Deb DeWolff: Torched Enamel Flower Earrings

Written by Deb DeWolff












This is one of my first forays into the technique of torch firing enamels on my own after taking a class. I made these two pairs of enameled earrings in a day.


The copper shapes I used are 24 gauge flower copper shapes. The copper headpins I chose were an ordinary balled end headpin for the blue flowers and a fancy flower shaped one for the pink flowers. You can make your own balled headpins out of copper wire. Our video shows you how. I drilled holes in the center of each flower shape with a Foredom Flex-Shaft machine. I then domed the shapes using a dapping set. The larger of the two shapes I domed only slightly, and the inner flower was domed a bit more to help it stand out.
All of the copper was thoroughly cleaned with Penny Brite prior to enameling. This photo is my plan for colors that I used. All of the enamels I used are Thompson Enamels and all are opaques with the exception of the rose pink for the headpins on the pink flowers. This one is a transparent enamel.
This shows all of the materials I used, except for the torch. I used a propane torch but you could also use a MAP gas torch or even a smaller butane torch. Butane torches often do not get hot enough and run out of fuel faster. I would advise using a larger torch. You’ll have better results and experience less frustration.
I set up two firing bricks on the end so that I could get under the pieces more easily and used two trivets so that I could fire both pieces together, one right after the other. I brushed a very thin coat of the Klyr-Fire (diluted 50/50 with water) on the copper before sifting enamel on the piece to help the enamel powder stick. I used a small 40 mesh sifter.
You need to let the Klyr-Fire dry before you apply the torch to the pieces. This photo shows how to set them in the trivet and how the torch is applied from underneath. Hold the torch just until the surface of the enamel has gone to the glassy stage.






















First it will look wet, then it will look like sugar, then like an orange peel, and finally glass (which is really what enamel is). I put two coats of the lighter pink on these pieces because the first coat didn’t cover enough.
Headpins are harder to do and I need some more practice! Hold the tip of the headpin in the “sweet spot” of the torch flame (just beyond the inner blue flame) until the metal is orange. Then immediately dip the headpin in the enamel. Put the enamel in a metal container for this and keep the enamel close to your flame but not close enough to burn it or yourself. The metal has to go into the enamel powder before it cools off – very, very quickly. If your enamel is too far from the torch the headpin will cool off too much for the enamel to stick. After dipping the headpin in the enamel, bring it back to the flame and heat the tip again to fully melt the enamel. As shown in this picture of the yellow headpins, I left a “sugar” coat for the last layer, which is when the enamel is fused but doesn’t have enough heat applied to fully melt it to a glossy surface.
I was going to dip these flower shaped headpins in white opaque enamel before dipping them in the transparent rose color, but they looked much better with just the transparent over the copper.
The earrings were finished with simple wire forming techniques. I twisted the headpin wire just behind the flowers to make them stand up vertically.
Sterling earwires were used on the blue earrings.






















Note: Please make sure you take all the safety precautions necessary for working with an open flame, but do consider trying torch fire enameling. It’s easy and really, really fun!

August 1, 2017

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Deb DeWolff: Graphite Etching & Enameling with Sunshine Colors

Written by Deb DeWolff













Referring to Jan Harrell’s “Enameling with Graphite and Sunshine Colors” video, I created my own enameled copper piece! I enameled both the back and front with graphite sketches on the front:

The back of a small piece of copper (2″ x 2-1/4″) ready to be counter-enameled. It was cleaned with kitchen cleanser and a scrubby, dried, then a very small amount of surfactant was applied.
The piece is ready for the kiln. First it was sprayed with a Klyr-Fire and water mixture, then sifted (100 mesh) with Thompson’s #1995 Black enamel. It was sprayed and sifted again two more times. Dried and fired at 1475°F/802°C for 2 minutes.
Out of the kiln and cooled. Oooo, shiny!
Now I needed to decide what to put on the front of my piece. I created a few sketches, then decided on the top right.
This shows the piece after enameling and fired in the kiln. First the piece was pickled and thoroughly cleaned on the front. The front was enameled just like the back with Thompson’s #1030 Foundation White with a 100 mesh sifter. Fired at 1475°F/802°C for 3 minutes.
After the piece cooled it was etched with Armor Etch for 10 minutes and thoroughly cleaned. The drawing was done with an ordinary mechanical pencil. A very thin layer of Thompson’s #2020 flux was sifted over using a 200 mesh sifter and fired at 1475°F/802°C for 1-1/2 minutes. After the piece cooled a very small amount of surfactant was applied. Please note: This is my first piece. It cracked after I finished it and the graphite lines had faded a lot because I had done two firings of the Sunshine Enamels. Jan had talked about the “volatility” of the graphite technique in her video so I tried another version of the same design, which you can see in the next photo. 
















I mixed my own custom colors using Sunshine Enamels and distilled water. For pastels I mixed the colors with 19-1231 Mixing White. For the pink bird I mixed 77-1234 Purple with 10-117 Mixing Flux. Some of the colors looked much different before they were fired; once fired I was a bit disappointed in the resulting color. My recommendation would be to test-fire the colors on a scrap piece of copper (on the same foundation color) before using in your final piece.

The enamel “paints” were mixed to a thin consistency and applied like watercolors. After they dried I used a clay shaper to remove them from unwanted areas such as the graphite lines and the background.

This time the piece was fired at a lower temperature: 1375°F/746°C for 2 minutes.

It should be coated with one more thin layer of clear flux, but I haven’t decided if the piece is finished or not. I might want to add more color to some areas. One reason for not doing this would be that with each firing the graphite lines get lighter and less defined.

Sunshine Enamels can also be applied more thickly like acrylics, but if they’re too thick they can crack. If you like painting or coloring you really need to try these enamels. They are a lot of fun!

July 6, 2017

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Five Star Metal Clay Review by Deb DeWolff

Written by Deb DeWolff

Five Star Metal Clay : Copper, Red Bronze, Bronze, Light Bronze, White Bronze

I fired test pieces of all five clay using their “standard firing method.” Since all five samples were fired at the same time, together in the same firing container, I fired at the lowest setting (used for the white bronze) as per the instructions. All 5 pieces sintered properly (pictured below). I don’t see much difference in color between the light bronze and the white bronze. However, I can see situations where one might want to use one over the other. I also used the same firing method for the pendant I created using all five clays (pictured below). For one of the smaller elements however, I first tried firing it in Magic Carbon with no luck, but all the clays sintered perfectly in coconut carbon. I’m still experimenting with different methods of patina to bring out the different colors of the clay. Five Star Clay takes on texture very nicely, and is easy to carve if you don’t let the clay get beyond leather hard. All in all, all five colors are great clays to work with. It’s fun to have so many colors!

You can find the texture used for the samples here.



















The components of this pendant are the following:

Background piece: Copper (Textured with Cool Tools Rollable Texture Tile – Curly Vines)

Inner piece (in order from outside in): Light Bronze with Red Bronze backfilled into carved places, Bronze, White Bronze

Spiral: Copper

May 30, 2017

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