There are a lot of kiln brands out there, and knowing which ones are worth the money can be hard to determine. In an effort to clear the fog, here is a list of kiln manufacturers and a little background information that we hope you find useful.
First founded in 1953 by a father and son team, Ralph and Neil Skutt, “Skutt & Sons,” as it was called at the time, introduced the first multi-sided hobby kiln to the market. Their new lightweight design kilns revolutionized the pottery industry.
For the first time, it was possible for hobbyists to not only work clay at home but fire it as well. Before, they had been limited to renting time from shops with large commercial kilns or using old-school firing methods like pit firing.
Since that time, Skutt has remained one of the premier kiln brands, and their Olympia, Washington plant has continued to provide one innovation after another to potters of all skill levels.
Skutt was one of the kiln companies to bring kiln sitters and electronic controllers into home shops and make them almost as common as the pottery wheel.
Today, Skutt produces a wide variety of equipment for home craftsmen and small shop owners alike. They have expanded their line of products to include:
The latest innovation to be offered by Skutt is their KilnMaster Touchscreen Controller. Available as an option on most of their newer modeled kilns, it can also be retrofitted to older Skutt models as well.
This controller offers a wide array of features, including firing between cones, wi-fi compatibility, and A Guided Start feature.
Established in 1948, Paragon Industries, L.P, is a family-owned and operated that currently holds the distinction of being the leading manufacturer of electric kilns and furnaces in the United States.
There are currently over 4,000 different kiln models available from their 72,000-square-foot Mesquite, Texas facility. The various industries the service include but are not limited to:
- Glass Fusing
- Knife Making
- Silver Clay
- General Heat Treating
- And many other applications
Paragon’s biggest strength is that everything down to the printing of their manuals is done in-house, and even custom orders can be manufactured in less than four days. Need spare parts, call them, and they ship the same day. The same for manuals.
The models that the company is best known for among home potters and small pottery shop owners are the following:
These are all front-loading kilns of the highest quality and are backed by one of the longest guarantees on the market. If you want laboratory accuracy in a kiln, then paragon is the top choice.
Olympic kilns produce one of the widest varieties of gas and electric kilns available anywhere in the world. This family-owned and operated kiln manufacturer includes small tabletop models to massive car kilns in their catalog and handles custom-ordered designs on request.
The company was founded in 1971 by Bob Haugen of Kirkland, Washington. The company only operated under this name for less than a year before changing its name to Olympic.
Olympic’s first claim to fame came with them offering their kilns with three-inch fire bricks instead of the then industry standard of two and a half. Bob felt that when people spent money on a pottery kiln, they deserved one that had all the longevity that could be built into it.
The initial offerings from the company were 18 and 23-inch wide electric kilns, but these were soon joined by a 28-inch electric and one of the first portable gas kilns to hit the market, the 1827G.
The 1827G was a game-changer with its modular design that allowed it to be broken down into sections for easy transport.
Bob’s son Rob soon joined the company, and the decision was made to move their entire operation to Georgia in order to place them closer to their brick manufacturer. And by 1993, the company had added 30 different models of home electric ceramic kilns as well to their lineup:
- Five glass fusing kilns
- Five gas firing kilns
- Five large capacity electric kilns
Today Olympic Kilns offer a huge variety of both electric and gas kilns, including top-loading, front-loading, clamshell, Raku, and top hat designs of all sizes. With hundreds of distributors and authorized service centers across the United States and in nine countries internationally, finding the Olympic kiln of your dreams is easy.
Founded in 1973, Cress Kilns has built a well-deserved reputation for producing some of the most innovative kilns and kiln products on the market. A case in point is what is widely considered the kiln with the most advanced controller available and is currently a best seller here in the U.S. and abroad, the Cress Firemate / Automatic.
This kiln controller has all the bells and whistles that you would expect to find on a modern kiln but with one added feature. Instead of quickly ramping up the temperature in the kiln, it gradually increases the power to the heating elements to prevent heat shock to clay and glazes.
The Firemate is so advanced that it will automatically compensate for ambient temperature changes and even voltage irregularities if you have a dirty power source.
