Friday, May 13, 2011

Enameling

This semester, I've really gotten into enameling, which is the process of adding colored glass to metal. Most colored metal things in jewelry (that aren't stones) are enameled. Not all, but most. Enameling is REALLY fun. It feels kind of like playing with a really hot and slightly dangerous easy bake oven. It definitely has that instant gratification factor when you pull it out of the kiln and it looks perfect. Most things in the metal world are definitely NOT instant gratification. It takes a  lot of time and screw ups to get something to look the way you want, but with enameling it still takes work but it's definitely not as long of a journey.


Enamel starts as powder that comes in cute little jars. Theres transparent enamel and opaque enamel. The transparent is somewhat finicky but can give really interesting layered results. Opaques tend to be brighter, bolder fields of color.


That red thing is called a sifter, and it works like a tiny flour sifter. It allows you to distribute the enamel evenly over the surface of the metal, like dusting something with powdered sugar in a sifter.




Then the piece goes in this steel tripod, called a trivet. This has three points of contact to minimize sticking. With enamel, you HAVE to enamel both sides, otherwise its very weak and breaks easily. So the trivet keeps the back side from sticking (unless the trivet is dirty or you overheat the enamel and make it run all over the place). 


Getting ready to put it in the kiln (the blue thing). A kiln is a super hot oven that is used mainly in ceramics to make clay into hard, useable pottery, but we have a few uses for kilns in metalwork as well. I don't know if you can read the temperature gauge in the bottom right, but it reads 1500 degrees.


We use a funny fork looking thing to put the trivet in the kiln. It's SUPER hot. Enameling is somewhat of a balancing game. If the kiln is too hot, solder could melt and if you forget about it and leave it in there too long, the metal could even melt. But if it's not long enough, the enamel doesn't melt and stick!


My face felt like it was going to burn off taking this picture. Not the smartest thing I've ever done, but I think you get the idea how hot it is in there. It generally takes 2-3 minutes for the enamel to fuse to the metal, depending on the size of the piece.


After it comes out of the kiln, it begins to cool, so we take it off and put it on a steel block to help it cool faster. Anything that wasn't covered in enamel, like the sides of the metal, are now solid black from all the heat.


Here's a view of several samples I was working on at the same time. The orange-ish one on the left is the one I used in all these process pictures. So there you have it, crash course in enameling. Now when you see an enameled piece of jewelry in the store, you know more about how it was made!

I have several enameled pieces in my etsy store, like these:





4 comments:

  1. brilliant my dear! thanks so much for partying with whipperberry!!
    kisses

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  3. Oh my goodness- this is so cool! I'm so impressed right now!!

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