your kiln as long as it has the proper flooring, enough ventilation, and access to electricity. If you don’t have enough space in your garage, either a basement or a shed could work as well.
What is the difference between a glass kiln and a pottery kiln?
Glass kilns generally heat only from the top, and ceramic kilns heat from all directions. You can often heat glass in a ceramic kiln, but not the other way around because the clay would be heated unevenly.
Can I use my glass kiln for ceramics?
No, firing clay in a glass kiln is not ideal because these types of kilns only have heating elements in the top. This results in uneven heating during the firing process and your ceramics might break. Ceramic kilns have heating elements on all sides, which results in more uniform heating.