10 September 2017

Things to think about before your order your kiln!

As we have been selling and shipping kilns for more that 15 years, we have had a lot of experience with customers not being prepared for their kiln delivery... including some truly epic fails!  With that, we wanted to share with you our TOP 10 things to think about BEFORE your order your kiln!

1. Is my door wide enough for the kiln to fit through? 
The outside dimensions are typically six to eight inches BIGGER than the inside dimensions. Use a tape measure to ensure the kiln can fit through the door. We hate to see you have to take off the door frame to get it inside.

2. What tools do you need to uncrate the kiln, and do you have those? 
Tools are NOT included. You’ll most likely need a crowbar, an electric drill with a Phillips-head bit, a pair of scissors as these do not come with the kiln, so be prepared.

3. If you don't have friends, family, or neighbors that can help, and you are not capable of unpacking the kiln alone, how will you handle this issue? 
Our free shipping offer covers delivery to the curb and most times the freight driver will be kind and roll the pallet into a garage. But, it’s not always the case. For an additional charge, most delivery companies have a “white glove" service that will unpack the kiln, get it set up for you and even dispose of the trash. If the extra fee is just too much, think about how you’ll handle this issue.

4. Your driveway… Do you live in a rural area with a gravel road or driveway? Do you have beautiful overhanging trees? 
You’ll need to let us know, in advance, so that we can notify the freight company and have your kiln transferred off of the 18-wheeler and onto a smaller truck. Be prepared that the truck could lop those limbs right off, or worse yet, the driver could refuse to drive up the driveway because of them. It’s happened, and it’s no fun. So, if your driveway is a mile long and uphill, and a large panel truck cannot make the trip, you need to prepared to meet the truck at the end of your road or driveway.

5. Are you a residential delivery, but are ordering a kiln that can’t fit on a lift gate because it’s too deep from front to back?
Kilns over 24” from front to back can be too large for the lift-gate, requiring loading dock only delivery. This means you’ll need a friend with a fork lift. Do you have a friend with a fork lift?

6. Did I check to see how much electrical capacity is available on my breaker box before I ordered the kiln?
Make sure you have the electrical capacity you need BEFORE making your decision. Don’t assume you’ve got what you need. Ask a person in the know, or call a professional.

7. How far is the breaker box from where the kiln will be plugged in? 
The further away you are from the breaker box, the more “drag” or electrical loss there will be on the line. This means that the further you are from the breaker box, the less amperage is getting to the kiln. Kilns need all their specified “juice” to run efficiently, so long electrical runs might make the kiln really slow, or even worse, the kiln could fail to make temperature.

And, the most important thing I might ever say... NO EXTENSION CORDS! Kilns must be plugged directly into the wall receptacle to do their job safely. Most extension cords are not rated for the amperage necessary to run a kiln and safety is our number one concern. Beside safety, see the previous paragraph for another reason this is ill-advised.

8. Do I have a dry, well-ventilated place to run my kiln?
Kilns can’t get wet, and moreover, kiln controllers cannot get wet. If they’re wet, they just won’t operate. They could short and be a safety hazard, and nobody wants that. They’re not waterproof like cars, so it’s important to place your kiln inside of a building. A garage is fine, a car port might not be, due to driving wind and rain. An enclosed porch may be okay, but a screen porch might not be for those same reasons. A balcony may be fine to run a kiln, but how will you handle a hot kiln if rain starts during a firing? This may see obvious, but it’s not always clear to some. Be careful and make sure you protect your investment by having a clean, dry, safe place to operate the kiln.

9. Ergonomics... Can a stand be too tall?
A tall stand is great if your tall, but if your on the shorter side, will ordering that prevent you from touching the bottom of your kiln? Yes, folks, this actually happens. Think about your hip height, your arm length and your eye level when ordering the kiln. Will its size, shape and configuration allow you to best operate, load, clean, and unload the kiln? Will how and where you place the kiln allow you to get to all parts of it for servicing, cleaning, and placing and leveling your shelves, molds, etc.?

