Enamel Apllication Chapter

This chapter discusses the ins and outs of the application of both regular (grain) enamel and liquid enamel. As painting enamels are considered a supplement, their application is discussed in the Supplements and Add-ons chapter. Regular enamel can be applied by a dry or wet application. The book discusses the traditional ways of sifting and wet packing. Judy Stone's project introduces a different way to apply wet enamel in a process she calls Wet-floating, which requires a sifting of a hard clear enamel before firing. Below is information that didn't make it into the book.

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Applying Enamel Using an Eye Dropper

The following has been brought to my attension: a video that shows an enamelist in China applying wet enamel using an eye dropper - very interesting.

Enamel Burnout

Normally one would want to apply enamel to show the beauty of its color. However, Rebekah Laskin uses a special method to apply enamel in a light vale directly on copper so that it burns out, leaving a beautiful satainy surface, which can then be enameled over or left as is. She usually does this when thickly stenciling using a transparent enamel. To do this, first sift your transparent through your stencil using a 100 mesh sifter so that it is fairly thick, then sift a light transparent enamel using a 200 mesh sifter in a light vale over this. Fire at 1500°F until the stenciled transparent is fully fused and cleared of all underneath oxides. The back, without counter enamel, will normally produce Held Firescale (used in Steve Artz's Trouch Fired Enamel project), which although is also black, has a different feel to it than the burned out enamel. On sample is below and see another sample here.

burnout enamel light vale
The top is Rebekah's sample using 2140Thompson Russet Brown transparent enamel using the burnout enamel method just described. The bottom image is the back with Held Firescale. This unfired piece by the author shows how light the vale of enamel was before firing.

Sift & Tap

The book has an LTT about the process of Sift & Tap (page 84), which describes how to apply a "glue" and sift enamel over it and then tap of what doesn't stick. The section on Printing Enamels on page 94 describes various methods on applying the "glue". Another name for Sift & Tap is what Jan Arthur Harrell calls Glitter And Glue.

Rebekah Laskin enamel

Sugar Coat on Each Layer

in addition to sometimes working with burned out enamel (see above), Rebekah Laskin also frequently uses a sugar coat on each layer of her work in order to keep her images crisp. To do this, she will cover each layer with a light vale of Thompson 2020 clear through a 200 mesh sifter and fire at normal temperature until the image just starts coming through the vale. To see how light the vale is, see the above image with the negative heart stencil. Here is a finished piece in which Rebekah used this technique.

The Finishing chapter of the book discusses a Sugar Finish on any enamel. But this method uses the sugar fire on each and every layer!

Mesh Size

The size mesh you use when wet-packing is important for the effect you want. Read more information about Mesh Sizes than is in the book here.That write up describes the mesh size to use for inhibiting the spread of an area that is wet-packed (-200 mesh or smaller). But note, if the area does spread more than you wished, you can use a small diamond burr on a flex-shaft to grind it away. Just be sure to follow normal procedure after grinding - clear away the dust and clean the piece with a glass brush.

SilkScreening with mica Powders

Jan Arthur Harrell does quite a few really good videos and is an excellent teacher. Here is one where she shows how to silkscreen using mica powders. She has more on Cool Tools. But if you start running this video and then stop it, you should see a panel of other videos she has. Enjoy!

Test Firing Applications

Perhaps you want to try out a new procedure or new supplement or whatever. it's important to be organized so you can remember what you did. I have the following suggestions.

  • When testing, I find it easier to use a square piece of metal - I clip the upper right hand corner so I can remember the orientation and all my photos are shown in the same direction.
  • Take good notes - in a notebook/ledger or just paper (that you can use to transpose your information to the computer so you never lose it!)
    • Start each Test with the following. By having these upfront, it will be easier for you to see what you wanted to accomplish and what you did accomplish.
      • Test# - description
        • where Test# is an identifier for the test - I suggest you use the date (yyyymmdd) with a dash number. ex: 20200808-1 for the 1st test you did on August 8, 2020. By putting the year first, all tests for that year will sort together and in order, assuming you put these on the computer. Or use whatever scheme fits your needs.
        • description - write a statement on what you were trying to accomplish.
      • Conclusions - leave a space for what you learned from testing and fill this in after you are done
      • Enamels used - list brand(s) and if lead bearing or lead free or this info can be in each layer's description.
    • For each layer/firing, write what you did. After the firing write what your feelings are, what you observed, anything odd, anything exciting, new tests you should consider, etc. Include things like: the brand of enamel; if it's Lead Bearing or Lead Free; color number and name; sifter size (80 mesh or whatever); thickness of layer (thin vs "normal" vs. thick); kiln temp; how long a firing (by minutes or watching temp or however you do it); and length of time the kiln has been on.
  • Take photos after your enamel application and before firing, and then again after firing when it's cool (so colors have gone back to normal). Do this for each firing. You can store the photos on your computer, giving them file names such as: Test#_LayerX_BeforeFiring or Test#P_LayerX_PostFiring, where X is the layer of the photo. In this way, all files for that test are kept together. Note: "Before" is used instead of "Pre" so that they will sort properly. Also note the capitalization of each word and no blanks. I use this construct all the time and find it easy to read the file name and don't have to think about putting in blanks or not. If you use the MS Word template below, change your photo size to 300 dpi and 150 pixel dimention for the width.
  • On your last firing, fire your Test# on the back of the piece by whatever method you choose. I like to use a gold or silver Sakura Gelly Roll metallic pen. Be sure to fire on the number rather than just write it with a sharpie, which will eventually rub off.
  • If you transcribe your testing session to the computer, give the file a name relating to this test. For example: Test#_ShorReference. By naming the notes and the photos with the Test number, you will keep all together. Ex: 20200808-1_HighFireLumps. Also consider having one folder called "Tests" and all your testing data is in one place.

My recommendation is to do all this until it's done. That is, don't wait a few days to finish your notes or coordinate your photos with the notes. You most likely will forget something like I have all the time. Be disiplined to finish any one test. Good luck!

Here is a MS Word template you can use for a computerized write up. You will be asked if you trust downloading this file - that is up to you, but I don't think I have any virus on my Mac computer.

Here is an example of what I did for a test using the template.

Thanks to Barbara Minor and Lydia Morrison for help with these notes.

Nebula by jean Van BrederodeNebula

Jean Van Brederode produces videos and has quite a few for sale on her website where she also sells enameling supplies and offers classes by some of the best contemporary enamelists; her studio is called "Charmed I'm Sure." I love the one called Nebula and it's something everyone can do! She provides clear instructions and shows how to do this with both torch and kiln firings. Following the Nebula link will show you other images she has done with special layering technique. BTW - she will produce videos for others - contact Jean to find out details.