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Orton Pyrometric Cones

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Orton Pyrometric Cones

Pyrometric cones are useful in determining when a firing is complete, if the kiln provided enough heat, if there was a temperature difference in the kiln or if a problem occurred during firing. Cones are made from carefully controlled compositions and they bend in a repeatable manner (over a relatively small temperature range- less than 40ºF). Small (junior) cones are used in a Kiln-Sitter™.

         SSB Self-Supporting Cones "Witness Cones"
 2.5" (6.35cm) tall Self Supporting cones DO NOT require mounting in cone plaques , holders or pats. These are the easiest cones to use.

Orton Pyrometric Self Supporting Cones 

(The middle self-supporting cone is perfectly fired. The left is over-fired, the right is under-fired.)

Orton Self-Supporting cones are $8.28 for a box of 25

Orton Self-Supporting Cones: Qty Cone

LRB Large Standard Pyrometric Cones
2 1/2 inch (6.35 cm) Tall

Needs to be supported by a cone plaque or a clay pat.
Support Plaque Shown Below $.99 Each
  

Orton LRB large Standard cones are $10.98 for a box of 50

Orton Large Cones: Qty Cone

SRB Small Cones "Junior Cones"

1 1/8" (2.86 CM) Tall. Small cones are commonly used in the kiln sitter. The tapered shape allows some flexibility to adjust the shut-off temperature by placing the thinner or thicker portion of the cone under the sensing rod. Small cones can also be used as miniature witness cones when space is limited. Support Plaque Shown Below $.99 Each
Orton Junior Cones     Orton Junior Cones

Orton Junior cones are $7.98 for a box of 50

Orton Junior Cones: Qty Cone

Pyrometric Bars

Pyrometric Bars are 1 inch (2.54 cm) Long. The uniform shape allows for more consistent control when used in Kiln-Sitter.

Orton PYROMETRIC BARS are $9.28 for a box of 50

Orton Pyrometic Bars: Qty Cone

Orton large standard bar cones support plaque

$0.99 each

Orton Small Regular bar cones support plaque

$0.99 each

 

Pyrometric Cones for Ceramic Arts

Pyrometric cones measure heat-work (the effect of time and temperature).

Pyrometric cones are slender pyramids made from about 100 carefully controlled compositions. Each cone number is unique in measuring temperature within a small temperature range (less than 30°C). Cones measure the amount of heat absorbed. As the cone nears its maturing range, it softens and the tip begins to bend, drawn down by the influence of gravity


3 cone method for monitoring heat-work

 

Pyrometric Bars are 1 inch (2.54 cm) Long. The uniform shape allows for more consistent control when used in Kiln-Sitter.
Temperature Equivalents use the same numbering system as small cones.

View Temperature Equivalents in either Degrees C or Degrees F chart.
 
Cone/Temperature Conversion Chart
Cone Temp at 108ºF/hr Temp at 270ºF/hr

Kiln Color

Ware and Glaze Types
10 2345 2381 White Stoneware Glaze
9 2300 2336    
8 2280 2320    
7 2262 2295    
6 2232 2269   Porcelain Bisque
5 2167 2205    
4 2124 2161   Porcelain Glaze
3 2106 2138    
2 2088 2127    
1 2079 2109    
01 2046 2080 Yellow  
02 2016 2052    
03 1987 2019    
04 1945 1971    
05 1888 1911    
06 1828 1855   Bisque,Low Glaze
07 1789 1809 Orange Red Family Glazes
08 1728 1753    
09 1688 1706    
010 1657 1679    
011 1607 1641    
012 1582 1620    
013 1539 1582 Red  
014 1485 1540    
015 1456 1504    
016 1422 1465    
017 1360 1405   Glass Sagging
018 1319 1353   China Paints
019 1252 1283   Metallics, Lusters
020 1159 1180 Dull Red Decals
021 1112 1143   Glass Paint
022 1087 1094    
 

