New to pottery and ceramics and want to buy your first kiln? We have got you covered.
In this article, We will look at what you should consider when shopping for a pottery kiln for beginners, our personal recommendations, and answer some of the questions we most often hear related to buying a kiln.
We have a lot of ground to cover, so let’s dive right in.
Got no time to read? Here’s a quick summary of kilns we recommend!
|Amaco Excel 22||Best Top Loader For Shorter Craftsmen|
|Skutt KMT Kilnmaster Series||Easiest to Use Digital Controller|
|Tabletop Furnace Company RapidFire||Best Budget Front Loading Kiln|
|Delphi EZ-Pro Fast Fire Bonnie Glo Fiber Kiln – 15||Best Multipurpose Ceramic Kiln|
|Amaco Excel Kiln with Select Fire||Best Kiln for Home Use|
|Fuseworks Craft Kiln||Best Low-Fire Kiln|
|Skutt KM 1627||Best Price is No Object|
|Paragon Caldera Kiln||Best 110 Tabletop Model|
Best Pottery Kiln for Beginners
In this section, we will take a deeper look at what we consider to be the best pottery kilns for beginners. No two people are exactly alike, so our top picks might not fit your situation exactly.
However, based on thousands of online reviews and years of experience, we feel that you would be hard-pressed not to find success as an aspiring potter with any of our picks for the best pottery kiln for beginners.
Amaco Excell 22″ Deep Select Fire- Best Top Loader For Shorter Potters
To be honest, whether you are height challenged or not, the twenty-two-inch deep Amaco Excell with Quick Fire Controller is a hard-to-beat. Their firing chamber is four inches deeper than most of the competition.
Designed to make loading and unloading easier, it has a low-profile design but can still handle pieces up to eighteen inches in height or stacks of smaller works with the optional kiln furniture kit.
These are 208 and 240-volt kilns rated at 50 amps and, being a modular design, break down to make moving and performing maintenance tasks simple and easy.
This kiln fires at Cone 10, so this family of kilns can handle almost any firing task you are ever likely to have.
Skutt KMT Kilnmaster – Easiest to Use Digital Controller
If you are searching for a kiln that makes firing pottery as simple and foolproof as it can possibly be, then any of the Skutt KMT Series would be hard to beat.
their touchscreen controls are very intuitive, with instructions displayed in full sentences for easy understanding. It allows for firing between cone settings for precise control, and the preprogrammed firing sequences are completely reliable.
There is even a Guided Start feature to walk first-time users through the programming sequence. This makes it ideal for beginning potters who may lack the confidence to solo.
Kilns in the Skutt KMT series are available with maximum temperature ranges that fall anywhere between Cone 6 and Cone 10 and in a variety of sizes. They also come in a wide variety of electrical configurations.
These are not inexpensive kilns, but if you have the budget, they are a joy to work with.
Table Top Furnace Company Rapid Fire – Best Budget Front Loading Kiln
Capable of firing up to Cone 7, these budget-priced front-loading kilns offer a lot of bang for the buck.
At just 12 pounds and capable of being operated on a standard household electrical circuit, it is completely portable and great for beginner potters who don’t have space to sit up a large kiln.
Still is firing chamber measures 6″ x 6″ x 5″, giving it enough capacity for test firing, firing beads, or creating cups, bowls, or dishes.
Its digital controls give you over thirty programmable stamps for ramp, soak, & other actions and are guaranteed to be accurate to within 0.2% of the programmed temperature.
If you have limited space, a limited budget, and want front-loading kilns, these are worth more than just a look.
Delphi EZ Pro 15-6 Kiln – Best Ceramic Kiln
The Delphi EZ Pro features a unique fiber body that reflects more heat back into the firing chamber instead of absorbing and reradiating it. We can’t say we understand the physics of how this works but it is reported to be very efficient.
This feature also means you can set the 15 x 6 chambered kiln up without the need for a heat-proof kiln table. According to the manufacturer, it can even be placed on a sheet of particle board safely. We haven’t tested this out and don’t plan to as we always try to err on the side of safety.
The EZ Pro has a sufficient maximum temperature to fire earthenware pottery and operates on a standard household current. This means you won’t have to worry about rewiring costs.
