Updated: Sep 9, 2021
Well I done f*cked up
Actually, no I didn’t, I just moved a little too fast. Let’s rewind. New title: Replacing the Kiln Bricks and opening another can of worms. Ah there we go.
I started this process about a month ago by ordering the necessary bricks. I looked inside my kiln many times, each time counting in my head the bricks that definitely needed to be replaced. For this, I kept a couple things in mind while observing. Was the brick deteriorating and allowing heat to escape? If the brick was chipped, would it still be able to hold the elements in place? Could it be repaired with kiln cement? After a couple times just looking in the kiln and tallying what could not be repaired and instead replaced, my number hovered at 6 bricks each time. Now that we know how many bricks I needed, we can begin ordering them. When buying bricks, you’ll need to know how many sides your kiln has, the thickness of the bricks and the location of the bricks needing to be changed. For Cal (my kiln, Calvin Kiln), a Skutt 231, she has 10 sides & the bricks are 2.5” thick. Of the four types of kiln bricks, I bought 5 straight bricks and 1 peep hole brick. In my last blog post, I mentioned this purchase along with terminology and other parts I’m replacing in the kiln, you can read that here! The bricks arrived and reno could begin!
How I replaced kiln bricks:
Step 1: Watch Skutt’s video approximately 1,000 times until I memorized the narrator’s voice and could pick them out in a line up, hah.
Step 2: Luckily for me, all the bricks needing to be replaced were in the top section (out of the three total). So with the help of my dad, we removed the top section (still including the lid) and placed it on a soft canvas tarp on the ground. In retrospect, I could’ve taken the lid off before moving but it was fine in the end.
3. I removed the screws holding the hinge in place so I could remove the lid entirely. This was also gently placed on a canvas tarp separate from where I was performing surgery. (If you saw my video on instagram, you may have seen me realize a little later than I should) Check out part 1 of the brick replacement here! @the_muddy_taurus on IG! I also took out the lid’s support brace… and broke it in the process. Ugh.
Okay! Step 4. I unscrewed the control box, but since I was trying to replace the bricks without removing all of the elements (and my control box is segmented) I just unscrewed it from the outside wall-meaning it wasn’t completely removed because there were still wires attached to the elements. This meant the 3 pronged plug (that connects it to the control box below) wouldn't be sitting on the ground, supporting the weight of the kiln & making the entire section wobbly.
Step 5, I then began loosening the worm screws holding the band together. The outside wall of the kiln is simply a steel band, holding the bricks in place. The worm screws at the back allow the band to be tightened and loosened in repair situations. Using a channellock, I held the housing on the “looks like a hose clamp” and began to unscrew it. This piece works like a gear so, as I unscrewed the band became loose and slightly slack. Not to the point where I could easily remove the band, but just enough to hold them in place and wiggle out the bricks.
Step 6, it is not for the faint of heart-especially if you have some older elements. I gently removed elements and their pins just in the area where the bricks were being removed. In the end when I put these back in they gave me no trouble-but if you are taking on this project with old elements you really wanna keep, be C A R E F U L !
Step 7, the time has come. We replace the brick! This was like walking on a tightrope; I was trying to navigate finding balance in pressure, where I could place my hands without breaking neighboring bricks, calculating every move and working slowly. I found the best method was to gently rock the brick forward and back, not up and down as that method caused chipping and tear out in the neighboring brick I was keeping.
Step 8! Yes we made it, new bricks go in baby!! This part was not as scary as the previous step, but again I worked slowly. I had to do some gentle adjustment of the neighboring brick to ensure I got a tight fit as I slid the brick down. In the end, everything was snug and looking good!
Along with replacing the bricks, I was also able to replace the tube assembly! Seemingly intimidating, but it went pretty well! I had my Dad help me on this one-we needed all the brain cells to complete the project. Skutt is pretty awesome and with most of their products, they’ll send along a guide on how to replace/assemble the product you ordered. In short, we unscrewed the control box that houses the tube assembly, unscrewed the old one, and put in the new one. It was definitely helpful to have two sets of hands for this one-the control box wires were (at the time) still attached to the elements, so as I held the box, Dad made the switch. Definitely owe him a beer after this project. He’s learning a lot of kiln maintenance on the fly, so don’t worry I thank him again and again.
Current Status: I wish I could say this ended on a happy note, but alas! While returning the elements to their designated channels, I snapped one. Very sad, but I ordered new ones and they arrived within a week! As of right now, I’m at about 75% completion on replacing the elements and the last thing on the docket will be attaching a new lid support brace! Blog post on that next week. Lucky me, drilling into the stainless steel shell of the kiln. Suddenly my palms are very sweaty… Well, until then let's get muddy (and maybe a little dusty from all this kiln brick talk).