Along with this model, Cress also offers two other top-loading ceramic kilns, front-loading kilns, Vent systems, and industrial furnaces. All Cress models can be had in a variety of temperature ranges, sizes and use the most common power supplies available in the U.S. and overseas.
While Cress kilns are often found used online, you will have no problem finding one near your location, no matter what state you live in. Cress maintains one of the most extensive networks of suppliers and service centers in the industry.
Located in Indianapolis, Indiana, Amaco has been producing kilns since 1931, and as you would expect, they have learned a few lessons in that time. The biggest of which is that attention to detail will always bring you success.
Amaco produces some of the most advanced kilns on the market. Their entire Excel line is modular in design, created to be movable by one person and requiring nothing more than a screwdriver to assemble.
That is just the beginning, though. Their fire bricks are created with a tongue and groove shape to keep them securely locked in place and prevent them from slipping even as they experience the thermal breakdown that is common to all firebricks.
Beyond this, the Excel line features:
- Sealing dust-free lids
- Floating hinges to avoid stress from thermal expansion
- Two-position, reinforced steel bar lid supports
- Available EZ-Lift lid opening system
The Select Fire models are the cream of the crop of the Excel line of kilns. These kilns come with all the standard features that make Amaco Excel kilns one of the top brands. Plus one of the most advanced computerized controllers on the market.
The Select Fire controller can automatically convert cone settings to temperature settings without you needing to do any calculations. It can also be set for slow, medium, or fast firings to help you get the exact effect you want in your creations.
Amaco Excell has also garnered a large portion of the market with the introduction of their 22-inch deep models. These come in several chamber sizes, but their key feature is that the firing chamber is, on average, four inches deeper than that found in most of the competition.
The advantage of having a deeper firing chamber without increasing the height of the kiln is obvious as it allows the firing of more pieces or larger pieces in a single firing session.
Amaco also produces a very large line of potters wheels, glazes, clays, and about any other ceramic supply a potter could ever need.
Located in Philadelphia, PA., L&L Kilns claims to have the most durable kilns on the market, and if you take a close look at how they are constructed, it would be difficult not to believe them.
With a primary focus on home potters, small shops, and educational settings, L and L design their kilns to last and for the end user to be able to make the most common repairs that do arise. For example, the heating coils can be easily replaced using nothing but a screwdriver.
L&L Kilns are also known for their safety features. Their lids swing almost a full 300 degrees to not only make loading and unloading the kiln safer but help prevent accidental bumps that can lead to burns. Another safety feature is locking pins that secure the lid when open to eliminate the chance of it getting inadvertently tipped shut.
Other features that set these kilns apart are spring-loaded hinges for easy opening. Three control zones within the kiln, each with its own sheathed thermocouple and full view, solid ceramic peephole plugs for ease of use and durability.
To add to their ease of use, L&L Kilns now also come wi-fi enabled and can be programmed and monitored with the company’s smartphone app.
While these kilns are not as easy to find as some of the other brands on our list, they do have distributors in all fifty states and several international locations.
There are a huge variety of different types of kilns presently offered by L and L, including front-loading, top-loading, tophat designs, and industrial kilns. All are of superior quality and built to last.
Tucker’s Cone Art Kilns
In 1982 Frank Tucker of Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada, was dissatisfied with the electric kilns that were on the market. While many of them could reach cone 10, they were not efficient at high firing temperatures. Not a man to that liked being disappointed; Frank decided to design and build his own line of kilns with high efficiency at high temperature as his top priority. Though the company was sold to Shimpo America Corporation in 1998, Cone Art Kilns is still dedicated to Frank’s original mission.
Though based in Canada, all Cone Art Kilns are CUL/CSA approved for sale in the United States and Canada and CE approved to be sold in the European Union. The company presently only has 29 U.S. distributors making these kilns slightly harder to find than most, but if you like working with high-fire stoneware or porcelain, they are more than worth the trouble of obtaining one.
Jen-Ken Kilns are one of the lesser-known kiln companies, but they have a sterling reputation for producing pottery kilns that provide top-shelf performance.
Jen-Ken was founded in 1951 in Lakeland, Florida, with the mission of building the world’s finest kiln. It is a family-owned and operated company with limited production capacity but a very dedicated staff.