Amaco Excel Kiln with Select Fire – Best kiln for Home Use
One of the most efficient top-loading kilns on the market, the Amaco Excell line features Cone 10 capabilities with a modular design that makes them easier to move and clean.
The kiln is lined with 2.5 inches of firebrick to provide a long service life and reduce ambient heat loss during firing.
The Select fire controller used on the Excel line is the same unit that is used on Amco’s industrial kilns and allows you to swap between Cone and temperature firing without losing data.
You can program in an infinite number of ramp, hold, and soak cycles giving you the freedom to easily create effects that would be difficult with lesser kilns.
There are a number of kilns within the Excel line available with several power and firing chamber options.
Fuseworks Craft Kiln – Best Low-Fire Kiln
If your needs will be limited to low fire work like metallic clays and earthenware, then the Fuseworks Craft Kiln offers a very economical option for beginner potters.
A unique design, the firing chamber actually hinges up and back, making this kiln more akin to a top-hat kiln than a top or front loader. This makes it very easy to load and unload the kiln without adding the extra expense associated with frontloaders.
The firing chamber itself measures 8.5″ Diameter X 3 1/2″ Deep, giving it a good capacity for beginner potters who do smaller works and can’t resist the urge to fir their wares often.
This kiln is another offering that operates on standard household current. Combine this with its already low price, and it is one of the least expensive kilns that a novice potter can get into.
Skutt KM 1627 Kilnmaster – Best Price is No Object
If you are one of the lucky few, who have no limitations on how much you can afford to spend and want a kiln that will likely serve all your needs for years to come, then the Skutt KM 167 Kinmaster may be the perfect choice for you.
Designed to be a true workhorse, this kiln offers 18.5 cubic feet of firing space and is built to the exacting standards that have made Skutt a household name among potters of every skill level.
Capable of Cone 10 firing or 2350°F (1288°C), it can handle any type of ware that you ever decide to delve into. Its KilnMaster electronic controller is easy and intuitive to work with and will keep your kiln firing with precision for years to come.
This kiln can also be refitted with the Skutts Touch Screen controller and is designed to mate perfectly with the Skutt EnviroVent Kiln Ventilation System.
Paragon Caldera Kiln – Best 110 Tabletop Model
A mainstay of small pottery shops and schools for years, these small kilns may have launched more people into clay work than any other kiln out there.
Simple, easy-to-use controls make it easy for the beginner potter to learn the basics of kiln control. It can be operated as a single-speed manual kiln or programmed with up to eight ramp and hold cycles.
Its size is just right for creating small bowls, cups, jewelry, or other projects, and with a maximum temperature of 2350°F (1287°C), it can even fire porcelain.
Simple, rugged, easy to use, and intended for student use from the outset, the Paragon Caldera may be the perfect pottery kiln for beginners.
What to Consider When Buying a Starter Pottery Kiln
By most people’s standards buying a kiln is not a small investment. To assure that you make a wise choice before laying down your hard-earned money, here are a few of the many things that you should take into consideration before picking a pottery kiln for beginners.
Should You Buy a New Kiln or a Used Kiln
Whether to buy a new kiln or get one second-hand is a major decision. Both options have their pros and cons, so we are going to look at this choice in some detail.
Advantages of buying a used kiln for beginners
There is really only one major advantage to buying a second-hand kiln as a beginner potter that is price.
You can often find used kilns being sold for half the price of a new one or even less. Our favorite places to look for used kilns would include.
- Local classifieds
- Facebook Marketplace
Be aware, though, that prices and the condition of the kiln will usually but not always go hand in hand; as the old saying goes, “Let the buyer beware.”
Disadvantages of buying a used kiln for beginners
While saving money is always a plus, there are disadvantages to buying a used kiln. To begin with, it may take you time to find a suitable kiln.
While pottery and ceramics are popular hobbies, not everyone who gets into them buys their own kiln, and the ones who do are usually pretty dedicated to their craft. Because of this, many of the kilns you will find offered for sale will be from people upgrading their shops.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean the kiln being offered has likely suffered a bit of wear and tear. Like anything else, kilns require regular maintenance and can be damaged if mistreated. A kiln also becomes a little less efficient with each firing.
Unless you have expert advice when looking at a used kiln, it can be very difficult to gauge its condition and what you may need to have done to it for it to be in top condition.
