Thick Metal Thin Enamel

A tip credited to Valeri Timofeev .

“thick metal = thin enamel, thin metal = thick enamel” This means if you are enameling say cloisonne, you can get pretty thick enamels on the metal plate of your choice, as long as you counter the same thickness. I have enameled to a mm in thickness on 20 ga metal= thin metal. But if you have 16 ga  metal and want to enamel on it, you can do so with one layer of enamel and no counter.

Here is cloisonne enameling and the                        

enamels are approximately 1mm in depth.

And here on the left is thick metals of  16 ga with                                    one coat of flux and one color of red enamel.

Setting Your Enamels

That Rubber Stuff

Hi Patsy,

Hope your new year is turning out well and I hope you are having fun in the studio.

I was wondering if you could tell me what that stuff was you use as a cushion when you set your enamel pieces.  You used it under the enameled element so the enamel would not break if the setting was hit with a hard object.  It was some sort of plastic cushion.  I hope I’m making sense.  I would really appreciate this tip.

thanks a lot Patsy!  Hope to see you again some time

-Tara Turner

Hey Tara,                                                        

Hope you also are busy enameling!

I do not mind at all,

The rubber backing is called Tuff Break and Fred Woell sells it. The last I ordered his number was 207-348-5267.  I like it for several reasons. Not only does the rubber add to protect the counter enamel while setting, it also gives the enamel piece a cushion during setting which help me not crack the piece during this process,  and it take care of that tinny sound of the enamel against the metal once the piece is complete.

Many enamelist use glues or a piece of plastic behind the enameled piece and I feel this is a more professional element of the whole jewel.

I will be back to Mendocino in July, Come join the class!

Patsy Croft

Cracking Enamels While Setting

Dear Patsy,

I found your site while doing a search on orchid.
I am in some sort of trouble with mounting an enamel piece (a pendant) to a setting. I do not know what to do.
So, this is the problem: I made my enamel piece, then I made a bezel to go around it; I soldered the bezel to a sheet and pierced out the back, but leaving a rim as I wanted to set the enamel from behind. I then saw out prongs in the bezel – most of the bezel will disappear – and then I set the piece in the setting and push the prongs down at the back of the enamelled piece. That’s where it goes wrong. I ruinded two pieces today.
Could you please help? I think that mounting enamels is really difficult.

Kind regards and thank you for reading,

Alicia

Hi Alicia,

I would be happy to help. And it should not be hard. But a photo would help me understand better how you are going about this. Can you upload as many photos as it takes for me to see. And if you would include a phone number I will call at your convenience and walk you through this.

Are you using fine silver for the bezel? Did you sand and polish the girdle = the outside edge of the enamel piece?

How are you pushing over the bezel? I find it is best to have a bit of height to the enamel at the edge = a girdle just like setting a stone. If the enamel slopes down to meet the fine silver to a point around the edges, the fine silver that is under the enamel, is soft from many firings, it is very easy to crack.

Happy Enameling, Patsy

Another thread suggests setting an enameled piece in a bezel for a more professional appearance. I am new to enameling, but am an experienced stone setting, so bezel setting is fine with me. However, two issues present a challenge. First, I am not used to setting a flat or near flat object. Second, I’ve cracked the enamel on several occasions when I’ve bezel set a disk. Any suggestions that you have to help me with these issues would be appreciated.

Jamie

If you makes a bezel-setting, make the “frame”  unconditionally from fine-silver and not thicker than 0,2 – 0,3 mm (0,01 –0,015 inch). The fine silver frame should only maximum 1 mm (0,04 inch) higher than the rim of the metal/enamel surface. File with a carborundum- or diamond file  the edging of the enameled workpiece in an angle of about 60-70 degree. Press the frame in several steps over the enamel.

I use 90 degree angle, but I think either can work.

All that has been said should help you and add this,  be sure you create a girdle on the edge of the enamel piece. On the girdle you want to see some counter enamel, the base metal and some surface enamel. Hope this makes since.

See  if you can see what I mean about a girdle. If the enamel comes down to a very thin layer at the edge of the fine silver or copper, which ever you are using, with the metal being so annealed it is very easy to crack. Here I have to sand down the top just a bit before setting. But my girdle is very thick. Also, the rubber stuff would help you. When you are setting it allows the enameled piece to go down when you are burnishing the bezel over it. Then as you release it raise back up. You can read about where to purchased it below.

