Buying a Pottery Kiln | Facts Features and What to Consider

Hobbyists looking for Electric Kilns to fire up Earthenware Pottery or Slip Cast Ceramics will find the market flooded with options. But not all of these Kilns can be good for the job.

Electric Kilns tend to be more popular than Gas-fired options because they produce different brighter colors with Oxidation firing. While some colors like copper red turn out better when fired in a Gas (reduction) Kiln many Potters opt for an Electric option. Careful research before you buy your first or next Electric Kiln will help you achieve consistent firing, whether you produce a few pieces a month or want to build a Pottery business. 

This guide takes a look at the most popular Electric Kilns on the market. We have chosen Kilns that deliver superb power and efficiency:

  • Skutt Kilnmaster – KMT-1227-3
  • Skutt Kilnmaster – KMT-818
  • Amaco Excel 22” Deep Single Phase Kiln – EX-329SF
  • Amaco Excel Kiln with EZ-Lift – EX270SF
  • Amaco Excel with EZ Lift Lid – EX-353SF
  • Paragon Touch-N-Fire – TNF – 82-3
  • Paragon Iguana Digital Front-Loading

But before we discuss these Kilns, we need to cover the features a good Electric Pottery Kiln has. 

What Do You Need in a Good Pottery Kiln?

A good pottery Kiln will ideally offer even heating, be easy and safe to use, and last for many years to come.

Supports Higher Temperatures

Ceramic and porcelain typically need higher temperatures. Bisque, Ceramic, and Glaze typically want to reach temperatures ranging from around 1789°F (976 C) Cone 07 to 2345 F (1285) Cone 10.  

Porcelain, Stoneware, and Porcelain glazes work best in even higher temperatures. You want your kiln to reach temperatures of 2345 F or 1285 C (Cone 10). The reason being even if you fire lower, a Cone 10 Kiln will fire more efficiently and last longer. Also, if you ever want to or need to fire to Cone 10 you have the ability to do so. Again, you can always Lower the Temperature of a Higher Temperature Kiln but you can never Fire Higher with a Low-Temperature Kiln. 

Heating Elements and Bricks Designed for Even-heating

A good Electric Kiln for pottery should ideally have 3-inch fire bricks for Insulation. They are more energy effect which is always a plus when it comes to your power bill.

a picture of kiln elements
Heating Elements

Advanced users exploring Soak Temperatures and Hold Cycles may want to look for models with bricks wrapped in fiber. 

One of the limitations of Electric Kilns is that they use radiant heat from heating elements for firing up your Pottery ware. Because there is no circulation to distribute the heat evenly around the piece, the section facing the heating element gets more heat than the section on the shady side. Heavier pieces of Pottery tend to be heated unevenly as a result. That’s why a 2-minute hold is recommended to ensure the whole kiln reaches the desired temperature.

Well-designed Thermocouple

The Thermocouple is technically the probe that senses the temperature in the Kiln and sends info to and from the controller for an accurate temperature reading. An expensive kiln may have type S platinum thermocouples that can last a decade or more even at Cone 10 firings. These are made of platinum and rhodium. 

a picture of an extra thermocouple
Thermocouple

Most Electric Kilns, however, come with type K thermocouples. These are inexpensive and made of chromel and alumel. How long type K Thermocouples last depends on your firing schedule and the firing temperatures. 

A Type that Fits Your Project 

If you intend to fire up little ceramic animals as a hobby at home, a 27-inch Electric Kiln is a waste of space and money. At the same time, firing up thick porcelain pieces evenly on a Cone 8 Electric Kiln to perfection may be difficult. You should buy a Kiln that fits your needs. If you only make a few pieces in a week how long do you want to wait until you have enough greenware to fill your Kiln?  

Ergonomic Design

The ergonomic design means a Kiln that you don’t have to bend over too much to safely use. Top-loading models aren’t good for everyone. If you have a height disadvantage in the face of deep full-volume kilns, go for a front-loading model. They are pricier, but you’re paying for the lack of a backache from bending over too much. 

