Along with a decent pottery wheel, the backbone of any home pottery studio has to come in the form of a kiln.
While there are ways to fire pottery without a kiln, most home crafters will find a home-based kiln indispensable for making a range of ceramics, jewelry, or metal-work.
But aren’t they big, cumbersome things? No, not necessarily.
Some are, in fact, very portable and ideal for tight spaces that won’t break your back to lift.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at what’s on offer, and help you decide what is the best ceramic kiln for home use. We’ll consider a few different types and varying price points.
At a Glance: Our Pick of the Best Ceramic Kilns on the Market
Note: The links above take you to more information, current prices and customer reviews on Amazon and Blick. If you do purchase something we get a small commission, which has absolutely no effect on the eventual price that you pay.
- Typical Features of a Kiln
- Buyer’s Guide – Key Considerations
- Product Round-up and Reviews – Best Ceramic Kiln for Home Use
Typical Features of a Kiln
Most kilns have the same basic components, regardless of whether its a jewelry kiln or for ceramics. They all have, to a greater or lesser degree:
- An inner chamber to hold projects
- A handle of sorts for portability
- Heating capability around anywhere from 700°F to over 2000°F.
- A digital controller or timer
- Shelving (usually needs to be bought separately)
Buyer’s Guide – Key Considerations
There are lots of factors to consider when buying a kiln. You need to factor in not only the place where you’re planning to put it, but also the type of pottery you plan to make.
Type of Clay and Glaze
Clays and glazes all mature at different temperatures, so you need to be clear on what you’re planning to make before you go buy a kiln. The temperature for working with glass, porcelain, stoneware or earthenware is different, so you need to match the kiln’s capabilities accordingly.
If clay is fired too high it can totally ruin it (it can deform the clay, and in some cases even melt it) and the glaze can run off. If the temperature is too low you’ll end up with a dry, rough finish.
Similarly, glazes differ greatly in terms of the temperature they should be fired at. Some, like Raku, need a low-fire range of temps, but others (like Oxide stains) need higher temperatures.
Size and Quantity of Pieces
What are the dimensions of the pieces you plan to make? Are you planning on making huge cooking pots, or tiny cups for your daughter’s dolls house? How many do you want to fire at the same time? Sounds obvious, but the more pieces you want to fire in a single batch the bigger the size of kiln you need.
Where are you planning to put the kiln? If you have ample space, then size considerations won’t be an issue. If your home studio is the size of a shoebox, don’t go buying something overly big. It’s recommended that kilns have a minimum of 2 feet open space around them to give them some breathing space.
As we’ve already mentioned, the size of kiln depends on the type of pottery you’re making, and the space you have in your home studio. Efficiency is also a consideration, as you don’t want to fire a few small items in a large kiln as it’s a complete waste of electricity.
- up to 9” x 11” – the smallest kilns, these are ideal for firing small items like beads, doll parts, etc.
- 18” x 18” – if you plan to make bigger items like pots, plates, and bowls, this size is ideal for single items but not in bulk.
- 23” x 27” – the most common size, ideal for the bulk firing of larger items (pots, plates, bowls, etc.) and able to be used in large production.
Size isn’t the only consideration, however. Power requirements are just as important. Kilns differ in their voltage and amperage requirements, so make sure you check the consumption first and that your home studio has the beans to power it. If not, you’ll need to factor in extra power installation costs.
The typical voltage of a normal household is 120V in the US (240 volts in the UK), and most which most small kilns can happily run off. Larger kilns run off 240 volts, so you’ll need to power up your home electricity output to accommodate. You’ll also need a breaker that meets the amperage of your kiln. Many large kilns require 60 amps, but the typical US home are fitted with 15-20 amp breakers. Unless you’re a qualified electrician, you’ll need to get the assistance of a professional to help you with this.
As discussed, clays and glazes need firing at different temperatures. To avoid disappointment, buy a kiln that exceeds the maximum temperature you’ll need for your project. Also bear in mind that a kiln’s firing capability will gradually reduce over time, so it’s ability to hold higher temperatures will dwindle, so it’s wise to overestimate the temperature by 200-300 degrees Fahrenheit.
Depending on what you intend to fire, use:
- Low-firing kilns – earthenware and glass
- Mid-firing or high-firing kilns – stoneware
- High firing kilns – porcelain
You’ll notice ‘cones’ are talked about when it comes to temperature. A cone represents not only a measurement of energy (as Fahrenheit does) but also a measurement of temperature over time.
Low cone temperatures appear with a 0 in front of the number, such as 018, 019, and 020, while higher cone temperatures are two-digit numbers like 12, 13, and 14. The highest cone temperature is 15 and the lowest is 022. Be sure to check the suggested cone temperatures for the materials and glazes you wish to use when considering which kiln to purchase.
