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.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Enameled Beads

  This was the first time I tried to make beads so this blog post is certainly not a tutorial, but the process was fun and interesting so I wanted to write about it. I've wanted to make beads for a long time to add to my Etsy supplies shop, but I believed you needed to use liquid enamels or 60 mesh enamels and I didn't want to buy a whole new set of. I've seen some gorgeous torch fired enameled beads but I wanted to use my kiln. I envisioned smooth shiny beads in bright beautiful colors! Someone I was talking to about beads (and I'm sorry but I can't remember who) told me I could use my 80 mesh powdered enamels as long as I counter enameled the beads with some liquid enamel on the inside. I bought a bead rack, copper blank beads, and white liquid enamel and got ready to experiment!

First I scrubbed the beads with Penny Brite and while they were drying I mixed the enamel. There were a variety of mixing methods and complicated sounding stuff in the pamphlet so I picked the easiest. You make a well in the powder and fill it with water several times until the top looks wet, then you mix until the consistency of paint. Easy! Then, using an eyedropper, I put some wet enamel in the tiny hole of the bead and rolled it around in my hand hoping to cover the inside. Very messy! I wanted  the enamel to dry completely so I let it the beads sit overnight.
The liquid enamel can be covered and used again. In the future I'm going to experiment with the liquid enamel and see what other interesting effects I can get. When they were dry,I cleaned the white powder off a bead and slid it onto the mandrel. I covered the bead with the liquid adhesive using a small paintbrush. It was very awkward because the bead turned and I couldn't tell if it was covered. Then I sifted on my enamel. I found it worked best when I did the ends first and then the middle. The adhesive dripped a little and caused the powder to do some funny things.

the disaster
Then I placed the mandrel on top of the bead rack to dry. When dry, I fired my beads at 1460 degrees for about 4 minutes until the orange peel stage. Some of the beads had spots where the enamel didn't cover or flaked off and my red bead was a total disaster!!
The next beads I cleaned again with the Penny Brite and they were more successful. I put three coats of enamel on my beads before I got the smooth and shiny surface I was hoping for! I think next time I will increase the temperature of my kiln. It took a long time to fire the beads and the enamel got a little bumpy with some colors, as if it flowed a bit in the kiln. Another problem I had was the beads got stuck to the mandrel. I had to bend and twist and broke off some enamel near the holes. I read that you could use bead release or Scalex on the mandrel. I don't have Scalex but I do have some flux (the kind you use for soldering) so I'll try that on my next batch.  I also want to try some effects with different colors, transparents, and putting a coat of clear on first. I'm pretty happy with my beads!

My colorful finished beads!

1 comment:

  1. here is a cool site to follow and make a tool for dipping the beads into liquid enamel
    just use hanger wire works well


    I use my "fusion" bead release that I use for my lampwork beads
    I've made a whole wack of copper core beads etched and decorated

    also on the thompson site
    http://www.glass-on-metal.com/pastart/copperballs.htm I like their tool best

    Deb Read