Having a reliable kiln that can reach and maintain high temperatures is crucial to turn clay into ceramics.
Professional workshops use huge kilns that can fire many pieces at a time. Fortunately, nowadays you can also choose from a variety of smaller kilns that can be used at home.
However, when choosing an electric kiln it’s important to make sure that they are designed for firing clay, and not for other purposes such as glass fusing or jewellery making.
Best electric kilns for pottery
1. Paragon Quikfire 6 – Small pottery kiln
If you are looking for a cheap and small kiln you might want to take a look at the Quickfire 6. This kiln fires on 120 volts and can reach temperatures up to 2000°F. Moreover, since it only consumes 1560 watts it doesn’t consume much electricity either.
The inside is 6″ x 6″ x 6″ and has enough space for small pots, cups and dishes, while the outside is 15″W x 12.5″D x 12.25″H in size.
The Quickfire can be a good kiln for beginners. However, before buying this model make sure that the clay you are using can indeed be fired at 2000°F.
2. Rapidfire Pro – Good multifunctional kiln for home use
For a slightly higher price you can also go for the Rapidfire Pro which (true to its name) can reach a temperature of 2200°F within 10 minutes. By using a variety of programmable programs, you have precise control over the ramping rate.
The inside is slightly smaller at 6″ x 5″ x 6″ which can be easily accessed by a wide door. Moreover, it is very portable and easy to travel with since the outside is 8″W x 7″D x 13″H, it only weighs 12 lbs, and it has a convenient handle.
This kiln can’t only be used for pottery, but also for jewellery, metal clay, enamelling, and bead making. So it’s great for beginning potters and craft-enthusiasts alike.
3 Olympic medallion artist series – Large electric kiln
If you are serious about pottery it’s better to go for a big kiln that can reach higher temperatures for maximum flexibility.
Olympic is a great brand when it comes to electric kilns. The medallion artist model in particular is 17.5″W x 22.5″D inside and can reach temperatures up to 2350°F.
You can easily program the ramp rate and the holding programs to suit the clay you are using and balanced heating elements keep the heating even in the entire kiln.
Normally these bigger kilns require a lot of energy to maintain their temperature. However, due to the 3″ brick insulation the Olympic medallion kiln is very energy efficient.
How to choose a kiln?
Choosing a good kiln isn’t easy so it’s best to be well informed before you buy one.
Although everyone has their own preferences, here are a few things you want to pay attention to.
1. Kiln prices
The most common question beginners ask is: “how much does a kiln cost?” Of course, this depends on a lot of different factors but size is definitely the most important one.
For small kilns like the Rapidfire Pro or the Paragon Quickfire 6 you should expect to pay several hundred dollar.
However, for bigger kilns you can easily pay more than $2000.-, assuming it is from a reputable brand.
2. Maximum temperature
There are many different types of clay you can use as a potter and every type needs to be fired at a different temperature.
For example, earthenware that contains iron and other minerals can be fired around 1950℉. But stoneware clay normally needs to be fired at temperatures above 2200℉.
Since some of the cheaper kilns don’t reach these high temperatures to always check which clay you are working with and what temperature you need. This is also why not every kiln used for glass fusing can be used for pottery.
If you don’t exactly know which types of clay you will be working with in the future, I would recommend buying a kiln that can reach at least 2200℉. But if you can afford it, higher is better.
3. Kiln size
The size of the kiln’s inside determines how big your pieces can be. Moreover, since firing can take quite a while, using a kiln that can hold several pieces at a time can be a huge time saver.
For most people the outside dimensions of the kiln won’t be very important. However, if need to frequently move or transport the kiln you might want to go for a smaller kiln.
Finally, the difference between the inner and outer size can give a rough estimation of how energy efficient the kiln will be, since it indicates how much insulation the kiln has.
4. Easy access to the inside
For some more advanced techniques like embossing you want to be able to access your pots while they are still warm. That’s why it is useful to have a kiln that you can easily open and close even when it is at high temperatures. Peepholes can also be a great feature so you can check on your pieces even without opening the kiln.
5. Temperature controller
One big advantage of electric kilns is that they normally come with a temperature controller. These controllers let you accurately program the temperature, time and heating rate of the kiln.
However, not every controller is straightforward and easy to work with. So if you can find one that make intuitive sense to you that would be a big plus. Or else you will have to check the manual every time you want to use the kiln.