So, I decided to upgrade my kiln sitter to an electro sitter. This kiln of mine, an old (very old) Olympic 2327 has been pretty good to me. All the elements are pretty strong, and all is good. But I never know what temp it is, and would like to do some more advanced cooling. So off I go...
I call my local clay goddesses at Atlanta Clay. I ask about ordering an Electro Sitter. I live 20 miles from the factory an almost that far from Atlanta Clay so I figured I would just pick it up at Olympic. They seem to only have one version of each controller, so I figured it would be an in stock item. Not so fast. I need to provide measurements. I do so. 2 days later, the factory has one ready. This is where my pain begins.
I get to Olympic, and the box they give me looks just like the stock pictures. I wonder what the delay was for and why they needed my measurements. I start to worry as I get close to home, thinking that this box is about the same size as the box the old kiln sitter is in, and I have an old style stacking kiln. There are no plugs on the top and bottom to just plug it in place of the old... but wait until I get home to look at the instructions.
Take a look at the instructions: Easy as pie. You just slap it right in place of the old... Easy instructions
Now note *my* setup - and note how my kiln sitter is not centered...
I look at the massive controller in comparison to the thin aluminum box it's supposed to mount to, see that it's almost the same exact size and think "something is wrong here" and call the factory. Surely this is a mistake. There is no way to attach this easily to the existing box. I am assured that it is indeed right and I just need to "drill some holes."
Granted, the holes you have to drill into go into the back of the new controller, so you have to drill blindly and rely on measuring the distance between holes. But I digress. I take the kiln sitter off and note the difference:
Hmm. Fun. I start trying to drill holes in the aluminum box that is now hanging from the kiln due to having all the old element connections in place. I work at an angle and prop a 2x4 under it to drill into. I measure it out nice and centered. I attach the box and wire the 240 plug back into it. I wire the connections to the kiln. All good. That part *was* easy. I am pleased with myself. The box is sitting on my knee while I do all of this to avoid dangling by the wires. My back is cramping, but I'm almost done!
I close the box up to screw it onto the kiln. Hmm. It doesn't fit. Why oh why? Then I realize. The layout in the back of the electro sitter doesn't like where the connection block for the elements is and it won't fit centered. I groan and use my first string of cuss words. Sucking it up, I unscrew (cussing more now because it's REALLY tight in there) the box, which is now wired in. now both parts are on my lap and I must drill new holes. I now rig up some props to help me balance everything while I drill on my lap (thank you little piece of 2x4) and finally get a hole drilled. I attach and go to close it up and that's when I see it...
I am now openly cussing and start to weep a little. I call the factory and explain that my old brittle wire has now just snapped off cleanly. No worries, they assure me. If I can find a way to split that crimp along the seam, I should be able to recrimp since the pigtail is still intact to the elements. However, it takes a special high temp crimp and I will need to come back to the factory in the morning.
I try with all my might to break the crimp. I can't make a dent. This thing is like 14 ga solid steel and isn't moving. I need to split the seam. I weep openly, feel sorry for myself and rue the day I decided to do this. Then I remember that I have a tool that might just do it!!!
Yes! My circle cutter for copper pipe, from when I was doing metalsmith stuff. I line the blade up along the seam and crank down - it splits the seam beautifully. Not the way the tool was intended for use, but it worked. I am happy again. I think I hear birds singing outside. I am proud of my ingenuity. I try to pry the crimp open a little, hold on to the ceramic insulator (I know, you see where this is going) and give a gentle tug. The crimp slides off! I am saved!
But ummm... what? What is the wire coming out with it? Oh, that must be ... the pigtail. I now need a new element, as the pigtail has broken off. I am again awash in despair and now don't even have the strength to cuss. I remove the old element and dread the next day.
The next morning, I trek to the factory again, old element in hand. She gives me a pitying look and sets me up with a new element, assuring me that when I have the electrositter on, this will all be worth it. I think I cuss under my breath, but smile and thank her and head back home with elements and a new set of crimps.
I fight the new element in (please, can I just pay an extra $10 or so and not have to stretch the stupid thing?) and start to pin as I go, using the pins I pulled out from the old. The third pin snaps. It's old and brittle. I cuss. I lose about every 4th pin. My hands are bleeding. My poor crippled wrist is starting to bitch mightily, and my back is seizing up from bending over the kiln. I go upstairs and cry on Claire's shoulder. She braves my shop spiders and joins me, and helps me fight the elements in. It is a gruesome battle, because there was too much stretching, and the snapping pins were killing me. I start to steal pins from the old, stretched and settled elements in other rings. We finally get it in and she goes back upstairs.
I settle in and finish the rest of the install. I pack the thermocouple in with ceramic fiber. It looks great. I start to get the pigtails ready to crimp. Line the first one up and squeeze with all my might. I make a dent about 1mm deep.
I try another set of crimpers. Same thing. My hand is truly crying in agony now (bad injury years ago left me with a painful tendon and very little lining in my wrist - it hurts to even sign my name) and I plod back upstairs to ask Claire for help. She finally gets the things crimped for me, but she has to press so hard that her shoulder develops a tremor for a few moments. These things are brutally hard. But she gets it all crimped for me. I owe her big time.
I finally get everything back in place, and hooked up. Here she is:
From the other side, not so pretty. Because I had to install the electrositter shifted to the right, I now have a nice unsafe gap that has to be covered with some sheet metal. See the pretty exposed 240 connectors?
But, she works. Tomorrow morning hopefully I will finish the DIY vent and fire her up to a bisque fire. I let it ramp up to about 250 just to make sure it all worked. Looks great and I can't wait! :)