Are you looking at buying a kiln but not sure what size will work best for you? We got your back.
In this article, we will look at picking a suitable size kiln to fit your needs, The actual space you need to operate different types of kilns, and a consideration that is often overlooked, how much kilns weigh.
Let’s get started.
What Size Kiln Do I Need?
It can be confusing when you first ask yourself what size kiln you need. After all, kilns are measured in different ways.
Their internal capacity can vary even if they have the same external measurements. And beyond this, different types of kilns can require different amounts of space.
How Are Kilns Measured?
Kilns are generally listed according to the capacity of their firing chambers. That is the size of the box that holds the pottery to be fired and where the work of maturing your clay actually takes place. For most kilns, this will be expressed in one of three ways.
- The capacity of the chamber is given in cubic feet.
- The diameter of the chamber and its depth for round kilns.
- The width, depth, and height of square or rectangular chambers.
This can create an issue if you are trying to make direct comparisons, but a little math can help clear the fog.
If you are given the diameter and depth of a round kiln, divide the diameter in half, multiply this number by 3.14, and then multiply the result by itself. Take that number and multiply it by the depth, and you will have gotten the capacity of a kiln in square feet.
For square or rectangular kilns, the math is even easier width x height x depth gives you the total capacity.
A fly in the pudding can be that many kilns are oval, hexagon, or other shapes. In those cases, our best advice is to use google or contact the manufacturer for information.
Required Operating Area
One other thing to consider when trying to determine what size kiln to look for is how much room you have and how the space is laid out.
The majority of kiln manufacturers recommend a foot and a half of free space around the kiln for airflow and safety purposes. There are other factors, though, that you may need to take into consideration.
Top loading kilns and clam shells
Top loading kilns and clamshell kilns require open space above them to have for the lid to be raised. We, as a rule, discourage people from placing anything above a kiln, but in smaller shops, it may be necessary. Be sure that you have sufficient clearance for your kiln lid to swing up to its completely open position.
Front loading kiln
A front-loading kiln, on the other hand, requires an open area in front of it to allow the door to be swung out of the way for the loading and unloading of wares and kiln furniture.
Remember that for all kilns, it is not just the room needed to open and close them that needs to be considered. You should have adequate space to move freely without risking coming in contact with hot kiln parts, and no combustible materials should be at risk of making contact.
Kiln Sizes by Type and Brand
Kilns come in a huge variety of sizes, from tabletop models that are suitable for cup and saucer size projects to behemoths that can mature large quantities of wares in a single firing.
In this section, we will break down the most common sizes of kilns available by their types and throw in our top picks by brand in each category.
Electric kilns are by far the largest category we will look at. They are most popular with potters, from novices to master craftsmen, and are produced by the largest number of companies.
Their biggest advantages are controllability, convenience, and the repeatability of the results they deliver. They are ideal for beginner potters as they are easy to learn with and, when coupled with modern programmable electronic controllers, are almost foolproof.
As you would imagine, being so popular, they come in a huge variety of sizes and subtypes. You will see electric kilns that are suitable for glass fusing, siring stoneware, earthenware, and even porcelain. There are even many hybrid electric kilns that can be multi-purpose.
You will see electric kilns in top-loading, front-loading, clamshell designs, and even tophat kilns are now often electric.
A large electric kiln, for our purposes, is any kiln with a capacity over seven cubic feet or a diameter that exceeds 25 inches.
Large electric kilns are most often seen in commercial shops, but many home potters who throw rather than build also find them great to own. Throwing is faster than building, so these potters tend to produce more wares.
When paired with an appropriate set of kiln furniture, they can hold a surprisingly large quantity of wares at a time, but they are less efficient if you don’t produce enough pottery to fill them before firing.
If you are a slow builder or someone who can’t wait till they have a full load before firing, they might not be the best choice for you.
