Tuesday, 15 February 2011

I have a new toy

At last my long awaited mini-kiln has arrived.  Much to my frustration it arrived just in time for me to unpack it and sit it on the dining room table until I got back from a weekend in Oban.  The original kiln that was sent out on 31st December is still missing in action so I'd to wait for a new one to be sent out.  How do you lose a kiln?  I know it's only an ickle kiln, but the box still weighed 10 kilos.

The kiln is manufactured abroad but has been re-engineered for UK & European electrical currents.  Unfortunately it still had a foreign plug on it so first stop on return from Oban was the local Focus DIY shop to buy a UK plug which The Boy fitted for me.  I managed to resist the urge to go & play with it straight away and concentrated on getting unpacked, putting a washing on, etc.  Am I disciplined or what? (What? is the answer I suspect.)

Then Monday arrived.  Again, I had 'stuff' to do so I busied myself with that first, had lunch, then..... dug out the spare granite table mats and arranged them on top of the cooker.  It was the only surefire heat resistant place I could think of for a test run. And here it is, my shiny, new Kitiki mini-kiln:

It's teeny. Less than 25cm (or 9" in old money) square and not much higher than that.  I read the instructions and made sure it was at least 30cms (1 foot) from anything else, including walls and cupboards.  I checked that the room was well ventilated - the draughts coming in under the sink would fix that - and that the temperature in the room stayed below 40 degrees - in my kitchen at this time of year that's a given, in fact it's a blessing if it's above freezing point.

I carefully set the temperature to a random 691 degrees C then switched it on and stepped back so that I was in easy reach of this:

Yes, they recommend you have a fire extinguisher within easy reach as well.  I was surprised to learn that the little round thing in the middle of the door is not in fact a window with heatproof glass but a vent.  This did worry me slightly and made standing next to the fire extinguisher seem like the sensible thing to do.  I noticed as the kiln temperature went above 6oo degrees that I could see the interior glowing red though the little vent.

The actual firing chamber is minute but I'm not planning on firing anything very big so it should be fine.When I phoned the supplier to order it I asked about tongs and heatproof gloves.  I was told that I'd never get a hand in a thick glove inside the chamber and never a truer word was spoken.  Look how little it is:

Notice it was safely switched off and had cooled down before I attempted to open the door. :o)  I left it at temperature for 5 minutes or so before I switched it off and let it cool down and kept checking to see how hot the exterior panels got.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that only the top panel seemed to generate much heat.  Once I've read the instructions for firing silver clay I'll play about test it some more before I decide on where to put it permanently.

I also have some accessories for it:

From left to right we have:
  • A kiln shelf to rest things on as they fire as it's not a good idea to place anything directly on the surface of the firing chamber.
  • A firing blanket.  This can be torn up and used to support things that might end up mishapen if they are fired on a solid kiln shelf, such as rings that aren't a simple, smooth cylinder shape.  It feels quite strange to the touch.  The Boy is freaked out by the feel of cotton wool.  If he misbehaves I can torment him with the blanket. :o)
  • Vermiculite.  This is a kind of granular equivalent of the firing blanket. I'm not sure when you would use a blanket rather than vermiculite and vice versa but I'm sure I'll soon learn.
Now I just need to find the time to read up on silver clay and decide what my first project will be.  I have a few books demonstrating different techniques with suggested projects.  My personal punch is now available at the Edinburgh Assay Office  so I'm ready to rock & roll.  One of The Boy's friends has asked met make him a ring but I think I need a bit of practice before I tackle that.  I also want to experiment with copper and bronze clay.

Are you still awake after all that?  I hope so.  I can't wait to get started actually making things.  I suspect my first projects will be components for pieces of jewellery so I will be making things to make things with. :o)

Watch this space, creativity is about to commence.


  1. I'm always impressed by people like ceramicists / glass designers as you just never know if the end result will be a success - so lots of happy adventures with your new equipment (and lots of sales) x Jay

  2. I'm very impressed...not much bigger than the pasta machine Mike uses for his clay...now I could live with that...Hope you learn very quickly then you can make some lovely copper charms just for moi!!!!

  3. Pat, when I think back to the polymer clay workshop I did, it takes up SO much less space. At least with precious metal clay there is so little of it that you don't need a pasta machine, just a tiny roller and your fingers.

  4. And yes, once I have the hang of it I'll be delighted to make copper charms for you.

  5. Exciting stuff. When I retire......