Many models come with one-handed lid design. Such handles can be helpful if you intend to use your Kiln a lot.

Intend to move your Kiln around a lot? Look for models with wheeled stands. Most Kilns come with a stand without wheels. Wheel stands are great space savers. You can wheel your kiln out for use and back against the wall when you are done.

Reasonable Price 

Electric Kilns can go for $700 or $12,000, depending on a variety of things. Usually, higher wattage, greater capacity, and better quality of the heating elements mean a higher price. 

You can buy good quality Small Ceramic Kilns for around a $1,000 that are designed to run on the household power supply. 

Front-loading designs are typically more expensive. Top loaders are more popular. Paragon and Skutt are two popular brands to come out of the US with excellent industrial-standard kilns at surprising prices. 

Paragon is recommended for you if you have a big budget. Skutt models are more competitively priced. Skutt is known for its thermocouples, and the brand’s industrial-standard models are highly affordable for what they are. 

A Programmable Controller

Manual Controller:

Kilns can come with different types of controllers. Manual controllers are rare. These controllers need you to start your kiln at the lowest settings and change the temperature manually throughout the firing process. Note that manual controllers are not for beginners. 

The Set-Pro Control:

The Set-Pro Control is a standard 3-button controller that you’ll find on many Electric Ceramic Kilns. Some people find that it doesn’t give them the flexibility of 12-button or touchpad controllers. But the Set Pro is good for beginners or those on a low budget. 

The KMT Controller:

a picture of kiln controler guided start
Skutt KMT Controller with Wi-Fi

Quick 45 second Video

The KMT Controller by Skutt has a touch screen controller similar to a smartphone with built-in Wi-Fi that allows you to upgrade your firmware whenever Skutt comes out with a new feature, which gives you a new controller for the life of the kiln. I like the free App you can download and access directly to your phone. The App allows you to monitor the temperature of your Kiln and how long it’s been firing from anywhere you are. This touch screen was designed with beginners in mind. It will guild you through the process until you learn more about the firing process.

Select Fire Controller:

The Select Fire controller allows you greater control over your Firings. It’s two controllers in one. You can fire your own firing profile with multiple holds and ramps or by cone numbers. This is an easy controller to use.

Well-Ventilated Unit and Switch-Housing

You don’t want fumes and moisture to build up inside the Kiln during firing. This can rust the insides of the unit and affect the glaze. 

A good Electric Kiln will have vents to work as an exhaust. During certain stages of the process, you’ll want to remove the bung that plugs the flue and let the fumes out. You may also remove the top peeper on the side of the Kiln or prop the top up with a piece of fire brick that Skutt supplies with the kiln.

A switch housing with a solid metal top will not have good ventilation to prevent overheating. Ideally, the switch housing should have a metal grate or vents to allow airflow for cooling. Without airflow, the switches can overheat and fail. 

Efficient and Suitable Kiln Furniture 

A good Kiln manufacturer will offer good quality furniture that will heat quickly, lose as little heat as possible, and hold heat at the temperature that you want. 

a picture of kiln shelves and posts
Skutt KMT – 818 Kiln Furniture

One of the reasons that Electric Kilns can be inefficient is poorly designed Kiln furniture. Furniture includes bricks, shelves, bread racks (for wearable ceramics), Kiln posts, and stilts. Some materials are better than others. It’s best to order the furniture with your Kiln unless you want to pay for extra shipping charges later. 

Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing Furniture Materials: 

  • Kiln shelves are typically made of Cordierite, containing alumina and silica. They support firing up to Cone 10. But they tend to get warped beyond Cone 8.
    If you plan a lot of high fire projects, look for high-alumina kiln shelves. But if you can afford them, silicon carbide shelves are the lightest and least likely to warp. You need to take into account ware weight, temperature rating, and size of shelves for efficient and effective firing. 
  • Support kiln shelves with Kiln posts. Using posts will maximize the space inside for the firing process. 
  • The bricks in your Kiln can either be soft or hard. Soft bricks store heat better. But they can’t withstand high temperatures that hard bricks can. 