Advantages of buying a new pottery kiln for beginners
For our money, the many advantages that come with buying a new kiln far outway the extra expense involved in purchasing them. Here, as briefly as possible, we will outline why we feel buying a new pottery kiln for beginners is the wisest choice.
A new Kiln makes it easier to learn
It is much easier to learn how to fire pottery with a new kiln. They will generally have the latest control panel and features.
Perhaps most importantly, You will have an up-to-date user’s manual that explains how to use your kiln correctly and access to customer support if you have questions that aren’t covered in the manual.
This last point can be very important for the person new to the hobby and unsure about how to fire pottery correctly. Used kilns, as often as not, will not come with a manual.
All of these factors make a new kiln much easier to learn with.
New kilns are more efficient
A kiln is never more efficient than when it is brand new. You can reasonably assume that all the controls will be correctly calibrated. The heating elements in an electric kiln are at their best when they are brand new, and there won’t be any heat leaks that can throw off your timing.
You won’t have to worry about replacing kiln bricks, thermocouples, relays, or any of the other parts that keep a kiln operating at peak performance.
The firing process for ceramics isn’t just about heating it to particular temperature ranges. It involves how fast your kiln reaches the proper temp, and accurately it holds it there for the proscribed amount of time. All of this is what potters refer to as heatwork.
If your kiln takes too long to reach temperature or allows the temp to fall too far as it struggles to maintain the firing process, your pottery could end up over or under-matured, and your glazes could react in unexpected ways. None of this is something you want to deal with as an aspiring potter.
New kilns will typically have a warranty
This one feature makes justifies the extra expense of buying a new pottery kiln for beginners. At least it does, in our opinion.
Things break. Accidents happen. If you have a warranty, you have something to fall back on when bad things happen.
It varies from one kiln manufacturer to another, but most kilns built by better companies will come with a two to three-year warranty.
Most Up to date features
Who doesn’t like bells and whistles? With a new kiln, you have the option of getting the latest and greatest features that have been developed.
Just a few of the latest developments that a beginner potter might appreciate are touch screens, Bluetooth compatibility, and being able to monitor and control their kiln through a cellphone app.
package deals can save you money
One last bit of information about buying a new kiln is that you can often find them as package deals that come with a furniture kit.
Electric Kiln or Gas Kiln
We include this section for the simple reason that you will occasionally come across used gas kilns at truly bargain-basement prices. These can be very tempting, but they are not a wise choice for a beginner.
Gas kilns are much more difficult to work with than electric kilns and require a very steep learning curve to be able to be used properly when firing pottery. Electric kilns are much easier to control and learn with.
When looking for a pottery kiln for beginners, we would always suggest an electric kiln, even if you have to settle for smaller kilns due to budget restraints.
Top Loading Kilns or Front-Loading Kilns
While it might seem silly to select between front-load ceramic and top-load ceramic kiln, you should be aware that both have advantages and disadvantages.
Top loading kilns require slightly less space since the lid lifts up instead of swinging out and are generally less expensive than front-loading kilns.
Front-loading kilns need more space in front of them, so you have room to swing the door back out of the way when loading and unloading. The biggest advantage they offer is that you don’t have to lean over their sides to load or empty them. If you are a shorter person or have back issues, this could be an important consideration.
Lifting heavy pieces of pottery out of a top-loading kiln can be a pain, as can installing and removing kiln furniture.
Manual or Automatic Kiln
Another option to consider is whether you want to invest in an automatic kiln or prefer to save money and take the time to operate a manual kiln properly. Here is a nutshell comparison of the two.
You could think of manual kilns as being the old-school way of firing beads or other pottery. Instead of digital controllers with programmable limit switches, thermostats, and other electronic niceties, they require you to use a Kiln Sitter or limit timer to control your firing cycles.
Many of the better kilns, like paragon manual kilns, use kiln sitters to automatically shout the kiln down, but not all manual kilns have this feature. If you purchase one that doesn’t, you will have to rely on kiln sitter cones to help you manually adjust your kiln temperature and timers to shut down your kiln.
manual kilns offer two big advantages. One is they are much cheaper than automatic kilns. The other is that, provided you buy one from a reputable company, they are tank tough and have very few parts that can go bad or give you headaches.
