Pottery can be a relaxing hobby to get into. The act of molding clay on the potter’s wheel into any shape you desire can be therapeutic for some.
Of course, like most craft hobbies, once you try it you end up falling in love with it. Some people take one pottery class and find themselves wanting to spend more and more time in the pottery studio.
For a beginner potter who really wants to get their home pottery studio up and running, there are a few basics. You’ll certainly need clay, a potter’s wheel, and a pottery kiln.
So, what is the best pottery kiln for beginners? The best pottery kiln for beginners is the right size for your projects, has a temperature range hot enough to fire your desired clay, is easy for you to load and unload either from top or front, and works with your home’s electrical wiring.
Pottery kilns are a big investment and take a lot of consideration. There are certain safety precautions to consider before choosing to purchase a pottery kiln for your home as well.
In this buyer’s guide, we’ll review everything you need to know before choosing the right pottery kiln for you.
What Are Pottery Kilns Used For?
Unless you’re using air-dry clay, pottery clay doesn’t solidify on its own. In order for you to properly shape the clay into whatever vessel or sculpture you’ve decided on, the clay must be wet and malleable. It can’t stay wet once it’s shaped, or else it’ll fall apart.
This is where pottery kilns come in. A kiln is essentially an insulated chamber that reaches extremely high temperatures to dry out the clay and turn it into a solid piece. The heat in kilns is traditionally achieved by electricity or fuel.
When you put your wet clay in the kiln, it’s similar to putting a baking dish of wet brownie mix into the oven. Once your brownie mix has been in the oven long enough, the heat has baked it into firm brownies.
The same principle applies to pottery. You are baking the clay – taking it from something wet to something firm and solid.
If you’re not using air dry clay, every piece of pottery you make will need to be fired in a kiln. Regardless of whether you’re creating dishware, flower vases, jewelry holders, or something else, it’ll need to be fired in the kiln before it’s done.
If you’re ready to take that next step in your pottery adventure, it could be time to purchase your own kiln for home use.
Home Pottery Kiln Safety Precautions
For those of you fully committed to purchasing your own kiln for home, there are some safety precautions you should take before buying.
Kilns often have very specific electrical requirements, so you’ll need to verify that the electrical wiring in your home is compatible with your kiln. We’ll go into more details about this below!
Another extremely important safety consideration is that your kiln will require a ventilation system. When kilns are in use firing pottery, they will emit fumes and gases. These are toxic fumes that will need to be vented away from the kiln and out of the room.
There are a few different ways to set up a ventilation system for your kiln. You can purchase a ventilation kit specifically for a kiln. These come in different forms, such as a downdraft vent system and an extraction hood.
You could also run a cross draft system, which circulates the air via a fan that blows the fumes around the room and out of the window. We don’t recommend this method, as it’s the least effective at ventilation, but it works in a pinch.
Not only do you need proper space for ventilation, but you also need to make sure your kiln has proper space away from any walls or objects.
Even if your kiln has a small inner chamber, it will likely take up double that amount of space. Aside from how large the physical kiln is, you’ll want to make sure you have at least 18” of space all the way around the kiln.
Because it will take up such a large amount of space and need a proper ventilation system, you’ll want to seriously consider where this may fit in your home.
The size of your pottery kiln will depend on the types of projects you plan on firing and how many pieces you plan to fire at a time.
Depending on how much money you have to invest in a pottery kiln, you can find one large enough to fire multiple pieces at a time. If you plan to turn your home pottery into a business, this could be great for you.
However, the larger kilns can run anywhere from $4,000-10,000. This is quite the price tag for a beginner’s home pottery kiln.
For most home pottery operations, a small kiln will do just fine, especially if you’re just getting started. You may only be able to fit one or two pieces at a time (depending on what you make), but you can find a reasonable kiln at a smaller size for under $1,000.
You also want to consider the types of projects you plan on doing. For those making mugs or other small objects, a smaller kiln will do just fine. If you want to create larger statues, vases, dishes, or other sizable creations, you may have to pay more to get a kiln that will fit your pottery pieces.
As we noted above, keep in mind that even if the interior firing area is small, the kiln itself will still be large.
One of the kilns we’ve picked below has a firing chamber of 6” x 6” x 5”, while the outside dimensions are actually 8” x 7” x 13”. Pay special attention to both the outside dimensions and the size of the interior firing chamber.
Although pottery may seem like it’s all made with the same clay to a beginner, there are several different types of clay, and each type has its own firing temperature.
The glaze you choose will also affect the temperature you fire your pottery piece.
When speaking about temperature for firing pottery pieces, you’ll see the term “cone” used frequently. Some manufacturers will put a temperature and cone, such as: 2350°F, cone 10.
When it comes to cones and pottery kilns, the basic idea is that there are cones made of material that melt when they reach a certain temperature. These cones are marked with a number ranging from 022-14 with a corresponding temperature measurement.