Our Choices in electric top-loading larger kilns
Skutt KM Series Kilnmaster Automatic Kiln KM-1227-3
Skutt kilns are widely considered some of the best on the market, and the KM (Kln Master) series is their top-of-the-line.
At 28.5 inches in diameter and 27 inches deep, the KM-1227-3 holds a massive ten cubic feet of pottery. It is a 240-Volt kiln, rated at 40 amperes. This makes it suitable for home installations as well as being used in commercial shops. It is capable of reaching maximum firing temperatures in the Cone 10 range, so neither capacity nor temperature ranges are an issue.
If you want even more bells and whistles, then the same kiln is available in the KMT line as the KMT-1227-3, which features a touch screen controller, wi-fi compatible app that allows you to monitor and program the kiln with a smartphone, and many other features.
Skutt offers many other large kiln models in both their Km and KMT lines, but this is our choice for delivering the most bang for your buck without having to completely rewire your building or take out a second mortgage.
Amaco Excel Kiln with Select Fire
Another line of kilns with many models that fall into the large kiln category is the Excell Line from Amaco. Marketed as having the “most advanced kiln control system ever.” These kilns greatly shorten the learning curve for newbie clay workers and provide master posters with the fine control of the firing process it takes to create fine works of art.
The largest of this line provides a capacity of ten cubic feet inside the firing chamber. This gives you plenty of room to fire large urns or multiple smaller pieces with the use of kiln furniture.
While all the larger kilns from Amaco are very well built and more than worth their cost, pay attention when placing an order for one of these beauties as some models are designed for Cone 10 firing while others top out at Cone 8, and some have maximum firing temperatures only in the Cone 5 range.
A couple of the key features of these kilns include having a backup timer in case of controller malfunction and being able to choose fast, medium or slow firing sequences. This last option allows the adjusting of firing programs that are adjustable to different lead times and dwell periods. A handy feature when working with some of the more exotic glazes on the market.
Our Choices in electric front-loading larger kilns
Front-loading kilns tend to be a little more expensive than top-loading kilns, but they offer much more convenience when it comes to loading and unloading. They do, however, require more clearance in front of them to allow the door to swing freely.
Out top choices for large front loading kilns include.
Olympic Kilns Model FL8E
With eight cubic feet of space and availability in a 240-volt model, the Model – FL8E 240 from Olympic KIlns is our top choice when you need a large kiln and want the ease of using a front-loading kiln.
It is a true Cone 10 kiln and can be had with a large variety of customizable options, including;
- Your choice of controllers
- Solid state relays for reliability
- An automatic door shut off for safety
- Shelf rack for convenience
- Castors to make it easier to move.
This is far from being a bargain basement model, but you get what you pay for. We recommend ordering with original equipment kiln shelves, which come with a 5-pound bag of kiln wash to help get you started.
One of the most advanced kilns on the market, you will never suffer buyer’s regret with an Olympic Kiln.
Paragon Dragon Series
The Dragon Series from paragon Kilns are as legendary as their namesake. They are pricy by anyone’s standards but what you get for your money is an industrial-grade kiln that will serve you a lifetime.
With nine cubic feet of chamber space, you can fire large sculptures with ease or a huge number of smaller pieces all at once. These are true Cone 10 kilns that include such features as;
- A door hung on a heavy ¾-inch steel rod using sealed bearings
- Four-inch kiln walls consisting of three-inch firebrick backed by one-inch ceramic fiber blocks
- Double spring-loaded door latches for a sure seal.
To be honest, the only reason that the Paragon Dragon isn’t our top choice is that its rugged construction would be wasted in the majority of pottery shops and schools.
Medium-sized electric kilns are the size that most potters have in their home shops, and you will find them in many commercial pottery studios. They naturally occupy less space than large kilns and though they don’t hold as many wares at once, are much more efficient for firing smaller numbers of pieces.
Many consider them the perfect kiln size. They provide sufficient space to allow the firing of most of the largest pieces that any potter is likely to ever produce and yet are not so large that the average hobby potter will need months to fill for an efficient firing.
