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Paper-based records
The straightforward way for many people is to fill out a blank paper form with the planned firing schedule, then program the kiln controller for that schedule.  As the firing progresses, you annotate the sheet of paper to reflect what actually happens, and what the outcome was. Finally, after it is all over and the pieces out of the kiln, file the sheet away in a ring-back folder. Graham Stone's book contains schedules you can photocopy for this purpose, or you can print several copies of my blank records (or print just one and photocopy it).
Let's assume that your computer has Microsoft Excel installed and that your controller has eight stages. Then download one of these files, edit the text 'Your Name' and 'Your Kiln Type' to suit you, and print the file.  You will then have a blank form you can use for paper-based record-keeping. If this is beyond you, ask someone more expert to do it for you; it will only take a few minutes. Once they have, you can copy the form as often as you like. (PS. I know I have to do a bit more work on the use of these forms as templates since they require the start time and temperature cells to be filled. This isn't a problem with their main function.)
Computer-based records
Personally, I don't keep paper records; my house is too small to waste on filing cabinets. I keep records on computer, and I rely on them to prevent me making silly transcription errors.  The following links enable you to download Microsoft Excel spreadsheets for two types of kiln controllers, together with instructions for editing the spreadsheets if your controller is not exactly the same as those listed.  Once you have customized the file, you can use it as a template to plan your firing. It calculates all timing data from the set points, ramps and soaks and flags the time the top temperature might be reached so you can set an alarm to be at the kiln at that time to intervene.  You can then edit the actual data into the file before saving it as an electronic record. Take a look at this example.
Keep some logic in your file naming too.  I usually prefix the file name by a date such as "2000-08-14 Spiral Bowl" for a firing made on 2000 August 14.
I then print out the schedule and go down to my kiln to program it. After the firing is completed, I update the file with any incidents or observations, and then throw the paper copy away for recycling.
The advantage of this is that you will accumulate data on your kiln's performance under various conditions, and probably be able to improve your schedules. You will also have files you can call up to repeat a particular program that was successful. Just remember to edit the data that changes (like the date and the project) and to save the new version with a new name. Searching the folder for a particular firing is easy, and the best thing is that they never get lost! I have a record of every firing I've ever done.
Electronic record-keeping may not be for everyone. But it is certainly my method of choice and I recommend it to anyone with a home computer. For tax purposes, it may be essential. See here for some of my completed records.
Instructions (Word 2000, 227 kB)
Alternate Instructions (RTF, compatible with nearly any word processor, 538 kB)  
Records 8 stages Ramp + Soak  eg Rampmaster II (Excel 95/98/2000, 43 kB)
Records 8 stages Ramp or Soak (Excel 95/98/2000, 37 kB)

I would be grateful for any responses to these sheets. Pointing out any errors you may discover is also welcome.

© Copyright  2000, 2001  AHJ Sale
Page last modified on 2001 October 24