When to Use Hard Medium and Low Firing Enamels

A question came up today about hard, medium, and low firing enamels.

Hard firing enamels are fired at a higher temperature as in the 1500’s degree range or longer in the kiln.

Medium firing enamels I think of using in 1400’s degree range, or at higher temp as 1500 degrees, but less time.

Low firing enamels maybe fired in the 1300’s or even in the 1400’s with less time.

 

The purpose of all this is two things expansion of the metal being used and your technique being used.

Start with copper as it is used most commonly in enamels.

Copper oxidizes the fastest of the metals we use in enameling. We balance this by using medium firing enamels so they melt or fuse before the copper has time to oxide. If it oxides the enamel is likely to flake off or just discolor.

Many enameling on copper use the oxidation to get some beautiful colors.

You can fire at a higher temperature so it fuses quickly not allowing the copper to oxidize. Another way to balance this is to use finer grit of enamel. The finer grit will fuse quicker than a larger grit of enamel without allowing oxygen to get to the copper. This allows the enamellist to achieve that beautiful gold or stunning golden orange copper color.

It is best to know the fusing points of all your enamels so you know which ones to apply as a base or flux. Your base coat of enamel or known as flux, should be the hardest enamel you are applying to your base metal so you do not have these problems.

1)My-Heart

 

Above the flux was a lower firing enamel than the top coats. So as the top layers melted the flux rose up and the top layer of enamel sank down.

 

2) Same here,

Tresa

 

 

The flux coat of enamel was not hard enough to prevent the following layers of enamel  from touching the sliver. And the brownish color of enamel is just burnt.

In cloisonné we never want our warm colors to touch the silver. It causes burning. Silver is going to hold heat longer than copper so we use a hard firing base. And in some incidences we will use several layers of the hard firing flux before layering in our warm colors to be very sure the red never touches the silver base.

 

A comment to address

“I’m torch-firing, I always have my work in my sight so I just watch for signs of melting, which happens very fast.  I’ve had “pull through” with Titanium White.  Titanium White really reacts nicely with copper and you can get some really lovely, but unpredictable, effects.  With a little overfiring the enamel turns a beautiful rust color and in spots will be green.”

Yes these effects can be used to your advantage, this is the oxidation of the copper coming through. And in torch firing I realize you are not going by temperature and have the advantage of seeing all that is happening.

 

Enameling on copper, as in painting enamel  in this piece,

Flesh-Colors-004Flesh-Colors-010IMG_0140

It is necessary to use a hard firing flux as it will be fired many times and I do not want the painting to disappear into the base coat of flux. Also in repeated firings the copper can still oxidize through the enamel and show a color change after many firings.  As I paint in my image I need the painting enamel to adhere to the base coat of flux by firing the piece, then I can continue layering my painting with enamel colors (soft firing enamel)that fire at a lower temperature or less time. The domed metal add strength or less expansion. So it can handle a harder firing enamel without so much expansion or movement in the enamel. If the base coat was a lower firing temperature it would become soft enough in firing the image would distort as the enamel base or flux would move before the image enamels fuse. Painting enamels are a soft or low firing enamel= as they are ground to a face powder grit.

 

A color plate is a very good answer to help you know which is which when you are not sure.

The enamel dot fourth from the left is still grainy after all the rest are fused.

Color-Plate

This color plate shows the top row, second from the right, as becoming liquid so much faster than all the other enamels it is completely flat.

Flesh-Colors-003Flesh-Colors-003IMG_0132

 

If you have three enamel on a plate, one hard firing, one medium firing, one low firing and fire the plate once you will see they melt at different speeds.

If you want to use them all in one project just remember the hard is on the bottom then the medium and then the soft or low firing enamel. This is also why you can use unleaded with leaded enamels as long as you put the unleaded on the bottom as it is a high fire enamel.

Happy Enameling!

 

Those Tiny Bubbles in My Enamels

A couple of things bubbles can be from,

The addition of Klye-fire. And some times the more firings the more they go crazy. I do my best not to use this but I realize in some designs we need it. The last time I used Klyr-fire, a mixture of 1-20 parts distilled water was best. It help on a 3d surface but I could still see a few tiny bubbles.

Bubbles can come from sterling silver that has not been depleted properly. The more you fire the worse they get.

