If you're venturing into the world of pottery or glass artistry, having the right kiln is essential. Kilns are the workhorses of these crafts, providing the controlled heat necessary for firing and annealing. But with so many options available, choosing the right one for beginners can be daunting. In this article, we'll guide you through the factors to consider and introduce you to our top ten beginner-friendly kilns.
Factors to Consider for Beginners
Before we get into our favorite kilns for beginners, you need to consider the factors that go into purchasing a kiln. For example, what are you firing? How much are you willing to spend? Where do you plan on putting the kiln? These are all questions you should be asking and more.
What Are You Firing?
A kiln can be used for many things, so it’s important to understand what you plan on firing with the kiln. Kilns are uniquely tailored to the item they create, beyond simple size and shape. For example, ceramic kilns fire at much higher temperatures than glass kilns, and their interiors differ accordingly. Larger projects may require different loading mechanisms or a stronger power supply. Whatever projects you wish to create will ultimately determine the type of kiln you want to buy.
What's Your Budget?
Kilns can quickly shoot up in price, depending on the kind you’re looking at. Robust kilns with more advanced features can boast a hefty price tag for their quality. However, many kilns are just as versatile and more affordable. Even the ones that lack the specialized components of their pricier cousins make up for it in overall reliability. We’d recommend starting with at least a budget of $1,200 if you’re a beginner and increasing this based on additional items like furniture, delivery, sales tax, etc.
For more information, we recommend you read through our full guide on how much a kiln costs. This will help you better understand the costs that are associated with buying a kiln.
The Location of the Kiln
Where you fire your kiln can determine whether or not you need certain kiln features. For example, if you’re firing in a studio where there are other people, you’ll need a kiln with a strong ventilation system. However, if you’re in a garage or shed, it’s not as needed (though we still recommend it for your and your kiln’s well-being).
Another example is the size of the location. We recommend you keep at least 12” of space between the kiln’s walls and the location’s walls. Therefore, the more space you have, the larger a kiln you can accomodate.
Read more with our guide on kiln ventilation.
What to Look for in a Kiln: First-Time Buyers
As a beginner, you'll want a kiln that's user-friendly and low-maintenance. Look for easy-to-understand controls and minimal assembly requirements.
Controls & Accessories
There are different types of controls for each kiln. If you’re a beginner, it can be hard to tell the difference, which is why we’ve outlined it here for you.
Basic kilns will have manual controls, meaning you’ll need to change the temperature yourself throughout the firing process. It’s more work, but it gives you more control over the quality of the fired product.
Digital controllers regulate a kiln’s temperature independently of the operator. These allow you to store complex firing programs as well as stop and start your firing at specific times. Keep in mind that there are several types and levels of digital controllers and that they vary in price. These will always be more expensive than manually controlled kilns.
As a rule of thumb, get a kiln that’s big enough to let you grow as an artist but still suits your ambitions and needs. Smaller to medium-sized kilns are well-suited for recreational and general use, while larger kilns might be utilized for industrial and professional purposes. Hobbyists or novice potters may want to experiment first with a smaller model. Of course, this isn’t set in stone for everyone, and the size of your kiln is based largely on your preferences and the overall accessibility of the model.
However, another important aspect you shouldn't overlook is your shelf size. Logically, large projects need large kilns, but the shelves do the heavy lifting, especially if you’re producing items in bulk. Shelves are crucial components of kilns since they determine how you place the items you want to fire. After all, you need all the room you can get for your artistic pursuits.
One critical component is the electricity requirements of the kiln. A normal household typically has a voltage of 120V, which is fine for small kilns, but the medium and large kilns will require 240V. Does this mean your house won’t be able to support larger kilns? No! Your house supports air conditioning, ovens, and dryers, all of which are usually 240V.
You’ll need to look at where you’re firing your kiln and see if you can meet the amperage requirements that your prospective kiln will fire at. We recommend talking to an electrician to add a 240 line so that you can have a 240V plug.
This goes hand-in-hand with the projects you plan to fire. There are different types of kilns and each serves a specific purpose. Some of the most popular are glass, ceramic, and electric kilns. Research which kiln type will serve your project best before making a purchase. For more information, read our full breakdown of kiln types.
Our Favorite Beginner Kilns to Try
Whether you’re looking for a kiln you can use at home or something for your studio, here are our favorite kilns if you’re a beginner, in no particular order.
