|the paragon vitrigraph kiln for making glass stringers||or look at polishers and tumblers at electrictumblers.co.uk|
The Paragon Vitrigraph kiln is generally used for glass stringers, annealing, casting, fusing, moulding, sagging, slumping, china painting, dolls, glazes, lampwork, and raku, although it has other applications. It's a 1035°C cone 4, cylindrical kiln on a stand with a digital programmer, in Paragon blue or customised berry, black, jade, navy, pink, purple, or turquoise. Learn about the Paragon Vitrigraph kiln on this page.
What is vitrigraph? Very briefly, it's the process of making thin glass strings or canes. Glass is heated in a crucible in a kiln and, as it melts, is allowed to fall through a small hole in the crucible and form long stringers. Skilled artists can control the thickness of the stringers and draw with the glass as it comes out.
Prices here are transparent: they're for UK-EU voltage, CE marked, CL CSA approved, and TUV tested kilns, and include a pro shelf kit, comprehensive instructions, GB-mainland delivery, UK VAT, and free continuing support from a top-tier international distributor. So you can start work straight away.
For prices, trading terms, and secure on-line shopping, use the shop link below the menu bar near the top-right of any page. The order form is on the shop page, after the price list near the bottom.
Kilns that weigh more than 30kg can't be delivered by a regular parcel-service van: they need a tail-lift lorry with a hydraulic pallet trolley. GB-mainland delivery charges are on the shop page. For other locations, call or mail.
|Paragon Vitrigraph Kiln.||Paragon Vitrigraph Kiln.|
|Paragon Sentry Xpress Programmer.||Paragon Touch-Screen Sentinel Controller.|
REMINDERS ABOUT THE PARAGON VITRIGRAPH KILN
The Paragon Vitrigraph is a 1035°C, cylindrical, plug-in, top-opening, floor-standing, ceramic-fibre kiln, with a ramp-hold Sentry Xpress 3-key digital programmer. Choose Paragon blue or customised berry, black, jade, navy, pink, purple, or turquoise. However, it's only the control boxes that are painted: not the whole kiln. Customised kilns are made to order, so can't be returned if the colour isn't exactly as in the photo.
It normally has Sentry Xpress 3-key digital programmers which allow you to create, edit, and save your own ramp-hold sequences: up to twenty-five, each one with up to twenty segments.
The Sentry Xpress 3-key can be upgraded to an enhanced Sentry 12-key. This includes thirty five sequences, each one with up to twenty segments, and automatic control over hardware options: an electric kiln vent, a gas injection system, and a USB computer interface. However, in my opinion, for a kiln of this size, it's more of a preference than an important upgrade.
Alternatively, you can choose an advanced touch-screen Sentinel Smart Touch. Features include those of the Sentry 12-key and real time displays of voltage and current, a novice mode with prompts, firing sequences presented graphically, and wifi updates: so a functional upgrade not just a design preference.
When the programmer turns the elements off at, for example, 700°C, residual heat will continue to increase the temperature briefly. A small kiln might overshoot to 715°C before dropping back down. A software modification slows down the heating just before the target temperature, reducing any overshoot and improving the accuracy.
Digital programmers allow you to set up sequences, each one with multiple heating, holding, or cooling segments: so you can choose the heating and cooling rates, target temperatures, and hold times, save the sequences, and re-use them.
Being able to create, edit, and save your own programmes is important because, having experimented and diversified, most people fire materials, or combinations of materials, at different temperatures and for different times than are recommended.
The ceramic-fibre interior has elements embedded near the surface of the 50mm thick one-piece ridised ceramic-fibre muffle so it heats up quickly. For durability, the surface of the fibre is rigidised so, unlike firebricks, it's dust free. To comply with EU safety regulations, it's fitted with a switch that cuts off power to the elements when the kiln is opened: an important safety feature. However, never get careless: kilns are very hot and connected to the mains.
The US-international Vitrigraph kiln doesn't come with a shelf kit. Ours come with a professional shelf kit, included in the price: one durable cordierite 254mmm x 15mm shelf, four 12mm shelf posts, and 450gm of kiln wash. It's not a £35.00 extra.
A pro shelf resists thermal fracture, provides a smooth stable work surface, protects the floor of the kiln's interior from glass accidents, and helps to even out any small temperature deviations during annealing, enamelling, firing, and fusing as the elements turn on and off. And it isn't a £30 extra.
For help, or in the unlikely event of a fault, you can mail or call an engineer in the UK. However, checks, adjustments, and repairs are simple, needing little more than a PosiDriv screwdriver: watch the on-line videos using the watch-videos link or read the help pages using use the help link, both below the menu bar near the top of any page. Alternatively, we can service the kiln in our workshop at Cherry Heaven.
