Kilns are divided into types based on function. All kilns are designed to get hot to perform their function, some get hotter than others. In addition, the configuration of the heat sources in the kiln will determine the kilns functionality. That’s the whole big deal in a nut shell; it comes down to the type of elements, their placement in the kiln, and how you control that heat. The rest of the issues are just features. So, here’s how it plays out...
Ceramic Kilns - A kiln intended to function for pottery and ceramics is designed to fire to higher temperatures over 2000F degrees, these high temperatures are necessary for firing the clay. Glazes usually fire at lower temperatures. In addition, the elements in a ceramic kiln are placed on the sides to heat multiple layers of shelves filled with clay pieces.
Finally, ceramic kilns typically use a manual controller, called an infinite switch that delivers either; low, medium, or high heat, but does not allow for the ramp/hold programming necessary for glass. Older styles of ceramic kilns use a “kiln sitter” as their heat control device. This feature basically interrupts the flow of electricity to the elements, shutting off the kiln when it reaches your desired temperature. Again, these controllers are not recommended for glass work.
Glass Kilns - A kiln intended to function for glass is designed to fire at temperatures up to 1700F degrees, these lower temps are suitable for most glass projects. The elements in a glass kiln are placed in the lid of the kiln, as well as on the sides. The top elements work to radiate heat onto the face of the glass surface, while the side elements radiate heat throughout the kiln, stabilizing the internal temperature. Having top and side elements in a glass kiln keeps temperature differences within a glass project uniform and prevents cracking.
Finally, glass kilns always have a digital controller allowing for multiple ramp and hold segments for heating, cooling, and stabilizing temperatures throughout the firing process.
Multi Function – Hybrid Kilns - A new breed of kiln is available that is designed to provide users with the best benefits of both ceramic and glass kilns combined. These Multi Function kilns typically combine the following attributes: they are top and side firing, they have a digital controller, and they reach temperatures over 2000F degrees.
Each company building kilns has a different approach to their particular design, but for the most part, a multi function kiln is intended to allow a user to fire ceramics one day, and glass another, delivering high quality functionality for both. A premium price usually follows for this freedo