Friday, December 30, 2011

Torch Enameling Week!

It's been a fun (sometimes frustrating) week! A friend bought several vials of enamels a few weeks back and now she was ready to experience torch firing. She wanted me to show her how to do it. My background with enameling has been VERY limited, but since I knew something, I was willing to share. Years ago I took a class with Suzanne Kustner, a great teacher and artist, at Creative Arts in Sierra Madre, CA. We used the enameling kiln in that class. Then not too long ago I had a jewelry class that included a wild torch firing session with Richard Salley. He had his own way of firing enamels, following his own rules, and it worked!

The first step in our week was to cut out copper pieces to use, limiting the size to an inch or so. This included filing, drilling holes, doming, cleaning -- that took care of the first day! But then it was time to start. I demonstrated how to apply the Klyr Fire, sprinkle on the first coat of enamel, then torch fire it. Here's a photo of my friend's pieces (she started off firing two pieces at a time!) with the funky set-up using a steel binding wire holder we made in Richard Salley's class. It works.

So after I demo'ed my first piece and it had been taken out of the pickle pot, I was explaining the process of always filing the edge of the piece clean before the next firing. I was standing there, filing, when I dropped my piece on the cement floor and, guess what, a piece of the enamel chipped off. ##@*!! I couldn't believe it. But I calmly sat and reapplied the second coat, adding a little more to the broken area. Then minutes later after I had refired the piece, I was standing in the same exact spot filing my piece, when, guess what? YES, I dropped it again and another piece of enamel chipped off. My cocktail hour almost started early that day, but since I was the Teacher, I was not going to give up or have a temper tantrum! My day continued in the same way -- nothing worked. However, my friend had an absolutely wonderful day! Here are the pieces she made -- WOW!

I took the next day off. Am happy to say I worked several hours yesterday experimenting again. This time I had no accidents. In fact I refired THAT piece again and it's one of the two bright ones on the top right. It was originally all red. I was experimenting with browns in the other pieces and like the results.

Then I wanted to try find something that looked like turquoise.

Years ago I made two bracelets using copper pennies that were dated before 1982. These were 95% copper (the later ones are 97.5% zinc and plated with a thin copper coating). The top bracelet has domed pennies soldered to flat textured sterling silver pieces. The bottom bracelet has domed pennies soldered to flat pennies.

I learned that the 95% copper pennies can also be enameled. So .... in addition to the copper pieces that were cut at the beginning of the week, I also drilled, domed and cleaned pennies. Here are pennies with tests of different colors. The backs are not enameled. Notice the penny in the middle -- it cracked when being domed.

It sure was fun, and I think there will be more to share next week!


  1. Question when soldering to the sterling silver or two copper coins together, did you use silver solder and a gas tourch OR a solder iron ?

    1. I used silver solder and torch for these project. But certainly wrapping the pieces with copper foil and using solder like in stained glass would work too! Thanks for reading my post. Let me know what you are making.