How Elements Die


If you’ve been in ceramics for very long, you’ve most likely changed elements in a kiln. Each time you do this, you lose out on firings and studio time, and it costs several hundred dollars—a huge chunk of change for a potter. More often than not, this happens every year or two. If you’re lucky, you’re working in a facility or university art program where some other poor soul changes them for you and you don’t know any better. Kiln elements work like any normal heating elements in an oven: a current is passed through the wire, certain metals resist that current/voltage flow, and that resisted flow is converted to heat by the element. These are typically called “nichrome” as the more traditional heating elements contain nickel and chromium; however, Kanthal A-1 or APM makes iron-chromium-aluminum (FeCrAl) alloy elements. Calling them nichrome would be misleading, although it is still commonly done.

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