10. Is this a safe area for my kiln?
Kilns need to be placed on a heat proof surface. Carpeting is a just a disaster waiting to happen, so go get yourself some concrete/hardy backer board from a home improvement store. Wooden tables are also a no-go. You can use large ceramic tiles on those and concrete board to ensure your safety. If you have animals, consider the kiln room a “safety zone”... no animals allowed! Lastly, make sure you place your kiln in area that is well ventilated, so closets and pantry spaces aren’t a very good idea.

03 September 2017

High Heat = Shorter Life Span

Unfortunately, it's true... All those pesky parts inside the controller box with prolonged exposure to high heat, will have a shorter lifespan. And, if you don't have solid state relays, those mechanical relays inside the box when exposed to high heat will be more prone to locking in the closed or on position. So, what is high heat, and how can I prevent it to ensure a longer life for my kiln?

Many studios have kilns located in areas without environmental controls and poor airflow (This is a fancy way to say no air conditioning.), which causes the ambient temperature to be well above 110°F... a.k.a. high heat! This is especially true for those us of with kilns located in the garage. This is hard
not just on the relays but also on the digital controllers.

To counteract those high ambient temperatures and improve the lifespan of your controller, we suggest using a fan to blow air across the electric components. It doesn't need to be a large, industrial fan. Just a small, four to eight inch fan on low speed will be very effective. We use a personal desk fan and it works perfectly!

25 August 2017

What’s the difference... Kilns vs. Furnace vs. Oven?

Proper heat treatment is an essential part of knife making, tool and die work, and parts fabrication. Without precise control of time and temperature, blades won’t hold their edge, and tools and parts may be too soft or too brittle for use. Buying a heat-treating kiln, oven or furnace can be a complicated process, but our job is to make it easy to navigate the decisions involved in finding the right one for your needs. Here’s some basic information to help you decide which is the best choice for your professional or hobby needs.
So, what is the difference?
For our purposes, all three of these names refer to a fireproof box that gets hot. No matter what you call it “the box” needs to have the capability to get to the desired temperature and stay there for the prescribed amount of time. It also must to have the ability to heat and cool at the prescribed rate for the particular process required. Most importantly, it must be safe and easy to operate, and last a long time. 
Kiln: associated with the manufacturing of pottery, glass or ceramic ware. These are typically fired from room temperature to a specific process temperature at a prescribed rate of increase and then allowed to cool at a controlled rate back to room temperature. The rate of increase (or decrease) during the firing and cooling stages is often of great importance. Items being fired are seldom removed from the unit while it is performing. There may be periods of time when the temperature is held during the firing but the hold time relative to the total firing time is usually insignificant. Temperatures range from 1700° F – 2350° F. 
Furnace: associated with forging or heat treating metal. These are typically HELD at a single temperature for an extended period of time. The exact rate of temperature increase during the heating stage is seldom of importance.  Items being fired are often added to or removed from the furnace when the unit is hot. There are typically long periods of time when the temperature is held during the firing, and there may be multiple cooling steps and hold times for processes including annealing, case hardening, and tempering. Temperatures range from 2000° F – 2450° F.
Oven: associated with drying or cooking, are the same as furnaces except the usage temperature range is lower. The lower temperature rating often means a large chamber can be powered with lower amperage. Temperatures range from 250° F – 900° F.
It really doesn’t matter what you call it…. As long as it does what you need it to do. From this point forward, we’re going to refer to all the options as KILNS. What you really need to know is how much space you need, what temperature do you need to get to, and how long does it need to hold at that temperature. Here is a link to a guide that you can use as a reference: The Heat-Treating Data eBook.

Now, that we have that figured out...  you need to think about:
What size do I need? A basic aspect to consider when choosing a kiln is its interior dimensions. Kilns for making knives are considerably smaller than other types of kilns because of the smaller size of the average project. Kiln size reduction helps to reduce costs as well as improve heating times. Determine the size of the largest blades you intend on creating and make sure it can fit inside your chosen kiln. It also depends on how big you want to work. There’s nothing worse than buying a kiln that you outgrow in 6 months. Think about the future and what you might grow into.