The company currently has only three models of kilns in its lineup.
AF2829 3″ Ceramic Kiln
With a firing chamber that measures 28″ wide x 29″ deep, this kiln was designed with busy studios and schools in mind. It comes in two models a 240 volt, 45 amp model with a plug that is capable of cone 8 firing. And a direct wire 55 amp mode That is slightly more powerful. These kilns provide 10,800 watts and 13,200 watts, respectively.
Both kiln models come equipped with Orton 12 Button Controllers that give you instant access to all cone firing schedules and allow you to create 9 custom user programs.
AF3C 15/13 – Emerge
Thought to be more in tune with the needs of home potters and smaller shops, this Jen Ken kiln only comes as a 240 volt, 22 amps setup that provides 4800 watts of heating power. The seven-sided firing chamber measures 15″ width/length x 13″ depth.
Referred to by the company as the “perfect cone 9 kiln”, you have the option of ordering this kiln with three different controller options.
- AF3C 3-button controller (standard)
- Orton AutoFire 12-key controller
- TAP controller.
There are full kiln furniture kits available as an option.
AFG ProFusion 26
Intended primarily for glasswork, the ProFusion line is capable of firing at 500 degrees an hour. They are clamshell designs with spring-loaded lids for easy opening and are offered with several floor designs.
Your controller options include an Orton AutoFire 12-key controller as standard equipment, with TAP controllers being offered as higher-priced options.
There are several Profusion models normally offered by Jen Ken that they hope will be back in production soon.
Jen Ken Kilns are only available directly from the factory. There is normally a 14-24 week lag between a kiln being ordered and being received.
Because the company uses mercury relays in many of its models, not all kilns produced by Jen Ken can be shipped to California.
Located in Caseville, Michigan, Evenheat Kilns produces a large line of kilns and furnaces. Just a few of the company’s core product lines include:
With a sterling reputation for quality and customer service, Evenheat maintains a small and fairly exclusive network of distributors both in the U.S. and abroad. You are not likely to find Evenheat kilns on Amazon any time soon.
The stars of the Evenheat kiln line are the High Fire line. These kilns designed to fire at cone 10 on a daily basis can handle almost any task that you might ever need them for. These kilns come in both studio and personal-sized models, with the only difference being the firing chamber capacity and the larger studio models coming standard with Evenheat’s patented Dyna-Lift lid lift system.
Just a few examples of Evenheat’s attention to detail are the nitrogen-charged lift arms used on their lids and the Swing View control enclosures that allow you to change the angle of their control panels for easy use without the need to kneel or stoop.
Of special note is the availability of Evenheat’s Quiet Drive Solid State Relay System. These take the place of the mechanical or mercury relays that are traditionally used in kiln manufacturing.
Unlike traditional relays, SSRs do not weaken or fail with time. The company presently boat that in the six years since introducing this system, there has not been a need for a single replacement.
For consistent, repeatable results all the way up to cone 10 firings, Evenheat kilns are hard to beat for reliability.
Tabletop Furnace Company
Tabletop Furnace Company occupies an interesting niche in the kiln industry. You won’t find any large studio kilns in their lineup, and commercial or industrial size kilns would definitely stand out like a sore thumb.
What you will find, as the company’s name implies, are some of the best tabletop kilns on the market. Primarily designed to be used by hobbyists and jewelry makers, these kilns offer portability, affordability, and precision rarely seen in small kilns outside of laboratory settings.
The heart of their line is the RapidFire Pro models. These kilns were originally intended for firing metallic clays and light smelting work but are more than capable of producing low-fire earthenware.
These front-loading kilns have a unique design where the heating elements completely wrap around the firing chamber to provide even heat quickly from all angles. This, coupled with the Gemcolite-Alumina linings used in Rapid Fire kilns, makes them some of the fasting heating kilns on the market.
Small, light, portable, and requiring no special wiring, unites from TableTop Furnaces are ideal for the hobbyist who has little space to work with and a smaller budget. Whether you are wanting to fire earthenware, melt metal, or work with metallic clays, these little kilns deliver in a big way. +
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.