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Beginner enameling



I’m taking a crack at enameling, and I have a couple of questions.
When I want to apply a second coat of powder enamel onto the metal,
do I have to put another layer of holding agent? Do I have to wait
for the piece to totally cool before doing the second layer? If I do
need another layer of holding agent, can i put it on the warm piece?

Any suggestions on how to move the piece around without touching the
surface? I’m using pliers, but I’m all thumbs.

I’ve got it enameled & counter-enameled, and now I’m stuck :slight_smile:



Hi, not a good idea to powder enamel without proper mask. You can
also used distilled water with it. Not necessary to use another
holding agent and the piece should be cool, not necessary to be
totally cool, Luke warm is OK.


Hi Amy ~ I would love to help you with your enameling questions!

I’m taking a crack at enameling, and I have a couple of questions.
When I want to apply a second coat of powder enamel onto the metal,
do I have to put another layer of holding agent? Yes

Do I have to wait for the piece to totally cool before doing the
second layer? Yes because your holding agent would evaporate

If I do need another layer of holding agent, can i put it on the
warm piece? See above

Any suggestions on how to move the piece around without touching the
surface? I’m using pliers, but I’m all thumbs. Leave it on the
cooling rack and after it cools a little, tip your rack to slide the
piece onto a tile or marble surface to completely cool

I’ve got it enameled & counter-enameled, and now I’m stuck :slight_smile: Some
pieces need to be enameled many time to get the effect you want

Let me know how I can help!


Welcome to Vitreous enameling, a world of unparalleled beauty and
challenges. After reading your inquiry I deduced that in the big
picture, a basic class or workshop would be in your interest. An
excellent way to pursue this would be to contact the Northern
California Enamel Guild The Richmond Art Center offers affordable workshops and classes. In addition,
try the Sharon Art Studio in Golden Gate Park. Their # is 415 753

Flux and flow.

rp leaf


Hi, I’m not an expert but I apply second layers when the piece is
still warm, as long as the holding agent doesnt spit and crackle
from the heat it seems to work for me, but it does dry faster so you
have to apply the powdered enamel fairly quickly.

when I work on small pieces I use a ‘stand’ which I place each piece
on, usually, these are made of a very short section of copper pipe
so that my slighly domed pieces slip about, then I can then pick it
off by hand using only the edges and place it onto a spatula or mesh
or wherever.

hope that is of some help


Hi Amy,

You are in for some great fun and opportunities to make some
wonderful work! Do you have any of the enamel books? There are some
great ones out there. Do you know there are enaeml guilds all over
the country? You can find one locally by going to the website of the
national Enamelist Society That said…

After you’ve cleaned the metal (penny brite, cratex, even a file
will work. You don’t HAVE to do this, it just prevents problems and I
advise it) apply an enameling oil in or binder in a thin layer with a
dedicated brush…or even a clean fingertip. Then apply the enamel and
fire. Then, when you want to add another layer, the oil will help you
to control the enamel…to make it stay where you’ve put it,
especially at the edges where it might otherwise slide off. Klyr fire
will help hold enamel chunks in place if you allow it all to dry
before firing. You can speed that up on top of the kiln.

The reason you need to wait for the piece to cool before adding
another layer of oil? 1st, if it’s too hot the oil will just burn off
and do no good. (try not to breath too much of it). 2nd you’ll burn
your brush or that fingertip. You’ll soon figure out how warm “too
warn” is.

Moving the piece around. Work on a small piece of cardboard or
paper. (I use my old postcards). Then you can turn the piece around
without touching it. If you want to lift it, there are a number of
things you can do. With anything you can think of, prevent the metal
from moving on one side while you slip something thin and rigid
underneath from the other side. I use either my fingernail or
tweezers to block the metal from sliding while I slide either very
pointed tweezers or my trusty old metal spatula under the metal
piece. Be careful not to touch the enamel.

Don’t worry about the “thumbs”. Use less bulky tools and practice
your moves with repetition. Also, I find that developing a
relationship with favorite tools makes sitting down to work feel
more and more natural over time. Same tools, same light, same size
paper, same distance from kiln…all these familiar, non-variables
create comfort on a subconscious level. Everything you don’t have to
think about or solve again, frees your mind fo= r the bigger creative

Stuck…no, you’re just ready to get started.

Have a great time with it. Marianne


Hi Amy,

In general, if your sifting on enamels you’ll need a light misting
of klyr-fire or some other holding agent to keep it from sliding or
bouncing off. So yes, you would use it between layers of enamel. If
you are wetpacking the enamels no holding agent is needed. You should
wait for the pieces to cool completely before applying the next layer
of enamel. Don’t rush them.

Are you using a trivet? Or are you setting the piece on mica or
firing cloth to fire it? I use a small spatula to move pieces onto a
trivet, and then carry the pieces on the trivet. It’s stable that

There are two books I would recommend for you. One is Linda Darty’s
"The Art of Enameling". This is an excellent book, alhtough I know
some beginners can find it intimidating at first. The other book is
my own “Enameling on Metal Clay”. I know you may not be working on
metal clay, but the enameling techniques I present will work on any
type of fine silver. It has very basic, straight forward instructions
for sifting and wetpacking, as well as firing instructions. The book
was intended for beginners. It’s not so helpful if you are working on
copper, however. Copper has it’s own quirks and requirements.

Both books can be found here:

Pam East


Rp’s suggestion of a class is excellent. I recommend checking at The
Enamelist Society website

There is a link for “classes and workshops” where you can search for
specific classes in your area. Don’t miss the “non-credit classes
and workshops” link too. That will bring up a comprehensive list of
schools around the country that regularlly offer enameling classes.
The Guilds are also a great source for classes and workshops, so
check out that link as well.

