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Small Kiln Survey Part I

One of the most frequently asked questions on the Yahoo Beads-of-Clay group is what kiln should I buy to get started in making ceramic beads. 
Over the next few weeks I will be looking at several small ceramic test/bead kilns.  I thought I would start with the most frequently recommended kiln back when the Beads-of-Clay group was new and there were not many options out there.
So here we go:  AIM 88 kiln

I have had mine for at least  6 years.  I bought it from Bailey Ceramics.  The AIM company is located out west and it often takes quite a while to get the kiln.  I was advised at the time to buy through a ceramics supply company since they are better equipped to handle customer service.   I purchased mine with a Bartlett digital controller since I wanted to be free of having to turn it up every few hours.  I know that  quite a  few folks have this kiln and find it to be extremely reliable and fast.  I trust mine and it can fire a load to cone 06 in just under 4 hours.  I do not use it for any higher cones since it doesn't work well for me at those higher heats.  But it is more of a wiring problem than a kiln problem as most folks purchase this kiln in the first place because it is rated to fire to cone 10 (porcelain) on 110v  household current.

Here are the specs on this kiln. 

The New AIM Model 88/D is the computerized version of their popular Model 88 Test Kiln. The 8”x8”x9” deep chamber fits lots of test tiles or miniatures: even small to medium-sized pieces. It fires easily to Cone 10 on 110V household current. The AIM 88/D features a Bartlett 3-Key Controller with both ConeFire and RampRate software for the greatest programming flexibility. Also includes a hinged lid, metal kiln stand and (1) spy hole with plug. The 88/D has a standard 110V cord with a 3-prong plug.

You can also purchase this kiln without the Digital controller.  Price without the controller is about  $240 less.
Price range including shipping for the digital version of this kiln is around $606-$650.

This is a top loading kiln.  I believe that the  ConeFire Option on the digital controller is a great advantage.  Mine does not have this.  ConeFire lets you pick the cone you want and the kiln knows what to do.  I had to program mine on a schedule I got from the Bartlett company. 

So this is our first part of the series on small kilns.  Please ask questions so that I can plan answers for them in subsequent posts.

9 comments:

  1. thanks for sharing..i'm considering getting another tiny kiln and will check out this company..i've priviously used skutts.
    my #1 tiny is 10yrs old and is just now requiring some TLC, cause i rakued out of it..poor little thing.

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  2. Thanks so much for writing in Spirited Earth. Check out Baileys for sales and free shipping. I looked around a bit on the net for other AIM dealers and didn't find any.

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  3. I too have an AIM 88 and love it! Mine is about 3-4 years old and works great! I can't believe how much prices have gone up since then. It's very reliable and you can fit lots of beads and pendants. I fire mine to cone 5 all the time.

    I do have a Cress small kiln too where I do all my bisque and low firing glazed pieces, this is a very nice one as well.

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  4. Thank you for writing in your experience with the AIM 88 Yolanda. I am glad to hear it works well to cone 5. Do you have the manual or digital controller?
    Without the digital controller it is about $360.00 includig shipping.

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  5. I use an Olympic "Doll" kiln - also small… Easy to replace elements - and I believe it has an option for the electric computer control as well. Mine is just a manual cone with a timer on it for shutting off backup. Let me know if you want any info for a post about that kiln…

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  6. I have the digital controller, and it is very easy to set. It also has room for four users, meaning you can set four programs and not have to enter different programming every time you fire it.

    The Cress has a kiln sitter which is also pretty easy to use. Yes, let me know too if you need more info. on that kiln as well.

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  7. Yoli and Marsha, I would love to have your reviews of your small kilns to use on my next or next next post. I would love any photos of the kiln filled up for firing. Many thanks for offering.

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  8. I wonder if I would have better luck with a different digital controller. I've had two small kilns with sentry digital controllers and I have had nothing but problems with them not reaching temperature, deciding they are firing to long and shutting down, and on and on. I finally bought a small kiln with a cone setter so I could fire reliably.

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  9. Natalie, I have had that problem too with the digital controller on the AIM. My newest kiln has cone number settings and seems to be able to get to high temps without cutting out.

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