Now that we’ve got the basics out of the way let’s move on to the most popular Electric Kilns in the market for Ceramic Pottery at Home or Small Studio:  

Skutt Kiln Master KMT-1227PK 

a picture of a Skutt KM-1227-3 kiln

This Skutt is a popular high-fire Kiln for higher production volumes in your Home Shop or Small Professional Studio. The brand offers a huge range of low fire to high fire production Kilns. We have chosen the best-selling Skutt KMT 1227 PK for a variety of reasons. 

This Kiln fires all the way to Cone 10. The precision Thermocouples increase the temperature accuracy and a host of other advanced features. Intermediate or seasoned users will appreciate the many high-level features of the model. 

The unit comes with a multi-featured touchscreen that makes programming visual and intuitive. You can monitor the temperature and firing time status through your smartphone.

The Hinged Controller allows you to move it upward, so you won’t need to get down on your hands and knees to program the unit. 

The kiln is designed with parts that fit one another and can be removed for moving or replacing faulty sections. The extra investment you’re making for this design pays off in the long run for heavy use cases.

The elements are designed for even heating across various zones, with twice the number of grooves than most kilns of the same volume. There will be fewer cold spots when you use several shelves. The Skutt offers greater flexibility of use with its element placement and design. Elements will last longer, too, when there is less burden on each one. 

Thermocouples are exposed to greater accuracy. You have the option to upgrade to Type S to buff up your Skutt. Plus, the warranty on the model covers labor as well as parts.  

The 240 Volts requires an electrician to install a special plug for home use, so before buying, make sure you are equipped for it. 

This unit is a little on the larger size, at 28.13 inches by 27 inches. It’s suitable for larger projects that need volumes of up to 9.9 cubic feet. 

Pros

  • It comes with a KMT touchscreen controller with built-in WiFi.
  • The current sensor allows precision control and reading
  • Sectional design for easy dismantling and repairs 
  • Balanced elements for more even heating and longer element life
  • Exposed thermocouple for greater accuracy
  • Industrial-grade wiring delivers 14,300 watts, ideal for a small production studio
  • Plenty of upgrade options 

Cons

  • May be too big for Home hobbyists or Small studios

Skutt KMT – 818

a picture of a Skutt KM - 818 - 3 kiln
Skutt KMT – 818 Electric Kiln

We have chosen this best-selling smaller Skutt KMT-818 for several reasons.

If you’re looking for a Skutt Kiln more on the compact side, the Skutt KMT-818 is a perfect choice. It is a popular high-fire Kiln for your small Home Studio or Shop. This Kiln fires all the way to Cone 10. 

The KMT-818 is a good price. You get everything in this smaller version that you do with the larger models along with the advanced features. Beginners or seasoned users will appreciate the features of the model. 

This unit also comes with a multi-featured touchscreen with the Hinged Controller that makes programming visual and intuitive. You can monitor the temperature and firing time status through your smartphone.

This compact Kiln is designed with parts that fit one another and can be removed for moving or replacing faulty sections. The 240 Volts requires an electrician to install a special plug for home use, so before buying, make sure you are equipped for it

The elements are designed for even heating. This Compact Skutt offers greater flexibility of use with its element placement and design. Elements will last longer, too, when there is less burden on each one. 

The unit is a little on the smaller size weighing 145 pounds. The inside measuring 18 inches by 18 inches and the volume is 2.6 cubic feet. 

The Skutt KMT- 818 also offers a 3inch Brick insolation, which makes it more energy efficient but cuts your width from 17 ½ inches across to 16 ½ inches and 2.3 cubic feet.

Pros

  • Fires up to Cone 10 at 240 Volts
  • It comes with a KMT touchscreen controller with built-in WiFi. Making it so easy to use.
  • The current sensor allows precision control and reading
  • Sectional design for easy dismantling and repairs 
  • Balanced elements for more even heating and longer element life
  • Exposed thermocouple for greater accuracy
  • Industrial-grade wiring delivers 6400 watts, great for a small production studio
  • Plenty of upgrade options 
  • Doesn’t take up much room

Cons 

  • The thermocouple is not in an ideal spot for arranging your shelves
  • Because of its smaller capacity, loading may be tricky at times, like a jigsaw puzzle.  