Specks usually come from old or deteriorating enamels. When you wash them  you see tiny white specks in the container. On your first few firing you will see some are white in your enamel, then continue  firing some look like beige-brown goo, and sometimes they turn into bubbles.

Patsy

Cracking In Your Enamels

There are several reasons enamels crack. The most common reason enamels crack is there is not enough counter enamel on the jewel. Counter enamel is enamel on the back side of the jewel. Your base metal expands as well as the enamel when heated, and contracts when cooled. Without enamel on both sides of your base metal one side is going to expand more causing the opposite side to crack. If enamel is placed evenly on both sides of the metal you can eliminate this cracking. Sometimes this happens as it is cooling, when this happens there is very little enamel on the back. But I have seen the enamel crack years later when the enamel was not even on both sides of the base metal.

In some cases you can also dome a piece of metal and use less counter enamel as in a bead. But if you plan to put a thick layer of enamel on the front of the metal you then need more counter to avoid cracking.

Another reason enamels crack is if you use a hard firing enamel next to a low firing enamel. Hard firing enamels take longer to fire, and low firing enamels take less time to fire. Great reason the make test plates and see when each enamel melts first when they are all fired at the same time on the same plate. You can see on my test plate dot #4 is still grainy while the others are smooth. So #4 is a harder firing enamel and if placed next to #5 and you fired it long enough that both enamels were smooth in time the jewel will crack.

Cracking takes place in leaded enamels as well as unleaded enamels. Unleaded enamels are harder firing enamels than leaded enamels so if you combine them on the same jewel you can experience cracking. If you need to use them together use the unleaded first then layers of leaded to avoid cracking.

Are Your Reds Turning the Color of Mud?

Many enamelist have difficulty using warm colors. There are a couple of things that help.

First start with a hard firing flux. Flux is the base coat, it is like a primer used in painting.  It keeps the enamel away from the metal, as many are not compatible  with the metals we use to enamel on. The hardest leaded enamel for silver is Bovano’s #3. For Gold it is #2 And for copper is # 1

Bovano flux #3 also has a blue base tint that does not turn yellow. I have noticed in some manufactures flux for silver, if accidentally fired too high will turn yellow. With a hard fire enamel flux the warm colors are less likely to come in contact with the base of fine silver, gold, copper or sterling silver. When you are firing too long or too high the base gets hot = the fine silver and holds the heat. Then the flux gets liquid and the color layer you are firing mingles with the flux coat and eventually comes in contact with the fine silver =  a phlegmy looking yellowy brown= burnt enamels. So if you fire a bit lower temp, the flux will not get  liquid as you only need to melt the top layer of color. Your color enamels are  lower firing enamels =melts faster than your flux. So you need to choose the temperature and firing time just enough to melt the last layer you have applied.

In the technique, you will also know you are over firing, if your enamels are climbing up the walls of your cloison wires. And think about that. If your enamel is climbing up the wires that means you have less flux at the base. So now your warm color is closer to touching the fine silver and burning.

I only want to fire my warm colors a couple of times. With too many firings they burn out and get dull.  To help with this I  use the flux in the cells of the warm colors each time I fill the cells of my cool colors until it is at my last several layers. Also just in case I crack the piece in setting or it was dropped or damaged in the future I will have the opportunity to re-fire the jewel without my colors burning out.

There are some warm colors that have ash or blue bases and will not burn as easily.

If you do test plates you can see this, such as Ninomiya H24 and N26, yellows with ash bases. Oranges also, look at the test and you can see it has an ash base, like Ninomiya N21. It is not as bright of an orange but if you put N24 first then the N21 this brightens your orange and you will not have to worry about burning.

You really have to do the test plates and analyze the colors. On my pink color plate with 14 colors I can see some have a yellow base and some have a blue base. Use the blue base first then the yellow base one to get a brighter color, in the same color family. Do color plates and use all your warm colors, one of all reds and one of all yellows, and fire several times to see which of the reds and which of the yellows burn first. Then you really know which can handle more firings. It takes time but when it is all over you will be very confident of the end result.

 

 

 

 

 

Fluxes for Enameling, Firing Temperatures, and Color Charts

Fluxes for transparent and medium firing enameling. Firing time varies on the size of your jewel. I work small and like to start around a min and go up in seconds. Just a quick peak in the kiln at eye level you can see if the enamel has fused.