If you’re using the cones in the kiln, the temperature of that cone (such as the cone 10 at 2350°F) is when it melts. Once that cone starts melting, you know your clay has reached a point where it’s finished firing.
There are plenty of charts that show cone and temperature correlations, and you can always refer to these when reviewing a pottery kiln to see if it reaches the temperature you need for your clay.
In general, there are four cone ranges: very low fire, low fire, mid fire, and high fire. The range of your kiln will depend entirely on the types of projects you plan on firing.
For example, if you only ever plan to work with earthenware, then a low to mid fire range will work great. Earthenware is often fired at low range but having the ability to go higher is ideal.
This is a rule of thumb for all kilns. You always want to choose a temperature a little higher than what you plan to use. This gives you more flexibility in your work and the clays and glazes you’ll use.
3. Top Or Front-Loading
Whether you choose top or front-loading is entirely up to you. Generally, front-loading pottery kilns are used more commercially for a large group setting. These tend to be larger overall and will typically cost more money.
The heating elements for front-loading pottery kilns are all along the back and side walls, with some even putting elements on the door of the kiln.
Front-loading pottery kilns are typically easier to load, because it’s a simple door you can open and easily reach into.
Top-loading pottery kilns can be more difficult to load. You’ll have to bend over the top and, depending on your own height and the height of your kiln, you may not be able to reach the bottom. It will also involve a lot of stretching and potential back pain.
On the other hand, top-loading pottery kilns tend to be more reasonably priced and readily accessible for the home potter. Most of the options we’ve included below are top-loading kilns.
Top-loading kilns have a better all-around heating element because it’s fully around the whole chamber. This can help heat better, depending on the kiln.
Most kilns designed for home use are usually short enough that most people shouldn’t have any issues reaching the bottom.
4. Electrical Requirements
Pottery kiln manufacturers almost always recommend having an electrician come to your home and evaluate your electrical wiring to make sure it’ll work for your kiln.
There are three components to evaluate regarding your kiln’s electrical requirements and your home’s electrical capacity: voltage, amperage, and single or three-phase power.
Electric pottery kilns come in a variety of different voltages and amperages, with a lot of kilns not readily able to be used with home wiring.
Some of the smaller kilns will work in a traditional 120V domestic electrical socket, but some of the more professional pottery kilns will require 208V or 240V power.
Because of the amount of power, or the amperage, that your pottery kiln will draw, your electrician may recommend installing a completely separate circuit and breaker switch just for your pottery kiln.
Most homes have single-phase power, so it’s more than likely that you will not have three-phase power. This will be another detail your electrician can help you determine at the inspection.
We highly recommend bringing an electrician to your home after choosing the pottery kiln you want. You can provide the electrician with the voltage, amperage, and phase power your kiln requires and see if your home’s electrical system can handle it.
Electrical issues are one of the top 5 leading causes of house fires. Trying to use more electricity than your socket can handle can cause overheating and fire.
Always proceed cautiously with electrical considerations. Talk to an electrician, tell them what you need, and take their advice. If your home can’t handle the kiln you want, it could be a good idea to pick a couple back-ups that may work better for your home.
The 7 Best Pottery Kilns For Beginners
Now that we’ve reviewed the different factors and safety precautions to consider when choosing a pottery kiln, you’re ready to buy.
We’ve included our top 7 best pottery kilns for beginners below. This list only applies to beginners or home potters and does not include any large or commercial kilns.
|1.||RapidFire Tabletop Kiln||12 lbs, portable, heats up to cone 7, 1500W|
|2.||Deluxe QuikMelt Tabletop Furnace||10 lbs, heats up to cone 7, 110V|
|3.||Jen-Ken AF3C 11/9 Ceramic Kiln||Ceramic shelves, cone 1-2, 120V, 1800W|
|4.||Olympic HB64E Ceramic Kiln||Top-loading, cone 10, 120V, 1800W|
|5.||Olympic Hot Box 89E 12K Ceramic Kiln||Cone 10, 120V, 1800W, 15 amps|
|6.||Evenheat Studio Pro STP Ceramic Kiln||1440W, 12 amps, 120V, cone 7-8, small|
|7.||Skutt FireBox 8x6 LT Multimedia Kiln||Cone 6, 120V, 15 amps, furniture kit included|
If you’re ready to take a step up in your pottery hobby and turn it into a real passion, look at some of these pottery kilns below!
1. RapidFire Tabletop Kiln
With a front-loading door, this RapidFire Tabletop Kiln is ideal for any beginner.
Weighing just 12 pounds with a carrying handle on top, this kiln is even considered portable. You can move this anywhere depending on the space you have, which could be very handy for those with limited space.
Although it may not seem large, the firing chamber for this model is 6” x 6” x 5”, giving you about 0.1042 cubic feet of space to load up your pottery kiln.
The outside dimensions are 8” x 7” x 13” which still makes this a reasonable size when evaluating space options.
The RapidFire Tabletop Kiln heats up to 2200°F in just 8-10 minutes. For those measuring in cones, this kiln can reach up to cone 7, or the top of the mid fire range.
