My first kiln was a table top firebrick … manual… that’s right manual kiln, you remember those right? With the really specific temperature settings of “Low, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. and Hi…” something like that, you get my point. I embarked on my metal clay journey riding a dinosaur. That being said, I loved my blue dinosaur and I went along quite happily for a year making loads of copper pieces for an assortment of art shows and festivals.
Well, I finally got a digital ceramic kiln last summer, all excited to be free of kiln babysitting. Unfortunately, the copper pieces just didn’t sinter with any kind of consistency in this kind of kiln. I spent a month and 1000 grams of copper trying to find a consistent firing formula, changing everything from the brand of carbon I used to time and temperature. Maybe it was fluke, maybe I drew the short straw in the karmic kiln lottery. Fortunately, another artist made me an offer (thank-you Matthew!) and bought it from me because really, it’s a great kiln for the price and works wonderfully for silver, bronze, and glass. This chance encounter and sale set the stage for this new fangled kiln: Cool Tools custom made “Jewelry Artist Kiln” by Olympic kilns.
This kiln is firebrick, with three rows of elements on all four walls as well as an element on the roof of the kiln for enameling and glass. It’s rather odd in how it opens, clam shell style pivoting from the base. I love that it’s not a front loader, so it doesn’t have that cold spot, yet will still work well for enameling (not that I’m enameling, but you never know…) The pyrometer prong is the only thing I’m not particularly pleased about, although I can appreciate the necessity. It’s solid steel and hangs out about 1.5” (okay, I measured it, it’s exactly 1.5”) The thing is, I’ve actually worn out the most common wire style pyrometer prong and it cost me $40 to replace. On one hand, I’m happy with this rather sturdy substitute, on the other it is an obstacle. It’s exactly 4″ from the floor of the kiln to the prong, so instead of placing the vessel on 1″ kiln feet, I opt for half inch. It’s pretty essential to make sure the firing vessel doesn’t touch the prong once the lid is closed, but with this new firing foil it’s not a big deal (smooth segue there…)
Okay, for all us crazies that work with base metal clay, you know the nasty flakiness of those stainless steel cafeteria food containers? Not only do they have a serious metallic dandruff issues but they also contort and warp after a few rounds in the kiln at 1750 degrees. They’re also like $15 a pop from most places. This guy right here, No-Flake Firing Foil, he is dreamy. No flaking, no distortion, and I like a little origami every now and then so folding it was no real hassle (there is even a video!) It comes two sheets in one tube for about $10, and so far it’s working out. I did cut a little vent in the top for O2 circulation, a must when firing copper clay. After 15 firings with copper clay (Copprclay), it’s holding up quite well (pictured inside the kiln.) The vessel also cools off quite quickly, for us impatient types… the ones that have been guilty of using our deep freezer as a crash cooling unit…
So in general I give the kiln and the foil together a 4 out of 5. They are both available at http://www.cooltools.us. I’d say I’m pretty delighted by my new setup… except I just received my first package of Prometheus Copper Clay and this whole song and dance of steel and firebrick may end up being utterly unnecessary!