Cool Tools Blog

Deb DeWolff: Graphite Etching & Enameling with Sunshine Colors

    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!

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