Power of Pottery Cones: Everything You Need to Know

In the vibrant world of pottery, where clay transforms into magnificent works of art, there exists a crucial element that ensures the magic happens as intended. Let us embark on a journey of discovery as we unravel the enigmatic realm of pottery cones. These seemingly unassuming, yet indispensable tools hold the key to achieving precise temperatures and impeccable firing results in the ceramics process.

From their intriguing shapes to their vital role in kiln operations, we delve deep into the significance and intricacies of pottery cones, shedding light on their importance for potters and artists alike. Join us as we demystify the world of cones and unlock the secrets they hold within the realm of pottery.


Cones are an important tool in pottery that are used to test the temperature of a kiln during firing. They are shaped like small pyramids and come in a variety of sizes and colors. They are made from special ceramic materials that will melt at different temperatures and the shape of the cone indicates the temperature at which it is firing. In this guide, we will explain the basics of what cones are, how they are used in pottery, and the different types of cones available.

What are Cones in Pottery?

Cones are small pyramids made from ceramic material that are used to test the temperature of a kiln during firing. They come in a variety of sizes and colors and are designed to melt at different temperatures. When a cone is placed in a kiln and heated, it will bend or sag at a certain temperature, indicating the kiln’s temperature at that moment. This helps potters to monitor their firing process and make adjustments if needed.

How are Cones Used in Pottery?

Cones are placed in the kiln before firing. They are placed in the kiln upside down, with the pointed end pointing up. As the kiln heats up, the cone will start to bend or sag at a certain temperature. When the cone has fully melted, it is an indication that the kiln has reached the desired temperature. The potter can then make adjustments as needed and monitor the progress of the firing.

Different Types of Cones

  • Pyrometric Cones

Pyrometric cones are the most commonly used type of cones in pottery. They are designed to bend or melt at specific temperature ranges, indicating the temperature inside the kiln. These cones are available in a range of numbers, with each number representing a particular melting point. For example, Cone 06 melts at a lower temperature, while Cone 10 requires a higher firing temperature. By using a combination of cones with different melting points, potters can accurately gauge the temperature distribution within the kiln during firing.

  • Self-Supporting Cones

Self-supporting cones, also known as witness cones, are similar to pyrometric cones but are designed to stand upright without the need for additional support. They provide a visual reference for temperature monitoring, as they bend or melt at specific temperatures just like regular pyrometric cones. Self-supporting cones are often used alongside regular cones to verify and cross-check the accuracy of the firing process.

  • Small Cones

Small cones, also called mini cones or mini-bars, are miniature versions of pyrometric cones. They are typically used for testing small kilns, electric kilns, or for experimental firings. Small cones offer convenience and flexibility, allowing potters to monitor firing conditions in kilns where standard-sized cones may not be suitable.

  • Oxidation-Reduction Cones

Oxidation-reduction cones, sometimes referred to as Orton cones, are designed to gauge the atmosphere within the kiln during firing. These cones undergo color changes in response to the oxygen levels present in the kiln. The cone’s color transformation provides valuable insights into whether the firing atmosphere is oxidizing (high oxygen) or reducing (low oxygen). This information is crucial for achieving desired glaze effects, clay body characteristics, and surface finishes.

  • Self-Supporting Oxidation-Reduction Cones

Similar to self-supporting pyrometric cones, self-supporting oxidation-reduction cones stand upright without additional support. These cones combine the functionalities of temperature monitoring and atmospheric control. They visually indicate both the temperature range and the oxidation or reduction conditions within the kiln, making them a convenient tool for potters seeking comprehensive firing feedback.

What is the Purpose of a Cone in a Kiln?

The cone in a kiln, also known as a pyrometric cone, is a type of temperature measuring device used in ceramics and metal working processes. These cones are designed to bend or deform in a predictable way at a given temperature, allowing the kiln to be accurately calibrated and monitored during a firing process.

The purpose of the cone in a kiln is to measure the temperature of the kiln to ensure that the materials being fired are firing correctly and to the desired results. The cone is placed in the kiln and as the temperature of the kiln increases, the cone will bend or deform in a predictable way. By monitoring the cone, the operator can determine when the materials have reached the desired temperature and can shut off the kiln accordingly.

The use of a cone in a kiln can provide a number of benefits, including:

  • Accurately controlling the temperature of the kiln to ensure the materials are firing correctly.
  • Providing a consistent temperature throughout the kiln, which can help to ensure consistent results.
  • Aiding in the preservation of the kiln, as the cone will help to prevent it from overheating and potentially damaging the materials or the kiln itself.
  • Improving safety, as the cone will help to ensure the kiln is firing at the correct temperature and that the materials are not overheating.

Overall, this article has done a great job of presenting the basics of pottery cones and how they are used. It is evident that pottery cones are essential for measuring the heat of a kiln, and understanding the different types of cones is critical to successful pottery making. We recommend further research into the uses of pottery cones and the best practices for accurately measuring the kiln’s temperature. Additionally, gaining hands-on experience with pottery cones and other pottery tools can be invaluable in understanding their use and application.

Cones are a type of ceramic object used in pottery that are designed to be used as a measuring tool for heat during firing. They are typically made from a mix of clay, sand, and other materials, and come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Cones are placed in the kiln and over time they will melt, change color, and eventually break at a predetermined temperature. This helps potters to determine the exact temperature of their firing, which is essential for creating the desired results.

Monica Rosales

Hi there! My name is Monica and I am absolutely thrilled to be writing about all things pottery. As a lover of the art myself and a pottery class enthusiast, I have found my passion in sharing the beauty and creativity of this craft with others. With my experience in pottery classes across the U.S. and a keen eye for reviewing pottery-related products, I am excited to bring you informative and exciting content about everything pottery. Let's get our hands dirty and dive into the wonderful world of pottery!

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