Jewelry kilns can be used for glass fusing, ceramics, enameling, knife making, and setting stones into your jewelry pieces, amongst many other things.
If you’re thinking about purchasing one, there are a lot of options out there.
In this article, we walk you through all the main things to consider and recommend our pick of the best jewelry kilns available.
At a Glance: Our Recommendations for the Best Jewelry Kilns
- Skutt FireBox 8 Kiln
- Paragon SC-2 Digital Silver and Glass Kiln
- Skutt Hotstart Pro
- Skutt FireBox 14 Kiln
- Tabletop Quikmelt 120oz PRO-120-4 KG Melting Furnace
- RapidFire Pro Kiln
- Fuseworks Craft Kiln
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.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- What is a Jewelry Kiln?
- Ceramic and Jewelry Kilns – What’s the Difference?
- Buyer’s Guide – Key Considerations
- Product Reviews & Round up – Best Jewelry Kilns
- So, Which Should I Buy?
What is a Jewelry Kiln?
Kilns have existed (in many different forms) for over a millennia, used to turn objects from clay into pottery, tiles or brick.
They have evolved from pits dug into the ground fired with dung to huge, industrial kilns the size of football fields! But they all have had one thing in common, they are incredibly simple and particularly good at their jobs, reaching huge temperatures to fire projects.
In fact, Neolithic kilns were able to produce temperatures greater than 900˚C (or 1652˚F)!
In recent years electric kilns have gained huge popularity, primarily because they are easy to use, low cost, produce low emissions and produce consistent results.
Ceramic and Jewelry Kilns – What’s the Difference?
There are a few differences between jewelry and ceramic kilns.
The first are the temperatures they are able to reach. Ceramic kilns can often reach temperatures of up to 2345 F. Kilns used for glass rarely go above 1700F and kilns for precious metal clay (PMC) tend to only go up to 1800F. You would be able to fire metal clay in any kiln that reaches the required temperatures.
A second difference between the kilns is whether they are top or front loading. Ceramic kilns tend to be top-loading, as they will almost always have elements in the sides of the kiln, generally because artists fire multiple pieces of work across multiple levels in their kiln. When mounted on the side the elements can radiate between the shelves. Glass and metal clay kilns can be either top or front loading and may have elements in the lid of the kiln.
The main difference between the kilns though is their size.
While jewelry kilns can often be used for ceramics they are a lot smaller so wouldn’t be economical to use if you were needing multiple ceramic pieces. Their size is however what makes them ideal for firing jewelry; their smaller size means they are more cost-effective even when doing multiple pieces.
Buyer’s Guide – Key Considerations
The first thing to consider when buying your new kiln is the amount of work you will be firing – if you will be firing quite a few pieces every day then you’ll need to make sure your kiln is big enough for your pieces but not so large, that you’ll be using lots of power on simply firing a couple of small items.
If you’re a jewelry maker only firing a few small pieces at a time, spending more on a larger kiln would not be cost-effective, so a smaller kiln is the way to go. Bigger kilns cost more to fire and take up more room.
However, if you’re more into ceramics or making larger pieces then it would be more cost-effective to go with a larger kiln that will allow you to fit more pieces of your work in, so you wouldn’t be firing as often.
Where you will keep your kiln should also be a consideration.
Some kilns can be quite large and bulky, you wouldn’t want to order a kiln to find it won’t fit where you want it to go, or worse won’t fit through the door! Larger kilns will also need wiring into your power supply.
One option you could explore would be a tabletop kiln, these are great if you haven’t got a lot of space to spare and won’t be using your kiln multiple times a day.
They can be stored elsewhere and brought out when needed. Make sure to consider the length, width, and height, bearing in mind that a kiln will need at least two feet space on each side for breathing room, the room in which you use your kiln should also be well ventilated.
A final thing to consider would be a bead door (like the Paragon SC2 below), this makes annealing the beads far easier when compared to a standard kiln. So if you’re a bead-maker that’s something to have a look into.
Top Loading vs Front-Loading Kilns
- Front-loading kilns are kilns that open from the front, this makes it easier to move pieces in and out. You can remove the shelves in a front-loading kiln, even during firing, you can use gloves, tongs, or kiln forks to do this. The majority of jewelry kilns are quite small, so placing and replacing shelves can be extremely easy as they are often no larger than 6 or 7 square inches. These kilns are best for projects that need extracting quickly at high temperatures, such as enameled pieces.