THE PARAGON VITRIGRAPH KILN
|MAKING GLASS STRINGERS|
The Paragon Vitrigraph is a 1095°C cone 4, cylindrical, top-opening, plug-in, ceramic fibre kiln on a stand, with a cone-fire ramp-hold Sentry Xpress 3-key digital programmer. Choose Paragon blue or customised berry, black, jade, navy, pink, purple, or turquoise.
The UK-EU kiln is rated at 230V 1800W, so it can use a regular mains socket. To comply with UK-EU safety regulations, it has a lid-activated switch that cuts off the power to the elements when the kiln is opened: an important safety feature. However, never get careless: kilns are very hot and connected to the mains.
The outer steel case measures 425mm x 546mm x 1194mm, including the stand. The shipping weight, including the box, is about 70kg.
The firing chamber measures 305mm x 292mm high, and is suspended in a vented steel case to help keep the outside cool. It heats from all sides, with the elements embedded near the surface of the 50mm thick fibre.
The programmer's electronic display prompts for heating rates, target temperatures, and hold times, making it easy to set up and re-use accurate heating, holding, and cooling sequences. The cone-fire mode, up to cone 4, will simplify your work with low-fire ceramics.
The accessories, options, and upgrades for this kiln are in the on-line shop:
a berry, black, jade, navy, pink, purple, or turquoise control boxes respray: normally blue
a programmer upgrade: Sentry Xpress 3-key to a Sentry 12-key: more useful features: factory fitted
a long-life S-type platinum-rhodium thermocouple upgrade: factory fitted
charcoal for the stainless steel container used for firing some metal clays
stacking shelf kits and shelf paper
ceramic fibre cloth
HEPA dust mask
clear protective glasses
And finally, my opinion.
You can use a Caldera to make glass stringers. The bottom of the kiln is unclipped and set aside. The kiln body is put on a thick ceramic square with a central hole. The whole thing is lifted well away from the floor to allow moulten glass to fall through a small hole in a crucible and form long stringers. Ceramic squares are in the on-line shop.
However, the Vitrigraph kiln is a one piece solution. The kiln's stand makes it ideal for vitrigraph as, unlike the Caldera, you don't have take the kiln apart and make supports. There are different sizes of crucibles but many users use a flower pot.
The Vitrigraph is a versatile kiln for your craft workshop or glass studio: it's easy to move, it can use a regular mains socket, it's fully programmable, and it's inexpensive to run. It's large enough to hold five 250mm plates.
It's popular with raku artists because the ceramic fiber interior is hardly affected by the thermal shock of opening the kiln at raku temperatures.
It's large enough to accommodate the charcoal-filled stainless steel container needed to fire some makes of bronze clay and copper clay, both described on this internet resource.
It's ideal for your arts centre, college, course venue, craft classes, glass works, home business, jewellery studio, or school. It's very easy to move around, so excellent for demonstrations, presentations, and exhibitions, or a small studio that doesn't have a dedicated kiln space. It's a bit like a cabin-crew travelling case, on a stand.
|THE PARAGON VITRIGRAPH: KILN FURNITURE|
Vitrigraph doesn't need a shelf kit. However, any other glass work, china painting, enamelling, fusing, and metal clays need a shelf.
There's a recommended kit, included in the price: one durable round 254mm x 15mm cordierite shelf, three 12mm shelf posts, and 454gms of kiln wash.
There's an extra recommended kit, not included in the price: one round 254mm x 15mm shelf and three posts. You can choose 12mm, 25mm, 50mm, 75mm, 100mm, or 150mm posts.
Depending on the material or process, and the sizes of your pieces, stacked shelves will hold more work, free up your time, and reduce the unit firing cost: so you might want more kits. This kiln has room for five.
The remaining sections are about digital programmers, shelf kits, options, upgrades, firing, kiln logs, accessories, materials, parts, processes, repairs, and tools. Unless you're already successfully using a kiln, they're recommended reading.
Cherry Heaven has been a Paragon distributor since 2002, and commended every year for outstanding performance. Paragon kilns are good value: buy Paragons and you could save enough to treat yourself to a luxury five-star weekend break.
Anyone can buy a kiln to resell and call themselves a specialist, but a top-tier distributor understands all the kilns, options, and upgrades, will stock spares, offers free competent technical support, can help you repair your kiln, provides on-line repair videos, has a repair workshop, and can access Paragon's extensive knowledge-base.
If you need help, you can mail an experienced technician or call . Alternatively, to learn more about how your kiln works, use the help link below the menu bar near the top of the page.
|THE PARAGON SENTRY XPRESS 3-KEY VERSION 4.0 AND VERSION 5.0 DIGITAL PROGRAMMERs|
Before February 2019, Paragon used three programmers: a Sentry Xpress 3-key 4.0 or a Sentry 12-key 2.0 developed by the Orton Ceramic Foundation and Paragon, or a touch-screen Sentinel SmartTouch programmer developed by Bartlett and Paragon.
