WORKING WITH FOIL & LEAF
Enameling foils, heavier than leaf but thinner than aluminum foil, are often used for special effects in enameling. Gold and silver foil are the most commonly used. Often they are used to add more brilliance to the transparent enamel overcoat or to prevent unfavorable metal/enamel reactions but can also be used for other design purposes.
Piercing: Many enamelists pierce the foil with small pin holes in order to avoid blisters forming under the foil when it's fired. Others don't believe this is necessary with the thinner foils. I think the thicker Ginbari foil from Japan should be pierced. The easiest way to do this is to lay it on a sheet of 220 sandpaper, cover it with a piece of felt and roll a brayer or a rolling pin over it once or twice. Or fold the sandpaper in half, put the foil in between and tap with a rubber mallet. When you peel off the foil, hold it up to a light and you will be able to see light shining through the tiny holes. Gold foil is porous by nature and does not need to be pierced.
Annealing: Annealing heavy silver foil makes it easier to work with especially if you need it to conform to a curved surface. Place it on a clean piece of mica or lava cloth. If you need to anneal more than one piece of foil at a time, sandwich them between pieces of mica or lava cloth. If the pieces of foil touch they might melt together when fired. Anneal at 600°F. to 1400°F. for a few minutes. You know that it is annealed if it drapes easily and doesn't make a harsh rustling sound when you shake it.
Manipulation: There are many ways to use foil. Often enamelists cut the foil to fit a cell in cloisonné but you can also cut it into more elaborate shapes and/or punch shapes out of it using paper punches. It is important to know that anytime you are manipulating foil you need to keep it between pieces of paper. Tracing paper works well because it is thin and you can see through it to see where the foil is placed. However thicker paper such as copy paper is better for punching. You can cut multiples of a shape at one time by layering the paper and foil. If you have difficulty keeping the layers from sliding, use paper clips, mini clips or staples in strategic locations outside of the design area to keep the layers in place. You can also decorate foil by painting or silk screening designs on it with overglaze painting enamels. The heavier Ginbari foil can even be embossed. You can use found materials like lace or leaf skeletons for the embossing plate as long as the depth of the object is no more than 1.5/64th of an inch. Or you can make your own embossing plate by bending 24 ga. round wire in the desired pattern and gluing it to a flat, non-porous platform. Or make the embossing plate by drawing a design on tooling foil, indenting the design lines and filing them with epoxy. Lay the ginbari foil over the raised line side of the embossing form, cover it with a piece of felt and roll over it with a rolling pin or brayer. Attach this to a fired enamel and fire until the enamel gets molten enough to rise up and fill the raised areas.
I save all my ginbari foil scraps to make foil “bits”. Put the ginbari foil in a blender with some water, turn the blender on high for a few seconds, pour the mixture out into a sieve, dry out the foil bits and separate them by size by shaking them through a series of shakers - like salt and pepper shakers. You can then shake them onto an enameled piece freehand or control the design outline by using a stencil. You can also wad up leftover bits of foil and melt them into balls with a torch.
Adhering: However you intend to use your foil you need to attach it to your enameled piece. Possible "adhesives" include Klyr-fire, an enameling oil, certain gold leaf sizes*, hairspray petroleum jelly, alcohol and plain water. Water has not worked for me - tiny pieces of foil tend to "take off" in the kiln and fly about. Klyr-fire or CMC can be used on a vertical surface (and with the foil "bits" described above) but I prefer to use a liquid that does not contain water such as a size or hairspray. For small cut outs I use petroleum jelly. Paint the enamel surface with a thin coat of your choice of "foil holding agent", lift the foil on to your piece with a damp brush or damp cotton swab. If the holding agent dries out and you need to adjust the position of the foil, use a brush to slip a dab of it under a corner of the foil and coax the foil into place with the brush. After drying you can smooth the foil by covering the foil with a piece of wax paper and rolling your finger over the piece.
