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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Continued Experiments in Enameling

I do the counter-enamel first, using a torch (it’s just easier).

Normally, I like to torch until the enamel is smooth (past the sugar stage, past the orange peel stage). But my logic for not taking it to the smooth stage for these counter-enamels was that if my piece is going into the kiln anyway… and this already enameled side is facing the hottest part of the kiln… then I don’t need to take the first enameling (flux… aka clear counter-enamel base coat) to the “smooth” stage. I can leave it somewhere between the sugar and orange peel stages since it’s going to get fired again when I put the piece into the kiln for the front enamel coats.

These are today’s test pieces after counter-enameling (you’re looking at the backs of the charms; they have one coat of flux on them).

You see more solder on some than others because I was trying out different ways of soldering.

These are the fronts of those same pieces. This is after firing (and after cooling). This is what the direct flame did to unprotected copper.

And the same fronts after I cleaned them (you have to clean the metal before you enamel it… and that includes cleaning between stages of enameling.

BTW, here are my handy (and well-labeled) mist bottles. I go through gallons of distilled water in my workshop. But you don’t want to get your distilled water mixed up with your KlyrFire.

So I took test pieces 1 and 2 and added some cloisonné wire as well as a couple balled up fine silver things. It was going to be three fine silver balls but one of them dropped into the Blu-Stic and sank to the bottom immediately.

I didn’t know some of my test pieces had pitted flux. These pieces are 17mm in diameter (about dime sized) and my close-up vision isn’t what it used to be. It wasn’t until I saw the photo close-up that I noticed the pitting. Otherwise I might have put another coat of flux on there.

I brushed the flux onto the fronts of my first two test pieces today and sifted it onto the second two.

But this brings me to another issue I need to solve. I am SO not mastering the use of KlyrFire. I realize I can’t work on flat pieces my whole life, but look at the result of brushed on KlyrFire and then sifting.

Sorry for the mega-sized photo, but I wanted you to see what it is I’m talking about. Why does it CLUMP up like snow? Bare patches, fat patches… I’d like to wonder if 80-mesh is just too fat, but it’s more likely USER error than materials error.

Anyway, here’s my first “wet-pack”.

I’m not sure how one is supposed to achieve a thin layer when wet-packing, but it’s definitely something I’ll have to practice.

And this is after firing that first layer of enamel.

And after firing with a second layer of enamel.

Here is test piece #2, after the first layer and then after the second layer as well as initial grinding down of the cloisonné wire.

I think I’m discovering that it’s infinitely easier to experiment with flat pieces rather than domed pieced. But I domed all my test pieces, so I’ll just forge ahead.

For my large piece (test piece 4), I really should have made a bigger nichrome holder, but I was impatient and just used the little one. The nichrome was touching the counter-enamel so stuck a bit (normally, the wire holder just touches the outer most edges of the piece, so no fusing of glass to nichrome wires).

And apparently I AM forced to build a new wire-holder thing in the middle of my enameling today because… duh!... the enamel that stuck to the wire when I fired my big piece… is still on the nichrome wire and thus sticking to other things (like my tweezers) when heated up.

I admit I’m not thrilled with the idea of heating nickel (which is what nichrome has in it), y’know what with the fumes and all. By that logic, however, maybe I’m not so thrilled with toasters either.

Anyway I had a thought/idea. When I torch enamel, I use a steel screen (see first photo). What if I took one of my torching screens and cut and shaped it as a trivet for my beehive? It’s worth a try.

Okay, cutting didn’t work, but freeing one of the wires from the mesh was all I needed.

Much sturdier (sorry, I didn’t get a picture… maybe next time).

This is as far as I got today. Tomorrow I’ll finishing enameling the second two test pieces and try to learn how to grind off the tops of the pieces so the cloisonné wires aren’t sticking out above the enamel and to clean off the bits of enamel that got onto my silver frames.

It doesn’t seem like much was accomplished, but that’s beginner’s enameling for you, I guess.

I’ll leave you with a photo I took the other night as the sun was setting and lighting up the sides of the Eucalyptus trees. It reminded me of a Maxfield Parrish painting so I grabbed my camera and voila!

1 comment:

  1. It is very interesting to see how you deal with wet packing. I think every enamelist find his/her own answer to the different problems.

    I stopped using Klyr Fire because too much of it upsets some enamels.

    IMHO when wet packing it is not necessary to make really thin layers. But fine grain enamels may look muddy/milky if layers are too thick. Use lower mesh enamels if you want to build thicker layers.