One of the main reasons we love Dual Media or DM kilns as they are the ultimate in flexibility! Let's face it... sometimes you just need options!
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!
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!
The Paragon Kilns Janus series was specifically designed to fire both pottery and glass. According to Paragon, the Janus name was derived from Janus, the Roman god, who is often depicted as having two faces which faced in opposite direction.
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.
The Olympic Dual Media kilns are stackable (meaning they are constructed of stacked rings) electric kilns that are designed to come apart so that you can easily move them from one location to another, easily work on one section of the kiln without taking the entire electrical system off the kiln, and increase or decrease the depth of kiln as needed.
So, what else do you need to know if you plan to purchase a Dual Media kiln? Here are a few points to keep in mind;
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.
In the end, only you know how much clay vs. glass work you plan to do, and if a Dual Media kiln is the right choice for your studio. As always, if you have questions, call us... we are here to help!