Automatic kilns have electronic controls that can range from simple programmable thermostats to state-of-the-art kiln designs with mobile apps for controls.
Depending on the features you choose, automatic kilns can be much more expensive than manual kilns. That said, they are easier to learn on and take much of the guesswork out of firing pottery for the new potter.
As with most things, there is always a trade-off, and it is up to you which path you choose to travel.
Think about the shape and size of your planned work
Carefully consider the size and number of pieces that you will want to fire before making a decision on what kiln to buy.
Your project size determines the kiln size that you want. You don’t want to waste energy firing an enormous kiln on a small object. At the same time, buying a Kiln too small for your creations is fruitless.
As a beginner, it is also wise to carefully think about where you believe you will want to go with your creations. If your dream is to create large water pots, then it may be wise to invest in a larger kiln now instead of having to buy another kiln later.
If you enjoy making beads, smaller kilns designed for small items can save you a fortune in operating costs.
Consider the power supply available
One of the biggest expenses you can run into when installing a kiln can be having the power in pottery study upgraded. Electric kilns have very specific electrical requirements. Beyond this, many municipalities and all states have electrical codes that must be met.
You will, in most cases, need to consult with a licensed electrician to ensure that your kiln will not only operate properly but safely.
There are three main considerations that will need to be taken into account when sizing your electrical service for a kiln;
- Single Phase or Three-phase
As electric kilns come in many different configurations, you will, unfortunately, have to have chosen a kiln and know its power requirements before an electrician will be able to determine what upgrades your pottery studio electrical system may require.
Kiln voltage requirements
There are many kilns on the market that can be plugged into a standard household electrical socket. These are usually smaller kilns with a limited temperature range and are unsuitable for most ceramic work.
Many potters use them for test-firing clay or glazes, and they can be ideal for making beads or doll parts. If you plan on firing pottery much larger than a coffee cup, you will want to move up to larger kilns, and that is going to mean more power.
In most cases, you are going to be looking at larger kilns that require 240 volts as your clothes dryer or oven uses. Be aware, however, that there are kilns that require 208, 380, or 480 volt systems. The kilns requiring these voltages are normally larger kilns that were intended for commercial use, but they do pop up on the used market fairly often.
Trying to connect a kiln to a power circuit with a voltage other than what the kiln requires can be very dangerous. In simple terms, don’t even attempt it.
Amperes Required for a kiln
Most homes in the United States are equipped with either a 100 or 200 Amp service. This means that the total amp draw for the entire structure is limited to these levels. Exceeding them will trip the main breakers and shut off the power.
This main line is then broken up into individual circuits within your home. Those are run through the individual breakers you may have had to reset at some point in your life.
Ceramic kilns will most often require 30, 40, 50, or 60 amp circuits, depending on their size and temperature range. As a general rule, large kilns and those capable of reaching high temperatures will draw more amps than, say, small mid-fire kilns.
The amp draw of your chosen kin should be on its electrical information plate located next to where its power cable enters it and in your owner’s manual. The rule of thumb for safety purposes is that your kiln should be installed on a dedicated circuit with a breaker that is rated 20-25 percent larger than what your kiln requires.
Single or Three-Phase Power
Assuming, as a beginner, you are buying a kiln for your home pottery shop, you will want to find a kiln that requires a single-phase power source. This is what is found in most residential and smaller commercial structures.
Three-phase power is normally only found in industrial and large commercial buildings. This isn’t to say that you could not have a three-phase power supply installed in your home pottery studio, but it would be an expensive proposition.
What Kind of Ware do You Intend to Fire?
Another major consideration you will need to take into account when buying a pottery kiln for beginners is the type of wares they will be creating. Not having the right pottery kiln for the materials you will be firing is a useless proposition.
Be aware that a kiln that can fire at a higher maximum temperature will work just as well in lower temperature ranges. Attempting to force an electric kiln to fire beyond its designed maximum firing temperature is not only pointless but could cause serious damage to the kiln elements and kiln bricks and create a serious safety hazard.
Clays are generally divided into three separate firing ranges.
Low-fire (1745℉ (950℃) to 2012℉ (1100℃)
Low fire, for the most part, is earthenware. Bisque or biscuit firing is also considered a low fire process but is an intermediate step and not the creation of finished pottery.
