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Changing The Elements

Every potter that fires their own work will some day have to do some sort of kiln repair. For some it's rebuilding or building an atmospheric kiln, for some it's playing with electricity.  That's what I did yesterday.  One of the skutt kilns needed to have the elements replaced.  This is something that happens periodically and should be considered normal maintenance   It's also really easy to do but it does need to be done correctly or  you could have a fire.

Behind the Control Panel

After turning off the power to the kiln and unscrewing the control panel you'll find some wires but not too many as to be intimidating or confusing. They will have to be disconnected so it's a good idea to label them. You can write on the wire with a marker or use tape, just remember to remove the tape before firing the kiln as it can burn when the kiln is fired. I prefer the marker method. Taking a picture can help also, it's a nice reference diagram.

The white wires power the kiln elements, the yellow are for the thermo coupler.  I changed that for good measure while I was in there, it's only 2 color coded wires so it's really easy.  If you connect the wires backwards the temperature will appear to drop as the kiln is heating up.  Fun, huh?

The elements get carefully disconnected from this side using a couple of wrenches.  You can tell which bolts hold the elements in this picture by the ceramic insulators.

Next you have to pull the pins and coils out of the kiln.  The pins hold the coils in place at each corner of the kiln so they are easy to find but they are many.  The coils have to be gently twisted out, some soft brick will be lost because of this so being gentle is important.  Vacuuming after they are removed is also a great idea.

Top or Bottom Element Package

Now it's time to install the elements.  You'll want to check the package to make certain you've got the correct element for the location.  A full set will consist of top & bottom, intermediate and center.  Skutt gives you a nice diagram showing where each of these elements are installed in the kiln.  Easy!  They also pre-bend the elements for each of the corners.  This helps the elements to lay in nicely and not start creeping out of the channel.  It takes a little gentle twisting to get them to lay in right but if you feel like you're forcing it you're most likely doing it wrong.  Let the bends and coils be your guide.

Once you've got all the element coils in place use the pins to pin them in place at each of the corners. Simply push the pin into the soft brick, you should already have a hole but it's okay if you need to make a new one to secure the element. Skutt sends extra pins since they are easy to lose, they are just a straight piece of wire.  Double check that you've gotten all of the corners pinned.

Once the elements are installed just slide the ceramic insulators on the ends and bolt them back the way you found them, then snip off any extra wire.  Screw the control panel back on and fire the kiln empty one time.  I fired to cone 04, that should be all they need to get conditioned.

It did take about an hour so allot yourself enough time, you don't want to be distracted and miss a step or two.

Skutt has really great customer service if you run into any difficulties.    


  1. Jeff's the kiln repair person in this household! I don't like working with anything electrical, but I am sure I could do it if I absolutely had to.

    1. A kin = a lot of electricity. It's always good to be cautious, flip the breaker switch, unplug, and believe it's live even after you know it's off.

  2. I too have a "tech" guy but I was the one that always replaced the kiln sitters.
    This is great information for many.


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