I have had a few questions lately about torch enameling and wanted to compile the info in one place. I really enjoy torch enameling. It's a great way to add pops of color to your metal designs. Here are my recommendations and a simple outline of how I approach this technique.
Books: I recommend Discover Torch Enameling by my buddy Steven James. It's full of great techniques and instruction.
Free Online Instruction: Find a variety of Steven's Enameling Classes on Beaducation.com
Torch: I use the Bernzomatic Propane Torch. Enameling requires a lot of focused heat to melt the enamel quickly and efficiently. Find it at your local big box home supply store. Easy and safe to use.
Metal: You can enamel copper and fine silver pieces or silver pieces that have been depletion-gilded to bring the fine silver up to the surface. I like using 24-20 gauge metal.
Supplies: This is a very simplified list and you may wish to add more tools as you go along, but to start, you'll need a sampling of transparent and opaque powered enamels, adhesive, metal cleaner like Penny Brite, a tripod with mesh screen and a sifter. Wear a dust mask and wash your hands after working with enamel powder.
Tools: I have a Hydraulic Press from Potter USA to cut my own blanks and metal stamps and repoussé tools from Danny Wade at Ferro Valley Tools to make the "bump-out" shapes like the heart below.
Here are the steps for enameling a simple shape:
1. Use a ready made blank or cut your own. File the edges of the blank if needed. I annealed the shape after cutting it out. I used a repoussé stamp to add the 3D heart.
2. Pickle or use Penny Brite to clean the blank to remove fire scale. Only use pickle to remove fire scale after annealing. The acidic pickle will affect the surface of the enamel, causing it to loose shine, and in some cases pit the surface of the glass. I use Penny Brite when the piece is enameled.
3. If the back of the piece will show, or if the piece will have a thick layer of enameling on top, I will counter-enamel the back with a layer of black enamel. Fire to the orange peel stage, clean and then flip it over and enamel the top. I place my torch underneath the piece when I enamel, and since the counter enamel is black, I don't worry about damaging the enamel with the torch.
4. Tips to remember:
- Metal must be really, really clean so that the enamel will adhere to the metal surface.
- Firing a couple of thin layers of enamel are better than one layer of thick enamel. The first layer may shrink a bit from the edges, so after I fire the first layer, I clean the piece with Penny Brite to remove Fire Scale and then sift an additional layer of enamel, paying special attention to the edges.
- Any holes in blanks need to be punched before the piece is enameled, if you try and punch a hole after enameling the surface enamel will crack.
Good luck with your enameling experiments. Let me know how it goes!