Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Observation Ports for Kilns

Observation Ports for Kilns

When choosing a kiln, an often overlooked element is the observation ports. These openings in the side or top of the kiln enable you to observe the progress of your work during a firing without opening the kiln lid or door. They have ceramic or fibre plugs to keep the heat in the kiln when you are not using them to observe what is happening. 

A kiln with a very large quartz observation panel
Some newer kilns are built with quartz observation panels in the kiln. These serve the same purpose as the ports, but without the (small) additional heat loss.

When doing any new work it is important to observe the progress of work, rather than just hope for the best and see what has happened after the whole process is finished. Observation can tell you when the piece has reached the desired stage and progress to the next part of the programme.

A port located too high to be of use for observation of the interior.  It is sealed with a ceramic fibre plug.

The location of the port is important. You need to be able to see the relevant part of the kiln or they are useless. 
This relatively large kiln has two ports, one at the center of the door, and one on top.  The top is mostly for ventilation.  The one in the door may be too high to observe work while firing unless the shelf is put up on tall kiln furniture

Although a small kiln, the observation port at the top is not so useful as one at the side.

A popular kiln with an appropriately placed observation port.  Often these have an additional one on the side opposite the controller. 

 Some kilns have multiple ports to make observation of various parts of the kiln easier.

There are a variety of shapes of these ports. The shape is not so important as the location and what can be viewed within the kiln through the ports.

A round port, but probably too low to be of much use

A rectangular port viewed from the inside showing the field of view that can be allowed

A kiln with multiple square ports

If your kiln has come without a port or one that is not placed where most suitable for your use, you can drill the casing and brick or fibre to provide another viewing port.  Make a ceramic plug or wad up ceramic fibre blanket to fill the hole when it is not in use.