Dual Media kilns are kilns specifically designed for firing ceramics AND glass. Technically speaking, ceramics and glass can be fired in any kiln that achieves the temperature you need. However, this dual design allows the kiln to reach the high firing temperatures needed for casting, pottery, and ceramics while the lid element is perfect for fusing glass!
|Jen-Ken Ceram-a-Glass 2422|
The Ceram-a-Glass series from Jen-Ken Kilns is a great example of a dual media kiln. They are top and side firing for glass and side firing only for casting, and ceramics. Switching from one mode to the other is super easy as all Ceram-a-Glass kilns come equipped with a side toggle switch. Simply toggle up for the glass fusing mode up which allows you to fire up to 1700°F or, toggle down for the ceramics/casting mode for up to 2100°F. Some of the Ceram-a-Glass kilns even have 3" brick so you can go as high as 2300°F!
In the Janus kilns, you can easily select between glass and pottery with the flip of a switch. With the switch in the glass position, heat comes from the top elements and the middle sidewall element. With the switch in the pottery position, heat comes from only the sidewall elements.
Olympic Kilns also offers a complete line of Dual Media kilns, plus you can easily add a lid element to any of the HE models! An ON/OFF switch activates the lid element when fusing is desired.
So, what else do you need to know if you plan to purchase a Dual Media kiln?
HEAT RISES... When you are using a Dual Media kiln in ceramic mode, only the side elements are firing, BUT since heat rises you are "cooking" the "sleeping" lid element. This high-temperature baking of a "sleeping" element will shorten its lifespan. This is not really a big issue as long as you are aware that you may have to change out the lid coil more often than the body coils. It's just the nature of the beast!
USE OF AMPERAGE... A Dual Media kiln will use more power in the ceramic mode than in the glass mode. As you know, clay needs to be fired at higher temperatures than glass, so it's just physics that you'll be using more power. It's not a tremendous amount more but, something to keep in mind when you are looking at your electric bill.
STACKING vs NO STACKING... Dual Media kilns can hold a lot of stacked shelves when firing clay pieces. BUT, just because it can do that in ceramic mode, doesn't mean you can do that in glass mode. The rule for glass is still... one shelf 6-10" from the top element! This means you'll really need to elevate your kiln shelf to get it high enough to get an even firing. Also, if you keep shelves in your kiln below the one that you are using to fire the glass, the kiln will take longer to heat and cool due to the abundance of refractory material (clay shelving) inside the kiln. Knowing this ahead of time will save you headaches and frustration.
We like to think of Dual Media kilns as the gift that never stops giving! It allows you to explore your artistry without having to purchase an additional kiln. In the end, only you know how much clay vs. glass or casting work you plan to do, so... if you like to keep your creative options open, a Dual Media kiln may just be the right choice for you!