Why do I need a pyrometer as an enamellist?
This post is about buying my first pyrometer and thermocouple as an enamellist! I decided to buy a pyrometer and thermocouple about a month ago. Some kilns are not accurate and can be off by even 100-200 degrees! I haven’t had any issue firing enamels in my kiln, because the fact is that my kiln temperature has been my gauge to optimize firing conditions and even if it is off, I compare firing condition for all enamels with the same kiln! However, knowing the actual temperature makes the enamelling process, repeatable and reproducible even if you use various kilns.
In addition, there are some cases that you need to know the real temperature of the kiln when you are firing. One of those cases is firing opalescent enamel. Opal enamels should be fired in a specific temperature which is lower than usual firing range for other enamels. Otherwise, they will lose their opal quality.
The other application is that I want to try and fire metal clay which require specific temperature. Accurate temperatures are certainly required in ceramics, lampworking, etc.,
What are thermocouple and pyrometer?
So, all in all, I decided to buy a thermocouple and a pyrometer. Thermocouple is the sensor made using 2 different metals and you put it inside the kiln. It will generate temperature- dependent voltage that can be measured and pyrometer does the measurement job! Pyrometer is actually a thermometer that can measure very high temperatures. Thermocouples have various types but type K is the most common one. They can measure −200 °C to +1350 °C (−330 °F to +2460 °F) ranges. There are better types in terms of accuracy and resistance like type N thermocouples, but type K seem to be the affordable option and accurate enough for my applications.
And then, when it came to pyrometers, I had no idea what brand is better and I just saw in a reliable enamelling forum, K2 Instruments King brand was suggested. I searched a little and I couldn’t find this brand or any Australian brand. Perhaps, I did not search enough but most of options were actually unbranded. I needed an accurate pyrometer and that is why I couldn’t trust the unbranded ones! It could be great if I could have access to someone with experience using pyrometers in Melbourne but I didn’t!
So, I decided to go ahead and order from K2 Instruments in US. I bought a pyrometer and thermocouple with a spare thermocouple overall for about 90 USD. However, I did not notice that only a few pyrometers of this brand have the degrees Celsius option and Imperial units are my nightmare! Anyway, when I found out about that it was late! Shipping cost was also about 53 USD. So, overall, it costed a little over 200AUD and I seriously hope at least I can use them for the next 20 years! 😀
Except from fahrenheit issue, thermocouple and pyrometer both work well. They were easy to use. I used the spy hole of my kiln to position the thermocouple inside. I have one of those small red Promethus kilns and guess what was the result of accuracy test! My kiln is not off at all, pretty accurate! I hope it keeps working like this 😊
Let me know if you have any experience using pyrometers.