- Top-loading kilns require the lid to be removed or lifted. This means that removing projects, such as metal clay or enameled pieces, quickly would be difficult to do safely and easily. There are special tools available to help with this, such as a pair of copper tongs. Top loading kilns definitely lack the ease that front-loading kilns provide but they do tend to be cheaper.
Viewports and Viewing Windows
If your projects require you to keep an eye on their progress as they fire, you may want to consider kilns with viewing windows or that have the option to include a viewing port.
The windows and viewports can vary in size, but all will allow the artist to quickly and easily check on their projects without having to open the kiln.
This could be especially important for projects involving enamel and glasswork.
Digital vs. Manual Controllers
Manual controllers (infinite switches) are used on the most basic, elementary kilns.
This requires you to be in charge of the temperatures throughout the process of firing, as well as starting the kiln in its lowest setting. The controller has an on/off switch and a dial, which can adjust firing time. They can come with either an infinite switch that has gradual increments or a dial switch which simply has a low, medium, or high-temperature setting.
Manual controllers are easy to use and of the two options, are cheaper. However, they do require you to be there during the firing process from beginning to end, as you’ll be needed to adjust the temperature changes, and you’ll have to use an external timer. Due to this, there is much more effort required from the artist, and they would not be able to cope with complex firing processes, such as annealing.
Digital or electronic controllers take much of that responsibility on themselves. They are able to adjust temperatures, time temperature changes and turn the kiln off when firing is finished. Using a digital control allows you to manipulate temperature/ cone, set multiple segments in a ramp/ hold schedule, program hold/soak mode at multiple temperatures for however long is needed, and skip out steps that are not necessary.
These controls are capable of much more complex procedures than manual controllers, but this does mean they tend to be more expensive.
There’s a variety of different controls ranging from the Set-Pro control to the TAP control. The Set-Pro control is a 3- button system that allows you to choose between 4 different firing programs.
The TAP control is a more complicated control that uses a touchscreen. It allows you to create your own personal firing program; choose one of many pre-programmed options, or use a wifi connection to develop or edit programs from various devices.
Heating Elements and Temperature Maximums
A kiln’s heating power is reduced over time so when considering which kiln to buy make sure to choose one whose temperature is at least 200-300° F higher than the maximum temperature you will need for your projects.
You should also consider what projects you will be using your kiln for. Artists who work with metal clay won’t need anything that fires higher than 1650°F but if you also plan on working with materials like stoneware or porcelain you’ll need a mid or high-firing kiln, that uses much higher temperatures than your standard jewelry kiln.
Top or Side Elements
If you will be using glass in your projects be aware that you’ll need even heat across its surface to fire it correctly.
Look for kilns with elements in the top which will allow the heat to distribute evenly over the surface of the glass.
Another thing to look out for is the depth of the kiln. If being used for 3D work it should be deep enough to have side elements that will help the heat penetrate lower into the chamber.
Be aware that although friendlier to the budget, square kilns with elements in two or three sides (but not the top) can distribute heat unevenly and even have cold spots. This is a particular problem with front-loading kilns.
Brick vs Ceramic Fiber Interior
There are two main types of insulating materials in a kiln; firebrick or ceramic fiber interior.
Although firebrick kilns take longer to heat they are able to handle extremely high temperatures. They can fire multiple projects, including metal clays, glass, enamels and high-fire ceramics such as porcelain. Their other major advantage is how slowly they cool down, this makes them ideal for glass annealing.
However, everything has a downside and firebrick kilns are no exception. The bricks used are both extremely heavy and fragile so moving the kiln around becomes very difficult. The heating elements in a firebrick kiln are exposed, pinned into the grooves in the bricks, this comes with both positives and negatives. The drawback is that the interior of the kiln must be regularly cleaned in order to ensure no foreign matter will be exposed to the heating elements as this can cause them to short out. An advantage to this though is the ease with which elements can be replaced, should they go out.
Ceramic fiber interiors (also known as a ‘muffle’) are made from one piece shells in which the elements are molded inside the walls, protecting them.
They heat up more quickly than firebrick kilns which reduces the overall firing time. Cleaning the inside of them is not as necessary as it is with a firebrick kiln either. However, this does have the drawback that when a heating element goes out a replacement for the entire ceramic interior is required.
