Potters & Sculptors - Making Rock from Mud
I just installed the new Bartlett Genesis LT-3140 kiln controller in our kiln and are validating the first firing with "witness cones".
If anyone has any questions on the Genesis Cone Fire controller I've played with it enough to know what it can do. The Genesis is a pretty impressive advance over the Bartlett V6-CF controller, let alone more primitive controllers like the RTC-1000 or the 3-key Model 3K.
Fortunately our kiln controller in our outdoor kiln died one week ago after 7 years of use, which was a Cress modified V6-CF. This provided us the opportunity to upgrade to the new Genesis controller for $329
The Genesis is pictured with "Novice Mode" off. In Novice Mode the "Edit" button becomes "View".
We also purchased this $34 amperage detector from Bartlett which is a tiny circuit board you connect to the kiln controller and has two white leads connecting to a ferrite ring.
You thread one 220 volt power lines from each relay to the heating elements through the ferrite ring, which measures the power being consumed. This allows the controller to compare your current power draw to the original power draw when you installed the elements or in our case when we installed the controller.
The controller tests the elements for about 60 seconds prior to each firing. A decline in amperage used is charted to determine your element aging and any sudden decline indicates the failure of an element.
The Genesis controller also has an attached WiFi card to download new operating system updates from the Bartlett website adding new capabilities to the controller. We don't have WiFi at our studio so I set-up a hotspot on a mobile phone and connect the Genesis controller to the hotspot - the WiFi password is usually your mobile phone number.
Dave Bartlett told me the first update will add copy and paste to program entry, the second update will give you the ability to choose any slow-cool program to a cone fire. Currently the slow-cool option is 150 F per hour between 1,800 and 1,500 F as suggested in "Mastering Cone 6 Glazes".
All programs are editable with "Novice Mode" off. Switching to "Novice Mode On" makes it very easy for less experienced people to fire the kiln perfectly without much more than 60 seconds of training. The limitation is you cannot change the hold time or slow-cool for a firing in Novice mode, it remains what it was the last time you saved that program with Novice mode off. In Novice mode you can add pre-heat time and also fire now or delayed.
If you're familiar with previous "Custom User Programs", to load them you had to tediously press Enter as each step was displayed, leaving you pressing enter 26 or 36 times until the kiln was in ready mode. With Genesis you click load, choose the program name, then fire. You can give each of your custom firings their own name, rather than "User 32" which happens to be is the maximum number of custom programs you can store.
Genesis Controller installed with extra aluminum plate to cover hole from original kiln controller.
A closer view of the Genesis controller while firing a bisque
Rear View of Kiln Controller - wired for one Type S thermocouple and One Zone Control
220 volt power wires from each of two relays threaded through the Amperage Sensor
A satisfied kiln-repair technician
This is fantastic Norm. I really like the upgrade that tracks element usage.
You can add the amp sensor to the older V6-CF Bartlett as well. The amperage test is in the "hidden menu" (choose Reset, 443, gets you NOTC) then scroll through menus to Amp.
The advantage of the Gensis is it keeps track of the original "new elements" reading and charts to change.
We entered our "Cone 6 Glaze with a 2 hour preheat, 20 minute hold at the top and a 6 hour slow cool between 1,800 and 1,500" stored in Custom User 1 as "Cone 6 Glaze - Slow-Cool". The firing ramps are laid out like a spreadsheet where you can insert, add or delete ramps and touch each number in each ramp to change it.
For any ramp in a custom program, you can either enter a "target temperature" or choose "Cone" and select a cone number which the controller will adjust the final temperature for to achieve that amount of "heat work"
This way we can keep the controller in "Novice Mode" which makes it tough to make a mistake,
"Load": Bisque; Glaze; Glass; or Custom
Use the slide bar to choose a cone, then choose a speed on the next screen,
Then it asks if you want to do a pre-heat, with each choice explained for 0, 4 hours 8 hours etc.
The Start: Now; Later; or Remote
Then enter a code number (the number 1 in our case because it's easy to remember) and Start.
Take it out of "Novice Mode" (with Menu, Customization, Novice Mode, Off, Save) and everything in the each firing can be easily changed. Tap "Chart" to see a graph of the proposed firing, then tap Table to see the program as a series of segments. So it can either be real easy and fool-proof, or you can enter up to 32 of your own programs - and each Custom Program can have up to 32 Segments. During the firing you can switch between three screens, one of which shows only the current temperature in large numbers.
It's finally a kiln controller which truly operates like a modern appliance.
In tunnel kilns they used to use "Bullers Rings" and I guess some still do because they're still being sold - and that contraption is even more Rube Goldberg than a Kiln Sitter.
Bartlett not only makes the kiln controllers and customized controllers for every brand of kiln, they also have a nice business in making controllers for farm greenhouses adjusting the temperature and moisture growing vegetables and flowers.
Way to go, Norm. As always - informative, thorough, insightful writing. Thanks for sharing.
Years ago, I inherited a manually-controlled oval. It was a big, ol' hunk of junk, but valuable for it's sheer size. I was determined to make it work. I always had trouble with it, but a snap meter, testing amperage, turned out to be invaluable. I hooked that bad boy to a line right off the bus in the breaker box (dangerous/dumb). Being able to see how many amps were being pulled in real time, though, really helped me to diagnose trouble. I relied on it heavily. Very useful.
Our electrician double-jacked the main before the breaker-box, live to install our box because my optometrist didn't want to have a power interruption to his business. It's hard to say no to someone offering you free electricity. After the electrician had completed that he had to lay down for fifteen minutes to recover, even having worn thick rubber soles. Not something I would have done myself.
Holy cow! I can just imagine the look on your electrician's face when he heard how this install needed to go down.... Poor guy. I'm sweating for him, even after the fact! Rough day at the office.
One of the best things about the new Genesis Kiln Controller is being able to download the csv format Firing Logs from the kiln using a WiFi connection which you can easily read in Excel.
This is the connection screen.
You can download the Temperature Log showing every 30 seconds what the Set-Temperature, the Kiln Temperature and what Percentage of Kiln power the controller was asking for. The Error Log shows each firing step issued and any errors this generated.