Japanese Enamel Number System Made Simple
By Master Enamelist Merry-Lee Rae
Merry-Lee has explained here the numbering system of the leading manufactures of Japanese enamels..
Color numbers for Japanese enamels.
There are currently three manufacturers of Japanese enamels.. The numbering systems of each can be difficult to understand. We have behind us many years of numbering systems changing. Some due to formulas changing as laws prohibit the use of hazardous chemicals some, materials no longer being available.
Here Merry-Lee has cleared up the three major manufacture numbering systems for today’s enamelist.
Ninomiya is the most widely Japanese enamel known so I will start with it. The N series of transparents were formulated for work on silver. This does not necessarily mean that they are not silver reactive. It just means that they look pretty on silver. They are N plus a one or two digit number.
The L series of transparents are formulated for copper. They include most of the deeper shades as they work well over copper. They are L plus a two digit number. In their opaques, they also have L series, copper formulated and designated by L plus a three digit number. There are also Opaques in the B series which also have three digit numbers. I can theorize that they are formulated for silver but once again there are colors that are silver sensitive.
Their Opals ( which technically are not true opalescent but rather semi transparent or translucent. They are not tricky to use and are very straight forward) all begin with NG and are followed by three digits.
The semi-Opaques all begin with P and are followed by three digits.
In addition there are a few orphans, I am not sure why but include SL5, ND65, ND66, and two others but I am drawing a blank. All transparent. Ninomiya simplified their Lettering system 10-15 years ago. At the time there were some H transparents which were changed to N. Example N13 used to be H13. There were some LT transparents that became L for example LT61 is now L61. Oh yes- there is one N Opaque. N2 opaque white. They currently have no plans to confuse us further by changing their numbering systems.
Unfortunately some distributors change the numbers to make them proprietary. Gah!
Nihon Shippo Japanese enamel has a transparent series G formulated for silver. (Plus three digits) Unlike the other manufacturers of enamels, many of the G pinks and reds are silver compatible. Many of the G series have three different versions of the same color. They standardize those variations with a suffix of A being the lightest, no suffix being Medium and C suffix being the darkest. Let’s call them color families. As an example G701A is super light pink, G701 is light pink and G701C is a slightly darker pink.
Nihon Shippo has copper formulated transparents also. They use no letter. Most are three digits, starting with a 1. Once again they have color families. For example- 109 is a deep orange, 109A is a medium orange and 1090 is a peach or pastel orange. Carrie, who is the product manager at Enamel Art Supply thinks that the 0 (zero) on the end of 1090 is probably an O (oh) and so you will see her writing 1090 with a slash through the second O. Or 109O if you can see the difference. That way all three are 109 but two have a suffix.
Are you guys still reading? Maybe someone should put this in a place where I can find it again!
Thought I’d better post that before I lost it. Nihon Shippo also make Opaques. They are mostly 2 digit numbers. They also make semi-Opaques which are three digits starting with a 2.
On to Hirosawa Japanese enamel. They make a series of transparents formulated for silver that begin with S-. Truthfully Hirosawa calls them HS- but at Enamel Art Supply, we took off that H to try to make them less confusing. They also have color families. For example S-9 is a medium grey. That family includes S-9AAA, S-9AA, S-9A, S-9, S-9B. S-9AAA is the lightest and S-9B is the darkest. Their second series of transparents are H- and two digits formulated for copper. There are two transparent ST that are spectacular silver friendly pink and red.
Hirosawa’s Opaques are H- and three digits.
Their translucent have a prefix of P or PS.
I think all three companies have used systems that work for them and probably developed over time to accommodate a changing product line. By the way, I use the silver and the copper formulas on both silver and copper.
This is very helpful and thank you Merry-lee for bringing all this info together for the world of enameling artist!
Foil Comparison for Enameling
Take a look at my notes on available foil comparison for enameling for those of you that love to enamel.
Thompson’s foil gives you the best dollar value. I have tried many over the years and some not show here have been so thin they were impossible for me to use.
Thick to thin:
Hauser Miller will roll 24k gold foil to .002 in very nice if you want to emboss the foil or use it on a top layer of the enamels.
Rio grand Tool Supplies is 23K gold and is very easy to use.
The 24 k foil listed here from Coral now being sold by Enamel Art Supply is in third place with thickness.
And Thompson’s Enamel Supply is the thinnest in this group. But also the best value for the dollar. *)
Have fun enameling, Patsy
In building a good foundation get to know your vitreous enamel flux.
Like any painting technique there are various primers for various jobs. In art of enameling we have quite a few fluxes but they produce various findings. You have heard of a car having the rust primer coat = flux, before the color coat, If you ever finish a beautiful wooden object you would have the sand and sealer = flux, before the varnish coat. And preparing metal to enamel is the same way. See how I have prepared an enamel flux test plate.
Enamels are reactive to metal, not all but 90% I would say. So flux coats are usually necessary, and there are several hardness of these fluxes from available manufactures.
Next, I know what does that matter? visit my thoughts, understand vitreous enamel flux, with my enamel flux test plates https://alohilanidesigns.com/vitreous-enamel-flux-comparison/
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.
Over heating the jewel causes this..
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
Foil for Enamelist
By Coral Shaffer
Foil for enamelist is something we all need to examine to be able to use them successfully in our jewels, and Coral has written a great article here for us!