As opposed to a firebrick kiln a ceramic kiln is much more mobile but it isn’t able to fire to temperatures over 2000°F so would be no good for hire-fire materials.
In addition to the kiln, you could always consider investing in some accessories. Depending on the type of projects you’re doing some of these could be pretty vital.
Accessories to consider are:
Bead doors: These are useful for the glass bead maker, they allow mandrels to be inserted through the door for annealing.
Kiln Shelves: These shelves come in quite a few different materials, but all can be used with metal clay. Ceramic fiberboard, ceramic board, soldering surface, and firebrick to name just a few, however, the length of time they will last varies. Fiberboard will break down after just a few dozen firings whereas a hard ceramic board can last a lifetime.
Soldering surfaces can also last a long time, but to avoid thermal shock breakage, make sure to allow the kiln to cool first.
Supporting media: To support rounded, domed, or dimensional metal clay pieces vermiculite, alumina hydrates, and bead firing dishes can all be used. They can help prevent your pieces slumping during the firing process. Bead firing dishes usually last a lifetime too!
Fiber blanket: Fiber blankets are thick sheets of cotton that can be used for support too. They can be pulled apart to support oddly shaped pieces or simply used as a blanket. Much like fiberboard shelves the fiber blankets will only last a few dozen firings before breaking down.
Product Reviews & Round up – Best Jewelry Kilns
Skutt FireBox 8 Kiln
The FireBox 8 is an ideal kiln to do a variety of projects, including glass fusing, precious metal clay, ceramics, enameling, and knife making. It has a maximum temperature of 2000°F and with its wooden handle at the back of the kiln, which stays cool, it is super easy to carry around. Using this handle the hinged lid can be opened to over 90˚, this makes it easy to load and unload the kiln without having to worry about where to put the extremely hot lid.
It reaches temperatures in less than 20minutes and can be plugged into any standard 20-amp household outlet.
It has a digital pyrometer allowing you to check the temperature of the kiln, meaning keeping the kiln at a consistent temperature is much easier. Batteries for this are included.
The FireBox 8 also comes with an accessory kit which includes 3 supporting posts, a kiln shelf, a sample sheet of fiber paper, and kiln wash. It has a 2-year warranty with the manufacturer.
- Nice variety of uses.
- Great budget option and good for beginners.
- Small, portable, can be used anywhere with a standard outlet.
- Digital pyrometer to keep temperatures consistent for fusing.
- Small – unable to produce high volumes of items in one fire.
- Maximum temperature of 2000˚ will reduce with use, if it’s a long-term option for firing metal clay, this may not be ideal.
Paragon SC-2 Digital Silver and Glass Kiln
This Paragon kiln has been in production since 1997 and has remained popular with art centers, colleges, craft classes and engineering labs. It is easily transportable but still large enough to allow for three shelves of silver clay.
It has a ceramic fiber firing chamber which could cause difficulties should one of the elements break down. The outer steel of the kiln remains cool as the firing chamber is wrapped in an inner steel case. The layer of air between the two increases air circulation.
It is slightly higher in price than the FireBox 8, however, with everything you get with the Paragon SC-2 it is certainly great value for money. It is completely programmable so you can set it for your specific projects and reaches temperatures of up to 2000˚F.
The kiln has plenty of additional features including, but not limited to; an optional glass viewport, built-in base, a door that opens 180˚ for easy loading, and a 28-page instruction manual.
- Has room inside to fire plenty of small projects at once.
- The outer shell remains cool, making it safer to work around.
- Comes with plenty of additional and programmable features.
- Its optional bead door makes it ideal for bead making.
- Easy to set up and get working with the instruction manual.
- Max temperature to 2000˚F. This will reduce overtime, meaning this kiln may not be great for long term use firing metal clay projects.
- Great for lots of smaller projects but size could be limiting when firing larger pieces.
Skutt Hotstart Pro (Premium)
This is one of the more high-end kilns on our list, however, it is equally great for the beginner as it is for the more advanced artist. The user can program five custom programs, each with up to eight segments.
This is a great kiln for artists who work with glass, it has a GlassFire Mode, which has pre-set buttons for fusing, slumping, and tac fusing. These buttons mean it is ideal for the beginner to get started firing straight away.