Firing: Fire at the temperature needed by the enamels underneath, usually 1400°F. - 1500°F. for 2 to 3 minutes. The lower temperature will result in more “crinkly” foil and the higher temperature in smoother looking foil. 23K gold foil and leaf turn darker when fired but this can be remedied by covering them with a transparent enamel and refiring. Enameling over silver and 23K foil will keep them from tarnishing.
Gold & Silver Leaf: Both gold leaf and silver leaf are very thin and difficult to manipulate. Patent Leaf is lightly attached to a paper sheet and is easier to use providing you use a sticky enough adhesive on your piece to dislodge the leaf from its backing. Leaf is best used in a whole sheet or cut into simple shapes between sheets of paper. Don't try to touch it with your hands or it will stick to you! One way to attach leaf to a pre-enameled base is to paint the base with the appropriate adhesive and to lay the piece onto the leaf (rather than vice versa). If you need to handle the leaf, dust your fingers with baby powder first or use bamboo tweezers. Gold leaf will often pull apart when fired producing an interesting crackle effect. The silver leaf sometimes will almost disappear upon firing leaving a ghost like pattern. Overlap silver leaf if you would like a stronger effect. Palladium leaf can turn pretty shades of turquoise and purple when fired but it should not be covered with enamel or it will loose its patina. Leaf is so thin it does not need annealing or piercing.
* Charbonnel gold leaf size available from Rio Grande Jewelry Supply works very well with both foil and leaf including “patent leaf”. Note: not all leaf size “works” correctly when fired.
MAKING FIRED ENAMEL SAMPLES
Samples are a time consuming but necessary part of enameling. Without them we are left guessing about enamel colors and firing characteristics. A small piece of flat metal is all that is needed to make samples of opaque colors. More sophisticated samples are helpful for transparents and opalescents. First decide in which ways you are most likely to use these colors. Perhaps you would apply them directly on the metal or over flux or over white or some other base color. Perhaps you like to use gold or silver foil. Transparents and opalescents fired directly over copper often need to be fired quite hot to rid them of the reddish oxide that forms. Enamels over silver and gold can be fired cooler. Therefore I like to make separate sample tiles for each metal.
Outlined below is one way to make a 2-compartment sample on copper, silver or gold:
A-1) Coat the lower half of a metal tile with an appropriate flux. Fire as hot as necessary to melt and clear the flux. Flux on copper will take temperatures around 1500°F. to clear. Flux on silver or gold will only require temperatures around 1350-1400°F. Pickle to remove the fire scale if necessary.
A-2) Counter enamel and fire. Pickle if necessary to remove fire scale. It’s a good idea to mark the number of the test enamel on the fired counter enamel with something that will hold up to the next firing(s) i.e. painting enamel or ceramic marker luster.
A-3) Cover the entire front of the tile with the transparent or opalescent enamel either wet packed or sifted, with the fines removed or not as you choose. Fire hot enough to clear the enamel. Abrade fire scale off the edges if necessary.
A-4) If you choose you can grind the sample and flash fire it again. Keep a record of the firing temperatures and any special characteristics of the enamel e.g. acid sensitivity.
Outlined below is one way to make a 2-compartment sample on silver or gold foil:
B-1) Undercoat the entire front of a copper tile with flux or white enamel. Fire. Pickle.
B-2) Counter enamel. Fire. Print the number of the enamel on the back.
B-3) Cut out a piece of gold or silver foil to fit the tile. Adhere it to the undercoat. (I like using “gold size” for this but some people use Klyr-fire or even straight water). Dry and fire.
B-4) Follow steps A-1, A-3 and A-4 above.
REMOVING ENAMEL FINES
The "fines" are the tiniest enamel particles. I call the grains smaller than 200 mesh "fines". Fines may cause your transparents to be cloudier and your opaques to have a mottled appearance and may even lead to pitting in the enamel. You should be the judge of whether you remove the fines or not. Fire a test of the enamel just as it comes from the jar. If you are happy with the result you need not remove the fines.
If you decide to remove the fines there are two ways to go about it. You can wash them out or sieve them out.
