I am not referring to the elements outside, Hurricane Sandy. She didn’t seem to do too much to us here. We lost power for a few hours last night and there was some really strong wind, but not too bad. I wonder if that was it or are we going to get hit with some more later? I think that might be it. I am grateful though. I hope others out there didn’t have too much damage and power loss from Sandy. I have yet to hear how my family is doing down in Maryland. I am sure I will hear today. Yesterday, the storm was predicted to hit us around noon and I had some work I needed to finish up with my kiln! My box of new elements just lay on the garage floor, so I wanted to get them off the ground and into the kiln in case of flooding. I sat in the garage yesterday for a couple of hours while the wind and rain was picking up outside.
This is the first time I have done a kiln upgrade myself. I have learned a lot about my kiln over the past year. When I realized that I desperately needed to get new heating elements, I decided to install them myself. It is a good skill to know as a potter. I don’t want to pay someone to install for me every time I need new elements! I was actually quite proud of myself that I was able to do it all.
I have a LOT of working that needs to go through this kiln, but first things first, new elements are needed! To start off, I powered off the kiln and then unplugged it before I set to work. I will pass on the 240 volt shock, thank you very much! I removed all the little screws to the front of the control panel so I could open up the board to see the wires and fuses. I worked from top to bottom in my kiln. My kiln has four sets of heating coils or elements. Two in the middle and one set on both top and bottom. The top and bottom sets are different from the ones in the center of the kiln. Working from the outside-in, I began by removing the wiring elements and fuses from the heating elements. (I wish I new all the proper terminology. That will be learned the more I do this, I am sure!)
After removing the first row of heating elements I vacuumed the kiln and started feeding in the new coils. As you can tell, they were pretty corroded! They were bad! I should have changed them a while ago! “Coulda, woulda, shoulda”…I am doing it now. The new ones are so nice and shiny: that’s what we like to see!
As you can see, the lighting I had to work with was minimal. I got the job done though and by the end of it, my back was killing me! Once the new element was in, I had to go around the kiln and press down the coils to make sure they were set inside the grooves. I secured any sections that might pop out with kiln pins. If I don’t do this, the coils can droop and fall out of the grooves during firing. Once that happens you cannot bend them back into place or they may break. After they are fired, they become much more brittle. With the element in place, I inserted the porcelain covers and reattached the wires with new copper fuses (if you call them that) back down to the control panel. One element down three more to go!
Now I just need a new thermocouple and I am ready to rock! That will be much quicker and easier to install than the elements. I do love having new parts. My glazes are going to look great. New elements and a new thermocouple greatly play into the size, shape and quality of crystals.