In February 2019, two were modified, leading to the Sentry Xpress 3-key 5.0 and the Sentry 12-key 3.0. The modifications had little effect on the basic functionality so the 5.0 can be a direct replacement for the 4.0, and the 3.0 for the 2.0.
All three are made as ramp-hold, or cone-fire ramp-hold. Your kiln will have the appropriate programmer although, if it has a Sentry Xpress 5.0 ramp-hold, you can upgrade it to cone-fire ramp-hold. If the kiln's front panel is large enough, you can upgrade from a Sentry Xpress 3-key to a Sentry 12-key or a Sentinel SmartTouch.
Generally, programmers for annealing beads, enamelling, glass fusing, jewellery, knife-making, lampwork, and metal clays have one firing mode: ramp-hold. And programmers for ceramics, earthenware, porcelain, and stoneware have two firing modes: cone-fire and ramp-hold.
Unlike calculators, programmers aren't made 10 million at a time. Although they look like simple circuit boards, they include sophisticated feature-rich embedded software that has taken years to develop and refine.
The Paragon Sentry Xpress 3-key 5.0 programmer allows you to set up to twenty five ramp-hold firing sequences, each one with up to twenty heating, holding, or cooling segments. You can choose the heating and cooling rates, target temperatures, and hold times, save the sequences, and re-use or over-write them.
It's easy to use: far easier than a central heating programmer. Here's a Cherry Heaven TV programme about setting a simple ramp-hold sequence on a 4.0 programmer. The ramp is the part where the temperature increases until it reaches the target temperature: the hold is the part where the temperature stays the same. UK-EU programmers will be in degrees Celsius.
Cherry Heaven TV provides on-line programmes on the Cherry Heaven TV Player. To use the player, click the controls or drag the time-line slider or volume slider to a new position.
The programmer runs a sequence that you have set, or one that's in its memory from a previous firing. A sequence usually has a mix of ramp and hold segments, for example: it could heat to 800°C at full speed then hold for 30 minutes. When the sequence ends, the programmer beeps, and the kiln cools in it's own time.
A ramp segment of a sequence can control the rate of heating or cooling, for example: the kiln could heat up at 200°C per hour from 200°C to 800°C, which would take three hours. Or, the kiln could cool down at 100°C per hour from 600°C to 200°C, which would take four hours.
The heating rate cannot exceed the rate at which the kiln would heat up if it was full on. The cooling rate cannot exceed the rate at which the kiln would cool if it was turned off. At full speed the elements are on all the time. During set ramps and holds they turn on and off repeatedly to maintain the heating rate, hold temperature, or cooling rate.
|KILN FURNITURE: A GENERAL INTRODUCTION||IMPORTANT|
Most kilns have a recommended furniture kit. Delivery companies have a low rate for parcels less than 30kg so, for smaller kilns weighing less than 30Kg, the kit is generally one shelf and four posts: included in the price because it fits in the box and doesn't add much to the overall weight.
You get a professional, durable, cordierite shelf with four 12mm high posts. You don't get a soft, ceramic-fibre shelf, often described as free, that will gradually break up and need replacing.
Shelf kits for rectangular or square kilns usually include four 25mm x 25mm x 12mm shelf posts, When flat, they're 12mm high: on their sides, they're 25mm. Other sizes, up to 150mm high, are available, so you can choose the shelf spacing that suits your kiln and your work. Shelves for cylindrical kilns usually have three posts.
The recommended kit is usually the simplest that works: not an expensive collection that I've put together for you. However, extra shelf kits allow you to stack your work, optimising your use of the firing chamber volume, the unit-cost of firing, and your time. And extra half-shelves or smaller shelves allow you to fire a mix of shorter and taller pieces.
For larger kilns weighing more than 30Kg, shelf kits are not included in the price because you'll probably want to choose your own mix of shelves, half-shelves, smaller shelves, and assorted-height posts.
One shelf should stay on the floor of the firing chamber all the time in case you accidentally spill or melt anything: solidified glass or metal is impossible to pick off without damaging the ceramic-fibre or firebrick.
Shelves are not meant to be an exact fit in the kiln. You need finger space all round and they mustn't scrape the kiln walls every time they're put in or taken out. Be careful lifting heavy shelves out of a top-opening kiln: if you drop them they will damage the firebricks.
Although they look tough, most ceramics break if they're dropped on a hard floor, so it's a good idea to have spare shelves, especially if your business depends on your kiln or you're running courses.