Washing: Put the enamel in a jar with a lid if there is quite a bit or in the bowl of a spoon if there is only a little. Add water and shake the jar or swirl the enamel in the spoon. Let the larger grains settle for a second or two and carefully pour off the cloudy water. I pour the cloudy water out through a coffee filter rather than down the drain. Continue washing until the water is clear. Only wash the amount of enamel that you think you will need that day. Enamels start to deteriorate once they are wet so don't let them stay damp for longer periods of time. If your enamel does start to deteriorate grinding it in a mortar and pestle will make it better but will not restore it completely.
Sieving: Use a sieve to "grade sift" your enamel. I use a 200 mesh sieve with caps on the top and the bottom. Keeping the enamel covered while you are shaking the sieve will help keep the enamel powder out of your body. Wear a mask and use ventilation to draw the enamel away from you if it is available. Use the enamel that stays in the sieve. The enamel grains that fall through the sieve are the "fines".
I use the washing method when I will be wet packing and the sieving method when I will be dry sifting.
If you want to make doubly sure that the fines are removed you can sieve the enamel first and then wash it.
In a future article I will give you some suggestions for using enamel fines.
Cloisonné wire is commericailly available in copper, silver and gold. Traditionally, cloisonné wire is thin, flat wire. However round wire and twisted wire have also been used. If you have trouble bending your wire into the desired shapes, anneal it. Copper and silver wires have a tendency to spring back to their original form after you have shaped them. Annealing will help control this.
To anneal copper wire: wrap it in a coil and anneal it on a piece of mica or a clean (glass free) firing rack in a kiln at a temperature between 700°F. and 1400°F. Remove it and quench it in cold water. Pickle it to remove the fire scale. Pull it between a piece of folded Scotch Brite™ under running water to remove all the pickle residue and fire scale. Dry it off with a towel.
To anneal fine silver wire: wrap it in a coil, tuck in the ends and put it on a piece of mica or a clean firing rack. Heat it in the kiln at a temperature between 575°F. and 1300°F. for a few minutes. Remove and air cool. Fine silver wire does not require pickling.
To anneal gold wire: 24k gold wire is soft and may not need to be annealed.
If you store your annealed wire wrapped around a spool it will be less likely to get tangled or kinked. If you need to straighten out a length of wire, hold it taut, one end in each hand and run it over the edge of a table or grasp each end with a pair of pliers and pull in opposite directions at once. At this point the wire is ready to be bent into the shapes desired.
Note: You may have better luck making straight line figures e.g. squares or right angles with un-annealed wire.
PREPARING METALS FOR ENAMELING
Preparation Of Copper & Tombac*
When buying copper and tombac, ask for types suitable for enameling. Soft, electrolytic copper is used by most enamelists. Transparent colors are more "true" on tombac but there is some concern that large objects are more apt to chip and that tombac can not be fired as many times as copper. However, I have had no trouble with jewelry sized pieces.
Dark transparent colors can be lightened by first applying a layer of flux on these 2 metals. "Warm" colored transparents most often require a flux (colorless transparent enamel) undercoat on copper because they will turn muddy directly on this metal. This undercoat is not usually necessary with tombac.
To prepare these metals for enameling, first anneal them at ≈ 1300° - 1400°F., water quench and flatten or dome the metal. Pickle to remove the firescale. Rinse in running water and make sure that water sheets rather than balls up on the surface. Burnish with a glass brush. The metal is now ready to enamel.
Some enamelists dip the metal into a "bright dip" if they plan to use transparent enamels. USE EXTREME CAUTION! Bright dip is a mixture of 36 Bé Nitric acid and .1- .2% common salt. Pickle the metal in this solution for a short time, just until it begins to turn yellow. Rinse and towel dry. Place the clean metal in the kiln and remove it when it starts to turn iridescent. Let it cool and apply enamel.
*Tombac is also known as gilding metal and copper alloy #210. You may find that it is a little harder to buff this metal.
The Preparation Of Fine Silver
Anneal fine silver at about 1250 - 1300°F., then cool. Brush it well under water with a bristle brush and polish with a glass brush.
