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which kiln to buy

updated thu 24 aug 06


Janet Starr on sun 20 aug 06

I have an L & L JD230, and I don't think I would buy it again. It's about 5
years old, and 2 thermocouples burned out at the same time. I ordered them
and installed them and the kiln still didn't work. An element was also
burned out. I ordered more elements. Then when I went to install them, the
manual said that if any of the element holders were contaminated (from the
burned out element) they needed to be replaced, too. So I sent for more
element holders. No one at L & L told me to check that when I called, so
this involved two Express mail charges. The element holder would not
release from the brick and damaged the brick. I finally got the kiln
working after 2 weeks. Should all these things fail at the same time?

I have a really old 3.5 cubic feet Cress with a kilnmate that has been
working without problem for 18 years. I changed elements once when it
seemed to be taking longer to fire, but nothing ever went wrong with that
kiln. I think I should have gotten another Cress.


Janet Starr

Sharon Miranda on mon 21 aug 06

Thanks to all of you who helped me decide. I've found a Paragon kiln
that meets the criteria as far as size and, I think, as to quality. I
hear great things about the company.
I'll let you know after I've fired it a couple of times.
Totally excited and waiting for my shiny new kiln!

Stephen J Lewicki on tue 22 aug 06

Dear Janet -

I am very sorry to hear of your negative experience with our products. I
hope some thoughts about your experience would help others so am posting
this. I don't know any more about your particular situation than what you
have posted so there may be important information I am missing and would ask
your forbearance as a result.

The causes of catastrophic element and thermocouple failure are many and
often hard to diagnose. The reasons generally fall into several categories:
1) atmospheric contamination like carbon, salts, oxides, halides,etc.
2) Contamination from pieces of pottery or other debris like glaze, silica,
3) Improper stretching or installation of the element (which we could have
done in the factory)
4) Localized overheating caused by a pot that is too close to the elements.
5) A bad channel or support
6) A power surge
7) The Unknown

That contamination could be a burn mark from the element arcing or it could
be a sign of atmospheric or particle contamination. The fact that two
thermocouples and an element failed at the same time (and everything else it
would seem from your email was OK) does make me wonder about atmospheric

I'm not sure who you talked to at our company but not everyone who would
take an order would be technically versed enough to tell you the check for
contamination on the holders. As you mention - we do cover that in our
manual. We try to embed in our manuals, parts lists and other technical
information everything useful we know about kilns and industrial furnaces
learned over my 35 years, the experience of our customers for 60 years, and
the experience of our wonderful technical support people like Rob Battey.
However it is very hard in the press of a typical day to have order takers
or even highly trained technicians to remember to cover every base with a
customer. We try but we fall short more often than we would like. What is
simple in retrospect is very difficult to anticipate during the course of a
normal day in a busy office. For instance, did you also check your element
connections? Or did you check the wires in the kiln after this happened? Is
the kiln vented at all or, if it is, is it done right? It is important for
customers who do their own service work to become familiar with all these
issues when things go wrong. Of course that is not always practical when you
don't do it very often or don't have the time. Also it is hard to find
expert kiln service people or pay for them. It would great if all kilns
performed as well as your other kiln and I do take some pride in the fact
that most of ours do. My father used to hammer me with the fact that kilns
are inherently self-destructive (and to design accordingly). No matter how
well we make our products there will be failures, trouble and maintenance
expense and some of these will be random, unpredictable and therefore extra
irritating. We try hard to support all our customers to the best of our
ability but we just can't act as a local kiln service person.

Best Regards,

Stephen J. Lewicki
L&L Kiln Mfg Inc.
POB 1898, 8 Creek Parkway
Boothwyn, PA 19061

Phone: (610) 485-1789
Fax: (610) 485-4665