Equipment Safety: Kilns & Wheels
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and fuel-fired kilns are used to heat pottery to the desired firing
temperature. Electric kilns, heated by passing electric current
through wire coils, are the most common. Fueled kilns may be heated
by burning propane, natural gas, wood, oil, coke, charcoal, or other
Firing temperatures may range from just over 1000 degrees
Fahrenheit to over 2600 degrees, depending on the clays, glazes
and other materials being fired. Electric kilns are almost always
located indoors; fueled kilns may be located indoors or outdoors.
on how and what you fire, the firing process may create odors and fumes
ranging from unpleasant to toxic. Bisque firings may release carbon
monoxide as organic materials burn out of clay. Glaze firings may release
metallic oxide fumes. Overglaze firings (such as gold, silver and mother-of-pearl)
may release odors as liquid solvents burn off. It is unlikely that the
fumes from any single electric firing will reach dangerous levels, but
the health effects of some fumes accumulate over time. Therefore, it's
better to invest up front in safety equipment like kiln ventilation
systems than gamble over the long term.
strongly recommend the use of kiln ventilation systems with all kilns
used indoors. There are many kiln ventilation devices on the market
from reputable manufacturers like Skutt and Orton. Your choice of which
device to buy depends on a number of factors such as type and size of
your kiln. Gas-fueled kilns, for instance, will not use the same ventilation
devices as electric kilns. Our preferred ventilation device for electric
kilns is the Skutt Enviro-Vent. It is a downdraft system, meaning that
the vent draws air down into the kiln from the top and exhausts it out
the bottom. Besides offering positive control of kiln fumes, this flow-through
action also promotes even heat distribution through the kiln body for
better firing results.
addition to concerns about fumes, you should also consider the location
of the kiln, effects of radiant heat on your working environment, and
the power supply. Your kiln will generate and maintain internal temperatures
up to and over 2000 degrees. Most of the heat is contained in the kiln
body, but it can still raise the ambient temperature of your workspace
to over 100 degrees (F). We recommend that kilns be located and operated
in a room separate from your studio workspace if possible.
that much heat takes a reliable power supply. Based on our experience
as one of Skutt's leading distributors, we recommend that you HIRE
A PROFESSIONAL ELECTRICIAN to set up electric service for your kiln.
We have known artists whose homes and studios were completely destroyed
by fires attributed to faulty kiln wiring. Don't take any chances
on a faulty installation!
Safety reminders about electric kilns:
should be kept at least 18 inches away from potentially flammable
walls, including wood, drywall, paneling and wallpaper. Check your
local building or fire safety codes: they may have additional requirements.
your kiln on an unpainted concrete floor, or on a fireproof slab extending
at least 18 inches from all sides of the kiln.
leave children unattended in the area of a hot kiln.
- Have your wiring checked once a year for potential problems.
possible, install a dedicated outlet for your kiln. Do not plug and
unplug your kiln, swapping it out on a circuit with other electrical
kilns produce infrared radiation, which is hazardous to the eyes.
There have been reports of cataracts from years of looking inside
hot kilns. Use safety glasses, infrared goggles or a handheld welding
shield to protect your eyes from this radiation.
cloth, paper, solvents, or other combustible or flammable materials
should not be stored in kiln areas.
have years of experience in mating up kilns and ventilation systems,
and assisting in the design of ceramic studios. We can also provide
information on installation and safety precautions for gas kilns. Call
us and we'll be happy to help.
are a wide variety of potter's wheels on the market. Most wheels break
down into one of two groups: hand-powered (or foot-powered), with momentum
imparted by a mechanical system, or electric-powered, with momentum
imparted by an electric motor. Potter's wheels are built to handle the
dirt and grit associated with throwing clay, but there are still a couple
safety precautions to bear in mind.
the wheel before cleaning.
- Hose rinsing is not recommended, because it's hard to control where the
- Keep water away from the control box, motor housing, foot pedal and switches.
- Keep cords and plugs out of water, glazes, and other liquids.
parts of kickwheels can cause cuts and abrasions, especially a problem
with young children. Do not allow young children to use or play on
contact with wet clay can cause abrasion and dryness of fingertips
and hands. Some people are more susceptible or more sensitive to dry
skin conditions, which may actually become painful. Use a skin moisturizer,
or latex or nitrile gloves if necessary to protect your skin.
on a potter's wheel for long periods of time can result in carpal
tunnel syndrome caused by an awkward position of the hands and wrists.
Pain, numbness, and or pins-and-needles sensations in the thumb and
first three fingers are common symptoms. Keep wrists in a straight,
unflexed position as much as possible to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome.
Take frequent work breaks, too.
problems can occur from bending over the potter's wheel for long periods
of time. Exercise and massage may relieve minor muscular pain. Some
wheels offer telescoping legs or adjustable seats so you can throw
in positions that don't require bending over. Consider these options
especially if you have a history of back pain or problems.