Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Peeking into the Kiln at Low Temperatures - Kiln Forming Myths 13

Do not peek between 100C and 540C – it will break the glass

Not necessarily.

To think about this systematically, you need to remember that the temperature readout is of the heat in the air, not of the glass.  On the way up, the temperature of the glass will be less than that of the air. On the way down the air temperature readout will be lower than the glass.

You can see from the readout how quickly the air temperature recovers to the original temperature.  This is generally, more quickly than the glass can lose its temperature.

The glass will be increasingly brittle as the temperature falls below the annealing point. 

The risk of thermal shock increases as the difference in air and glass temperature increases.  So shock is likely to be less at a readout of 100°C than at 400°C. 

The risk of thermal shock also increases with the thickness of the piece.  A piece of 25mm is more likely to be shocked at any given temperature than one of 6mm.

Whether you can peek depends on several things:

·        Temperature – e.g., just above the annealing soak a quick peek is less likely to cause problems than one at a lower temperature.  The shape of the glass will not change significantly below 600°C, so a peek while the kiln is cooling to the annealing point will not affect any but very thick pieces.

·        Length of peek – The key element is peeking is to affect the temperature as little as possible. So the opening should be as brief as possible.  The essential element in peeking is to take a mental snapshot of the glass, close the peep hole or lid, and think about what you saw.  Do not look or stare while the kiln is open. 

·        Size of opening – The smaller the opening you can manage during the peeking, the less risk of shock.  This is because less relatively cold air can enter the kiln.

·        Use of peep holes – set up your piece in the kiln in such a way that you can see your work through them.  At lower temperatures you will need the assistance of small intense light to illuminate the work.

·        Thickness – remember that thicker work is more likely to thermal shock because of the slow transfer of heat from the internal parts of the piece.  Peeking needs to be more cautious as the thickness increases.  Again, peeking above the annealing point should tell you everything you need to know about the final shape of the piece, making peeking in the brittle range unnecessary.

It is a good idea to minimise the viewing of your piece below annealing, but it is not impossible, if you follow the principle of avoiding drastic temperature falls during your peeking.

All myths have an element of truth in them otherwise they would not persist.
They also persist because people listen to the “rules” rather than thinking about the principles and applying them.  It is when you understand the principles that you can successfully break the “rules”.

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