The kiln uses a standard household 120volt current. The lid in this design has also been redesigned, removing the pins that previously held the elements in place, this new design means the possibility of pins falling into your glass projects is eliminated.
The chamber of the kiln is 15” in diameter and it comes with a 13” shelf, three 1-inch posts, ThinFire shelf paper, and 80z of kiln wash.
- Great starter kiln.
- Uses a standard household power socket.
- Great programming features.
- High-end pricing. If you are a beginner, you may want to stick with one of the more budget-friendly options until you are sure you will be sticking with the craft long term.
- Top loading kiln – makes removing your projects quickly and safely more difficult.
Skutt FireBox 14 Kiln
This is a great little kiln, with a square chamber that will hold a full square foot of 4” x 4” tile. It has a 3-button controller that has programming features that will appeal to both beginner and advanced artists. Its redesigned lid has a wooden handle that stays cool even after firing, making it easy and safe to have a look inside at your project as the kiln reaches your desired temperature.
It will operate on standard household voltage making it a great little kiln to use anywhere.
- High-end kiln for a mid-range price.
- Great for beginners and advanced artists, making it a great little kiln to ‘grow into’ as an artist.
- The wooden handle allows you to keep an eye on your projects as they fire.
- It’s not a big kiln, so not ideal for firing lots of projects at once, and there will be a limit on the size of project you can make.
Tabletop Quikmelt 120oz PRO-120-4 KG Melting Furnace
This top-loading kiln works great with a variety of metals including gold, silver, lead, copper, and zinc. Its light design means it’s the perfect kiln for those looking for easy portability. It has a digital control panel allowing you to easily set programs and functions for your projects without having to ‘babysit’ your work whilst it is in the kiln.
It heats up very quickly to over 2200˚F, which is ideal for all forms of metalwork. Using its 1500 watts of power, a standard household plug and the RapidHeat technology it can produce a full firing in just 8minutes. It’s lightweight but durable, able to handle the temperatures to which it fires with ease and without breaking down after only moderate use.
- Heats to 2200˚F, the highest of all the kilns we are looking at today, making it ideal for a wide range of materials.
- Digital control allows you to set programs for your work without having to monitor it as it fires.
- Lightweight and portable.
- Quick to fire
- It has a compact design that is ideal for portability and storage but does not allow for multiple projects to be fired at once.
RapidFire Pro Kiln
This kiln is great for jewelry or bead-making. It weighs just 12 pounds and uses a standard 110 volt. It takes only 8minutes to heat up ready for firing and can reach temperatures of 2000˚F. The compact size of the machine means achieving an even heat across your projects is easier and can only be a good thing for your projects!
It comes with a digital control panel, allowing you to choose the temperature you require, which takes away a lot of the guesswork required when firing various materials.
- Lightweight and portable.
- Even heat distribution across the kiln when firing.
- Digital control panel takes away a lot of the guesswork.
- Easy to set up
- It is at the lower end of the budget and is still a great little machine for using in a variety of projects.
- Needs to be kept in a well-ventilated area due to burn off, which creates a fair bit of smoke.
- It is a small machine, so again not great for firing multiple projects at once.
- Metal handle means you will have to wait for the kiln to cool down before opening.
Fuseworks Craft Kiln
This is an easy to use little kiln with an adjustable electronic timer. Using the Fuseworks kiln you will be able to fuse a two-layer project together in just 15minutes. It will fire a variety of materials including, but not limited to, glass, enamel metal, and glaze ceramics. It has a deep firing chamber allowing for projects that require more depth and it will plug into a standard household outlet.
- Heats up very quickly ready for firing.
- There is no direct temperature control, meaning you will have to be near your kiln whilst it is firing to keep an eye on your work.
So, Which Should I Buy?
All the machines above have lots of positive factors and the one you go for really does depend on you as an artist, and what exactly you’re looking for in a kiln. Some kilns are more ideal for bead making or glasswork than others so if that is something you are interested in take a closer look at those.
If you are just starting out with a kiln or are looking for something that is more budget-friendly, I would consider the Skutt FireBox 8 Kiln. It is great for beginners and with its digital control it is easy to program it to fire exactly how you need it to. It is lightweight, portable and will not take up too much space.
Should you be looking to splash out a little more I would look further into the Skutt Hotstart Pro (Premium). It comes with a whole range of features and programs so is a great machine to take you right through from a beginner to some more advanced firing projects.