10. Jen-Ken Kiln - AF3C 11/9
Here’s what you can expect from the Jen-Ken Kiln - AF3C11/9
- Max Firing Temps: 2100° F / 2300° F-17amp version
The AF3C 11/9 is a compact yet powerful ceramic kiln tailored for beginners. This kiln is designed to accommodate a 10-inch round shelf (not included) and offers plenty of space for pottery, glass, porcelain, and PMC & ceramic projects. Jen-Kiln Kiln - AF3C 11/9 operates seamlessly on standard household current, drawing either 15 or 17 amps.
Its 15-amp version (for a 5-15 circuit/regular household power) fires to 2100°F, making it perfect for cone 04-06 firings (Low Fire). The AF3C 11/9 plugs conveniently into a regular 120v outlet, providing accessibility for beginners seeking an easy-to-use kiln at home. For those aiming for higher fire capabilities, the Jen-Ken AF3C 11/9 is available in a model featuring a 17-amp configuration, enabling cone 8 (Mid-Range) to fire up to 2300°F. However, this version requires a dedicated 120v/20-amp circuit and plug. Despite its compact size, this kiln proves its worth over time, remaining a reliable tool for small pieces, test firings, and design perfection. Beyond ceramics, the kiln performs well as a glass fusing kiln, but keep in mind it is side fire only, so not all glass fusing and slumping projects will be a fit. Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned artisan, the Jen-Ken AF3C 11/9 promises enduring utility and performance.
9. Evenheat Kiln V8
Here’s what you can expect from the Evenheat Kiln - V8
Ensuring ease of use is a critical factor for any beginner kiln user, and this take-apart kiln allows for multiple configurations, such as a ceramics kiln, a glass kiln, a metal clay kiln, a small heat treat oven, and a vitrigraph. The Evenheat V8 kiln also utilizes a standard household plug, allowing it to be operated from almost anywhere in your home.
The Evenheat V8 fires up to 2350°F, making it great for projects that require high firing kiln temperatures and have low porosity. Try using this kiln if you’re working with porcelain, stoneware, glass, metal clays, ceramics, or enamels.
8. Olympic Kiln - Champ XL
Here’s what you can expect from the Olympic Kiln - Champ XL
Whether you’re a renter or reside in an older home with limited electrical capabilities, the Olympic Champ XL provides the flexibility to work on larger projects with ease. At 1700°F, this kiln will have lower energy costs than other kilns in the industry. Its stand eliminates the need for constant bending over during the loading process, and the practical design ensures accessibility and convenience for artists working on sizable creations, allowing them to plug in and unleash their creativity anywhere.
7. Paragon Kiln - TNF663
Here’s what you can expect from the Paragon Kiln - TNF663
The Paragon TNF663, a 7-sided digital kiln, has a lot of utility because it can be used for china, dolls, and jewelry while also handling most other ceramic projects. Thanks to its 3” firebrick walls, the Paragon Kiln TNF663 can fire up to 2300°F. The kiln also features a heavy galvanized steel base that fully covers the reversible brick bottom, providing structural reinforcement as it folds up under the stainless case on all sides.
The kiln also comes with a Sentinel Digital Touchscreen controller that continuously monitors the firing process so that you don’t have to control the temperature at all times. One feature we love about the controller is its ability to tell you how much electricity your kiln uses. This will allow you to experiment with different firing speeds to minimize energy usage.
6. Cress Kilns - C1006B
Here’s what you can expect from the Cress Kiln - C1006B
The C1006B offers a user-friendly experience with its digital controller equipped with a built-in soak timer and four different programs. Users can input their desired program on the controller, streamlining the overall operation. Additionally, its certification status, amp fuse size of 15, and receptacle type 5-15R further contribute to the kiln's accessibility. With a maximum temperature of 2000°F (Cone 3), the C1006B is an extremely versatile kiln that can be used for jewelry, metal enamel, glass, and more!
5. Jen-Ken Kiln - AF3P ProFusion Fiber 16
Here’s what you can expect from the Jen-Ken Kiln - AF3P ProFusion Fiber 16
The Jen-Ken Kiln - AF3P ProFusion Fiber 16 Square is a versatile choice for beginners diving into pottery and glass art. With a roomy firing area of 16 inches, this kiln is suitable for a variety of projects like fusing, slumping, Metal Clay, combing, roll-ups, and glass painting. It offers flexibility, allowing you to fire directly on the bottom or use shelf paper, fiberboard, or lava cloth depending on your technique.