During firing sequences with heating, holding, and cooling segments, the elements turn on and off repeatedly. In a small kiln, with little residual heat, the inevitable temperature changes can make glass crack as it expands and contracts. A thick heavy shelf stores heat and, because it's resting on posts, the air circulates, helping to even out the normal temperature fluctuations.
If you're buying your first kiln, you're probably interested in one material, such as silver clay, or one process, such as enamelling. However, after a few successes, and failures, most people want to try different materials, make larger pieces, experiment with combinations, fire more at a time, and soon become interested in something else: or everything else. Some start a business or run classes.
You might want a full shelf, two half-shelves, several mixed shelves, a set of shelf posts, a bead-mandrel holder, glass separator, hot gloves, kiln wash, a knife-making rack, pyrometric cones, a tile holder, or other accessories.
Shelves are heavy, so kits ordered separately need a box and protective packing and attract an extra delivery charge. Outside the UK mainland, this might be expensive. So, if you think you'll need them, order them with your kiln, along with any other accessories, materials, parts, or tools.
For dichroics, enamelling, and glass fusing, put kiln paper on the shelf to stop the glass sticking: it's simpler and cleaner to use than glass separator. Bullseye Thinfire shelf paper, probably the most popular, ensures easy separation between your glass and the kiln shelf. One side feels slightly smoother than the other: that's the glass side.
Generally, glasswork needs radiant heat and will fuse, sag, or slump better on one shelf than between closely stacked shelves, although experienced glass artists often use several shelves successfully.
Delicate pieces can be fired on a puffed-up ceramic-fibre cloth: on a shelf. Round pieces, that could roll to one side, can be fired on a hollowed-out ceramic-fibre block. However, if the kin has elements in the bottom as with the Mini-Kiln and Prometheus Pro-7, a cloth or block will act as insulator and the kiln might overheat.
Particulates represent a health risk if they're breathed in, so wear a HEPA mask when cleaning out your kiln, mixing kiln wash, and working with ceramic-fibre blocks, ceramic cloths, and papers. And, ideally, use protective glasses.
If you want to touch anything hot, or move your kiln before it's cooled off, it's important to wear heat-resistant gloves. And, if you want to look into a red-hot kiln, even briefly, wear glare-resistant glasses to protect your eyes from IR and UV.
If your day-to-day work depends on your kiln and down-time will be disruptive or expensive, it's a good idea to have spares: extra shelves, a selection of posts, elements, a relay, and a thermocouple.
You can learn about ceramic blocks and cloths, charcoal, dust masks, glare-resistant glasses, glass separator, heat-resistant gloves, kiln vents, kiln wash, programmers, protective glasses, USB interfaces, shelf paper, tools, and other accessories, using the accessories link below the menu bar near the top of the front page. And they're all in the on-line shop.
Shelves are checked before despatch and are wrapped protectively. But they're not guaranteed and we cannot be responsible for any later damage.
|OPTIONS AND UPGRADES: A GENERAL INTRODUCTION|
It's important to learn about options and upgrades now as some have to be factory-fitted. The photo shows a Paragon Xpress E9A customised for a PMC silver clay studio: purple, with the maximum temperature set to 925°C so that students couldn't accidentally melt their silver.
An option is cosmetic or practical, such as a black respray, a right-hand door hinge, a peephole-vent, a bead-annealing door, a door or lid viewing window, or an EU plug.
An upgrade extends the standard specifications, such as a higher maximum temperature, a 3-key to a 12-key programmer, an electric kiln vent, a gas injection control system, an auxilliary power output, or a USB computer interface.
Not every option or upgrade applies to every kiln, so mail or call if you need help. However, if they're appropriate, they're listed in the on-line shop, so just add up the ones you want: but order them with your kiln as they're often difficult, expensive, or impossible, to implement afterwards. It might help if you make a few notes of your own as you read?
Kilns use regular single-phase 230V-240V mains so have 230V EU elements, not 120V US elements. The smaller kilns have UK 13A three-pin plugs: so they're ready to go. If you're not in the UK, use a plug adapter or cut off the UK plug and fit your own: it won't invalidate the guarantee. Alternatively, a special-order kiln can have a factory-fitted EU plug.
Most kilns can be re-engineered for 110V, 200V, 208V, or 220V, single phase or three phase, or 440V three phase. If you're interested, mail or call.
Although standard EU and US kilns have the same maximum temperature, set by the design and the programmer, some 1095°C firebrick kilns can be re-engineered to run at 1230°C, 1260°C, or 1290°C, making them versatile mixed-media kilns. However, to use 1290°C full-on hour after hour, choose an industrial or professional model.
Also, to maintain 1290°C, some upgraded kilns might need thicker firebricks, so they'll be slightly smaller inside: about 12mm on each side. Mail or call if you're interested, or need help deciding.