NOTE: If the fine silver sheet has been soldered, it should be treated as sterling silver (see below).
The Preparatiion of Sterling Wilver
“Depletion gild” before enameling: Anneal sterling at about 1250 - 1300°F., then cool. Pickle it. Dip it into a soda solution. Rinse it. Then anneal it again while it is wet. Repeat this sequence until no more fire scale results from the annealing. Polish it with a glass brush and water and make sure that water sheets over the surface. Dry it.
Preparation Of 24K Gold
Anneal 24K at about 1075 - 1125°F. Cool. Brush the gold under water with a bristle brush and polish it with a glass brush.
NOTE: If the piece has been soldered it should be treated as a gold alloy (see below).
Preparation of Gold Alloys
“Depletion gild” before enameling: Anneal the alloy at about 1075 - 1125°F. Air cool. Pickle it in a bath of 1 part water : 1 part sulfuric acid : 1 part nitric acid. Dip the object in a soda solution and brush it. Heat it again while still wet and anneal it slightly. Repeat these steps three times for 22 - 20 Karat and 4 - 6 times for 18 - 14 Karat.
NOTE: 14 Karat is difficult to enamel. Burnishing before enameling is sometimes helpful.
INTRODUCTION TO ENAMELING - Coral Shaffer
There is no need to be intimidated by the prospect of enameling. Following are some basics that will help you understand the science involved and some of the procedures used when fusing glass to metal. I encourage you to witness the magic for yourself!
1. Forms and types: Vitreous (glass) enamel comes in the form of lump enamel, powder enamel, porcelain enamel or painting enamel. Lumps are chunks of enamel that will be ground into a powder with a mortar and pestle before they are applied. Powder is the form that most enamelists purchase. It is usually sold in an 80-mesh particle size, which means that most of the grains would pass through a screen that has 80 openings per linear inch. Both lump and powder are referred to as "jewelry enamel". Jewelry enamel "types" include transparent, translucent/opalescent, semi-opaque and opaque. Porcelain enamel is a combination of enamel, electrolytes, water and clay. This is the form of enamel used for refrigerators, stoves and bathtubs. Painting enamel (similar to china paint) is very finely ground enamel that is mixed with a water or oil medium and painted onto a fired enamel undercoat.
2. Compatibility: Vitreous enamels are made to “fit” certain metals. Fit has to do with the coefficient of expansion – the amount a material expands and contracts when it is heated and cooled. If an enamel did not fit, it would chip off of the metal underneath. Vitreous jewelry enamels are made to fit copper, silver and gold (although other substrates are possible).
3. Chemical reactions: Some metals “react” with some enamels when fired and this changes the color of the enamel. Sometimes this change is undesirable e.g. when a red transparent turns brown. How do you know when this will occur? Here are a few generalizations to serve as guidelines.
When enamel is fired onto high karat gold there are no chemical color changes. But because the metal is yellow it will visually influence transparent colors e.g. a blue transparent will appear greener over a gold background.
On copper and fine silver there are many possible chemical reactions. “Warm colored” transparent enamels - reds, oranges, yellows, pinks and sometimes purples – are especially prone to these reactions. In order to mitigate these reactions, it is possible to fire a layer of a non-reactive or less-reactive enamel on to the metal first. Usually the undercoat of choice for silver is a colorless transparent enamel called “flux”, not to be confused with soldering flux. But even with a flux undercoat, color changes might arise after several firings. Another possibility is to fire gold foil over a layer of fired enamel before adding warm colored enamels. Fortunately, there are some warm colored enamels that will keep their true color, even when fired directly onto fine silver. Copper however usually needs a flux or white undercoat with warm colored enamels. Cool colors are less likely to show a color change even without an undercoat. However other problems like air bubbles might occur. When you are beginning you will find it easier to use an undercoat under every color on copper.