 

What is flux? it could be thought of as primer when you are painting a wall, or gesso on and oil canvas. It is a base coat of enamel that allows enamels of a wide range of physical properties to be use in this technique and not burn.

Copper

Fire at 1450 and up to 1550 degrees

Thompson’s Unleaded 2030 Flux. Here is a link to Thompson’s Color Chart of Opaques for Copper

Thompson’s Color Chart of Transparents for Copper

Ninomiya’s   Leaded L11  Flux   Here is a link to  Enamel Works Color Chart of Opaques for Copper

Enamel Works Color Chart of Transparents for Copper

Enamel Works Color Chart of Opalescents for Copper

Bovano’s   Leaded #1 Flux   You can down load their color chart here,

Bovano’s Color Chart of Opals, Opaques, and Transparents for Copper

Fine Silver

I make enamel and cloisonne jewelry. And Fine Silver is my choice of metals. The weight of the jewel as well as the strength is a factor and in choosing the gauge of the fine silver. For pendants I prefer 20 gauge and for earrings 22 gauge.

Fire at 1425 – 1450 degrees

Thompson’s Non Leaded 2020 medium firing or 2040 for a hard firing fluxes. In my work I like a hard firing flux on my bases.   Here is a link to Thompson’s Color Chart of Opaques For Fine Silver

Thompson’s Color Chart of Transparents for Fine Silver

Ninomiya’s Leaded  N1 Flux                         Enamel Works Color Chart of Opaques for Fine Silver

Enamel Works Color Chart of Transparents for Fine Silver

Enamel Works Color Chart of Opalescents for Fine Silver

N3 = Leaded pre – washed flux

G 110    Leaded hard flux

Bovano’s     Leaded  #3 this is a hard flux with a blue base, this is my favorite flux on fine silver.

Bovano’s Color Chart of Opals, Opaques, and Transparents for Fine Silver

Sterling Silver

Thompson’s Non Leaded 2040 flux.    Thompson’s Color Chart of Opaques For Silver

Thompson’s Color Chart of Transparents for Silver

Ninomiya Leaded N1 or N3 Flux      Enamel Works Color Chart of Opaques for Silver

Enamel Works Color Chart of Transparents for Silver

Enamel Works Color Chart of Opalescents for Silver

Bovano’s #3   Leaded Flux, both of these are hard enamels and I think it is helpful in keeping the surface contamination down of the sterling silver away from the layers of enamels.

Bovano’s Color Chart of Opals, Opaques, and Transparents Silver

Gold

Fire at 1425 – 1450 degrees

Bovano Leaded #2 Flux and a link to, Bovano’s Color Chart of Opals, Opaques, and Transparents for Gold

Stainless Steel

Fire at 1250 Degrees – 4-8 min.

Low to Medium expansion Enamels     Thompson’s Color Chart of Opaques for Stainless Steel

Thompson’s Color Chart of Transparents for Stainless Steel

Finishing Fluxes

Ninomiya’s Leaded N4

Bovano’s  Leaded 619

Brass  Today is Gilded Metal

Today many are asking about enameling on brass. It needs to be gilded meatl, which means it has 5% zinc and no more to be successful, with 95% bronze. You can obtain this from Thompson’s Enamel and use their unleaded enamels used for copper as long as you have no more than three firings.

What are Enamels

History and Facts About Enamels

Art Enameling on Metals by H.H. Cunynghame  1906

Metals such as gold, silver, iron, copper and fine brass; copper with a small amount of tin, are capable of being enameled. But nickel, zinc, or common brass, which contains a mixture of copper and zinc are not capable of being enameled.  Mr. Cunynghame, first speaks of the art of enameling is simply melting glass on to the surfaces of various substances capable of adhering to it and also capable of withstanding the heat necessary to melt the glass and cause it to flow. Mr. Cunynghame, speaks of the common technology of producing Crockery, with is clays consisting of silicate of aluminia and magnesia, and forming it into shapes and firing it. After this process it is know as biscuit ware, and is hard and porous. At this point glass ground to an impalpable powder is mixed with water and the vessel dipped into the glass slurry, dried and fired to the melting point of the glass. In this respect the glass is called “glaze.” Very similar to our enameling and as well as the commercial applications of enamels or glass on other foundations such as iron= stoves and refrigerators or bathtubs. And don’t forget the use of enamels on signage.

