New Elements

Replacing the elements in my Skutt Kiln was not as arduous a task as I thought it would be.  The kiln is actually pretty easy to maintainance once I got into the task of replacing them.  I bought the kiln used almost a year ago, despite the obvious wear I could not pass up the price that they were asking for it.  Most of the firebrick is in good condition, except for the top ring where there was some wear and tear.

Besides getting power to the kiln, there was one other obstacle in my way of using the kiln.  It was rated for 208 volts  single phase and a quick check with the local utilities verified that we have 240 volts single phase here at the studio.  So I called up Skutt the kiln’s manufacturer to find out what I needed to do so I could safely fire the kiln.  Skutt informed me that all that was required was a change in the elements rated for 208v to 240v. Once that was done the kiln would then be rated for cone 8 instead of cone 5.  I ordered the elements, 2 per ring, and a few new bricks for the top ring to replace the ones that were in really bad shape.  A few days later the replacement parts showed up to my delight.  Unfortunately that was during the middle of the spring semester and I would not have enough free time to change out the parts until this past week after I had gotten home and settled from my study abroad to Italy.

I took a few pictures to help illustrate the steps involved in changing the elements in a Skutt Kiln.

The first picture is of the kiln before I started the project.

[Photo: Skutt 1227 Pre-Fixup] [Photo: Skutt 1227 Before Cleanup]I decided the easiest way change the elements was if I had the kiln disassembled and worked my way up from the bottom ring to the top.  As you can see in the image the kiln has been constructed in 5 major pieces, the bottom, 3 rings that hold the elements and the lid.  There is a rod that hold the kiln’s lid open on left side that is held to the lid by a thumb screw, once removed the rod can be taken off an the rod that holds the hinge together and the lid can be lifted off the kiln, I suggest that you get someones help when lifting these parts and moving them as the firebrick is fragile and easily broken, it is also very expensive to replace.  After removing the lid, I had to take the controller off the front and separate the rings.

[Photo: Skutt 1227 Lid Removed][Photo: Skutt 1227 Old Wiring][Photo: Skutt 1227 Controller Removed] The controller is held on by a series of screws down the left side and 3 hinge pins on the right.  After removing the screws and disconnecting the wiring from the controlled it can be lifted off the hinges and removed from the front of the kiln.  You can see the old wiring exposed, connected to the elements with crimp connectors through porcelain insulators.  Above the handles are a series of latches that hold each ring to one another, unlatch the rings and with another persons help lift and remove each section, I set them out on the studio floor in order of how they were to be put back on the kiln.

[Photo: Skutt 1227 Unlatch Rings][Photo: Skutt 1227 Pulling Old Pins] To remove the elements you will have to cut the crimp connecting the lead to the element at the insulator, and then inside the kiln securing the elements to their grooves in the firebrick art series of nic-wire pins, holding the element.  Most of these pins will be found in the corners, use a pair of needle nosed pliers to remove the pins, I saved them in a cup in case I needed more than the ones Skutt had provided with the new elements.  Once all of the pins are removed, you can carefully extract the element from its groove and set it aside.  The Skutt 1227 Kiln that I am repairing takes 6 elements, 4 of them are labeled for the center sections and 2 made for the top most and bottom most grooves.  To help me keep them straight I laid them out with the proper rings before I got started.

[Photo: Skutt 1227 Installing Element][Photo: Skutt 1227 Installing New Pins]I removed the old oxidized elements, took my shop vac and vacuumed the grooves to remove dust and small pieces of brick that had been knocked loose.  It is important to keep the kiln clean because dust an brick fragments can damage the elements over time.  After vacuuming I placed the new elements in the appropriate grooves.  The new elements have a ring at each end that has to be cut off before it is fed through the firebrick and insulator.  The rest of the element is fed into the groove around each ring.  Once it has been fed into the groove the element has to be pinned at the corners to keep it from crawling out of the groove when the element expands during the firing sequence.  Place the pins in a downward angle to hold the element in place.  When I moved the kiln some of the brick on the bottom ring of the kiln broke, I used some of the old pins that I had removed to pin the broken firebrick back in place to hold the element.  I used the old wiring leads for connecting the elements to the controller.  Skutt provided new crimps and even a replacement porcelain insulator in case one of the old ones was broken.

[Photo: Skutt 1227 Second Ring Done][Photo: Skutt 1227 New Firebrick][Photo: Skutt 1227 New Firebrick]I worked my way up placing the sections on as needed.  When I got to the top section I replaced the damaged firebrick.  The brick is held in place with sheet metal bands that are tightened on the back side.  You have to take the tension off of the brick in order to replace it.  I slid the old brick out and placed the new brick in.  Then tightened the band back up.  Once the elements were in place and all of the leads reconnected.  I put the controller back on the front of the kiln and reconnected the leads to the controller.

[Photo: Skutt 1227 New Wiring][Photo: Skutt 1227 New Wiring][Photo: Skutt 1227 Finished]If you do not remember the sequence that the leads have to be plugged in, you can download a wiring schematic from Skutt’s website.  There is a lot of technical documentation available on their site that I have found invaluable during this process.

The sections have to be buckled back together and the controller swung closed and screwed back into place.  Reinstalling the lid is the opposite of it’s removal.  Place it back on top of the kiln, reinstall the pin for the hinge, and the bar that holds it open.  That is all there is to replacing the elements of your kiln.  The whole process took me a few hours, and I am confident that the next time I do it, it will go even quicker.  Hopefully some of you who are faced with this task won’t find it so daunting and will be brave enough to try it yourselves.

My next task will be to wire in an electrical outlet so I can plug in the kiln and put it to work.

— Jerel

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