4. Cracking: Glass and metal are very different materials. When they are fired together the glass bonds to the metal and when the piece cools, stresses are set up which can cause enamels to crack. You can help offset this by enameling on both the front and the back (or the outside and the inside) of the piece. The enamel on the reverse is called “counter enamel” and is usually applied with the dry sifting method (see below). If for some reason you cannot counter enamel, try using a thick piece of metal with a thin coat of enamel. It also helps if you dome 2-D pieces and if you use shapes like circles or squares (rather than elongated shapes).
5. "Cleaning" jewelry enamels: Enamel is not really dirty but enamelists use this term to mean removing the fine grains of enamel. Why do this? Enamel grains come in different sizes. Even though they are usually advertised as 80 mesh, it just means that most of the largest grains are 80-mesh. The smallest grains in this mixture may cause cloudiness and pitting. Not everyone removes these “fines". If you like the way the enamel looks "as is", use it that way. But if you do want to remove the fines they can be removed either by “washing” or by “sieving”. Porcelain enamels and painting enamels are never "cleaned".
To Wash an enamel put it in a small container, add distilled water, and stir it. Or put a lid on the container and shake it. Wait a few seconds and you will see the bigger grains settle to the bottom. Pour off the cloudy water (into a coffee filter so that it does not go down the drain). Repeat the washing until the water is clear. Or you can wash small amounts of enamel in the bowl of a plastic spoon. Write the color number on the handle. Add water, stir, and pour off the cloudy water as mentioned above. Try to wash only the enamel that you will be using that day. Enamel begins to deteriorate after it is wet.
To Sieve, you can pour dry enamel into a 200 mesh sieve and sift the fines out. If you sandwich the sieve between a cap on the top and a catch pan underneath, it will lessen the amount of enamel dust flying around. Whenever possible wear an appropriate particulate respirator and use ventilation during this process. When no more fines will sift out, use the grains that are LEFT in the container. The fines (the grains that sifted through) can often be used for counter enamel. Test a sample to see if you like the way it looks.
6. Preparing the metal: It is customary to remove oxides and grease from the metal before enameling. This can be done with abrasives such as sandpaper or with chemicals such as pickle. A safe and inexpensive pickle can be made by mixing salt and vinegar. As for many jewelry techniques, you want the water to sheet evenly over the metal surface. If the water balls up it means the metal is not yet clean. Copper also needs pickling to remove the fire scale after every firing. No fire scale forms on fine silver or high karat gold.
7. Applying the enamel: Jewelry enamels can be applied either by dry sifting or wet packing. Dry sifting is most often used when only one color of enamel is needed e.g. for counter-enamel or as an undercoat. Wet inlay is most often used when more colors are wanted and when more control is necessary e.g. for cloisonné or champlevé.
Dry Sifting. Clean your metal so that water sheets off and does not ball up. Put on a suitable mask. Paint a thin even coat of enamel holding agent such as Klyr-fire onto your piece, fill a 40-mesh sifter half full of enamel and sift a layer over the piece. You can either tap the side of the sifter with a finger or run a thumbnail up and down the knurled handle to disperse the dry enamel. Set the piece on a trivet and the trivet on a firing rack. Dry the holding agent before you fire. Setting the piece on the kiln or under heat lamps speeds up this process.
Wet Packing. Make sure your metal is free of grease with the "water-sheeting test". If you choose to “clean” your enamel wash it until the water is no longer cloudy. Scoop out a small amount of wet enamel with a spatula in one hand, and with a stylus in the other hand, take a few grains at a time and deposit them on the piece. Continue until all the areas are filled. Tap the point of the stylus against the metal base in the enameled areas. This helps to settle the grains and reduce the air bubbles. Some enamelists prefer to use a paintbrush* in place of the spatula and stylus. If you use a brush, tap the enamel with the stylus too. If you are working on a 3-D piece you will want to add some holding agent to the enamel. After washing the enamel, pour off as much water as you can and blot the remaining enamel, put a drop or two of the holding agent next to the damp enamel and let the enamel pull it into itself. Wet pack. Dry before firing.