Glass consist of sand and an alkali such as soda or potash, fused together with the addition of ingredients to produce color. He states the peculiar value here of lead. It gives the glass the remarkable ability to adhere to and run over the item being enameled and prevents it from cracking. He state it makes the glass more elastic and enhances its’ ability to withstand extreme temperature changes.  He also says that glass without lead is not suitable for enameling, as it will crack away from the metal. Of course today we have found a way to produce enamels without lead. The replacement for the major part is borax.

Glass is colored by melting it with the oxides of various metals. Oxide of tin makes it opaque white, iron gives it a sea green and yellow, cobalt a royal blue, and copper a turquoise blue. Manganese colors glass violet, silver and antimony yellow, and gold crimson. Also we have chromium, producing a fine shade of green; uranium, a fine yellow; and iridium, giving enamels the shades of steel gray and black.

Coefficient of thermal expansion is when the temperature of a substance changes. The energy that is stored in the intermolecular bonds between atoms changes. When the stored energy increases, so does the length of the molecular bonds. As a result, solids typically expand in response to heating and contract on cooling. This dimensional response to temperature change is express by its coefficient of thermal expansion. This is where many get lost.

In enameling you just need to match the expansion of your metal and your enamels. I use a harder firing enamel as a flux = base layer in the technique of cloisonne, , still in the family of medium expansion enamels but slightly harder.  Then continue with medium firing enamels just a bit softer. For the very simple reason, with repeated firings the base flux layer is harder to flow, and the medium temp enamels flow or fuse faster. If the base layer melted at the same temperature and time as the later layers it would be possible for your warm colors to get liquid enough to mingle down through the base flux and eventually touch the metal and burn. We are using medium firing enamels, they are for copper, sliver and gold metals, but a few are a little bit harder than others and these should be laid down first.

If you make test plates you will see this. Below I have a plate 1″ x 3″ and I put 15 color dots of washed enamel on the plate and fire it at 1425 degrees. Some dots are completely fused and some are still grainy. The grainy one is a harder firing enamel and takes more time to fuse.


Another point here to help in the technique of plique a jour, as well as in cloisonne, you do not want to put a harder firing enamel next to a softer firing enamel, again you will have cracking.  When cooling the less expansion enamel right next to the high expansion enamel do not mingle,  and separate= cracks.In this piece I made for Andre of Outkast, he wanted the cloison wires to be fine silver and different thicknesses. Which caused a lot of heat and of course with a pink nose against the fine silver cloison wires was trouble. But in my pallet of colors my pinks were not of the same firing hardness, once the cracking started, I had to remove them and test to get ones that were all the same to get the cracking to stop. And I am not talking about layering these colors I was gradating the colors next to each other. Things like this teach you but it would have been nicer to know ahead of the project.

When you get into plique a jour you will find it is also important to know your enamels melting points as in grouping or shading. When laying colors next to each other with no backing it is more obvious if the colors do not blend together. When the grains do not mingle and with out the back foundation as some expansion unity it is more likely to have cracking.

Happy enameling!

Color Plates and Understanding Expansion of Your Enamels

Color Plates

Color plates are very important. And yet so many choose not to do them. I know it takes time and you can get recommendations of colors from other artist, but if you have a direction in your work, by that I mean, a vision of your complete art form, and you want to get to that vision the practice of doing color plates can not only save you time and frustration but also end with the beautiful jewel you had visioned. As in rendering a water color of your visioned jewel can help you with your color choice, making a color plate to test how the colors work together can make you more successful in this medium.

This  is a color plate,

There is a lot of information on this plate, see what you can find. No matter if you are working in the technique of Cloisonne, Plique a Jour, Champleve, or sifting on colors of enamel, you should know the properties of the products you are working with.

1. This is my pink color plate. Some artist have just a few colors and mix two, to get a color shade in between them. I prefer to have separate colors, one reason I have mixed colors together and came out with a speckled effect, so I have a choice to set them next to each other to work in a color family and be able to go from light to dark.

Also there are problems here. And if you were to mix some of these together you will have cracking.

2. First, I notice the 4th enamel dot did not flow at the same temperature and time as the rest of the enamel dots. This means the expansion rate is different in the two enamels. The one that is grainy has a higher expansion rate, than the ones that are smooth.

