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The Top Loading Kiln


This is one of a continuing series on choosing a glass kiln for fusing and slumping.  Click here to go to the first part of the series.


The top loading kiln is usually a multi-sided box with a lid that swings open like the lid of a phonograph record player.  When open, the kiln allows easy access to the inside.  Since most top loading kilns are made from kiln bricks that have been shaped to fit together, they tend to be a bit less expensive than comparatively sized front loading kilns.


Things to evaluate when considering the purchase of a top loading kiln include:


1.  Shape


Most top loading kilns are multi-sided.  Eight sides are most common, but it is not unusual to find top loading kilns with any number of sides (from as low as six to a dozen or more).  One side effect of this shape is that while it will work well with round items (such as bowls) it tends to be a bit inefficient for square or rectangular items. 


2.  Element placement


Top loading glass kilns tend to have elements in both the top and sides.  A few models have top (or side) elements only.  Of these two, top elements are most critical for the glass kiln -- if your kiln has side elements only, you will need to fire more slowly than if you have side and top elements.  Some larger top loading kilns will also have elements in the kiln floor; this is a good configuration for kilns that will be used for glass casting.


3.  Door hardware


The lid of the top loading kiln is usually attached to the kiln with a hinge.  When comparing kilns, check out the quality of this hinge; the better made kilns will have more substantial hinge hardware than lesser kilns.  One good feature to look for is the ability to easily prop the lid open an inch or two if needed for venting or cooling more quickly; some kilns have lids that can be easily propped, while others require the use of a piece of kiln furniture or similar refractory item.  Also, be aware that with very large top loading kilns (such as coffin-shaped kilns) the lid can be very heavy. 


4.  Practicality


Because hot air escapes at the top of the kiln when the lid is opened for combing or related activities, top loading kilns can be a bit more difficult to use for activities that require manipulating the glass.  Also, because top loading kilns are often placed below waist level on the floor, it can be awkward to reach inside the kiln.  Nevertheless, top loading kilns tend to be easier to use if your pieces have a lot of small elements or stringers that tend to move about when they're placed in the kiln. It's much easier to see inside a top loading kiln than a front loader. 


Coming soon -- more on other kiln configurations, including the bell kiln.


Copyright 2005 Brad Walker.  All rights reserved.

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Copyright 2005-2006 by M. Bradley Walker.  All rights reserved.

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