The UK factory-set maximum temperature is based on a reliable average voltage of 240V. If there's a regional, national, or temporary voltage drop, high-temperature kilns might take longer to reach their specified maximum or not reach it.
Some kilns are normally blue, but can be factory-painted berry, black, jade, navy, pink, purple, or turquoise. However, as they're made to order, they can't be returned if the colour isn't exactly the same as in the photo.
Changing the door hinge might be better if your kiln is in the corner of your studio or there's an obstacle that will make access difficult. Give this some thought.
Most of the medium-size top-opening kilns have a standard lift-up lid. Firebrick lids seem heavy to some people so, if you feel that a ceramic fibre lid, a hydraulic-assisted lid, or spring-assisted lid would be easier, mail or call.
If the kiln comes with a Sentry Xpress 3-Key ramp-hold programmer, you can upgrade to a Sentry Xpress 3-Key cone-fire ramp-hold programmer, usually preferred for ceramics. Cone-fire is implemented in the programmer's software and is very easy to use: just set a cone number and start the firing sequence.
Depending on the kiln, you can upgrade a Sentry Xpress 3-key programmer to a Sentry 12-Key ten segment ramp-hold, or cone-fire ramp-hold, programmer, with advanced firing features and connection options. The 3-key has a 12-month guarantee and the 12-key has a 30-month guarantee.
A Sentry 12-key programmer can be connected to your computer through a factory-fitted USB interface. The Control Master software allows you to control and monitor the firing, and analyse, arrange, print out, and save the data. If you want this feature, make sure you order the USB interface in the on-line shop.
Depending on the kiln, the 12-key programmer has a power-ratio feature: you can adjust the heat balance between the top and sides in 10% steps and control the heat distribution over larger pieces.
Kilns which only heat from the top, as opposed to the top and sides, don't have the power-ratio feature. However, the initial cost-saving has to be offset against fewer firing options.
With larger kilns, serious glass artists are always concerned about firebrick dust from the lid falling onto their work, so you could upgrade the standard firebrick lid to a factory-fitted ceramic-fibre lid with the elements threaded through pinless grooves in the fibre: or, as a luxury upgrade, with the elements completely embedded in the fibre.
Most kilns come with an electro-mechanical long-life nickel-chromium K-type thermocouple. However, if extra long-life and reliability are vital, you can upgrade to a mercury relay which has a lifetime of several million on-off cycles. The relay can switch 30A, so if you have a kiln that needs 50A, you'll need two relays.
If extra long-life and reliability are vital, especially at temperatures above 1100°C, you can upgrade to a long-life S-type platinum-rhodium thermocouple.
Some front-opening kilns are just too large and too heavy for a regular worktop, so Paragon makes a strong steel table, 768mm x 768mm x 718mm high, with two shelves for your accessories. The luxury version, with castors, is 63mm taller. If you decide to buy on old wood table, the rigidity of the legs is vital otherwise it will collapse like a parallelogram.
Some bronze and copper clays, and some metals, need to be fired in activated charcoal granules in a stainless steel container. The SC2 and SC3, the Caldera-A, and the Xpress E9A and E10A can hold a one-litre container: most other kilns can hold a three-litre but check the internal size before you buy the container. It's important that the container doesn't touch the thermocouple.
Particulates represent a health risk if they're breathed in, so wear a HEPA mask when cleaning out your kiln, mixing kiln wash, and working with charcoals, ceramic-fibre blocks, cloths, and papers. And, ideally, use protective glasses.
If you want to touch anything hot or move your kiln before it's cooled off, it's important to wear heat-resistant gloves. And, if you want to look into a red-hot kiln, wear glare-resistant glasses which protect your eyes from IR and UV.
Paragon kilns, made in the US, have been re-engineered and comprehensively tested for the UK, the EU, and most other countries. They're CE Marked and comply with EU safety standards. They're guaranteed for a year, and Paragon has an international, informed, and supportive user-base, and spares and repair centres.
The UK-EU digital programmer shows degrees Celsius, not degrees Fahrenheit as in the US. If you need to convert, this is how to do it. However, if you want to work in Fahrenheit, you can make a simple change to the programmer.
For help, or in the unlikely event of a fault, you can mail or call an engineer in the UK. However, home checks, adjustments, and repairs are quick and easy, needing little more than a PosiDriv screwdriver, and you can watch on-line videos. Alternatively, we can repair the kiln in our workshop at Cherry Heaven.
As with a lot of heavy consumer products made in the US but sold elsewhere, Paragon's guarantee covers replacement parts, not a return to the distributor or factory, and not any labour costs. However, as an example, replacing a programmer takes just a few minutes.
