Wednesday, 6 January 2010

The first challenge of the new year... kiln trouble shooting

My kiln is playing up. Consequently I am in the middle of a crash course in amateur kiln maintenance, with telephone help from the very helpful Jonathon at Potclays in Stoke where I bought the kiln.
Firstly, I removed the metal housing at the back and examined the obvious wiring. All this looks fine. Pristine in fact. Then I tested the wall socket which I changed recently and felt was probably not the problem. I tested this by boiling a kettle using this socket. It was fine, and at least I now have a cup of tea!
Jonathon's next suggestion because of the symptoms I described (kiln got to half temperature in the time it usually takes to do a full firing and then stopped rising) was that half of the elements had stopped working. My kiln, (L & L Model - Fuego) has four rows of elements, and two of these go into separate element blocks. So his suggestion was as follows - get some small pieces of tissue paper, put a little one so that it touches each of the element rows, and turn on the kiln for a couple of minutes.
If they are singed then current is getting through and the elements are working, if not, then they are not.
He was absolutely right in my case as these images show.
The top two were still unblemished, whereas the bottom ones had fallen out and were scorched. Therefore it is the top two that are faulty.
His next suggestion was to check visually each faulty element with a magnifying glass and see if there are any breaks.
Having done this, I cannot see anything obvious. Although they are blackened more in some places than they are in others, there are no breaks that I can see.
Time to ring Jonathon again and see what he suggests next...
I was concerned that I couldn't see the undersides of the elements, and was worried about damaging them by moving them, but he said it was OK to move them a little just to see....
Et voila! The culprit! A broken wire in the element coil!
He'll have one in the post for me tomorrow, so on Friday hopefully it will arrive, and I can continue with part 2 - changing a faulty element... Wish me luck!
A big big thank you to the ultra-helpful Jonathon, who has kindly said he'll be on the other end of the phone should I need help with the next step.
There I was, thinking that being a ceramicist was all about playing with mud... It is vital that I learn to maintain my equipment, both from a financial and time point of view. Waiting for a specialist to come out and do a job like this could take a week or so, and would undoubtably cost a lot more than learning how to do these things myself. I have learned a lot today, have faced another of my fears of all things electrical, and saved myself a small fortune to boot. Whoop! Bring on part 2!

1 comment:

Curious Sofa said...

Elizabeth, I found you via Etsy and would love for you to be a part of an art show I am having in my store in the U.S. for Valentines Day. Please check your Etsy email. My name is Debbie and I own a retail store. Your items would be perfect and could easily be mailed to us. I would love to tell you more. Thanks!