Low cone temperatures start with a 0 at the front of the number (such as 018, 019, and 020)
High cone temperatures start with two-digit numbers like 11, 12, and 13, the highest one being 15.
if you need to move the kiln about the house, then weight is an important factor as you won’t want to be putting your back out every time you move it.
Do you have back issues? Kilns are not particularly high machines, but top-loading kilns require you to lean over, putting a strain on your back. Top loaders tend to be cheaper than front-loading kilns though, so you’ll have to weigh up the pros and cons.
A quick word about safety. Kilns run at incredibly high temperatures. This might immediately set off alarm bells if you have children or animals running loose in the house. There are a few rules you should follow in order to keep you safe:
- Protective Gear: Always wear gloves. The kiln will stay extra hot for a good time after use. Do not touch with bare hands until it is fully cooled.
- Glasses: Sunglasses will do nicely here. Inside the kiln can get very bright, using glasses protects your eyes.
- Toxins: The chemical changes of the clay means toxins will be released. Make sure the kiln is in a well-ventilated place.
Product Round-up and Reviews – Best Ceramic Kiln for Home Use
Paragon Quikfire 6 Kiln
The Paragon Quikfire 6 is an ideal starter kiln for everything from ceramics, enameling, glass fusing to china painting, and is one of the more portable kilns on this list.
It is also one of the cheapest. This doesn’t mean it should be overlooked as the budget option, far from it. Paragon has created the ideal item for the beginner potter, or those who haven’t got the room in their home for an industrial-sized kiln.
With a ceramic fiber shell at just 6″ × 6″ × 6″ inside, it isn’t massive inside, but for small items, its chamber can hold small projects easily.
It’s super quick too. Small glass pieces can be fired and cooled to room temperature in as little as 30 minutes, while ceramics take just 50 minutes, so no more waiting to fill a larger kiln to try out a new technique. Yes, it really does deserve its namesake.
Unlike other beginner kilns, this one does include a pyrometer to keen the fusing temperature consistent, which is another selling point. It’s also energy-efficient, running at only 1560 watts (which is less than some hair dryers!).
- Great budget option
- Small, portable, low power consumption (1560 Watts)
- Includes a pyrometer to keen the fusing temperature consistent
- Great for super quick-firing
- Size could be limiting
- Not a high-firing kiln
Fuseworks Craft Kiln
This table-top kiln from Fuseworks has a good mix of portability and power. With a 8-1/2″ × 3-1/2” firing chamber, fiber body and stainless steel bands that help to reinforce the clam-shell style lid, its the perfect beginner to intermediate kiln.
It’s ideal for glass fusing, enamels, or ceramics, especially for small items such as jewelry or coasters.
The beauty of this product is speed: in as little as 15 minutes it allows the full fusing of two layers of glass.
If you’re frustrated using a microwave kiln, you’ll love the extra space this gives you.
The one downside is there is no pyrometer so its difficult to gauge the level of fuse (more expensive models have pyrometers). Still, for the beginner potter it’s a great first foray into the world of ceramics, and lets you decide is its a hobby you want to pursue (without a big investment).
- Superb value
- Easy-to-use beginner/intermediate-level kiln
- Perfect size for small spaces
- Operates on standard voltage
- Quick to fire up – achieve a full fuse in 15 minutes
- No pyrometer so difficult to gauge what level of fuse.
A very portable front-loading kiln here, weighing in at only 12 pounds. The ergonomic handle is a classy touch, making Rapidfire the kiln for the discerning crafter.
It does have a small chamber, perfect for those little projects you’ve been craving to make. The heating possibilities are decent too, as the Pro can heat up to around 2200 degrees Fahrenheit. This higher temperature means you can fire most clays and glazes.
The digital temperature control allows you to handle separate projects at the same time. As Rapidfire has been around a long time and are a trusted brand, it hikes up the price a bit though.
Delphi Ez Pro 15-6 Kiln
The beast has arrived. The Delphi is the premium kiln designed for the gods. Or at least someone with a large budget. As the highest ticketed item on this list, the Delphi does show it deserves its price tag.
The massive chamber measures in at 15” X 6.5” deep. Perfect for those wishing to create larger pieces. It does have a lower temperature capacity than the others on the list, reaching around 1800 degrees. Your items will take longer to create, but the quality will be top-notch.
The great aspect of the Delphi is its multifunctional use. You can use this for ceramics but also for glass making. Jewelry as well as pottery? Call me a happy crafter.
Selling point? Pre-set programs for ease of use. For anyone not familiar with how to use kilns or for those wishing for simplicity; this is the kiln for you. It’s top and side-firing elements allows for your precious projects to be evenly heated.