Choosing the Right PMC Kiln for Your Studio
Are you in the market to buy a Precious Metal Clay kiln for your studio? If so, this article will help you define what you are looking for and what features you really need for your kiln. I have been working with Precious Metal Clay for over 15 years and I truly believe that to get the best PMC pieces, you need to fire your work in a kiln.
A PMC kiln is a very small kiln in the spectrum of kiln sizes. Precious Metal Clay kilns are table top kilns, most are approximately 3 feet square or smaller. PMC kilns do not need 220 electrical sockets, but can run on regular household electricity without any problem or overuse of the electrical outlet. However you will need a three prong outlet to plug the kiln in.
Precious Metal Clay kilns are insulated well on the outside for heat leakage, and you can put them on any table surface without worrying about the feet of the kiln burning the table, however it is a good safety procedure to make sure the area around the kiln is totally flat and clear of debris, just to be safe.
Rio Grande PMC Kiln
Pictured above is the Rio Grande PMC kiln. This is the kiln that I own. This kiln is made to use with Precious Metal Clay, although you can also fuse glass, anneal glass, and enamel with this kiln.
This particular model has a front opening hinged door, which I really like. It is all one piece, so you never have to worry about where to place the door or top. This kiln is programmable for six different programs, and comes programmed with 5 different PMC programs.
This kiln has held up very well for me, and I would recommend it to anyone. You can order it new from Rio Grande or find it used on Ebay or other sources. Another great source of new and used kilns is Etsy.
How Much Can You Expect to Pay for a PMC Kiln?
If you are buying a new Precious Metal Clay kiln, you should expect to pay about $500. They range from about $400 to $600 for the top of the line kilns, and with a $600 kiln, I would expect to get kiln shelves, shelf feet, and a programmable kiln. PMC kiln shelves will get used up eventually, but only after a huge amount of use. I still have some of the original shelves for my kiln and I have owned it about 5 years.
If you are buying a used kiln, you can pay anywhere from $200 to $400 depending on the age, and condition of the kiln. If you are buying used, just make sure that you are very clear on why they are selling the kiln, and that you have in writing anything that is wrong with the kiln.
Minimal Features of a PMC Kiln
There are a few features that you must have on a kiln in order to fire PMC properly. These features are:
- Exterior thermometer
- Exterior vent
- One freestanding kiln shelf
- Exterior timer (may be separate from kiln)
- Easy to open and shut door or top
Advantages of Firing PMC with a Kiln
You can fire some types of Precious Metal Clay with torches, or hot pots, but I highly recommend firing all pieces possible in a kiln. There are a few instances when kiln firing is impossible because it will overfire a design, but in most cases PMC is designed to be kiln fired, and firing any other way will result in a weaker, less sturdy binding of the material.
Some forms of PMC will only fire properly in a kiln including gold, original PMC, and the new BronzeClay, and CopperClay. PMC+ will fire with a torch for some applications, but only if the pieces are not too large.
The only times I recommend not using a kiln is for special applications like Aura 22 which has to be torch fired.
Where Should You Purchase a PMC Kiln?
There are several reputable dealers of PMC kilns. My preferred vendor is Delphi Glass, because they know what they are talking about and they can help you if you have any problems. However, if you choose to buy from any other company, just make sure that they can help you set it up, and talk you through any issues that come up as you begin to use the kiln.