The temperature equivalents apply to large 2.5" pyrometric cones when heated at the indicated heating rate in an air atmosphere. Small cones in the automatic shut-off have approximately the same temperature equivalent.
When looking into the observation holes all objects that are near the same temperature will be near the same color. Brighter appearing objects are hotter than darker ones.
This table is for general information. Consult the manufacturer's instructions for the correct cone number to use.
Why Use Pyrometric Cones
Cones have been used in firing ceramics for more than 100 years. They are useful because they can determine when a firing is complete, or if the kiln was provided enough heat, or if there is a temperature difference in the kiln, or if a problem occurred during the firing.
What is a Cone?
Cones are slender pyramids made from about 100 carefully controlled compositions. They bend in a repeatable manner over a relatively small temperature range (less than 50°F). The final bending position is a measure of the amount of heat absorbed. We refer to one cone number as being hotter or cooler than another. The coolest cone number is O22 and the hottest is 42. The first cones were numbered from 1 to 20. When cooler cones were developed, an 'O' was placed before the number. So cones cooler than Cone 1 increase from O1 to O2, etc. to O22.
Cone Bending
Both temperature and time and sometimes atmosphere affect the final bending position of a cone. Temperature is the predominant variable. We refer to the temperature as an equivalent temperature, since actual firing conditions may vary somewhat from those in which the cones were originally standardized. Using charts available from Orton, an equivalent temperature can be determined by measuring the final bending position of the Cone, if the heating rate is known. Orton Self-Supporting Cones duplicate their bending behavior with a standard deviation of 2.4 angular degrees or less than + 2°C.
How are Cones Used?
Cones are used as witness cones located on a kiln shelf near the ware or in a kiln shut off device (e.g. Kiln-Sitter®). The cone bends when glass forms and it becomes soft. The composition of the cone and the amount of heat determine when and how much glass if formed. It is important to note that it is the weight of the sensing rod that causes the cone (or bar) in a Kiln-Sitter® to bend. Changes in weight affect the bending of the cone. A witness cone bends because of gravity acting on it. Therefore, mounting height and angle is important. The higher the cone or the more it leans over at the start, the more gravity affects bending, causing early bending. It is for this reason Orton developed Self-supporting witness cones some 20 years ago, where mounting height and angle is fixed. It typically takes 15 to 25 minutes for a cone to bend, depending upon the cone number. The cone bends slowly at first but once it reaches the halfway point, it bends quickly. When the cone tip reaches a point level with the base, it is considered properly fired; however, the difference between a cone touching the shelf and a cone at the 4 o'clock position is small and rarely affects the fired results.
Why use Cones?
Firing ceramics is much like baking, except temperatures are higher. Ceramics can be fired over a range of temperatures. Some products have a wide firing range while others have a narrow range. Firing to a slightly lower temperature requires the ware to be held for a longer time, just as it would be done if one were baking a turkey. This is because it takes time for the ware to absorb all of the heat needed to properly "cook" the piece. We refer to this absorption of heat as 'heatwork'. When the amount of heatwork for two firings is the same, the pieces will look identical, even if one is fired to a higher temperature for a short time and another is fired at a lower temperature for a longer time. Since cones measure heatwork, all manufacturers recommend the cone number to which their product should be fired.
Three Cone System
Many products used today, such as porcelain and lead-free glazes, need to be fired within a 2-cone range. The 3-cone system can be used to determine temperature uniformity and to check the performance of the Kiln-Sitter® or electronic controller. The 3-cone system consists of three consecutively numbered cones:

• Firing Cone - cone recommended by manufacturer of glaze, slip, etc.
• Guide Cone - one cone number cooler than firing cone.
• Guard Cone - one cone number hotter than firing cone.
For example: Cones O17, O18, O19 or Cones 5, 6, 7.
Cones Help Evaluate Kilns
Most kilns have temperature differences from top to bottom. The amount of difference depends on the design of the kiln, age of the heating elements, load distribution in the kiln, and the cone number to which the kiln is fired. Usually, kilns have a greater temperature difference at cooler cone numbers. Use cones on the lower, middle and top shelves to determine how much difference exists during firing. It's best to do this for each type of firing you do - i.e. decal, bisque/glaze, porcelain/stoneware. After firing, observe the 3 cones. If, on the bottom shelf, the Guide cone has only bent half way, then ware is fired one and half cones lower. A Guard cone on the top shelf bent halfway indicates that ware is a half cone hotter and a 2-cone difference exists between the top and bottom of the kiln. If you find a difference, make changes in the way the kiln is loaded and fired to reduce this difference. Adding downdraft venting will also even out temperatures. The kiln can also be upgraded to Orton's UniTemp™ controller, which keeps the kiln uniform in temperature (see Kiln Controllers).
Checking Kiln Sitter® Performance
The Kiln Sitter® shuts off the kiln when a small cone (or bar) placed under the sensing rod receives enough heat for it to fully bend. Bending is caused by the weight of the sensing rod. Because the cone in the Kiln Sitter® is located at the kiln wall (closer to the heating elements), it frequently receives more heat than witness cones, causing the kiln to shut off early. Using the next hotter cone/bar may be necessary. Use the 3-cone system on a shelf near the Kiln Sitter® to determine if a difference exists between the shelf and Kiln Sitter® cones.
Checking Controller Performance
Electronic controllers allow firing to a temperature (and even a cone number). The controller uses a temperature reading measured by one or more thermocouple(s) placed through the refractory wall of the kiln. A Self-supporting witness cone will check whether the controller is firing accurately. Place the cone in a location near the thermocouple. After the firing, determine if the Firing Cone has bent properly. There should be no more than a half cone difference. Orton encourages the use of electronic controllers; however, we strongly recommend the use of at least one witness cone for every firing to assure that the kiln really did fire to the right cone number. As mentioned earlier, bodies, glazes and decoration products are all formulated to be fired to a cone number, bent to the 90° (6 o'clock) position. Controllers depend upon accurate measurement of temperature and proper programming to fire properly. Most controllers use a Type K thermocouple, which may not give an accurate temperature and which will change after being used. It is not unusual for a Type K thermocouple to have an error of more than 25°F when fired to Cone 6 repeatedly. This is more than a full cone. By using witness cones, you can determine whether the firing was to the right cone number.
Self-supporting Witness Cones
Orton recommends Self-supporting witness cones because they are easier to use and less subject to bending variation. Many people use witness cones every firing and the 3-cone system periodically to check for changes in the kiln. Cones are saved to compare different firings. When more than a half cone difference occurs, it usually indicates a problem exists. This gives you an opportunity to fix the problem or change the way the kiln is being fired to avoid future problems. Cones are the best way to inexpensively monitor your kiln.

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