Good luck!

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

Stone Setting in Enamels

Happy New Year Patsy- I will definitely pre enroll for the class- love the idea of the website!! Am currently working on a pair of earrings set with tiny (3mm) sapphires. I decided to wing it and go ahead & set the stones in a 24k thin bezel on top of gold foil and an initial coat of B3. So far they have not cracked or changed color. Any other tips that you could email me re: stone setting in enamel would be so appreciated.
Thank you so much! Karen

Karen,

I would love to see photos, I have fired sapphires, good choice, and did not have any problems. You can do all the enameling and set them before the last firing, or after you have polished the piece. I usually put stones in the kiln at 1400 degrees to see if it will take the heat, small ones = 1 mm just until they crack, I am not out too much $. When we get together I will show you how to set a stone that will not take the heat after all the firing. Good to hear you went for it.

Dear Patsy- thanks so much for the fast and valuable advice. I was worried about the empty bezel warping- that is why I set the stones so early on in the enamelling process. Will cross my fingers & hope the stones remain O.K. Will send pictures when my technological situation improves. Again, thank you!! Karen

Karen,
I have only seen the wire work warp when there is enamel on the inside of in a small space, and no enamel on the outside of the wire work, here the wires will pull in. So leaving it open or putting the stone in will be fine. If you send photos about the work as you are working on it, I think this will be interesting to others.
Thanks for sharing!

TRANSFERRING YOUR DESIGNS

TRANSFERRING YOUR DESIGNS

After you have drawn your image on paper, it is sometimes difficult to transfer this image to the base of Fine Silver. A couple of things that might help you, after you have fired the flux coat on the Fine Silver base or any metal you are enameling, is to use either a Stabilo pencil or Spot Pens (made for black and white photography retouching). You can sketch out the design on the fired flux enamel coat with either of these, and place your cloisonne wires or add enamels accordingly.

The lines of both will disappear in the first firing and not effect your enamels.

Repairing Cloisonne Enamels= Bubbles

I received a piece of cloisonne this week broken and wanted to share the process of how I repair cloisonne enamel jewelry. The piece was dropped and the enamel had completely separated from the fine silver base. Here in the photo, the broken piece is sitting on a new sheet of fine silver, that has one layer of flux fired on its front, and four layers of counter enamel fired on the back of the new base. I filled the backside of the enamel piece with a very thin coat of flux, hoping this would give it a solid bond to the base when fired. There were some cavities on the back of the broken enamel piece from the separation of the base, here I added a bit more flux, hoping to keep the enamel from sinking or forming bubbles. Next, the piece was fired in a kiln at 1400 degrees. You can see in the photo the base silver is larger than the broken enamel piece. Once it was fired and the broken enamel piece fused to the base, I could clean the edges of the enamel piece that was discolored. It was too fragile to attempt this prior to attaching it to the base. I used a diamond ball bur to clean around the edges.

Repair Cloisonne Enamel Jewelry

The holes in the enamel piece are where bubbles did form. I needed to remove these to prevent the piece from cracking in the future. A diamond ball bur was used again, to bur through the enamel and open the bubbles. The right hole is not burred out completely. I wanted you to see what to expect as you are drilling. This is a small pinhole which will open into the whole bubble as you proceed.  The left bubbles have been opened completely, which is necessary to allow the enamel to flow smoothly into the opening when repairing cloisonne enamel or any enamel jewelry.

Repairing Enamel Jewelry

 

In the third photo, you can see how smoothly the enamel flowed into the openings. Even though the enamel is lower than the cloison wires, which you would expect, I have a choice to fill with matching color, or sand down the high spots.

Repair Cloisonne Enamel

Repairing Enamel Jewels

One very important point is to fire the enamel piece you have used a diamond bur on before adding new enamel. If you add enamels to the burred area, then fire, you will have shadows in the finished enamel piece. I have also seen burnish marks in the enamels after drilling out the bubble and have concluded it can from the diamonds being worn off the bur. In this case, get a new diamond bur and go over the surface area to remove the burnish marks. I have used Arkansas stones as well for repairs.

Repair Cloisonne Enamel Jewelry

All set and ready to go back to the owner!