You can layer enamels of different expansion rates with the higher on the bottom but if you put them side by side in a cell or on any enamel piece you will have cracking. The odd thing is it may not crack today or even next month, it could be in two years. Enamelist like to use the terms soft and hard enamels. Hard enamels on the bottom and soft enamels on top. Enamels that are hard are used on the bottom as it takes longer for this enamel to fuse and flow smooth. This also gives you a hard base that will not become liquid at the same time as the second and third layers of enamels you use to create colors. What does this mean? If you like warm colors and we all know warm colors burn. This can help you prevent that. The reason they burn is they come in contact with the metal. So ideally you want to keep them away from the base metal. And with a hard base = flux or several layers of a hard flux your warm colors will not penetrated to the lower levels and touch the base metal. This way the in the next layers softer enamels will fuse and flow before the harder base enamel becomes liquid= no burning. I recommend Bovano #3 for fine silver as it is harder than other fluxes I have tested.

3. The 7th color dot has a bit of yellow in the base color. What would this mean to the enamelist? Enamels have colors bases of yellow, ash or blue. When you line up your colors this way you can easily see which are which. If a color you have chosen for your design has a yellow base, you would want to add it as you last color layer as it will also have a tendency to burn.  Your enamels with a blue base or an ash base are safer. And yes you have yellows that have an ash base, or ones that are true yellow. = Test plates!

4. # 10 and #13 Are pinks with a blue base. These are less likely to burn that the yellow base ones, but will if allowed to come in contact with the metal. If you want a yellow pink just use the blue base ones first then the yellow.

These two images show problem with the soft enamel being used on the bottom and the harder enamel on top. When heated the soft enamel bubbles up and around the hard enamel.

Carving in the Enamel

Some thing you can do to enhance your work is to carve in the enamel. On this Nautilus Pendant I used white Askansas Stones to carve out the shape of the shell’s spiral.

Hi Jennifer,

Thank for the visit. I was not at the conference, but Merry-Lee Rae presented a lecture on cloisonne and used my images.

On carved enamels, yes I used a layer of flux and two layers of transparent red enamel. You can use a very fine diamond bit and arkansas stone bits. Afterward you should glass brush and or steam the piece to remove any trace of the stone and flash fire.

But as you know the layers are thin as transparent enamels need to be for clarity. And if you lay in the enamel in that small of a space it flows even. The chased flower petals had ridges and valleys. To enhance the visibility of this I carved in the top layer to follow this and expose the ridges more.

The Nautilus is also carved. This is posted in the topic Enamels, under Carving in Enamels. But this is a complete cloisonne piece, so the wires are at least .040″ high. And I actually over filled this, then carved the spiral of the shell into it.                            

Good luck, Patsy Croft

Cracking in the Enamel

Hi Patsy,

First of all, thanks for doing this blog; it’s obviously a big help to many people.

I’m relatively new to enamelling; I’ve done mostly flat pieces that have gone basically well. I just enameled a pair of earrings that developed serious cracks. To fabricate them, I cut two pieces of fine silver, textured them, domed them, and soldered on ear posts using IT solder. There’s no counter enamel… but I have a funny feeling that the square-ish shape, as well as how many layers of enamel (3), might have something to do with the cracking.

The cracks are forming in a circular form in the middle of the piece.

Thanks in advance,
DB

Hi DB,

You have to have the same number of counter layers as you have on the top. So now you can add the counter, and the cracks will go away! Quick edit, it also looks like you have higher enamel in the center than on the edges. This will add to the circular cracks.

Happy Enameling, Patsy

White Specks in Your Enamel

If you see white specks in your enamel, remove them. This is a sign of deterioration. Some times there is only a few and you can remove them before you place any enamel in your work. Sometime the enamel sits on the bottom and water will not penetrate the enamel at all. This it time to throw them away!

If you did not see this until the enamel is fired you can drill it out with a diamond bur and re-fire the piece before adding more enamel. This way you will not have a shadow where you removed the speck.

This is a real issue when using transparent enamels, an it comes from the enamels being left wet too long.

Leaded or Non Leaded

Here are some facts from Bell Helwig of Thompson’s Enamel and you can read the whole article here

www.glass-on-metal.com/pastart/enamel_differences.htm

The absence of a US manufacturer will not detour the enamelist, nor will the use of lead free vitreous enamel decrease the quality level of items produced.  The replacement of lead bearing with lead free vitreous enamel will reduce the problem of exposure to lead due to sloppy hygiene and careless work procedures for those using lead free material, but if hygiene and work procedures are not also improved, some other toxic material will probably take its place.  Only the individual can improve his or her work habits and so to speak, clean up their act.

