With a little help from our friends...

December 09, 2013

So it is a Saturday and we're in full swing producing our fab little Christmas tree decorations when this happens: Kiln Repair 1 Remember what I said about kilns in my first article about electric glass kilns and how fused glass is produced? A kiln is just a heavily insulated, electrically heated metal box, right? The photo above is a close-up of some of the elements that heat the box. (You can also see the insulation I was on about surrounding them.) You can also see the problem we've encountered, too! The kiln in question is the smaller of our fusing kilns, and is called a Hobby Fuser. Here's a bigger photo of the unit: Kiln Repair 2 You can see how handy a kiln of this size is. It's just right for making small batches of little things - like Christmas tree decorations. The fusing takes place on the flat base of the kiln. Its size also means that we can test-fire smaller versions of various projects before embarking on the full-sized article. What the close-up shows is that one of the glass tubes that encase the heating elements in the lid of the kiln has fractured. We have no idea how or why this happened. We've eliminated the possibility of impact damage - for example, when slumping or kiln-casting glass it is easy to forget to allow sufficient clearance above the project. This wasn't the case here. Either way, we had a kiln out of action - at a busy time for us. What did we do? We contacted our suppliers at KilnCare , Stoke-on-Trent, UK asking for help. Their response was fantastic ! KilnCare's MD, Brian Sherwin (who, henceforth shall acquire nothing less than deity status in our eyes), had his phone on while attending a Stoke City football match with his grandson. Although crowd noise meant that he didn't hear my initial, plaintiff cry for help (so that means that Stoke City must have been winning, for a change, that day...) Brian found my message later on and phoned me straight back. Late on Saturday afternoon I heard Brian's gruff Stoke accent intoning, "So what's the problem, now, matey?" I explained that one of the glass tubes... well, you know the story, and he replied, "Oh, blimey, is that all, cock?!" and proceeded to elicit a string of father-confessor-like denials from me about what I'd been up to in one of his kilns, along the lines of... "You haven't been kiln-casting with something too tall have you?" (No, dad, I hadn't.) "You haven't cracked it on a mould, have you?" (No I hadn't.) "You haven't been been trying to split the atom in there have you?" (No I hadn't. And anyway, I just made that last 'accusation' up.) Brian then proceeded to reassure me that I could, in fact, still use the kiln as long as the glass from the broken tube didn't look too loose or the element inside didn't look damaged. (No it didn't, and no it wasn't, dad.) More than that, Brian said he'd ensure a new tube would be winging its way across the Irish sea first thing on Monday morning. Sure enough, the new glass tube arrived in no time and I was able to replace the broken one myself - with a little help from our friends at KilnCare. The DIY repair was a bit tricky, but was completed quickly - once I had worked out that in order to replace one tube I actually had to remove a pair together. This was because the elements actually span two tubes, being linked at one end and connected to the electrical circuit at the other end. Talking of DIY kiln-repairs... Last year it was the big kiln that broke down. This happened right at the peak of the tourist season and the breakdown was all my own fault. Again it was Father Brian that rode to the rescue - also on a Saturday! Remember I mentioned that all our kilns are equipped with computer-controllers that are programmed to take the temperature inside the kiln up and down according to the specific requirements of the project? Last year I dropped the controller onto a concrete floor and everything inside it went dead as a door nail. I know I've mentioned this event before on Facebook, but in this context it's worth repeating. On that occasion, Brian was watching his grandson playing football - ( in Stoke but not for Stoke!) when I phoned that time (hence the subsequent, "What is it this time , matey", when I called recently - see above). I confessed my sin against one of his precious kilns, and he knew immediately what the problem was. Father Brian began to reel off a string of instructions concerning dismantling the controller and 'simply' soldering a minute component back into place! As luck would happen (!) a customer in the shop happened to overhear what I was saying on the phone to to Brian and promptly volunteered, "I've got experience in micro-soldering satellites for NASA!" So, once again, it was was 'with a little help from our friends' that the necessary kiln repair took no time at all. Oh, and the Christmas tree decorations we were working on at the time of the most recent problem? Tree Dec Edit


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