Amaco Excel 22” Deep Kiln – EX-329SF

A picture of a Amaco EX-329SF kiln

The Excel 22” Deep Single Phase Kiln is a reliable ceramic Kiln for a Small Studio or your Home Studio. This Kiln was designed to make loading easy for Potters that are unable to reach the bottom of the Kiln.   

You get a 2 ½ -inch brick construction for good temperature distribution, a sturdy handle brackets, and load-bearing hinge for strength, durable stands for heavy-duty use, ergonomic extra-wide handle for use with gloved hands. 

The kiln can reach temperatures of 2381°F (1305 C), which is great for artists working with high-fire Stoneware as well as Earthenware. If you can take advantage of its high power, you have a sturdy and reliable kiln that can deliver a good performance.

Note that the 232SF needs a voltage of 240. We recommend having an electrician make sure you have the equipment to accommodate higher voltage appliances safely

The Kiln weighs 155 lbs. and exterior stands at 36 inches high and 29-inch width. The interior dimensions are 22 inches Deep and 17½ inches across, with a firing area that measures 3.2 cubic feet. The compact size makes it easy to make space for pieces to move around.

Pros

  • Compact size with advanced features
  • High power, ideal for stoneware and porcelain firing up to cone 10 – 2381°F (1305 C)
  • It comes with the Select Fire Controller for easy operation
  • Sectional design for easy dismantling and repairs
  • Peepholes to help control the airflow in and out of the Kiln  
  • Despite the top-loading design, the 22” Kilns are made for individuals with a shorter reach.  

Cons 

  • The standard stand doesn’t have wheels. An Amaco wheel stand is not available.  
  • Only 2 ½ inch brick but can also get 3-inch brick EX-329SF. Keep in mind you lose the cubic area.

Amaco Excel Kiln with EZ-Lift – EX270SF

A picture of a Amaco EX - 270SF EZ-Lift kiln

Another offering from Amaco is this big brother of the compact high fire Electric Kilns – the Amaco Excel Kiln with EZ-Lift – EX270SF. As it’s designed for heavy-duty use, the EX series is ideal for use in artist studios. You can buy a shallow unit for smaller volumes, or a deeper, full volume unit for loading more ceramic ware. 

The standard model comes with a controller that is convenient and accurate. The bottom and lid that can be turned over to extend the life of your Kiln.

The kiln can achieve maximum temperatures of 2345 F (1285 C) or Cone 10. It is well suited for advanced or intermediate artists working with ceramics. High fire pottery up to Cone 10 requires artistry, and EX-353SF is known to be good for delivering bisque and glaze firing to satisfaction.

This model runs on 240 volts. That may be more powerful than many home studios are equipped for. You will need an electrician to make sure you have enough amps and install the proper plug.   

This Kiln inside is 23.5 inches across and 27 inches deep. The depth gives the unit 7 cubic feet of volume and ease of use. The depth may offer a height-disadvantage for some users. For such users, we recommend 22” Deep units. The Amaco EX-353SF is designed for larger pieces.

Pros

  • Popular size, good for bigger pieces like plates, pots, and bowls. 
  • Ergonomic design with EZ-Lift with a heavy-duty spring-loaded hinge making opening and closing your Kiln effortless.
  • Sturdy design in the lid for heavy-duty use. 
  • High-quality firebrick construction, made in the USA. 
  • Sectional design for easy dismantling and repairs   
  • Good for low-fire Clay and high-fire Clay.
  • A two-year warranty protects you from manufacturing defects. 

Cons 

  • The top-loading design may not suit some users. 
  • With some Kilns, Vents and the Select Fire Controllers may come at an additional cost. 