In these times of rising energy prices, the cost difference between operating a full medium-sized kiln and a partially loaded large-size kiln is even leading some larger pottery shops and schools to downsize.
To most crafters, a medium size kiln has a capacity of at least four cubic feet but less than the seven cubic feet that are at the bottom of the large kilns category.
Our top pick In a Medium-sized top loader
Amaco Excel 22″ Deep Select Fire Kilns
We love the Amaco Excell 22 because it perfectly fits its intended purpose of making loading and unloading easier for younger potters and those that are vertically challenged. Built with a deeper chamber but lower sides, it is easier to reach over into for loading and unloading.
Beyond this obvious advantage, these kilns come standard with a spring-assisted lid lifter, an easy-to breakdown and reassemble modular design and reversible slabs. Of course, they are Cone 10 capable, or they wouldn’t be listed here.
These kilns actually come in a variety of sizes ranging from 2.9 to 8.1 cubic feet, which spreads them across the full range of kiln size needs. In our opinion, though, the best of the lot is the 5.2 cubic feet models that are ideal for home pottery studios or small pottery shops.
All these kilns are available in 240-volt, so installation is not a major issue and is ideal where space is limited, but high quality is a priority.
Our top pick In a Medium-sized Front loader
With 4.2 cubic feet of space in its firing chamber, the Paragon Iguana barely makes it into our medium kiln category. Considering its build quality and laboratory grade accuracy, though, it is still our top choice.
A 240-Volt, Single Phase, 45 Amps kiln, it is a fully Cone 10 capable kiln that is ideal for almost any setting. With heavy-duty coils, it quickly and easily reaches higher temperatures that other kilns may struggle to reach. Beyond this, with its extremely accurate computer controllers, you can perform temperature soak cycles easily to make your glazes really pop.
Industrial standard construction, laboratory accurate controls, and the availability of some of the best kiln shelves we have found make the Paragon Iguana our top choice for a front-loading electric kiln.
Small Electric Ceramic Kilns
Small electric kilns are a huge category that can include ceramic kilns that can deliver a maximum temperature in the Cone 10 range, others are only capable of bisque firing temperature, and kilns so small they are better suited as test kilns for glaze firing and firing beads than making pottery on any scale.
At the same time, there are some small kilns that will outperform a larger kiln of equal quality. These will be the focus of this section.
For the average potter, a small kiln may be just what the doctor ordered. Some of the advantages of small kilns are, of course, the minimum amount of space required for them. Many can actually be sat on a tabletop.
Smaller kilns also use less energy and are more efficient to operate, provided you only produce a limited number of wares at a time. Many also require no special wiring for installation as they can operate on a standard household power supply.
For our purposes, a small kiln is any kiln that has a capacity of less than four cubic feet and could include kilns with a chamber of one cubic foot or less.
A small kiln can be purchased in many different types, with front loaders, top loaders, and clamshell models being the most common types seen.
Our favorite small top loader
Skutt KMT Series Kilnmaster Touchscreen Kiln KMT-818
At just 17.5 inches in diameter and 18 inches deep, this offering from the KMT line could be thought of as a little giant. It shares all the features that have made Skutt Kilnmaster kilns some of the best-selling kilns in the world, but in a small, enough package that it can be fit into extremely small shops or even storage shed home studios.
Equipped with one of the easiest to program electronic controllers, it makes it possible for novices to get expert potter results from their very first firing. There are preset programs by Cone settings, You can set up to eight ramp and hold settings of your own, and there is even an easy step-by-step guided program to teach you how to use the controller properly.
This kiln uses a standard 240-volts circuit and has low amperage requirements for a kiln with its heating capacity. It is, of course, rated for Cone 10 firing.
Our favorite small front loader
Table Top RapidFire
There are not many kilns with a front loading design that fall into the small category. Most of those that do are intended for knife making, glass fusing, and laboratory applications.