Generally, as soon as a programmable kiln starts its firing sequence, it begins to heat up at a rate set by the programmer. It can't heat up quicker than it would do with the elements full on all the time.
The thermocouple tells the programmer the current internal temperature and, depending on the sequence you've chosen, the programmer turns the elements on or off to control the sequence segments: the heating rate, the target temperature, the hold time, and the cooling rate. It can't cool down quicker than it would do with the kiln turned off. When the sequence is complete, the kiln beeps, and the sequence stops.
For safety, the programmer doesn't switch the full mains voltage. Instead it drives a relay, an electro-mechanical switch. The programmer uses a low voltage to activate the switch which turns the high-voltage high-current elements on or off.
When the target temperature is reached, the programmer switches the elements off. However, residual heat in the firing chamber allows the internal temperature to overshoot the target temperature briefly before starting to fall back.
This overshoot is more evident at low temperatures than at high temperatures, and in small kilns rather than large kilns. For example: 300°C will probably overshoot to 350°C whereas 800°C will probably only overshoot to 805°C before starting to fall back.
However, our Sentry Xpress programmers have a software modification that slows down the heating just before the target temperature, reducing any overshoot and improving the accuracy.
During the hold-time, with the elements still off, the temperature starts to fall. When the programmer switches the elements back on, the firing chamber will initially absorb some of the new heat before the temperature recovers. The continual switching of the elements on and off causes the internal temperature to oscillate either side of the target temperature.
This is similar to central heating. If you set it for 21°C, it probably oscillates, quite slowly, around 20°C to 22°C: and you won't notice. The accuracy will depend on where the thermostat is sited, how quickly it responds, how accurate it is, how long it takes for the radiators to heat up, and if you have doors and windows open. The temperature will probably be different in each room.
So, regardless of the thermocouple temperature, the actual temperature of your work will be slightly different, depending on its position on the kiln shelf, the vertical spacing of any stacked shelves, and its nearness to the elements, a lid, a door, a bead door, or a window. Learn to take this into account if you're working with temperature-critical materials or processes.
Remember that glass needs radiant heat and will fuse, sag, or slump better on one shelf at the bottom than between closely stacked shelves.
Kiln doors and lids are not meant to be a perfect fit otherwise, at high temperatures, there'd be no room for expansion and movement, and the door could stick and the ceramic-fibre or firebricks could crack.
All kilns smell a bit, and even produce whisps of smoke, during the first firings, just like a toaster or a fan heater. If you're worried about fumes, open a window.
Eventually, with normal use, kilns discolour slightly, inside and outside, and some firebricks might develop hairline cracks. Your kiln is a versatile, robust, red-hot tool: not an ornament.
|KEEPING A KILN LOG|
Using your kiln successfully needs critical research and frequent tests, especially as things that work for your friends and teachers might not work in the same way for you. It's also very important to learn how to creatively use unexpected effects. So, keep a firing log:
Buy a durable notebook. Use a new page for every firing, and draw diagrams of the shelves, their vertical spacing, and the position of your work on the shelves. Along with your work, put a few scraps at different places on the shelves to learn how things change. Describe the material, the shape of your work, the firing cycle, and the end result. Add a few photos and sketches, and mark the page corners with coloured dots or symbols as a quick reminder of your success rating.
A kiln log is vital if you're experimenting with temperature-sensitive materials or working with metals, coloured dichroic glasses, enamels, glazes, or china paints, and a skilled artist will use the kiln log to advantage to re-create effects. It'll be particularly useful if you have to repeat a commission, or you have a long holiday before returning to your studio.
Some Paragon kilns have a Sentry 12-key or a Sentinel Touch Screen programmer which can be connected to your computer through a factory-fitted USB interface. The Control Master software allows you to control and monitor the firing, and analyse, arrange, save, and print out the data. If you want this feature, make sure you order the USB interface in the on-line shop.
A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO GLASS AND GEMS
The main component of glass is silicon dioxide, often called silica: found naturally and plentifully as sand. When it melts, at around 1700°C, it's like syrup on a cold day. When it cools, it forms a rigid brittle glass called quartz glass.
To lower the melting point, and reduce the cost of melting, chemicals are added: typically sodium carbonate and calcium oxide. Other chemicals, and different heating and cooling processes, produce a range of colours and mechanical properties.
Chemically, glass is defined as an amorphous solid but, as it's heated, it becomes softer allowing it to be blown, cast, coated, decorated, engraved, heat-treated, moulded, poured, pressed, sagged, and slumped.
A form of glass occurs naturally within the mouth of a volcano when the intense heat of an eruption melts sand to form Obsidian, a hard black-to-brown glassy type of stone, shown in the photo. Although it was used decoratively, when it fractures it has very sharp edges, many times sharper than a steel knife-edge, so was also used for tools and weapons: and the pitiful rituals of circumcision and female genital mutilation.
