September is here and with it comes the beginning of the school year. Classes start, clay projects get made, and need to be fired. Before you know it, the fall art shows will be here and, dare I say it, Christmas presents will need to be fired. As the year progresses from the heat of summer into the crazy fall schedules, NOW is the perfect time to check out your kiln, and perform the routine maintenance so you can avoid down-time when you don’t have the time to be down. Here are the top 10 things that you should do NOW to check out your kiln:
- Unplug the kiln and look at the end of the power cord. Do the prongs look green or black? Is the cord-head starting to discolor or melt? If so, this is an indication of a problem that needs to be addressed.
- How long has it been since you vacuumed your kiln’s floor and element grooves? The best attachment to use are the thin wand head and the round brush head. Do this gently, so you don’t damage the brick itself. You may be surprised at how much debris gets caught in the grooves. All of that debris will reduce element life. Best to clean it out now. Remember to remove the bottom shelf so you can get all those small pieces from underneath it as well.
- Do a visual inspection of your kiln’s interior brick. Are any of the elements starting to bulge out of their grooves? Is any of the brick damaged or crumbling? Bulging elements should be pinned back into place, and damaged bricks noted for future replacement (when you change your elements).
- How about your kiln shelves? Do they need to be scraped, or have more kiln wash applied? If so, now is the time.
- Take a look at your posts and peep hole plugs as well. Is it time for any of them to be replaced?
- If you have a manual kiln, its time to check the kiln sitter adjustment.
- If you have a computer kiln, you should take a look at the end of the thermocouples. They will likely look black, but if they are bent or the tip looks like it is cracked or flaking (scaly), then you should make sure you have replacements on-hand
- Turn on your vent and make sure it is working, and that it is not causing a vibration on the kiln. If your vent is an overhead model, use a toothbrush to clean the intake screen. If a downdraft vent, make sure the holes in the kiln are open and free of debris. Check the vent hose for holes, and replace as necessary.
- Open and close the lid. Does it open smoothly and without rubbing? Is your lid “flexing” as you open it? If so, then you may need a hinge adjustment, OR you may need a new lid.
- Turn your kiln on and make sure all of the elements come on, and that it is working as expected. Listen for any strange noises (whining, or clapping), or a sudden lack of noise (no element buzzing when they usually do). Do a “glow test” on your elements and make sure they all glow brightly. If you have a kiln sitter with a timer, listen for the ticking of the timer motor as it counts backwards.
If anything seems amiss, strange, or if you have any questions, NOW is the time to contact me. I can help you troubleshoot via email or over the phone. If needed, we can schedule either a full diagnostic visit or a repair now, to avoid nasty down-time later.