About Me

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I am an artist, wife and mother, paraeducator, yo-yo dieter, and small town country girl. I love singing in my church choir, computer time, beading and making jewelry. And I love enameling! There is something very magical about turning powder into smooth, shiny, and colorful glass.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Getting Started

OK, are you ready to start enameling? Get these items ready: kiln, copper blank, Penny Brite, nylon scrubbie, holding agent, small paintbrush, pages torn out from a glossy magazine, face mask, enamels, medium size sifter, stilts, metal mesh stand, large fork, oven mitt, timer, toothpick, plastic spoons, alundum stone, and a jar of pickle made from 3/4 cup vinegar and 2 tablespoons salt. The items in bold print are things you will probably have to buy at a store that sells enameling supplies or online. Turn on your kiln and set the temperature to 1450 degrees F if you have temperature controls.  While it's heating up you're going to clean!
      First, clean your work space very well. Dust and dirt have a way of getting into the enamels and ruining your piece. Put down some of the magazine pages. They work well for catching the excess enamel and returning it to it's container. Next clean your copper blank. It's easier to start with a blank that's not too small. Drill a hole in the top if you're planning on making a pendant. Use the Penny Brite and a nylon scrubbie and clean the copper on both sides thoroughly. When you rinse it off, check to see if the water sheets off the copper. If it beads up, clean it again. If there is any oil or dirt on the copper, the enamels won't stick. Hold it by the edges and place on a stilt, or a stack of pennies. Paint some holding agent over the whole piece making sure you get the edges. 
Put on your mask making sure it covers your mouth and nose. Using your plastic spoon, fill your sifter with the enamel. For this I'm using an opaque ivory. I'll talk about transparent enamels in another post. Starting on the edge, sift enamel on the copper by scraping your fingernail along the twisted handle of the sifter. Go around the edge, then into the middle. Make sure no copper is showing and put more on the edges than the middle. This is one of those things that takes some practice but is easy once you get the hang of it! Use the toothpick to clean out the hole. Now let it dry completely or the holding agent will bubble up in the kiln and enamel will fly everywhere. You can tell how impatient I am by looking at the mess inside my kiln!  Transfer the copper blank to another stilt which is placed on the wire mesh stand.  With the oven  mitt on your hand, use the long handled fork to put the stand into the kiln. Whether you're using a large or small kiln, it works best if the piece you're enameling is in the middle.
Set your timer for 2 1/2 -3 min. You want the enamel to be at the stage where it's melted but not completely smooth. This is called the orange peel stage. This prevents the enamel from getting burned in subsequent firings. It takes time to figure out your own kiln and different colors sometimes need longer to get to the orange peel stage. If yours is fired smooth, don't worry. Let the copper cool completely. Being the impatient person I am, I have "popped off" a lot of enamel by putting it in the pickle before it's cool enough.
When cool, put it in the pickle for a bit. This will help clean off the fire scale from the copper. Now scrub the back and edges with more Penny Brite. Now you have to enamel the back. This is called counter enameling. If you skip this step, the glass will not have equal tension on the front and back and will crack and your piece will warp. You must counter enamel!! You can use an enamel made especially for this. It works well but is not very attractive. It's  dark blue speckled like a very old stove. I use the same colors on the front and back so the tension remains even and the back of my pendants are attractive. Use the same process to counter enamel and clean the edges after it comes out of the pickle. Now is a good time to use the alundum stone to grind out any impurities in the glass and clean off any burned edges. Use the stone under water. Put a second coat of enamel on the front using the same process. Fire this coat a bit longer until it is almost shiny but not quite. Pickle and clean edges. Now your piece is ready for the next step which I will cover in the next blog. 

Wow, another long post and I'm honored you're reading it! I welcome any comments, questions, corrections, or additions.

1 comment:

  1. Popped in for a visit good luck on blogging, love your art glass!