Sunday, November 14, 2010

And Now A Word About Kiln Shelves

I used my old shelves for the bisque, but they are not ideally sized for the larger dimensions of my new kiln, so in the interests of efficient firing, I'll need to buy some which are better suited. (It is a bit of wisdom here in Maine that "boat" is an acronym for "Bang Over Another Thousand;" it is starting to seem to me that the letters K-I-L-N stand for "Kick In [your] Last Nickel.") I won't have to replace all of them, but unfortunately my newest, straightest shelves are cordierite, also known as mullite. Sad to say, these are not appropriate for soda firing, as the soda vapor will attack the shelf material "aggressively" according to the nice man at Continental Clay, whose name I have forgotten. If I wanted to use them, I could coat the shelves on both sides with a high-alumina wash, but that sounds like a guarantee of little flakes of kiln wash all over the pots; fuggeddaboudit. Anyway, my options are:

  • Regular silcone carbide shelves. These are the black shelves you always see, usually warped. Heavy as all get-out, too. These are about $125 for a 12 x 24 shelf; I shudder to imagine what the shipping cost would be.

  • Nitrite-bonded silcone carbine shelves. These are those skinny (or skinnier), lightweight shelves with the little slits on four sides, called expansion joints, which are intended to prevent (or, really, delay) warping. As these are both lighter & cheaper than regular silicone carbide - and billed as no less strong - they seem like an obviously better choice. So obvious that I almost feel like I am missing something: why would anyone buy regular silicone carbide shelves? The nitrite-bonded are about $75 for a 12 x 24.

  • Alumina Kiln Shelves. These are billed as an economical alternative to silcone carbide, and they are cheaper: I found prices ranging from $34 to $83. They are an inch thick and weigh a bajillion pounds (or, you know, 22 lbs: close enough.) Still, the difference between $34 and $75 is not inconsiderable since I will have to buy maybe 8 shelves....Hmm.

  • Advancer. A girl can dream! These litte beauties weigh less than 10 lbs for a 12 x 24, and are only 5/16ths of an inch thick. Sadly, they are probably ("probably," she says, ha-ha.)out of my price range, at $175 each. I admit a great temptation, however: I am not particularly burly, and not getting any younger (looks can be deceiving!) and I hate to think of how I will load 20 years from now. Maybe I will hire a buff assistant. Yeah, okay, an assistant would be even spendier than fancy shelves, so maybe not.
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