Can you use a kiln for carbon burnout?

Can you use a kiln for carbon burnout?

A customer writes:

"I have a graduate student who is working with slip dip and burning out fabric. Can this be done safely in our L & L Electric kilns? Are there any concerns or dangers to the kiln? I am comfortable doing the burnout in our gas kilns, but she often has small works and wants to do just one small piece and it seems a waste of gas to fire up a gas kiln. She has done the burnout in her electric kilns at home, but since she moved here for graduate school, her kilns are not hooked up.

A student here (before my time) caused a rather large fire and did extensive damage to a big electric just a couple of weeks after it was purchased. I heard fire was coming out of every screw hole. The electric all had to be replaced, so I'm a bit nervous about burning out in an electric."

Answer:

The answer is that it is a matter of degree. If you put a serious amount of combustibles in your kiln then you will get a fire. If you are doing some burn out - like binder burn out then it is probably OK if you have the kiln well-vented.

One suggestion is to restrict the amount of air that can get to the carbon while it is heating by putting it in a covered sagger. You want some air of course but by keeping it covered it can't get too out of control if it wants to go up in flames.

So - some is okay - keep the amount in the kiln at any one time as small as possible - just be careful and be sure you are there and handy with a fire extinguisher! (just in case).