Is spending less money and buying a used kiln right for you?
This is how I started out! There may be a great solution out there for you. I have purchased several kilns on the cheap and fixed or rebuilt them. There are many things to consider when thinking about buying a used kiln. Time, money and your knowledge level are good places to start.
Before buying a kiln be sure you know the laws in your area. Some zoning laws do not allow equipment like kilns, especially if you live in a building connected to other residences. Some areas allow kilns but they must be installed by a professional such as an electrician. Some insurance providers, especially the larger ones will not cover properties with kilns installed. Other insurers may cost more than your existing policy but will cover properties with kilns.
Is buying a kiln on the cheap for me?
There are a number of questions you will want ask yourself before jumping head first into buying a kiln at a low price. First, do you know your way around an electric kiln? Do you know how they work and the function of each part? If you know very little about kilns and how they work you will at least want to do a bit of research, reading up on the different parts and their functions before you think about buying used. Through some of my future blog posts, I hope to enlighten you more on the workings of these machines we depend so much upon.
As I said above I have purchased several kilns on the cheap. Some kilns need a lot of love, but are worth the work if you don’t want to spend a huge sum of money. Regardless of the condition of the kiln you will probably spend AT LEAST $300-400 on a kiln to include the purchase. This also depends on the size and condition. I’m not saying go out and buy a kiln that is complete junk. Make an educated purchase. Know that you can fix it. Buy a kiln in which the level of repairs needed fit into the zone of repairs you are comfortable making. Working with kilns can be dangerous and should be carefully considered. They use a lot of electricity and could easily cause a fire if not cared for properly.
To give you an example of the complexity of work needed on kiln bought for cheap I will discuss the three kilns I currently own, the condition they were in upon purchase and the repairs needed. I presently own a 27×27″ round, an 18×27″ round and a 17×18″round. All of my kilns are top loaders , with manual controls on the sitters. I was first given the small kiln while I was in grad school. It had been in storage for a few year but was in working condition. This is rare. Very few kilns come in great working order.
As I was in grad school, I quickly outgrew this kiln in a matter of weeks. I was firing almost every day to keep up with bisque and glaze firings. So I then bought the large kiln. This kiln had been sitting for a few years also. However it had a few more issues than the small kiln. It needed a new coil (heating element), several relays and two types of switches. The body of the kiln(floor, brick walls and lid) were not in the greatest condition but they worked. As my knowledge has expanded, I now plan to either gut this kiln and give it new brick (floor, some new wall bricks and a new lid) or I will remove the control panel and install it upon a custom built kiln of my own design.
My middle sized kiln was purchased here, in the UK. It needed new ceramic fiber in the lid, a new floor, and new switches to control the elements. Rebuilding an electric kiln takes time and patience. Most of the time you are not going to get a kiln that works perfect as soon as you get it and hook it up. Most of the time, kilns being sold for cheap have problems, and many of them.
It can take as many as two to four firings before you get a smooth firing kiln. After hooking up a new-to-you kiln, what usually happens is you let it fire and it will take hours longer than it should. So then you do a little research and find the part you will have to replace. Then you will order and install the new part. Sometimes that will fix the problem. Other times, when the part you first replaced went out, it may have blown out other parts. Don’t be surprised. This is normal and can get very frustrating, especially if you are on a tight time schedule. Don’t let this deter you. Kilns only have a limited number of parts that need replacing . As you can see, buying a cheap kiln can be quite time consuming and can get costly. It is often still much cheaper to give an old kiln new life rather than purchasing a new one.
Make sure for the first couple firings that you don’t leave the kiln alone! If you haven’t fired the kiln before you likely don’t know what is wrong with it or what could happen to it during a firing. NEVER trust a kiln you buy used until you have fired it several times and know it is working properly. You may not know the previous owners knowledge level of kiln repair. So again please take caution when firing a new-to-you kiln.
Where to buy a new-to-you kiln.
There are many places to buy used kilns. I have used eBay and Craigslist. Both are equally viable choices. Local and regional pottery and ceramics organizations usually have classified ad postings and message boards with loads of listings. If all else fails, you can always just do searches on any search engine for used kilns for sale. The cheapest way in my experience, seems to be eBay.
If you decide to buy a fixer-upper kiln…
Make sure you look at the pictures, read the description, ask any questions you may have and know what type of electrical requirements are necessary for the kiln you are looking at. If you will be hooking the kiln up to residential wiring, make sure you have the appropriate electrical service coming into the property. Electric kilns can require several different levels of voltage. Usually this can be wired in from the pole by the electrical company if your residence does not have the proper voltage supply. Make sure to check with your power company before buying a kiln that does not have the right voltage supply for your residence.
Make an educated decision. Do not go into buying a kiln blindly. Buy a kiln that requires work at a level you are comfortable doing. Please always remember safety first. If you are dealing with kilns please read our post on electrical safety and if ever you’re even a little uncomfortable with doing the work yourself, don’t hesitate to call a professional.