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Attempting a simple kiln

I decided it was time to try making one of these. I’ve been using wet wood and letting it sit on my extremely limited garage shelf space for a few years now. With North Carolina’s constant humidity it seems to take endless months to get a roughed blank ready.

Fellow turners have talked about converting an old fridge into a kiln but I’ve lamented a severe lack of space for such a thing. Instead, I’ve opted for a simple insulated-panel setup that I can break down and store if needed.



I’m trying to make it small enough to fit in a corner of my home office but large enough to be used on one or two bowls/platters at a time. Today I focused on the basic enclosure.

I bought a single 4×8 panel of inch-thick foam insulation for $18 and was going to cut it down to four 2’x4′ sections. , The Home Depot staff cut it in half for me just to fit in the back of my pseudo truck bed (Subaru Baja), but on the way home the wind at 35 mph “split” the sections for me so that I lost a bit of dimension.

I ended up with enough for a 22 x 18 interior that stands 3 feet tall. I also picked up a few pieces of 1/2″ PVC pipe and basic fittings to create a structure, shelf, and feet to lift the piece and allow air flow from below.

I used the free 3D design tool SketchUp to devise a basic approach to this, but as usual the actual measurements required a lot of design tweaking.

I’m about to upgrade my PC so I’m planning to recycle the power supply and fan, and I found a $15 thermostatic controller on Amazon that I hope to use with a simple 60-watt bulb fixture to warm the air.

The key to this, as I understand it, is to build a simple box with an air intake at the bottom, exhaust at the top, a bulb to heat the air, and a SMALL fan to gently pull air through the box.

I’m expecting this to work well in my heated and air-conditioned home, but may need to move it into the garage at some point so the insulated panels will be key.

I’m using the PVC to hold the panels together and create shelves. I chose this mainly to keep the weight down and make it possible to disassemble and reassemble the kiln in the future. I still need to drill some nail holes in the pipe ends to secure the whole thing, similar to cotter pins.

The electronics will take some effort as I am an uninformed novice there. The thermostat won’t be here for a few days anyway so I have time to work that out.

Some advice for a local beginner…

A woman recently reached out to our club seeking advice on helping her husband get started in woodturning. It’s a question I often hear at demos and events so I thought I would share my thoughts here in case it may prove helpful to anyone else.

I’m thinking of getting my husband a woodturning lathe for Christmas. He has always been interested in woodturning. We watched your demos at Lazy Days.
Do you have any recommendations for a good basic beginners lathe.. my budget is up to $500.

What additional tools would be best to get?

I’ve researched several but wanted another opinion.

Thank you so much.

Hello Ms. (Withheld);

This could be an extremely long answer but I will do my best to inform without overwhelming you. There are many tools and items that most turners consider essential, but I’m going to only address the very basics and leave out things like tool sharpening, sanding and finishing.

The two main options for a beginner are whether to go new or used. For your $500 budget a new lathe setup is just barely possible.

* Woodraft in Raleigh is selling a $299 Rikon lathe which is an excellent beginner machine. I had one for 3 years before I moved on to a larger model for bigger work. Our club just bought 3 of them for our own events & workshops, and I think it’s what we were using at Lazy Days.
* A chuck is the likely next order of business, and these will run $100 at a minimum
and can easily go up to $300.
* The turning chisels are the real challenge, and most of us invest in them gradually over the years as our needs and skills develop. You can buy a very basic and reasonable set online or at a local woodworking store, but anything you may see as a “deal” for set of 5+ tools for less than about $80 would be a bad investment. These would be of a very low-grade steel that will be a source of endless frustration for a new turner. In other words, stay away from discount stores for these items.

There are occasionally good deals on used or older equipment on CraigsList or eBay, but the issue there is if you are not familiar with what you are looking for you can end up wasting time and money. You will often see old bench-top Delta, Jet or Craftsman wood lathes there in the $100-$250 range, often with a chuck or handful of turning chisels thrown in. The first two are good deals if they are in good condition, but I would stay away from the old Sears machines or other brands if you don’t know them.

Don’t get me wrong, Craigslist is a good resource. I sold my first/old Rikon that way and bought two other lathes on Craigs. The first one I ended up returning as junk, but the second was the lathe I use currently and was a fantastic deal for me.

I fell in love with turning by taking a class, and it is probably the best gift you could give someone starting out in turning.
Woodraft and Klingspor woodworking in Raleigh both offer day-long classes in woodturning; some for beginners. Several of the instructors are actually professionals and club members. Usually the classes are $90-$125.
The perfect gift, in my opinion, would be a package of:
* That new $299 Rikon lathe
* A single turning class for $90-120
* A $100-$150 check/gift/voucher for him to buy his first tools and/or chuck as he sees fit.

I went looking for links and just noticed an excellent instructor and one of our members, Alan Leland, is teaching a beginner class Nov 15.

The other Raleigh store is Klingspor woodworking. I don’t see any turning classes on their calendar right now, but you may want to call and ask.

I hope this helps.