Even though we have been producing pottery on the side for a few years, I still consider us a new and growing business. It wasn’t until 3 short months ago that I quit my full time job to immerse myself in Dirty South. Since then I have produced much more work than in the past, which has caused quite the backup on our little kiln. I was basically running the poor dear 24/7 just to keep up with my production. The next logical step was simple: buy a bigger kiln. How hard can that be, right?
This just in: It is A LOT harder than it seems.
The simple task of purchasing the kiln was easy. I’ve been online shopping for years, and I went to the same website that I bought our last kiln from (clayking.com). It took a week or so to get it in the last time, so when I purchased it the Friday night before Memorial Day I knew I had plenty of time to prepare.
It showed up on Wednesday.
So I did not have as much time as I thought. No big deal, I just had to rearrange things quicker. Done and done. Then I needed more bricks to lie on our wooden flooring since it’s Kiln 101 that you need a stone or concrete flooring. Bought it. I was still optimistic about having the kiln up and firing that night at this point. The tides would soon turn.
Carvel had the honor of ripping out the wooden stand that my dad had constructed so the last one would be at a good height for me to load. He has been a carpenter for 30+ years and he must have built that stand to last through my grandchildren’s lifetime. If the apocalypse had happened, there would have been Twinkies, cockroaches and that kiln stand left on Earth. We finally removed the last piece, and put the brick down for the new, much larger kiln.
My dad and Carvel went to get the kiln stand out of the box when we realized that the plug on the new Skutt did not match the plug in that we had for the last one. A simple fix, it would just take a run to Lowes in the morning. But also the entrance to our building measures at 29.5 inches wide, and our kiln is 29 from side to side. That is a tight squeeze, but the boys said they could do it, not to worry. And then the big whopper happened. My father pointed out that this new, shiny, expensive kiln needs a 50 amp breaker. I currently have a 30 amp breaker. Our building only has 60 amps pulling off of our house. That means that when the kiln is firing, it’s pulling the vast majority of the power and using too much of anything else will trip the breaker. If it does this, we lose all electricty to the studio and the firing is ruined.
I have lost all hope at this point.
But my parents being their amazing selves started encouraging me. We made a list of necessary electrical components and headed off to Lowes the next day. The following night is spent using flashlights in the dark as dad and Carvel crawl around in the attic of our shop and rewire the building to accommodate my pain in the butt kiln.
I must point out that if you are setting up a new kiln and need more juice than what your studio is currently set up with, please, please, please, hire a professional certified electrician. Will it cost money? Yes. Will it be worth it? Absolutely. Don’t skimp on anything electrical. Saving a few bucks isn’t worth burning your studio down. I am VERY lucky to have a mother and father who know just about anything there is to know about construction and home improvement so that I rarely have to hire anyone.
Once the electric was up and running, we did a test fire with the air conditioning running with the kiln to make sure the breaker didn’t trip. Lucky for my sanity, it passed the test.
We have now had several successful firings and other than the studio getting rather warm, we have not had any problems. If I could go back I wouldn’t change anything (except my attitude) because it did all work out for us. If you are looking to upgrade to a bigger kiln, research to see what how many amps the kiln will pull, not just the wattage. Then check to see what you’re currently sitting on. Keep in mind that you will need enough electricity to run things like the wheel, spray booth, and air conditioning along with the kiln.
So in the end, the kiln fit through the doorway, the electrity was upgraded, and we managed to accomodate all safety precautions. The world as we knew it did not end and once again it was proven that if there is a will, there is a way. Every obstacle in life should be seen as a learning experience. And I have learned a lot in the last few months thanks to this crazy business.