8. Firing: To bring an enamel to maturity you must juggle two factors, the temperature of the kiln and the amount of time you leave your piece in there. In general the hotter the kiln, the shorter the firing time and vice versa. These are the things to consider: how big (in all dimensions) the piece is, how much “kiln furniture” you are using, how quickly the kiln recovers after you open the door, and of course the characteristics of the enamel(s) that you are using and of the metal substrate. A good starting point for your tests on silver and gold would be 3 minutes at 1400° F. To fire transparents clear on copper fire at 1500° F. or above for 3 or more minutes. Opaques can be fired on copper at a lower temperature. Keep notes of your firing times and temperatures. 2-D pieces are usually fired on trivets that hold them by the edges where there is no enamel. If the trivet has no legs (some do, some don't), place it on a firing rack so that you can easily move it to and from the hot kiln. Specially made firing forks or even barbecue spatulas can slip under the firing rack to lift it. Other refractory materials such as mica or fiberglass cloth can also be used in place of a trivet but will affect the counter enamel. 3-D pieces sometimes require custom-made stands to hold them while firing.
9. Testing: So that you are not caught by surprise, fire small test samples of enamels on the type of metal that you will be using BEFORE you enamel your piece. Keep records of all your tests noting the type of metal, the gauge of the metal, the enamel name and number and the time and temperature that you fired. This will save you a lot of grief.
10. Finishing: If you want the enamels to be flush or want to remove stray grains from the metal portions, grind the piece after you have filled in and fired several times. Use grinding materials such as wet/dry sandpaper, diamond pads, or alundum stones etc. with lots of water. Grinding will give the enamels a matte surface. You can leave them this way, polish them as you would a stone, or fire the piece again to regain the shine. If you like the way the enamel looks before grinding, skip this step. To finish the metal you can buff it for a mirror like finish or rub it with fine steel wool to give it a scratch finish. If you machine buff do not use a hard felt buff or aggressive compounds. Stitched muslin buffs work well used with tripoli and rouge or their equivalents
11. Health and Safety: Lead bearing enamels contain lead and possibly cadmium, barium, antimony and arsenic. Wear an appropriate respirator (one made for dangerous particulate matter) and whenever possible use ventilation that pulls the dust away from you. Wet-clean your enameling space rather than sweeping or vacuuming which will just re-circulate the enamel dust. Wash your hands often. It’s best not to eat or smoke in your enameling area – you do not want to ingest or inhale enamel dust. If you fire in a kiln often and for long periods you should also protect your eyes with lenses made to filter out the Infrared radiation. Wear clothes made of natural materials around the kiln. Man made fabrics will melt onto you if enough heat reaches them. Wear heat resistant gloves when putting a piece in the kiln. Treat the materials wisely and there will be no problems.
Today's enamelists create using a plethora of techniques both traditional and experimental. Some of these techniques are sure to fit with your artistic goals and personality.
THINGS TO DO WITH ALL THOSE FINES
By Coral Shaffer
I am one of those enamelists who removes the fine grains from jewelry enamels before using them. I use the grains that are larger than 200-mesh (i.e. that do not go through a 200 mesh screen). But then the question arises as to what to do with all the “fines” (in this case everything smaller than 200 mesh). Here are some suggestions that I have gathered together.
1) Color silver clays. Mix enamel fines with silver PMC or Art Clay before sintering. Test different ratios of enamel fines to metal clay. Try 1:2 to 1:1 to 2:1. Knead the clay and enamel to form a uniform mixture. If you use too much enamel you will find it oozes out of the metal clay. Place the piece on something that won’t stick to glass when sintering. Don’t use fines of enamels that react poorly with silver. (From various sources).
2) Clean your metal. Mix fines with water to use as an abrasive to scrub your metal clean before enameling. (From Woodrow Carpenter).
3) Make a Christmas decoration. Mix some Elmer’s glue with water to make a diluted mixture. Swish it around in a clear Christmas tree ball, drain out excess (the glue should not be runny on the inside), pour in some enamel fines and shake the ball. You can use multiple colors and tip them in using a brush or craft stick - spots will stay as spots and when you shake the ball, you'll get swishes. Pour out excess enamel. Let dry over night. Replace the top and hang it on your tree. (From Karen L. Cohen).