During annealing, fabrication stresses are relieved as the molecules cool and arrange themselves into a regular stable matrix. Successful annealing is the key to creating glasswork that will remain attractive and durable. It's quite a long process, so a kiln with an automatic comprehensive programmer is essential.
|FREE BEAD ANNEALING GUIDE|
You can download, and print, a Bead Annealing Guide. Paragon created it in 2013 so it's only a guide, not a contemporary definitive document. Click here. It's a pdf file, but your device should already have a pdf viewer.
Cubic Zirconia is the most popular substitute for a diamond because they look almost dentical. Cubic Zirconia or CZ, is made from zirconium dioxide which comes closer than any other gem to matching the characteristics of a diamond. It's not quite as hard as diamond and is slightly less sparkly but displays more prismatic fire with more colour sparkles within the gem, especially if metal oxides are added during the production process.
Caring for CZ is important because they are more brittle than diamonds and susceptible to wear and tear such as chipping and scratches over time.
Diamonds are not a form of glass: they're naturally occurring gems composed of carbon atoms arranged in a very regular pattern.
Between 1 billion to 3.3 billion years ago, simple carbon containing trace minerals was transformed into diamonds by heat and pressure at depths of over 100 miles below the earth’s surface. We can’t mine down far enough to reach the earth’s mantle but fortunately volcanic eruptions brought the diamonds closer to the surface. They're extremely hard and until recently were regarded as the world's hardest natural material.
Although diamonds are extremely expensive, their price is governed by carat, cut, colour, and clarity. It’s very rare to find a diamond that doesn’t contain flaws: however the impurities, and internal refraction and dispersion of light, give diamonds their brilliance.
Synthetic diamonds are manufactured and are identical in hardness, dispersion, gravity, refraction and chemical composition to the highest quality mined diamonds available. Whereas a one-carat top quality diamond would cost thousands of pounds to buy, the same quality man-made diamond could be made for less than £5.
This will obviously have a huge impact on the diamond industry over the next few years as when comparing a cultured and mined diamond side by side they are virtually undistinguishable. A bit like pearls, they can be grown from a single crystal using chemical vapor deposition.
Dichroic glass has two different colours: a transmitted colour and a reflective colour, both of which change depending on the angle of view. For example blue-red will be blue in transmission and red in reflection.
During manufacture, quartz and metal oxides are vapourised onto the surface of the glass using a vacuum deposition process, forming a multi-layer crystal structure.
Enamelling involves applying a glass paste to metal and then heating it to fuse it to the surface. The finish of the enamel can be translucent or opaque depending on the temperature used to melt the glass. Higher temperatures result in a more transparent and durable enamel whilst lower temperatures give a more opaque and fragile surface. Dyes and pigments can be included to produce any colour.
The Paragon SC2 is ideal for enamelling, although other kilns are fine. So click the sc2-sc3:jewellery link below the menu bar near the top of the page. The SC-2W and SC-3W doors include a 50mm x 50mm heat-resistant glass viewing-window in the centre of the door, allowing you to take a quick peep at china paints, enamels, glass, and glazes to check on their progress
To fire polish glass, return the items to the kiln and melt them just enough to give a smooth polished appearance. It needs a temperature of around 700°C, and is often used to round the edges of glass after fusing.
Fire polishing already-slumped items is more difficult because the polishing temperature is close to the slumping temperature and it can distort the appearance of the piece. So it generally works best for flat items, rather than slumped ones. It has the slight limitation that the part of the item that touches the kiln shelf won't polish.
|FUSING, SAGGING, AND SLUMPING|
If two or more pieces of glass in contact are heated, they begin to soften and fuse together. With careful heating and cooling, the separate pieces of glass become one.
If glass is put on a mould and heated, it begins to soften and collapse, or sag, onto the mould: a common technique for making bowls and plates.
Sagging and slumping are often thought of as being the same. Correctly: during sagging, heated glass, supported at its edges, sags down in the middle to conform to a mould; during slumping, heated glass, supported at its middle, slumps down at its edges to conform to a mould.
|LAMPWORK AND BEADS|
Lamp-working is the traditional name for glasswork that uses a flame to melt glass rods and tubes. As the glass softens, it's shaped by turning and using tools.
Early lampworkers used an oil-lamp, and blew air into the flame through a pipe. Later, propane, natural gas, or butane torches replaced the lamp, although kilns are now increasingly popular, particularly for annealing.
Beads are usually made on steel rods, or mandrels. When the beads are finished, the rods are removed leaving holes for threading the beads. Cold working techniques can be used, such as etching, faceting, polishing, and sandblasting.
