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Torch or Kiln?
TORCH OR KILN?
Are you ready to move on to fire?
What is the best next step for you? Understanding key questions to ask will guide you in making an intelligent decision on an equipment purchase. Metalsmith artists use heat to anneal and enamel among other things. This discussion compares kilns and torches. Each have their advantages and drawbacks for the jewelry making artist.
Torches can be labor intensive and intense when firing several pieces. There is no method for temperature control as with a kiln. However, torches are less expensive and more portable than kilns. They can be convenient and easy to use, the work is visible during the entire process and having a power outlet is not a concern. A torch can be a good choice for the beginner learnng to work with fire and observing how the process works. Prices can range from 50 dollars to a several hundred dollars
Here are some options to consider. A small butane torch, a one tank system, or a dual tank system are typical metalsmith torches. A butane torch is a palm size torch refilled with butane and gets hot enough to anneal and solder. A one tank system has a pistol like torch that connects to the replaceable proplylene tank. The system has one control to reduce or increase the flame, a locking trigger, and an on/off knob on the tank. A dual system has two tanks, replaceable propane and oyxgen tanks, along with a regulator.
Kilns are available in small to very large models and range in price from 200. to several thousand dollars. Kilns require specific ventilation or an open air workspace. Very small kilns, like a clam kiln, are resticted by size and may only handle one piece at a time. A slightly larger kiln, sometimes called a jewelry kiln, allows several small pieces to be fired at once. This size kiln generally runs on regular 120 volt household current. Larger kilns run on 220 volts and allow the flexibility to fire several larger pieces at once as well as expanding into other mediums such as clay pottery, porcelain, sculpture items , etc.
Another important decision is a programmable kiln vs a non programmable kiln.
Consider how the kiln will be used, price and performance, space and electrical requirements. The less expensive kilns are generally non programmable and do not have temperature controls. With experience and experimentation one will learn appropriate temperatures and firing times with a non programmable kiln. Digital programable kilns allow for set temperatures and are the easiest to use, especially for beginners. If the budget allows, a small digital kiln may be the best option for a beginner.
If price is a concern a torch may be the best choice. A kit can start at $60.The one tank system provides ample heat, is portable and easy to work with. If the budget allows, a small digital programmable kiln is a good choice. Programmable settings, being able to fire multiple pieces at once, and being able to use regular household electric current are all pluses. Digital kilns start at around $550.
Your final decision may be based on cost, studio space, and/or the artists long range goals.
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