Buying a kiln for firing Silver Clay

‘Emma, should I buy a kiln?’ This is a question a lot of my students ask me. And it’s one that they ask me kinda dreading the answer, because most of us know that kilns are a considerable investment, even the smaller ones can come in at around the £300 mark. And that’s a considered purchase in anybody’s book!

The modern silver clays such as PMC3 and ACS are designed for torch firing – so rest easy! A kiln is NOT necessary for the hobbyist and the person who is just learning. But there are some reasons you might want to think about one in the future.

When I have that chat about buying a kiln for firing Silver Clay and I always ask my students how they see themselves going forward with the skills they have learned. And I have distilled that conversation into the wee table you see below. Have a look at this checklist and you’ll see whether buying a kiln is something you might need to think about.

Consideration Buy a kiln Reason
Are you going to use Fine Silver Clay only? Not necessarily If you are going to have making Jewellery with Silver Clay as just a hobby with making gifts for friends and family, then fire by hand. It’s cheaper and the tools are more accessible
Are you going to add; Sterling Silver, glass or CZs to your work? Yes

You need to be careful firing these sorts of additions to your Silver Clay, sterling silver needs careful firing at a controlled temperature so it doesn’t become brittle. Some CZs can be temperamental at high temperatures and could conceivably break. It must be said here that some CZs will be absolutely fine with hand firing. Just always test a new batch of stones before putting them in your work.

Glass DEFINITELY does need careful firing in a kiln it will break if you fire with a torch.

 

Do you want to make more complex pieces which require to be hollow? For example beads or more complex structures?

 

Yes

Hollow objects need to be fired in the kiln. It’s a rule of firing silver clay unfortunately. It’s all about the heat distribution in the piece with the chance of the Silver Clay heating up too quickly and perhaps causing slumping. Kilns just fire more evenly and firing a hollow object needs careful firing.

 

Are you going to use Sterling Silver clay in your work? Yes

Sterling silver clay needs a 2-part firing process – the first is an open shelf firing to burn the binder away and the second needs to be in a firing pan with a covering of carbon. Whilst it may be possible to burn the binder off with a torch, you can’t fire the clay in carbon with a torch.

The 960 combination (half fine and half sterling) also need to be fired in a kiln. As does the new EZ960 product.

 

Are you going to sell your work? Yes – advisable

Even if you decide that you are only going to fire Fine Silver and you don’t want any additions, I would advise you to fire your work in a kiln. There are several reasons for this;

Firstly, firing in a kiln will ensure that your pieces are fired properly. The sintering process is extremely important to firing Silver Clay – you know the part where it turns that lovely peachy orange glow after the binder has burnt away? When you are hand firing it can be difficult keeping your eye on the ball ALL during the firing. And let’s be perfectly honest, it’s not the most exciting thing to watch!

Secondly, kiln firing makes your pieces stronger. It does – think about it. The sintering process is the part where all the little silver particles come together and the longer that goes on for, the stronger your piece will be. You just can’t compare 2 hours of firing in a kiln to 2 minutes on your firing block.

I’d be willing to bet that you could break your hand fired piece with your hands (I have done this a couple of times to prove a point). It’s far harder to break a fully kiln fired piece. You can even take a hammer to your fired pieces and bash them (I do this too sometimes, especially when something has come out the kiln a little distorted.

Thirdly – it saves you time and stress. Because if you’re selling your Jewellery, then that means you’re making a reasonable amount. Do you really have the time and the patience to fire each individual piece by hand? Cos if you do, you’re far more patient that I am!

 

     
     
     
     
     

So hopefully, I’ve given you some things to think about. I’m not saying rush right out there and buy a kiln if you’re selling Jewellery but it’s definitely something you need to consider. After all – think about the embarrassing conversation with your customer if they did bring something back which had broken. How awful would you feel? But you don’t have to go all out – there are folks around that do offer a kiln firing service and will fire your stuff for a small fee – I do myself. And that could be a way of having your cake and eating it for a while. It will let you see how things go before making the jump into buying a kiln for your own Silver Clay firing.

I hope that’s helped you? If you have any questions, then please get in touch and if you have any ideas or suggestions about this blog – let me know!

Until next time

Emma xx

P.S. Next time, I’ll be talking about the things you need to be aware of before and after buying your kiln.

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