Buying and Selling Used Kilns

People regularly email us and ask about used kilns. Often they're looking to buy a used kiln and they have some concerns about it. Or they want to buy or sell one, and they want to know how much it's worth. Here's what we tell them.

How much is a used kiln worth?

There is no easy way to determine this since there is no "blue book" price you can use as a reference. Normally we recommend the following; Find the price of a new kiln on our web site that is similar in size and features to the used one. You can assume that a used kiln is worth 25% to 50% of that amount, maybe a little more/less, depending on wear, age, operating condition, etc.

Sometimes getting a good price for your used kiln is just good luck; Find the perfect buyer for the kiln, and you get maximum value. Or you might have bad luck because simply no one around wants to buy it. It's real value is whatever someone is willing to pay for it. Kilns are utilitarian by nature (like a pickup truck). No matter how beat up it is, as long as a kiln can fire, it's always worth something. As a seller, keep that in mind. If you can not demonstrate it firing, it's going to be a hard sell because the buyer is taking a big risk.

I want to buy a used kiln, but I'm concerned. What are some of the things I should consider?

I'm sure there are some great used kiln deals out there. If you find one that fits your needs, get it. But there some risks. Here are some things to keep in mind when considering a used kiln.

  1. Condition of the heating elements:

    If the elements are in good shape, you may get hundreds of firings out of them before they need to be replaced. However if the elements have failed, or are about to fail, you may be looking at a big expense to replace them. Just the cost of the elements can run a few hundred dollars, plus perhaps paying someone to install them (if you are unable to do so yourself). We have some element prices on the site here for your reference.

    So what do you do? See if the kiln will heat up. After a few minutes of the elements being energized, you should be able to open the kiln lid in a dark room and see the elements glowing (like in your toaster). If not, you might want to take a closer look at the elements. Try measuring the resistance (impedance) through each of the elements with a Multimeter and see what reading you get. (Please unplug the kiln before you try this.) The reading will be somewhere in the 10-30 Ohm range. If you're getting an infinite resistance reading, that could be an indication that an element has burned out.

  2. Lead glazes:

    If you buy a used kiln, ask if leaded glazes have been fired in the kiln before. If so, the kiln may be contaminated and you may be unable to fire any dinnerware-safe wares through it. Unfortunately we do not know of a sure-fire way to test for this, but it's been suggested that home-use lead testing kits can be helpful. Try a Google search for theses kits to get more information.

  3. Shipping/moving a kiln:

    Another challenge if you buy a used kiln is getting it home. If you have that pickup truck I mentioned above, and couple of helpers, you may be all set. However, consider everything it will take to move it. Getting it out of where ever it's at. A vehicle to move it in. Tools you'll need to take it apart. Can the kiln be disassembled, or is it one big piece? If the kiln is not located near you, and you want to have it shipped, it can be quite expensive. If it is not correctly prepared for shipping, it can easily get damaged. Just plan every step and make sure you can do it.

  4. Controller type:

    Many used kilns are older and tend to have very simple controls. 3 position switches, infinite switches and Kiln Sitters are common. There is nothing wrong with these control types, but they are not anywhere as capable as new kilns with electronic/computer controllers. Just be aware of what you are getting before you buy, and consider if you are committed to operating the kiln with those controls.

    If you buy a used kiln with the idea of upgrading the controller, check out the cost first. Add-on controllers, like the Orton Autofire work great, but can cost $500 or more. The used kiln may still be a deal, even with a controller upgrade, but be realistic about what it will take to get the kiln ready to fire.

  5. Warranty:

    Used kilns do not have warrantees, and unfortunately it's hard to know when a used kiln will become a money pit. Investigate, ask questions, and try to understand what might go wrong. If you're a "handy" type of person and like repairing things, then a used kiln may not be a problem for you. It might even be fun for you to fix it up. (I'm in this category). But if you tend to hire-out that type of thing, you may be better suited for new kiln.

  6. Missing any parts/furniture kit:

    Is there anything missing? Are all the peep hole plugs there? Does it have a furniture kit (shelves and posts)? Kiln stand? Anything else missing? A major expense can be the furniture kit. You'll need some shelves and posts to fire the kiln, and if you have to buy those items, the shipping costs for those may surprise you.

We hope this gets you started. Again, there are some good deals out there for used kilns, but be realistic about what you are getting and do your homework up front.

We do not carry used kilns, but if you decide to get a new kiln instead, we'd love to help you pick one out. Send us an email and let us know what you are looking for. Remember that a new kiln will have new heating elements, a warranty, the latest controller, and you do not have to worry about it's firing history (i.e. leaded glazes). Plus new kilns are all shiny and pretty.

Glen - BigCeramicStore

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