As to the specific differences between lead bearing and lead free, their advantages will be listed first.  This listing will compare those lead bearing enamels that were produced by Thompson Enamel with the lead free enamel produced by the same company.  This comparison does not include or preclude similarities for lead bearing materials produced by foreign manufacture.  Such a comparison would probably have an equal number of similar facts among the more common types and colors of vitreous enamel.  These differences must be stated in generalizations because no two enamels are alike, unless they are from the same batch.  Also, for example, a transparent red made from gold and a transparent red made from cadmium selenium, while both transparent and red and vitreous will always be considerably different under all conditions whether they contain lead or not.

LEAD FREE VITREOUS ENAMEL ADVANTAGES Lead free will by volume weigh less
     Lead free will be more acid resistant.
     Lead free may be ever so slightly harder (scratch ability).
     Lead free may absorb more copper oxide from the metal surface.
     Lead free may have a larger coefficient of thermal expansion.
     Lead free will have less water solubility.
     Lead free will have a slightly higher softening temperature.
     Lead free opaques will have less color variation due to different firing time/temperature relationship.

LEAD FREE AND LEAD BEARING EQUALITIES Index of refraction.
     Workability.

LEAD BEARING ADVANTAGES Lead bearing has a slightly decreased skin texture.
     Lead bearing currently has a greater color selection.
     Lead bearing has lead arsenate opal colors.

Opinions of My Own

I have been enameling for most of 20 years and using leaded enamels. The first 10 I wore a respirator and had my blood level checked yearly for lead. After the first 10 this got really old and I stopped wearing the respirator. I still have my blood level checked and had no signs of lead. I do not sift, I wash and wet pack. I do my sanding and  polishing under running water. And as an enamelist I keep things clean.

I use Bovano Leaded Enamels and Ninimiya Leaded Enamels. I can not replace the blues and greens of all ranges in the Bovano Enamels. And the Minoniya to me are softer enamels. They tend to blend very well. When an enamel is a lower fire enamel the molecules mingle easier. I find hard firing enamels do not. I really noticed this lately as I have been more involved with Plique a Jour. I can see when I finish the grain of glass in my blues are not mingling. So it is not as clear of a transition.

Patsy


Enamels and Getting Started

Patsy

I am brand new to enameling and it is like being in the Land of Oz. I look at the catalogs and just get lost. There are opaques and transparent and leaded and unleaded and oh yea the grain size stuff. So now that I am sitting here with couple of hundred of dollars on my list I still can’t find the yellow brick road. Can you give me a good starting point on colors and should I grind my own or buy them ground?

Hey Karen,
Welcome to the magical world of enameling. First you need to decide what style of enameling you enjoy. I started with cloisonne as I saw a piece at an art show and fell in love with the colors, clarity and depth. I also love to draw and this was a place I could use my drawings. Then there are books and my favorite is Enamels, Enameling, Enamelists – Glenice L. Matthews. It has good chapters on all the styles and is simple enough without being overwhelming to get you started.

Once you have decided your style of enameling get your metal= which I recommend fine silver for a beginner. It is easier to work with and less frustrating until you get some enameling time in. Then explore other metals. But if you want the look  of Fine Silver and need to keep the cost down you can put Fine Silver foil over the copper. You need flux on the copper sheet, I use my Bovano #3 even thought it is recommended for silver and counter enamel on the back, I add Klyre Fire to the counter enamel ( it is like a thin glue product enameler use) and fire the piece.  This way I can fire once and have the two side complete with enamel on both sides. It eliminates all the copper oxide in your kiln. Then you add fine silver foil to the front, fire it and add flux again to the front foil side, and fire before you start your colors.

Leaded or unleaded, it is up to you. When I started it was all leaded, no choice. So it was too much of a investment to change over. And after years of enameling you have favorites that you know and can count on. I would recommend Enamel Works Supply. For the simple reason you can keep it simple! Call Coral 206-525-9271 she is in Seattle. First look at her color chart online http://www.enamelworksupply.com. You can talk with her. Tell her you are a beginner and want a sample size of your choice of colors. Or she will put together a sample of the most popular colors for you. These are leaded enamels but it less confusing this way. I found Thompson’s catalog in the beginning was overwhelming. So many kinds of enamel and what does what. As I matured in enameling it is great the have all these options, but try to start simple. And grinding your own enamels as a beginner, personally I would keep the investment down and start enameling, buy them ready to go. But don’t forget to wash them!And warm colors want to burn, so as a beginning you might want select a pallet of cool colors. It helps the get going and keep the frustration down!