All of these specifications, along with the fairly reasonable price tag, make this the perfect pottery kiln for any beginner.
For those taking notes on electrical requirements, this pottery kiln uses 1500 watts of power with a standard 15-amp circuit.
2. Deluxe QuikMelt Tabletop Furnace
The Deluxe QuikMelt Tabletop Furnace is great because not only can you fire pottery, but you can melt metals and even utilize the sand casting clay they include in the bundle.
This kiln weighs only 10 pounds, so it’s another great option for those needing versatility in movement and space.
Like the model before, this kiln heats up to 2200°F (cone 7) within 8-10 minutes. As we mentioned above, this is perfect for mid-range clays and projects.
This kiln requires a standard 110V power supply, but be sure to read over the exact specifications and manufacturer details before plugging in.
3. Jen-Ken AF3C 11/9 Ceramic Kiln
We love this Jen-Ken Ceramic Kiln because it ticks all the boxes while staying in the lower price range for pottery kilns.
This kiln is a top-loading unit and has interior chamber dimensions of 11” x 9”, giving you about 0.5 cubic feet of space. This is much larger than the two kilns listed above and will be great for those looking to fire multiple projects at once.
You can even utilize ceramic shelves in the chamber to really maximize the way you use the interior chamber space.
The Jen-Ken AF3C 11/9 model has a maximum temperature of 2100°F. This is a little lower than the first two kilns listed and only reaches the low or low mid range of around cone 1-2.
Although the firing temperature may sound too low to fire anything, earthenware is commonly fired in the low range.
For electricity requirements, this kiln uses 120V, 1800 watts, and 15 amps of power.
If you’re a beginner potter working primarily with earthenware, this kiln will be perfect for you.
4. Olympic HB64E Ceramic Kiln
This Olympic HB64E model kiln is fairly large on the outside with a smaller inner chamber. Its outer dimensions are 16” x 16” x 13”, while the interior chamber measures only 6.5” x 6.5” x 4.5” giving you 0.11 cubic feet of space.
Don’t let this deter you, though, as Olympic is one of the reputable brands when it comes to pottery kilns. This top-loading kiln is built to last and may be more sturdy than some off-brand kilns.
This kiln also reaches higher temperatures, going up to 2350°F (or cone 10, high fire range). This gives you more flexibility in the types of clay and pottery you can work with.
Its electricity requirements are identical to the Jen-Ken model before, using 120V, 1800 watts, and 15 amps of power.
With its higher temperature range and reputable brand name, this kiln is perfect for the beginner potter who’s looking for some flexibility in their exploration of pottery.
5. Olympic Hot Box 89E 12K Ceramic Kiln
If you’re willing to spend a little extra money and want a larger kiln with the same reputable Olympic name, then this Olympic Hot Box 89E 12K is the kiln for you.
The inner chamber for this model measures 8” x 8” x 9”, bumping you up to 0.33 cubic feet of space. The outer dimensions are 17.5” x 17” x 22”, making this kiln only a little wider but significantly taller than the other Olympic model.
Just as with the Olympic HB64E model, this kiln fires up to 2350°F, cone 10, high fire range. It has the same electricity requirements of 120V, 1800 watts, and 15 amps.
You can even purchase a furniture kit to go with it for less than $100 extra. This will add two 6.5” x 6.5” square shelves, four each ½”, 1”, 2” small square posts, and one 1-lb bag of kiln wash.
For those truly looking to make a home business with their pottery, this is the kiln to choose.
6. Evenheat Studio Pro STP Ceramic Kiln
Evenheat is another reputable brand when it comes to pottery kilns. Their Studio Pro STP kiln is perfect for those looking for a small, affordable, low-range kiln.
While it may not be very tall, it gives a lot of width in terms of interior chamber space. This kiln has an interior chamber of 8” x 8” x 4.5”, giving you 0.17 cubic feet of room.
This is a much lower power kiln, using only 12 amps and 1440 watts with its 120V electricity. It uses less power because it has a much lower max temperature of 1800°F, only reaching the low range and cone 7-8.
However, this is still plenty of power and heat to fire any earthenware pottery, and the smaller size makes this a great option for smaller pottery projects.
7. Skutt FireBox 8×6 LT Multimedia Kiln
Our last option comes from another reputable pottery kiln brand, Skutt. This FireBox model is another great option for any beginning potter.
With a maximum temperature of 2,250°F, you’ll be able to reach cone 6, or the mid-fire range.
You’ll also have plenty of space. This square-shaped inner chamber is 8” x 8” x 6.5”, giving you 0.22 cubic feet of interior space. It does have a large electrical box on the back, so keep this in mind when planning for space.
For electrical requirements, it uses the standard 120V and 15 amps of power.
We love that this kiln comes with the furniture kit included, instead of being sold separately. When you purchase this kiln, you’ll also get one 7” x 7” shelf, three 1” posts, and a 1-lb bag of kiln wash.
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