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[Enamel Bits] Counterenameling

Does anyone else do larger scale enamels? As in wall pieces?

I used to scalex all my pieces on one side. Apply the counterenamel.
Pickle to clean up whatever the scalex let accumulate on the "front"
of the piece and then work from there. This of course adds quite a bit
of time to the job, but is the traditional way of working.

I had read about using the enamel paint to coat the back side and then
apply a light coat of counter enamel on. You then let is dry and flip
the piece over and do your first layer of enamel on the front. Both
front and back get fired together and you save the pickle and clean
process. I have found that I end up with tons of enamel on my kiln
floor (shelf) this way no matter how careful I am with application,
tapping off excess and loading. I have to continually chisel off the
glass and recoat my shelves with kiln wash. Does anyone know if I am
just missing something or if this is just the cost of saving some


Karen, you asked about doing large enamel wall hangings. We used to
do single pieces up to 29"x31". Both sides were sprayed with a heavy
undercoat of cobalt and both sides fired at the same time. The
colors were then applied and refired. You may contact me off list if
you have questions. Enjoy. Roy- in the Highland Lakes of Central Texas.

Once again quoting my favorite source, Herbert Maryon’s Metalwork and
Enamelling. He suggests using gum tragacanth or saliva to help bind
the counterenamel to the underside of the piece, but the big
difference seems to be that he applies his enamels wet, and then
waits for them to dry thoroughly before turning them over and
enamelling the front.

So far this is the only portion of this skill that has worked
properly for me consistently.

Considering my newness to all of this, it seems to be a skill that a
more experienced person should be able to develop quickly.


Karen. Most of my enameling is done on large wall pieces and I
understand your desire to cut down on the preparation time needed.
Here are some of the things which I do that you may find helpful.
First of all I put the scalex on the BACK of the piece, flux the
FRONT, with a heavy dusting of hard flux. I use the hard flux on
this first fire as I want it to hold up well. After firing, I just
wash the scalex off the back, brushing off any loose pieces of
firescale. I do not pickle, but merely apply the counterenamel and
fire again. As I have used a heavy dusting of hard flux on the
front, it will not have picked up any firescale and all the cuperous
oxides will have fully burned off.

I am not sure I understand what you mean by enamel paint. Are you
referring to painting enamels or liquid enamel??? they are two
different things.One can use liquid enamel flux, coating both
sides of the piece by dipping it into the flux, letting it dry, and
firing. Thus doing it all at one time. Or, one can brush the
liquid enamel on one side, let it dry, Turn it over, brush the
second side, let it dry and then fire. You will have brush stokes,
but if you are planning to use opaque enamels this may not be a
problem. Under transparents it tends to look a bit milky. If you
are using liquid enamel, there is no need to dust counter enamel over
the back of it prior to the first firing. Merely brush the liquid
enamel on the back of the piece and without dusting any dry over it),
let the liquid dry. then,flip it over, dust flux on the face side
and and fire it. Then apply counter enamel as needed to avoid
warping. This should avoid the problem of enamel dripping all over
your kiln, as the liquid enamel adheres beautifully… If you have not
used the liquid enamels you are in for a pleasant surprise. They
come in a wide range of colors, as well as clear flux. They can be
mixed to achieve different shades or colors and are a pleasure to
work with. They can be brushed on, or you can dip your piece into
the liquid mix. You apply them, let them dry, and if desired,
sgraffito through them achieving great detail in your work. Hope
this helps. Good luck with your enameling. Alma–In gorgeous Oregon
where the roses in my garden are spectacular this year.

Dear Karen… ugh to the clean up… We always put the enamel on a
piece of mica…says it all? put the back side up on the mica …put
on the counter enamel… turn over …I can’t remembver if we fire it
at this point …now put the regular enamel on etc and go to work…
no clean up keep it on the mica… calgang PS keep the
counter enamel even or that the good stuff will have an even surface to work on…
Hope this helps…

Guess I’m old-fashioned; but it’s been a few years since I got to do
any enameling. We always sprayed it with gum tragacanth, sifted on the
flux, dried, fired, pickled, scrubbed well with steel wool and a
cleanser like Comet, then sprayed with gum and sifted on the counter
enamel, dried, and fired. Even with the gum, it really didn’t work to
try to enamel both sides at once. But back then, we didn’t have the
liquid enamels referred to in some of the messages. margaret

Karen…I discovered that it is easier to put a very thin coat of
liquid counter enamel on each side of the metal. Better to have a too
thin coat and have to re-cover than too thick and get drips. I apply
the liquid counter enamel by spoon and use the spoon like a brush to
push the liquid counter enamel around until it covers the metal.
Then I bang on the side of the metal plate with the spoon…it seems
to settle the liquid more evenly. Let it dry well, repeat on the
other side and clean off bare edges of the metal before firing (or
stone it off after firing). I also recommend the kiln blanket that
Thompson sells. It saved the bottoms of my kilns a couple of weeks
ago when I taught a class of beginners. All the drips are contained
on the blanket, which can be discarded and replaced as necessary. Donna
in WY

Karen, I also do some fairly large enamels, over 3’x3’ (wall pieces) I
use copper foil about 36ga. that is manipulated and highly textured.
I used to just coat the front and try to deal with the firescale
later. Scalex is a good but expensive way to keep your front side
clean while countering the back. For the past few years I have
sprayed both sides before firing with a liquid enamel (Thompson
enamel 772 liquid lead free, for black background and 533 liquid lead
free, for white background) both of these come in powder form to be
mixed with water or in premixed form (more expensive! don’t pay for
the water!) These sprayable enamels come in many more colors than just
black and white. One of the problems is that unlike sifted enamel the
sprayed coat is made up of finer grains and will burn off if you do
many firings without reapplication. These enamels are available from
Schliaffer’s Enameling Supply in Pasadena California, a Thompson
Enamel distributor. Good luck and I hope this will work for you.


Hi Steve,

Thanks for the idea…by the way…how do you keep the foil rigid
enough to keep the enamel from coming off when it flexes? A rigid
mounting system? I did some small pieces on foil years ago and unless
attached to a rigid backer they were all destroyed.

Also curious as to how others out there that have done or do wall
pieces mount them?