Lost-wax burnout starts with making a wax shape and then making a mould of the shape. When the mould is heated in a kiln, the wax melts out through channels, usually over a burnout mesh and into a tray. The shape is then cast in glass or metal from the mould.
It's important to prevent wax or carbon sticking to the elements, so burnout kilns have a top vent to release fumes. Carbon build-up inside a kiln could conduct electricity and would eventually cause the elements to fail.
Paragon make kilns designed for this: the W series. So click the w:lost-wax link under the menu bar near the top of the page. They all have top vents and optional wax trays.
Moissanite is another diamond substitute which is a rare mineral found naturally in small quantities, although Moissanite for jewellery is artificially made. It’s made from Silicon Carbide which means it’s able to withstand high temperatures and is very hard.
Moissanite is noticeably much sparklier and displays more prismatic fire than a diamond which is noticeable even to an untrained observer. Moissanite does have inclusions like a diamond and it may also have a greenish tinge to its colour.
|PÂTE DE VERRE|
Pâte de verre involves making a glass paste, applying it to a mould, firing it, and removing the piece from the mould. The glass paste is usually made from glass powder, a binder such as gum arabic, distilled water, and colouring agents or enamels. It allows precise placing of colours in the mould, whereas other techniques often result in the glass straying from its intended position.
I think, currently, Daum is the only large commercial crystal manufacturer using the pâte de verre process for art glass and crystal sculptures.
This a simple technique but it requires good ideas. A bottle, such as those used for wine, beer, cola, or champagne, is softened in a kiln so that it begins to flatten out or conforms to a mould. There are too many moulds to stock here but there are lots available on line. Or make your own from clay.
The bottles need to be clean and dry, with all paper labels and tops removed. Put them in your kiln on a shelf, either with shelf paper or kiln wash to prevent the glass sticking to the shelf.
Paragon makes a kiln designed for this: the Trio. So click the trio link below the menu bar near the top of the page. It's wide enough for most bottles but can still use a regular socket.
Stained glass is glass that has been coloured by adding metallic salts during its manufacture. The coloured glass is crafted into stained glass windows in which small pieces of glass are arranged to form patterns or pictures, traditionally held together by strips of lead and supported by a rigid frame. Painted details and yellow stain are often used to enhance the design.
The term stained glass is also applied to windows in which the colours have been painted onto the glass and then fused to the glass in a kiln.
It requires artistic skill to conceive an appropriate and workable design, and engineering skills to assemble the piece. A window must fit snugly into the space for which it is made, must resist wind and rain, and also, especially in the larger windows, must support its own weight. Many large windows have withstood the test of time and remained substantially intact since the Late Middle Ages.
Swarovski Crystal isn’t a gemstone or even a crystal: it’s a form of glass made at high temperatures by melting silicon oxide powders with lead to form what is known as lead crystal. The exact process is patented by Swarovski but it has approximately 32% lead content to increase the crystals refraction index to resemble that of a diamond. To produce a diamond like effect the crystal glass is precision cut and then polished again by a Swarovski patented process that gives the crystal a high quality finish.
The crystals are often further enhanced by coating the glass with an Aurora Borealis or AB coating that gives the surface a rainbow like appearance to simulate dispersion from a diamond. Swarovski crystal is not as hard as diamond so its susceptible to scratches and chipping from wear and tear, but it’s harder than standard glass.
Tack fusing is the joining together of glass, with as little change to the shape of the pieces as possible. Tack fusing may be used either decoratively, or to assemble a large piece of glass from laminations.
Where tack fusing is used to apply small decorative details to a larger piece, you might want to partially melt the small pieces so that they change shape, usually becoming more spherical under the influence of surface tension, but without changing the shape of the carrier piece. This can be done by using an increased temperature, but only briefly. The carrier piece has a larger thermal mass, so heats up more slowly than the small decorations.
The vitrigraph process usually uses a kiln to make glass stringers. The bottom of the kiln is removed and set aside. The kiln body is put on a thick ceramic square with a central hole.
A crucible of glass is put inside, and the whole combination lifted well away from the floor to allow moulten glass to fall through a hole in the crucible and form long stringers. Ceramic squares are in the on-line shop.
Paragon make a kiln designed for this: the Caldera. So click the caldera:ceramics link below the menu bar near the top of the page. The bottom is a separate part and can be unclipped.
The term warm glass refers to fusing, slumping, and other glass processes which take place at temperatures between about 600°C to 925°C. Although that doesn't sound warm, it is when you compare it to glassblower's working temperatures, which often exceed 1100°C. Warm glass is sometimes called kiln-formed glass.
|PARAGON KILNS INTERNATIONAL DISTRIBUTOR||KILNS, OVENS, FURNACES, PARTS, AND SUPPORT|
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