Pam East


Hi Amy, If you are sifting on to a flat piece of metal, you don’t
need to use holding agent and you can go directly into the kiln
without waiting for it to dry. If the metal is domed, you will need
holding agent each time you sift, and it should be dry before you
fire. It is better to only used holding agent when you need it.

When you put on holding agent you would want the metal to be cool
because hot metal would make it evaporate too quickly…it might be
dry before you could sift on the next layer. I have a small steel
block that I put next to my kiln…when a piece has been out of the
kiln for a minute or so I put it on the steel and it cools faster

It is easier to handle small jewelry size pieces with tweezers–I
don’t know what size you are working on. And realize that you can
also touch the edges (when it’s cool!) with your fingers without any
problem. Also, sometimes you need to handle a piece between firings.
If so, just clean with a fiberglass brush under running water and
then proceed with just touching the edges.

There is a new website for enameling that you might be interested
in. They have a lot of experienced people and over time plan to add a
lot good The address is



Amy -

Yes, I use another light coat of Klyr-Fyre before each layer of
enamel. I pick the piece up in my fingers and hold it by the edge. I
get holding agent and enamel on my fingers but it wipes off and is
not a big deal. You can sift onto the piece once its on the trivet
too but I usually don’t. Sometimes I tilt pieces which have odd
contours to keep the surface perpendicular to the falling enamel.
That helps get the thickness even all the way to the edge.

Using my fingers means that the piece must be cool enough to safely
touch, but jewelry pieces are small and cool fast when moved away
from the kiln. I have a metal table top that I use for cooling. I use
the top of the kiln for drying the pieces before firing.

I also work on multiple pieces, usually, so one is cooling, one
drying and one sifting all at the same time. I use a kitchen timer
during firing to track the time and remind me when its done. I DON’T
WALK AWAY from the kiln during firing!

Thin coats of enamel are better than heavy coats. Multiple firings
have their own issues but can probably be ignored for opaques and
indelicate transparents.

Practice and experimentation is the key. Time, temp, enamel layer
and total thickness, enamel selection, base metal thickness and type
are all variables. Only experience can teach you what any particular
combination of these factors will do.

I take notes too on every piece.

Good luck and have fun.
Phil Duclos


Hi Amy,

I apply a coat of holding agent each and every time I dry sift a
layer of enamel. You can brush the agent and sift if the piece is
still warm but cool enough to handle. But before applying a
subsequent layer of enamel, I always glass brush the fired surface
under running water to make sure all grease or fingerprints are
removed. So my pieces are totally cool at that point. And if you’re
working with copper, don’t forget to stone the edges after each
firing. I use palette knives to move the piece to a trivet. They’re
thin and flexible enough to slip under the piece without disturbing
the unfired enamel. Hope that helps. Enameling is so much fun.



Hi Amy,

Tell me why are you using the holding agent? If you are sifting and
your metal is domed you would need the agent each time. But you
could also use water, if you metal is flat and you are sifting. This
would keep the enamel from shifting in transporting it to the kiln.

If you are sifting and trying to move the enamel piece to the kiln
work on mica, you can get from enamel suppliers. This way you would
place your piece on the mica, add your enamels, brush off the
enamels that land on the mica, place your piece and mica on a trivet
for firing.

Good luck, I have just put up a site with an Enameling Hotline if
you get further stumped!

Patsy Croft


Hi Amy:

I’m assuming you’re sifting onto your piece, correct? You will want
to apply some sort of holding agent to each layer to get a smooth
application of the enamel grains. You can buy an inexpensive spray
bottle that will hold a mixture of Klyr-Fire and water, and just
spray that on prior to sifting. (Gentle reminder: If you are sifting
leaded enamels you should be wearing a mask :slight_smile:

I don’t necessarily wait for the piece to be completely cooled
before applying next layer, but I would not do it while it was
super-hot. Pliers would be a little cumbersome–use a pair of
tweezers to pick up and move your piece around (hold from edges if
you can) or leave on the trivet and just move that to where you need
it. You can work with the piece on the trivet to apply your enamel.

Awonderful resource is Linda Darty’s book The Art of Enameling:

A great small enamels supplier is Coral Shaffer at Enamelworks:

Have fun!
Kate O’Brien
O’Brien Designs


I use a post-it sized piece of paper with a penny as a stand.

I usually rinse and give it a once-over with a glass-brush between
firings (I torch-fire my enamels and want to ensure that they’re
clean), so my pieces always cool completely between firings.


Hi Amy,

I have a couple of tips from my limited experience.

You only need holding agent to get the enamel to adhere to a curved
surface, for example a domed base. Otherwise, it stays in place
where you sift it (unless of course you sneeze!)

I work with relatively small pieces. I put them on top of a plastic
wine cork that is glued into a bottle cap. This way the piece is
extended over the cork. (A friend of mine, who works bigger, puts
them on top of the scoop that comes with powdered detergent). I lift
it carefully by the edges, with my fingers slightly underneath the
piece, to place it on a trivet, which is on top of a wire rack. Then
I use sturdy copper tongs to move the whole thing to the kiln.

You should let the piece cool so you can clean the firescale off
the uncovered edges. There is always some firescale if you are using
copper or sterling silver. You can use pickle to get rid of the
firescale, but that can discolor some enamels. The safest bet is to
file it off carefully, away from your work area. If a bit of
firescale is floating around in your kiln, it can land in your enamel
and mess it up.

Many thanks to Alma Rands, who is such a wonderful teacher!