The all-rigid fiber construction ensures swift heating and cooling, reaching fusing temperatures in under 90 minutes. Plus, the unique clamshell design makes project assembly a breeze, as the lid stays back when opened. While the 15-inch square shelf is not included, it adds extra options for artists exploring the diverse possibilities of pottery and glass artistry.
4. Evenheat Kiln - Studio Pro STP with Window
Here’s what you can expect from the Evenheat Kiln - Studio Pro STP with Window
The Studio Pro STP is designed to accommodate the fairly active nature of glasswork. Its design facilitates fast action, movement, and visual cues essential in the glasswork process. The kiln supports a maximum temperature of 1800°F (982°C) and accommodates a range of materials, including glass, metal clays, metal processing, enamels, and china paint. The kiln, weighing 30 pounds (UPS), features a Dual Access Design that combines traditional front and top loading, making it a truly revolutionary and flexible option in its class. Additionally, the Studio Pro STP comes equipped with a viewing window, eliminating the need for any additional modifications.
The kiln also comes with a Set-Pro, giving you full digital temperature control that allows you to take control of the firing process. Overall, the Evenheat Kiln - Studio ro STP is super portable and great for testing your ideas or for compact studio spaces. Try today!
3. Olympic Kiln - 129FLE
Here’s what you can expect from the Olympic Kiln - 129FLE
The front-loading feature of the Olympic 129FLE allows effortless access to the firing chamber even when the kiln is hot. This practical design is complemented by a vent hole positioned at the top of the chamber, facilitating the escape of wax and other vapors during wax burnout processes. The kiln's door, available in guillotine lift, side-hinged, or bottom-hinged options, enhances accessibility for placing and retrieving pieces with ease.
2. Paragon Kiln - Bluebird
Here’s what you can expect from the Paragon Kiln - Bluebird
Ideal for glass bead annealing, the Paragon BlueBird kiln ensures the safe cooling of glass to prevent breakage, eliminating concerns about stress fractures in your creations. The kiln's double doors, each 10" wide, have a total of 20” width, which is more than enough for inserting bead rods.
Furthermore, the user-friendly Genesis Mini Touch Screen Controller simplifies temperature management, allowing users to program desired times and adjust cooling rates through the annealing range. If you’re a glass artist or glass bead maker, this is the kiln you want to put on your list.
1. Cress Kiln - GK1
Here’s what you can expect from the Cress Kiln - GK1
The Cress Kiln - GK1 excels in a range of applications such as jewelry making, slumping, raking, vitrograph, enameling, low-fire ceramics, and Raku firing at low-fire temperatures. Its impressive temperature recovery time ensures optimal performance, handling tasks with ease at temperatures exceeding 2000 degrees. The kiln's design prioritizes durability and safety, featuring a strong steel-fixed hinge that securely attaches the lid to the kiln, reducing the risk of damage during operation.
You’ll also find that the superior lid brace and rigid back brace clamps further reinforce the kiln's structural integrity, allowing you to use it for years. With a pre-assembled welded steel stand as a standard feature, this kiln provides a stable foundation for consistent and reliable performance.
Should You Buy a New or Used Kiln?
Choosing between a new or used kiln depends on various factors, each with its own set of considerations. Opting for a new kiln offers the advantage of warranty coverage (as provided by the manufacturer), giving you peace of mind and protection against potential manufacturing defects. With a new kiln, you’ll have the latest technological advancements, improved safety features, and possibly more energy-efficient designs. Additionally, you'll be the first to benefit from any upgraded control systems, which can enhance the overall user experience and precision in temperature management. The availability of customer support and readily accessible replacement parts for a new kiln can also simplify maintenance and repairs, contributing to long-term reliability.
On the other hand, choosing a used kiln can be a cost-effective option, especially if you are on a budget. However, thorough inspection is crucial to ensure that the kiln is in good condition and has been well-maintained. Assessing the wear and tear on critical components such as elements, thermocouples, and the overall structural integrity is essential.
If you’re a beginner, we recommend you start with a new kiln. That way, you don’t have to deal with any unnecessary headaches that would come with a used kiln.
Now that you’ve been able to take a look at some of the best kilns for beginners, it’s time to get out there and start your firing journey. Don’t forget to consider important factors like what you’re using the kiln for, your budget, and electricity requirements. This will help you find the perfect kiln to fulfill your firing goals.