What temperatures do I need? Necessary temperatures are determined by the type of metal you work with, so make sure of your own requirements before buying a kiln. Check the above reference guide if you still have questions on heat treating temperatures.
What amperage does the kiln need 120V vs 240V and how many amps will the unit draw? Based on the size of kiln and top heat requirements, each kiln’s voltage requirements and amperage needs vary.

12-Key Controller
What type of controller do I need? A kiln controller is the brain that tell the kiln what to do, and when to do it. They range in simplicity, ease of operation, and price. Most of our heat-treating kilns have a variety of controller options that are determined by the manufacturer. Not all controllers are available through all manufacturers.

What safety features should I look for? All heat-treating kilns we sell have available door shut off devices cut power to the elements but leave the digital controller energized to resume the firing program as soon as the door has been closed. Check to see if your model has these included or if this is an add-on option.
Finally... the MOST important question. Which kiln series should I purchase?
Evenheat HT-1
The Artisan, Cubed and HT Series... The Artisan 688 is perfect for small, pocket folding blades. The Ten Cubed is larger and also designed for folding blades. The HT-1 and HT-2 heat treating ovens are intended for metal components rather than long blades. Check the electrical needs and top temps to ensure you’re getting exactly what you need as these models can vary.

KO Series... These kilns are for those needing even higher temperatures. This series has thicker wall insulation which allows the kiln to reach temperatures of up to 2400° F. The 240v requirement makes it perfect for machine shops and very ambitious hobbyists. Read more about our most popular KO heat treating oven, the KO-22.5

Evenheat KO 22.5
KF Series... These kilns have a top temperature of 2200° F but offers more capacity than the KH series. Our bestselling heat treating oven, the KF-18, has twice the interior dimensions as the KH-418 and three times that of the KH-414. Running on 240v, it’s perfect for small machine shops and the more ambitious hobbyist. The KF series represent our most popular sellers. 

KH Series... These kilns are perfect for hobbyist knifemakers working out of a residence. Running on standard North American 120v and using a standard household plug, it can be set up anywhere in the home. Despite its low weight and smaller interior chamber, KH series ovens can heat up to 2200° F. Read more about the KH-414 and KH-418 series, our most popular KH heat treating ovens. 

PMT Series… These kilns have swing doors and are available in both 120V or 240V models depending on size... from the PMT-10 to the PMT21. The PMT series is rated to 2350°F.
KM and PKM Series… These kilns have drop down doors and are available in single width or double barrel width, and are available in both 120V or 240V models depending on size. The KM-series kilns like the KM-24T are long and narrow, ideal for knives.

Last but, not least... What accessories or options do I need?

Mechanical vs. Solid State vs. Mercury Relays
Relay upgrades are another important safety and convenience item to consider. If you don’t already know, a relay is the part of the kiln that controls the power or current to the element, allowing the element to either receive current and get hot, or to interrupt the circuit thus not allowing the element to receive current and cool down. The mechanical relays, which come standard on all kilns, are what is responsible for the ubiquitous opening and closing clicking we hear while our kilns run.

ALL MECHANICAL RELAYS in U.S. kilns are virtually the same... no matter the manufacturer. 
Solid State Relay
Mechanical relays have a life of up to “X” clicks and then they fail. We know that all failures stink and that is why we recommend changing your relays every 12-24 months. If you are a heavy kiln user, you should be smart and change your relays once a year. If changing relays this is something you don't want to hassle with, you can eliminate the problem by upgrading to mercury or solid state relays and almost never (they last up to 15 years) have to change a relay again. In our opinion, it's one of the best upgrades money can buy!
Drop Door vs. Swing Door vs. Guillotine Door
Check which door is available for the kiln you choose. One door isn’t “better” than another, it just your preference for ease of access to the items inside the kiln. Drop doors facilitate the removal of items from the hot kiln so that the door does not impede access.  The drop door requires a single action of a counter-weighted hand control mounted to the left of the kiln chamber.  A safety chain prevents the door from opening too far and stressing the hinge assembly. A Guillotine door is an alternative to the drop door and slides up versus folding down. Swing doors open side to side to facilitate access to the items in the kiln.