Kilns with a maximum firing temperature in the low fire range are often less expensive than ones with a higher maximum temperature, but they are restricted in the type of wares that can be created with them.
Mid-fire 2124℉ to 2264℉ (1162-1240℃)
Mid-fire clays are used to create mid-range stoneware and need a kiln temperature of at least 2200℉ to reliably fully mature. If you are wanting to create food-safe items like serving bowls, mugs, or plates, this is considered to be the minimum-maximum temperature range to be working in.
Of course, a mid-range kiln can also be used to fire low-fire earthenware.
High fire 2305℉ to 2455℉ (1263℃ to 1346℃)
If you purchase a high-fire kiln, then there will be very little clay ware that you cannot fire. The high fire range of clays includes both high-fire stoneware and porcelain.
Kilns that can operate at these temperature levels are rarely found cheap, but if your budget can take the strain, they will open up the entire world of pottery to you.
How Large is Your Budget
Unless you are one of the lucky few in the world, money is always a concern when making a large purchase.
The simple truth is that the more you can afford to spend, the nicer the kiln you will be able to buy. If you want bells and whistles like a digital control panel with a touch screen, you need to be prepared to pay for it. The same with buying a kiln with wifi connectivity.
While these considerations are fairly obvious other kilns in the upper price range may have features that are less obvious but will be more important over the life of the kiln.
Items like thicker bricks in the chamber walls and heavy-duty heating elements, relays, and other components may not add to the convenience of operating your kiln. They could however make your kiln more efficient, cheaper to operate and extend your kiln’s service life.
If your budget is tight, we recommend placing substance over show and utility over convenience.
Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of kiln do I need for ceramics?
The type of kiln that you need for ceramics depends on the type of ware that you want to produce.
If you want to produce earthenware and work with metallic clays, then a low-fire kiln will more than meet your needs. A low fire kiln heats to between 1745℉ (950℃) and 2012℉ (1100℃).
If the stoneware is on your menu, then you will need a mid-range kiln. A mid-fire kiln heats to 2124℉ and 2264℉ (1162-1240℃) and will enable you to produce softer forms of stoneware and earthenware.
To do it all, including porcelain, you will need a kiln that can reach high-fire temperatures. This means 2305℉ to 2336℉ (1263℃ to 1326℃).
Beyond the firing range of your kiln, there are many options available, and your best kiln choice will, to a large extent, be a matter of taste.
What do I need to know before buying my own kiln?
There are a number of things that need to be taken into consideration before buying your own kiln. Just a few items you need to know would be:
- How much space you will have for the kiln
- The type of pottery you want to produce
- The type of kiln you buy
- Your local electrical code
- A dozen or more other bits of information
We suggest that you start by reading the “What to Consider When Buying a Starter Pottery Kiln” section of this article before buying a kiln.
Can I use a kiln at home?
many potters use a home kiln every day, and generally, if you are serious about the hobby, it is cheaper, in the long run, to buy your own kiln than to continually rent time in someone else’s.
How much does it cost to use a kiln?
There are many factors that can affect how much it costs to operate a kiln.
- The type of kiln
- The kiln’s size
- Energy or fuel costs in your area
For electric kilns, you can calculate your kiln’s operating costs with the following formula.
Your kilns amp draw x Your kilns voltage x Time your kiln is under power x Cost of electricity = Cost of operation 1000
Can you use a home oven as a kiln?
No, you cannot use your home oven as a kiln. The minimum temperatures needed to fire clay are 1745℉ (950℃, and they go way up from there. Not only is a home oven incapable of reaching these temps, but many of its components would also likely melt before it could even get close.
How much does it cost to buy a kiln?
New kIlns can vary greatly in price from several hundred dollars to several thousand. However, used kilns can often be found for less than half the cost of a new one.
That being said, be aware that buying a used kiln can have its pitfalls if you are not knowledgeable enough to be able to properly evaluate a kiln’s condition and what maintenance it may be in need of. Many times it can be more economical to buy new than to repair a used kiln.
I’m Jessica and I’m obsessed with kilns. I’ve been doing pottery from when I was a little girl and I created TypesOfKilns to help people find the right kiln for their needs.