4) Color plique-à-jour. Use transparent fines with full strength Klyr-fire for making copper mesh plique-à-jour. Dip a brush in the Klyr-fire and then in some fines and pull it across the open areas of mesh. (Jaime Frechette, see “Glass on Metal”, Vol. 21, No. 2).
5) Shade your enamels. Use opaque fines, which are slightly lighter than the larger grains to shade.
6) Create texture. Use dry fines with a palette knife to create a texture on the surface of your metal or enamel. (Bill Helwig, see “Glass on Metal”, Vol. 24, No. 5).
7) Build up a low relief. Use 325 mesh fines applied directly to metal to form a modeled relief pattern for the “Impasto” technique. (Bill Helwig, see “Glass on Metal”, Vol. 3, No.2).
8) Use for counter enamel. Use fines as counter enamel, particularly if that side of your piece will not show. Sometimes using fines alone will result in a fired layer that is cloudy, bumpy or pitted.
9) Apply a raku glaze. Mix enamel fines with diluted silver nitrate (not the dry crystals) to make a solution to paint onto pre-enameled areas for a raku firing. Make the solution wet enough to paint on but not so wet as to spread. Dry before firing under raku firing conditions. (From Dorothy Cockrell). Note: this is a hazardous operation and requires ventilation.
10) Make your own enamel pastels. Add a small amount of CMC solution (100ml water to 2 grams CMC) to fines and mix well with a palette knife on a glass slab. Use as little liquid as possible to make it workable. Mold it into a stick and roll it in a cloth or newsprint to remove some of the moisture. Then roll it like you did to make “snakes” out of clay in elementary school until it is the size you require. Dry it for a day. When dried you can draw onto a pre-enameled surface that you have given some “tooth” by underfiring, grinding or by chemical means e.g. Etchall™. (From David Berfield).
11) Add interest to an undercoat. Use fines for “floating” a subtle overcoat over pre-fired enamels. Mix the fines with water and float them in thin layers over selected areas of your piece. Top with a thin layer of sifted flux before firing. (From Judy Stone).
12) Make your own porcelain enamel. Mix 20 parts of 200 mesh fines with 1 part clay and enough of a solution of 1 part Klyr-fire to 3 parts water to make the proper consistency. This can be used as an undercoat or as an overcoat for crackle enamels if used over a Thompson crackle undercoat enamel or any lead bearing jewelry enamel. (From Woodrow Carpenter).
13) Hold plique-à-jour wires together. When making a flat piece of p-a-j on mica or a ceramic plate you can sift a light coat of flux fines (without using a holding agent) over places where the wires meet. The fines will hold the wire pieces together for wet packing. Use a flux suitable for the metal of the wires.
14) Make enamel threads and balls. Put your fines in a crucible or a copper saucer and heat with a propane torch (or in the kiln) until white-hot. Poke the molten mass with a metal tool e.g. tweezers and pull. The faster you pull, the thinner the thread. Cut a snippet of an enamel thread and reheat. It will naturally form into a ball.
15) Overcoat foil and leaf. Use transparent fines for thin overcoats. If the layer is thin enough it is hard to tell the difference in clarity between fines and the larger grains. I like to use an enameling oil as the holding agent for thin coats. Spread the oil over the fired down foil or leaf and then wipe it off! Sift on the enamel fines and tip the piece over – only a very thin coat remains.
16) Make painting/screening enamel. Fines smaller than 325 can be mixed with a water medium or an oil medium and painted onto – or silk-screened onto – a prefired enamel surface.
If you still have fines left over you can do as I do. Spread a layer of silica (available from ceramic supply houses) over the bottom and up the sides of an old cast iron frying pan*, spread a layer of fines on top and place it in the kiln at the end of the day. Then turn the kiln off and collect the pan the next day. The fines have now turned into an enamel “pancake” that can be discarded in the trash (or incorporated into a cement pathway!). I feel it is a little safer to dispose of the fines this way.
*Unglazed terra cotta plates for flowerpots will also work but tend to crack over time.