Orton VentMaster
Downdraft Kiln Vent
This is typically used for specialty industrial heat treating processes as well as specialty burnouts for diesel engine parts, so for a hobby knife maker, this is likely not something you’ll need. Depending upon what type of metal you are heating and the ventilation of the area you are in, it may be useful to vent the kiln away from your work space due to gases produced from industrial products fired in the kiln.  As a side benefit of venting, the increased flow of atmospheric oxygen may improve reactions within the kiln.

Gas Injection Flow Meter
This is typically used for specialty industrial heat treating processes, so for a hobby knife maker, this is likely not something you’ll include in your purchase. Gas injection can be very important with heat treating metal to prevent oxygen scale from developing. Oxygen in the furnace forms a scale on the surface of knife blades and other parts during heat treating. To avoid surface scale, wrap the parts in
Glass Flow Meter
heat treating foil or inject an inert gas into the furnace. The gas displaces the oxygen. Please note that the gas may reduce heating element life. Also, gas injection does not offer better results than heat treating foil nor does gas injection prevent all scaling. The main benefit of gas injection is the savings in time over wrapping the steel in foil. The flow meter can be ordered with an optional solenoid kit, which enables you to turn the gas on or off for each segment, or stage, of the firing.

Hope we didn't overwhelm you with too much information... If you still have questions, as always... just give us a call!

15 August 2017

Show Your True Colors!

What is your favorite color... Pendant Blue, Salsa Red or, maybe it's Mancini Pink?

For a limited time, Kiln Frog is offering FREE COLORS on the Evenheat Fishbone and Kingpin 88 kilns!

 Yep... I said it! FREE COLORS! That's a $50.00 savings. So, what are you waiting for?

How do I test for accurate temperatures in my kiln?

In case you don’t know, a thermocouple is the nubby, sticky-outie thing inside your kiln that takes the temperature and reports it to the controller. This is a picture of what your thermocouple looks like inside your kiln.

I had a great conversation about this with Jim Simmons, Production Manager at Evenheat Kilns. He said, “Most manufacturers tell customers that a variance of +/- 20F degrees is an acceptable target to stay within the temperature range.” But in my experience, most of us usually can adjust within about +/- 50F degrees and still be able to accommodate the changes.

He also said, “It’s time to change the thermocouple when the room temperature reading is OVER 50F degrees above or below the true room temps. A thermocouple offset is also an option that your manufacturer can walk you through.”  In my opinion, changing out a thermocouple is an easy and less expensive thing you can do to keep your kiln singing along. For most manufacturers, a thermocouple is in the price range of $35.00.

He was pretty specific about this one point, “When thermocouples wear out, you begin to get an “over fire” situation, which means the temperature of the kiln reads LOWER than the actual firing temperature in the kiln. If you don’t change out your thermocouple soon, it’s just gonna get worse.”

This is actually happening right now with one of my kilns. It’s 8 years old, and gets quite the workout! The controller is reading 1325F, but the firing results really look like 1425F. This is a clear sign that it’s time to change out that old thermo! I’ve been lazy about it, even though know I need to do it. Like my hero Maya Angelou said, "When you know better, you do better!"

Jim shared this last tidbit... we love Jim, but it’s pretty techie stuff…

“Here’s the technical formula. The air in your kiln, plus the tip of the thermocouple -2 degrees or .4% of temperature, whichever is greater, that is the temperature differential  between the tip of the the thermocouple to whatever material you have in the kiln. Temps are measured by millivolts on the tip of the thermocouple. Who knows (the engineers know) how that really works for us everyday “Joes,” but you could get another digital pyrometer, drill a hole next to the other thermocouple, and place that in the kiln. One thermo would them prove or disprove the other thermo, as long as the first thermo was calibrated correct at the factory. There’s really no way you could accurately do this in the studio or shop.”

Well, there you have it. It sounds like we have three options:

  • Manually do the adjustment and change your programs accordingly to accommodate the +/- temp factors of your particular kiln.
  • Call the manufacturer and have them walk you through a thermocouple offset on your controller.
  • Do what I’m doing! Send the $35.00 dollars and change out the thermocouple.

Good luck! And, may all your temperatures read true!