There is one, however, that does lend itself to ceramic work, and that is the RapidFire from Table Top Furnaces. This little jewel is capable of firing low-fire stoneware and, at only 12-pounds, is one of the most portable kilns you will find anywhere.
It can operate on a standard 120-volt household circuit and is purported to reach firing temperatures in ten minutes or less. This speaks of a very high-efficiency rating.
The one drawback to this kiln is that the firing chamber only measures 6 inches x 5 inches x 6 inches which is very small. If you want to fire much more than coffee cup-sized mugs, it isn’t a kiln that will work for you.
It does, however, lend itself to firing beads, making doll parts, and creating other small works without the need to wait for enough wares to fill larger kilns. It also can be very handy for test firing glazes and working metal clays without the expense of firing a larger kiln.
Other Types of Kilns
Some may notice that all of the kilns we discussed in this piece so far are electric kilns with electronic controllers. This is entirely intentional. We feel that gas kilns and electric manual kilns should be reserved for expert potters with the experience to manage them properly.
The accuracy and current lost cost of electronic controllers have all but made the use of kiln sitters with a junior cone obsolete.
By the same token, coal and wood-fired kilns are beyond the intended audience, being mainly used as production kilns and by those who specialize in primitive pottery.
Kiln Weights by Type and Brand
Kiln weight is an often overlooked subject when people think about buying a kiln, but it shouldn’t be. Asa rule, a kiln is not a light object. Setting up a kiln on a floor that was not designed to handle the loads they can generate can lead to structural damage to your property.
There is also the consideration that a kiln must be moved to be set up. In most cases, when a kiln arrives, it will be delivered to the curbside, leaving moving it beyond this point up to the purchaser.
There are several factors that can affect how much a kiln will weigh, including its size, the materials it is made of, and whether it is lined with firebrick or ceramic fiber blocks.
With the number of kiln manufacturers currently active and the huge number of models they offer, giving a complete listing of weights is space prohibitive. Instead, we will give you some general guidelines as to the weights of the different size kilns that we have been able to find in our research.
Be aware that the weights of kilns can vary greatly even within size ranges due to differences in kiln construction. As an example, Cone Art Kilns are known for being very light, with their largest model (48 x 38 x 35) only coming in at only 665 pounds.
In contrast, a Paragon Dragon, with its industrial-grade construction materials, will weigh twice that amount.
It is best to contact the customer service department of the kiln manufacturer for complete specifications before making a purchase.
Top Loader Kiln
Top loading kilns are the choice of most potters due to their lower initial costs. If you are buying any but the smallest top-loading kilns, we highly recommend looking at sectional kilns first. The ability to take apart, move, and reassemble your kiln is a great help when you need to shift it from one location to another.
Large top loading kilns tend to be lighter than front-loaders. You can expect any kiln in this size range to weigh between 400 and 2,400 pounds, depending on the specific model chosen.
The majority of medium-sized top-loading kilns on the market will fall between 200 and 800 pounds. Some at the bottom end of the size scale may be a bit lighter, but they are the exception rather than the rule.
Small kilns, with their wide variations of sizes, have the largest spread in weights. The smallest would be the Caldera from Paragon, which is a tabletop model with all ceramic glass lining that weighs in at a mere 28 pounds.
On the upper end would be the small Amaco models, which can still tip the scales at over 100 pounds.
Front Loading Kiln
Front loading kilns tend to be slightly heavier than top loaders but not by much.
large front loading kilns can weigh well over 2,500 pounds, and some approach 3,000. This is primarily due to them being designed more for commercial and industrial use instead of home use.
Medium front loading kilns can be as light as 100 pounds and can go up from there. The heaviest that we have seen listed in this category is the Iguana which comes in at just over 550 pounds.
Small front loading kilns
Small front loaders can run the gambit from just 12 pounds to around 100 pounds. Again this is a very small category for ceramic works.
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.