Paragon Touch-N-Fire – TNF-82-3

A picture of a Paragon Touch-N-Fire Kiln - 82-3 kiln

This is a good medium-sized Kiln for a Home Studio. You can fire pieces like bowls, plates, and pots in your Studio. This 10-sided Kiln comes with 3” thick sidewalls, bottom, and lid makes it 20% thicker than the standard 2 ½” thick bricks.

The lid is easy to lift with the patented Paragon counter-balance LiteLid.

This model is one of the more dependable Electric Kilns out there with dual function. Since the Paragon TnF-23-3 is designed to fire to 2350 F (1287 C) Cone 10 it will easily handle low-fire Ceramics.

You can easily set the Paragon up in your Home Studio. The 240 volts and 40 amps may require an electrician to install a special plug for home use, make sure you are equipped for it before buying.

This Kiln is a little on the heavier side weighing 300 pounds. The external kiln height includes a 12.25″ tall stand. The inside of this Kiln measures 22½ by 22¼ inches, and 30 inches wide by 44 inches high on the outside with 5.10 Cubic feet of firing.

Pros

  • A durable pro model with High firing support 
  • Paragon has a Lite Lid spring counter-weight
  • Delivers 9600 watts, great for a Smaller Production Studios
  • Sectional design for easy dismantling and repairs 
  • Large, tapered peepholes
  • Dust-free coating in the peepholes, the top rim, and lid of firebrick
  • Industrial-grade wiring delivers 6400 watts

Cons  

Amaco’s Select Fire™ Controller and an EZ-Lift™ lid can be ordered with the kiln,

The Higher power rating may be more suitable for a Pro Studio than a Home Studio

Paragon Iguana Digital Front-Loading Kiln

A picture of a Paragon Iguana Digital Front-Loading kiln

The Paragon Iguana Digital Front-Loading is a highly dependable Kiln with heavy-duty elements. This Kiln promises a longer life than most comparable Kilns because the elements don’t strain to reach high temperatures. This is a great Kiln for heavy use.

If you are not a fan of Top-loading kilns you will love this Front-Loading Kiln with a door swings open wide and a spring-loaded latch that closes the door tightly.

It achieves maximum temperatures of around 2,350 F (1287 C) Cone10. The temperature rating also makes it a good Kiln for low and high fire pieces.

This Front loader is no lightweight weighing in at 480 pounds. The inside measures 22 ½ inches high, 18 inches wide, and 18 inches deep. It’s quite comfortable to use with the stand that is included with the unit.

A ventilated switch box circulates the air and keeps the dust down to give the electrical components a long life. 

You can easily set the Paragon front-loader in your Home Studio. The 240 volts and 45 amps that plugs into a 6-50R outlet may require an electrician to install a special plug for home use, make sure you are equipped for it before buying.

Pros

  • Industrial-grade wiring delivers 10,800 watts
  • It can be used for high as well as low-fire Ceramics. 
  • Built with 3-inch bricks for good insulation.
  • Heavy-duty durable build for a longer life 

Cons 

  • It is on the heavier side.
  • Can be more expensive than Top-loading KIlns. 

Summary

Here are the key takeaways from this article:

  • When buying an electric kiln for Low to High-firing Ceramic projects, look for robust Kilns with even heat distribution, easy access switch box, well-ventilated units, ergonomic design, and safety features. The most popular kilns for Home Studios and small production Studios offer these features. 
  • Choose a model with future-proofing in mind. The Skutt High Fire and Amaco Excel Kilns are great for bisque and up to Cone 10.
  • I recommend the Skutt KilnMaster KMT-1227PK for its industrial-quality parts that are easy to repair and replace. The Skutt is worth it will depend on usage. It is an excellent high firing unit for your Studios.
  • The Excel 22” Deep Kiln and Skutt 818 are great compact kilns, with the same high firing as the larger units. Easy to use and wonderful for the smaller scale or Hobby Potter.
  • If you prefer a front loader the Paragon Iguana Digital is a great durable well made kiln that will last you many years of continued use.

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