Oh yes, wash the enamels, first as they are prepared they can pick up trash. Use distilled water and in a small cup, add a teaspoon of ground enamel and fill the cup with the distilled water . After a few seconds pour out the water. Not in your sink but in a bucket. If you are using opaques one rinse is great. I rinse about 8 times, till I see no cloudiness. Some say this is excessive but everyone has an opinion. In opaques you do not need to see through them as in transparent enamels. And I find I get very clear transparent enamels this way. If you are sifting the enamels you can wash as you like, place them on aluminium foil and place in the oven to dry at 200. Store them dry.

You can get started with a trinket kiln, if you are interested in the jewelry size work. No need for a large kiln and a lot of expense. You can now find these at most suppliers.

And go to the Enamelist Society and look for classes in your area. Enameling is very popular and many classes are being offered around the country.

Hope this helps, Happy Enameling! Patsy

Keeping Things Clean

I read everything I can find on enameling. And last year I found a book written in the late 1800’s. There was a chapter on keeping the studio and kiln clean. I was happy to see this as I have heard many many times how anal enamelist are.

One thing most enamelist do not like is to get oxides in their fired enamel piece. It can cause cracking and bubbles. So the best way is to keep your kiln and trivets free of these oxides. The oxidation builds up on your trivets from use. So you need to wipe them off from time to time.

I use a blow dryer every few firings and blow out the kiln. Also the enamel can building up on your trivet, you can scrap it off and add some jeweler’s rouge to prevent this. This jewelers rouge is also what you want to put on the iron if you needed to flatten you work that is warping.

I use distilled water to wash my enamels. And I look prior to using the washed enamels for spots of deterioration. These look like small white spots. And when fired will remain white spots. If you see them and pull them out usually you are okay. But as you continue to work and notice the enamels are floating on the surface, you may have to take further action.

I had a lot of trouble a couple of years ago with enameling going bad. You can throw them away and reorder. You can re-wash them all along way while using the wet enamel. To remove the floaties. This mold like substance grows on wet enamels. So they may not show up in the beginning but hours later while sitting wet. You can rinse them with nitric and water. But not your reds. One problem that arises from this is it hardens the enamel. Meaning it is now a higher fire or longer fire enamel. Which can be used to advantage if you need it.

Happy Enamels!

Patsy

Those Tiny Bubbles

Hi Patsy

I just took a look at your website and I think its an incredible idea for you! On the jewelry front, I have managed to make a very pretty (for my inexperience) and large pendant with a turtle, fish and starfish. For the past 2 weeks I have been creating a VERY large pelican pendant. I thought it came out o.k. but, every time I fire it now I see tiny air bubbles. I did use silver foil on copper and I must have had some air trapped in it. I’ll take some photos and send them in so you can give examples of what NOT to do.

Take care!!!                  

Wendy

 

Thanks Wendy,

Your work looks great! Larger is better, gives you room to gradate colors. Your enamels are nice and shinny, as well as the clarity of the transparents.

You mentioned the bubbles, after 20 years I just read that the tiny bubbles are from underfiring. It is nice when you are not sure, as there are so many, many things that go on in the Cloisonne, art of enameling, that some one before has it documented.

Millenet states in his book, “Enamelling on Metal” from 1927

“ A few words of advice may not be out of place here. We have already said, and we repeat with emphasis, that it is essential that the furnace should be at its maximum heat at the moment of firing: and every enameller should take this axiom to heart: a short firing in a brisk heat.”

With winter here and we lose a lot of heat opening and closing the door, checking or replacing. Just one opening my heat will drop several hundred degrees. These tiny bubbles can be in one layer, just the one that was underfired. I am not saying fire at your kilns max. Our kilns are very different then 85 years ago. You have to experiment and find what temperature works best for you. The fun of enameling! Remember the one that was too hot and the base color bubbled up around the design.
I have one of those in my trunk!

Thanks for sharing, Patsy