Why yes. Yes, I did.
Aunt Gay has been gently suggesting to me for years – like, about fifteen of them – that it might be time to consider a new kiln. I had started to put money away for it many years ago, but then … I don’t know what happened. Life. I got divorced, or had a major car repair, or something… and that was that. Now that I’m doing HaldeCraft, I feel that it’s not unreasonable to get a new kiln. In fact, it might be smart. I love G-ma’s kiln; I’ve been firing it my entire life. I can tell by touch and the color of the coils how far it needs to go before the firing is complete. But lately it’s been… touchy. I mean, more touchy than usual. The automatic cone-setter rusted off years ago, so I’ve been firing visually for about ten years. It’s been resided three times. The 10″ extension fell apart more years ago than I can remember. It’s on it’s second lid. I think you’re getting the picture. It’s time, and more than time. This kiln is older than I am by at least five years (my mother’s first memory of it is from 1965) and Aunt Gay thinks it might be at least five or six years older than that… making it possibly a late 1950’s model. That is some good quality kiln-building, that it’s that old, has been moved so many times, and still runs. Like Zoe and Serenity. “She’s tore up plenty, but she’ll fly true.” But. Lately it’s been overfiring on the bottom, and underfiring things closer to the top. If I’m going to need to rely on a kiln for my job, I need something more reliable. I had some birthday money from my mother, and Aunt Gay said she would put up half the kiln money, so… I got to shopping.
When I had first started looking years and years ago, I think I had about a $3000 goal in mind. I don’t remember if that’s an arbitrary goal I set myself or if I had priced some kilns and thought that was about average. But when I started looking around in September, kiln prices were much lower than I’d expected. It looked like I could get a brand-spanking new kiln somewhere in the range of $1000-$2500, depending on what I wanted.
And what did I want? I wanted something the same size as what I have now (4.7 cubic feet). I didn’t see any sense in going DOWN a notch. In an ideal universe, I’d be able to find something the same circumfrence as what I have now, so that I wouldn’t have to buy all new shelves. From G-ma’s original stock, I have about eight or nine broken shelf peices (perhaps it was about four shevles originally?) and two full shelves that have glaze dripped on them in so many places that I have to be very creative about where I put things when I get ready to fire. So I thought about ordering two more shelves if I found a kiln in the same size, or a whole new kit if I had to buy a different-sized kiln. I started pricing and comparing and looking around, and who offered free shipping, and who offered free kits with the kiln, yadda yadda. I didn’t really need one that was automatic – after all, I’d been firing manually for ten years or more. The automatic kilns were around $500 more than the manuals. I kept going outside to look at mine, coming back inside to look online, comparing… thinking… looking up reviews on brands…
Brands. What brand of kiln did I want? Well, shit; if the people who made my kiln were still in business, I thought, I want one of those! For crying out loud the thing is old as dirt and still works! Quality! So I looked them up, never really having paid attention before to who made my kiln. And who does? Vulcan. And they’re still in business. A family-owned buisnesss, and they stand behind their work. And… they still make the kiln I have. It’s a little taller – the 10″ extension I had is now built in and it’s one 27″ tall unit. That’s about 7 cubic feet (and some change). And the lid is on a hinge now so you can just lift it up instead of moving it on and off, dislodging the bricks. And it was within the price I was willing to pay. The manual was $1400… but I kept looking at the automatic. Only $1900. My upper range for spending, the most I was willing to part with, was $2000. That would give me $100 for shelves, of which I only had to buy two, because the new model is still the same size! OH COME ON. It was fate. Clearly that was what I had to go with.
Getting it gave me things to worry about – shipping was free, but took about three weeks longer than I thought. Then they kept telling me “it’ll be Friday!” and I’d cancel my Friday plans… only to have them call and say “It’ll be Tuesday!”. So then I’d cancel my Tuesday plans. But it finally got here, and we unpacked it, and Tim built something that I’ll explain in a second, and all was right with the universe. HUZZAH! Then it was time to test fire, and then load that baby up!
My goodness, I am big on long posts this week, aren’t I?! Photos and the rest of the story after the cut.
So here’s one reason why I couldn’t fire it right away. Both kilns take a 220, of which we have one. They asked me when I ordered the kiln what the plug looked like, and they slapped the same plug on the new kiln so that I could still fire both kilns. BUT. Power cords are not the longest things in the world, and trust me when I say that you DO NOT want to put a kiln on an extension cord. And kilns need to be so far away from everything else when they fire so that things don’t melt and/or burst into flame. For the new kiln, I need to be able to get to the controls. For the old kiln, I need to be able to get to both the switches and the peephole. The challange of having a setup on the back porch that met all these requirements was proving to be a jigsaw puzzle. Fortunately I am married to a man who loves him a good puzzle. More on this below.
1. I had cancelled plans for about three days in a row, thinking “this will be the day the kiln comes.” I had rescheduled a hair appointment and then got a call that the day I had rescheduled it for was for reals the day the kiln was going to get here. It just so happened that that was Veteran’s Day, and Tim (who now works for the County) was off… so he told me to go ahead and go to the hair appointment and he would wait for the kiln. Lo and behold, when I got home… Look! A $2000 crate!
2. Ooo, I wonder what could be in it!, maybe Tim will pop it open for me!
3. Unpacking – stage one “It’s so spiffy!”
4. Unpacking – stage two “It’s so shiny!”
5. Unpacking – stage three “I love it already!”
6. Wreckage of unpacking – out of which, Tim was able to cut the crate down and build a shelf in the dye bar to house my soap fragrances!
7. My god, it’s full of stars!, and I can not wait to fill it with ceramics!
8. Wreckage of unpacking, like Christmas morning, only it’s ALL FOR ME.
9. Thumbs up! (I try to look dorky and happy – not difficult)
10. Something old, something new, as they stand next to each other I like to imagine that Old Kiln is telling New Kiln stories of all it’s fired and seen.
11. When sparks fly – Tim bought metal bars which he cut and bent and attached to castors.
12. I’m in love with new kiln’s temperature display. I do not know why I was thinking I wouldn’t want an automatic. This thing practically does everything *and* gives me a foot massage. I don’t even need to buy cones any more – it’s all on a computer chip. You tell it you want to fire to Cone 06 and it ramps it up and turns it off at 1828 degrees. It’ll tell you what the current temperature is, what it was when it flipped off, how long it took to fire, and even how much money it cost to fire it. :swoon:
13. Rolly thing under the new kiln – the new kiln has a metal slab under it so we were able to put that directly on the thing Tim built.
14. Rolly thing under the old kiln Tim cut a piece of … not drywall, I forget what he called it. Something that sounds like Dru-rock…? Anyway. The old kiln is setting on top of that, on top of the thing Tim built. So I can roll the kiln not currently in use off to the corner of the porch, out of the way, while the one I’m using can be rolled and positioned where it needs to be.
15. Fresh out of the kiln – and it fires beautifully. Perfectly, even!