Enameling on Steel
The enamel easiest to use for enameling on steel is a liquid, called Ground Coat. This liquid enamel can be found on Thompson’s website and here is your direct link.
Read what they have to say about mixing, applying and firing of liquid enamel for enameling on steel.
Coating Large Steel Panels by Spraying – Outdoor Sculpture and Signs
Larger works can be made from coating low carbon steel panels for sculpture, architectural panels and signs. Most often a ground coat (GC-16) is applied as the first coat. The ground coat adheres well to the steel and other enamels applied as subsequent coats adhere well to the ground coat. Low carbon steel is required as other types of steel create too much fire scale for good adherence of the enamel. Low carbon steel has a carbon content of .02% to .04%. Thompson carries low carbon steel in various sizes.
Steel should be free of rust, grease or oil. Grease and oil can be burned off at a low temperature and heavy rust removed with emery paper. The entire surface of steel should be coated prior to the first fire. Although enamel powder can be sifted on, it is easier to use liquid form enamel for the first coat. Both sides can be coated by spraying or dipping and fired at the same time. Subsequent coats can be applied with normal techniques used on copper, silver, etc.
Mixing Instructions for Dry Powder:
For small items a simple way to mix is to place a half teaspoon of powder into a plastic spoon. Using an eye dropper add drops of water until the mixture is the consistency of ‘milk’. Apply to copper with a brush. Always make sure the powder and water have been stirred right before application as the glass falls out of suspension in the water very quickly.
For larger quantities mix 1/4 cup water to 5 oz. powder. To make a gallon of liquid, mix 14 lbs. of powder to 2 qts. of water. The water to powder ratio may be adjusted up or down if needed for your particular project. If the liquid dries out, you can grind it back smooth in a mortar and pestle to re-constitute.
Tips for Using Liquid Form for Enameling on Steel
- Before application, always mix well as the glass quickly falls out of suspension in the water.
- The water content is extremely important to the application firing result you get. Too little water and your result may look like cottage cheese. Too much water and the coating may fire dark with little color.
- Colors can be intermixed when in liquid form to create new shades of color.
- Left over liquid form enamel that dries out can be re-constituted and used again. Take dry material and place in a mortar and pestle to break down any dried clumps. Add water and use again.
Make sure enamel product is completely dry before firing. For small pieces (less than 2” in diameter) fire at 1450 degrees F. for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes. For larger items (up to 6” in diameter) fire at 1450 degrees F. for 2 to 3 minutes. For much larger work firing times and temperature should be determined for your specific project. Firing times and temperatures are meant as a guide only. You may need to adjust up or down for your own situation/equipment.
Yes, Two of the most important things of Enameling an artist needs to learn is:
1-Understand your available fluxes.
2-Test all your enamels.
I was young once, ha and still am at heart, and remember how anxious I was to make something beautiful. I also did not want to take the time to really understand what enamels were. So instead I jumped in and made plenty of messes.
There was only one book I could find and no classes or instructors in my area.
But today there are many books and many classes. Do yourself a favor and cut many years off you bad side of the journey. Study first.
Start here https://alohilanidesigns.com/vitreous-enamel-flux-comparison/ and read my site. I have shared here for 12 years.
And if you would enjoy a one on one class join me or contact me and I am happy to help you find a great instructor in your area.
Vitreous Enamel Flux Comparison with what is on the market today. This test is showing flux enamels for silver and transparent enamels.
Enamels are reactive to metal, not all but 90% I would say. So flux coats on metal before enameling is usually necessary, and there are several hardness of these fluxes.
First, view my flux comparison test plate 1.
Here you have Ninomiya 3 Shippo 110, Vintage Thompson 757, Hirosawa S-1S and Soyer 3. These are all vitreous enamel flux, from different manufactures.I have fired at 1450 for 1 minute and as you can see all the flux has fused except the Soyer 3.
With another firing for 1.5 minutes you can see flux comparison plate 2 Soyer has fused.
Right! so Soyer 3 is the hardest firing flux.
Ideally we want our flux, in enameling, to keep the reactive enamels from touching the metal surface. If this is the toughest barrier why not use it!
There are other good products here, and some might use these brands of enamel flux, but when it comes to reds which are usually the most reactive enamel colors, it is the best barrier.
I have spent most of my enameling career as a cloisonne jewelry artist, and making cells to hole enamel can create different challenges that other enamel techniques.
Here are a couple of diagrams to explain.
Flux Fired Correctly
Over heating the jewel causes this..
Flux Over Fired
Cells contain more heat than open surface techniques of enameling. When enamels are over fired they travel to the hottest point, up the walls of cloison wires, lowering your base layer of protection = thinning the flux at the center point and what do you get?…Enamels the color of MUD.
Keep in mind #3 is flux for silver from most brands of vitreous enamels, Happy Enameling
Unique Jewelry, Limoges Miniature Painted Enamels by Larissa Porgoretz uses the setting of enamels from the back. Here I have shared Larissa’s amazing work from my enamel jewel collection Her painting enamel technique is one of a kind.
Setting of Painting Enamel Jewels
Her choice to set from the back allows her to create beautiful metalwork on the front of the jewel. One of her trademarks.
And more on setting enamels https://alohilanidesigns.com/setting-cloisonne-enamels/
Here is a Champleve Butterfly, I wanted to share how I work with clients on custom request. and how I create champleve. enamel jewels.
Champleve Butterfly This is an image the client sent me to reference as the shape she was interested in.
Rendering I painted out with her choice of colors.
Jewels in the Technique of Champleve. Her choice of enamel color placement .
Beginning of a Butterfly Necklace.Beginning of a Butterfly Necklace.I like to add a little dome to the metal so the light sparkles through the enamels. Here a practice dome in copper.
Champleve Butterfly After I was happy with the shape of the slight dome in the copper I then domed the butterfly on 18k gold. Using copper to aid in the fusing technique of the gold, the sheet, body, frame and findings are all fused together. The framing around the wings act as a stop for the enamels.
Champleve Techniques for an Enamel Butterfly Pendant with fused on decorations in the wings.
Custom Champleve Butterfly Necklace
Enamels on Different Metals-What A Difference.
What a difference in the brilliance of the color. You can use foils to your advantage to get the enhanced color you are looking for. Gold foil makes colors have more yellow. Copper will warm colors up. Silver will make the true color and sparkle.
You can add foil anywhere in your jewel. If your base plate is copper add a small amount of silver foil to make a little sparkle with your favorite color of enamel.