Enameling foils, heavier than leaf but thinner than aluminum foil, are often used for special effects in enameling. Gold and silver foil are the most commonly used. Often they are used to add more brilliance to the transparent enamel overcoat or to prevent unfavorable metal/enamel reactions but can also be used for other design purposes.
Piercing: Many enamelists pierce the foil for enamelist with small pin holes in order to avoid blisters forming under the foil when it’s fired. Others don’t believe this is necessary with the thinner foils. I think the thicker Ginbari foil from Japan should be pierced. The easiest way to do this is to lay it on a sheet of 220 sandpaper, cover it with a piece of felt and roll a brayer or a rolling pin over it once or twice. Or fold the sandpaper in half, put the foil in between and tap with a rubber mallet. When you peel off the foil, hold it up to a light and you will be able to see light shining through the tiny holes. Gold foil is porous by nature and does not need to be pierced.
Annealing: Annealing heavy silver foil for enamelist makes it easier to work with especially if you need it to conform to a curved surface. Place it on a clean piece of mica or lava cloth. If you need to anneal more than one piece of foil at a time, sandwich them between pieces of mica or lava cloth. If the pieces of foil touch they might melt together when fired. Anneal at 600°F. to 1400°F. for a few minutes. You know that it is annealed if it drapes easily and doesn’t make a harsh rustling sound when you shake it.
Manipulation: There are many ways to use the foil enamelist. Often enamelists cut the foil to fit a cell in cloisonné but you can also cut it into more elaborate shapes and/or punch shapes out of it using paper punches. It is important to know that anytime you are manipulating foil you need to keep it between pieces of paper. Tracing paper works well because it is thin and you can see through it to see where the foil is placed. However thicker paper such as copy paper is better for punching. You can cut multiples of a shape at one time by layering the paper and foil. If you have difficulty keeping the layers from sliding, use paper clips, mini clips or staples in strategic locations outside of the design area to keep the layers in place. You can also decorate foil by painting or silk screening designs on it with overglaze painting enamels. The heavier Ginbari foil can even be embossed. You can use found materials like lace or leaf skeletons for the embossing plate as long as the depth of the object is no more than 1.5/64th of an inch. Or you can make your own embossing plate by bending 24 ga. round wire in the desired pattern and gluing it to a flat, non-porous platform. Or make the embossing plate by drawing a design on tooling foil, indenting the design lines and filing them with epoxy. Lay the ginbari foil over the raised line side of the embossing form, cover it with a piece of felt and roll over it with a rolling pin or brayer. Attach this to a fired enamel and fire until the enamel gets molten enough to rise up and fill the raised areas.
I save all my ginbari foil scraps to make foil “bits”. Put the ginbari foil in a blender with some water, turn the blender on high for a few seconds, pour the mixture out into a sieve, dry out the foil bits and separate them by size by shaking them through a series of shakers – like salt and pepper shakers. You can then shake them onto an enameled piece freehand or control the design outline by using a stencil. You can also wad up leftover bits of foil and melt them into balls with a torch.
Adhering: However you intend to use your foil you need to attach it to your enameled piece. Possible “adhesives” include Klyr-fire, an enameling oil, certain gold leaf sizes*, hairspray petroleum jelly, alcohol and plain water. Water has not worked for me – tiny pieces of foil tend to “take off” in the kiln and fly about. Klyr-fire or CMC can be used on a vertical surface (and with the foil “bits” described above) but I prefer to use a liquid that does not contain water such as a size or hairspray. For small cut outs I use petroleum jelly. Paint the enamel surface with a thin coat of your choice of “foil holding agent”, lift the foil on to your piece with a damp brush or damp cotton swab. If the holding agent dries out and you need to adjust the position of the foil, use a brush to slip a dab of it under a corner of the foil and coax the foil into place with the brush. After drying you can smooth the foil by covering the foil with a piece of wax paper and rolling your finger over the piece.
Firing: Fire at the temperature needed by the enamels underneath, usually 1400°F. – 1500°F. for 2 to 3 minutes. The lower temperature will result in more “crinkly” foil and the higher temperature in smoother looking foil. 23K gold foil and leaf turn darker when fired but this can be remedied by covering them with a transparent enamel and refiring. Enameling over silver and 23K foil will keep them from tarnishing.
Gold & Silver Leaf: Both gold leaf and silver leaf are very thin and difficult to manipulate. Patent Leaf is lightly attached to a paper sheet and is easier to use providing you use a sticky enough adhesive on your piece to dislodge the leaf from its backing. Leaf is best used in a whole sheet or cut into simple shapes between sheets of paper. Don’t try to touch it with your hands or it will stick to you! One way to attach leaf to a pre-enameled base is to paint the base with the appropriate adhesive and to lay the piece onto the leaf (rather than vice versa). If you need to handle the leaf, dust your fingers with baby powder first or use bamboo tweezers. Gold leaf will often pull apart when fired producing an interesting crackle effect. The silver leaf sometimes will almost disappear upon firing leaving a ghost like pattern. Overlap silver leaf if you would like a stronger effect. Palladium leaf can turn pretty shades of turquoise and purple when fired but it should not be covered with enamel or it will loose its patina. Leaf is so thin it does not need annealing or piercing.
Thank to Coral for this awesome information!