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Enamel Start-up

Hi Everybody

I just got a new enamels catalog from Rio Grande. Everything looks so
pretty, I just had to ask. They’re advertising a startup enamel kit
for 160 dollars. It includes everything needed to get started (except
a kiln and enamels). If someone wanted to try out a few things, can
it be done using the smaller bee-hive style ultralite kiln? I’m
planning to get an ultralite anyway for granulation and it sure would
be handy if things could be accomplished in both. The only drawback
to the ultralite is the size, but if I liked enameling, I could
always upgrade to a bigger kiln later.Can person get started with a
bit of trial and error or is this one of those cases where I would
need to definitely take a class? Thanks and I hope everyone’s holiday
production is running smoothly



If someone wanted to try out a few things, can it be done using the
smaller bee-hive style ultralite kiln? .Can person get started
with a bit of trial and error or is this one of those cases where I
would need to definitely take a class? 

Absolutely, I own 3 kilns plus 1 ultralite (table top) and yes you
can use that for any and all small pieces. You just want to make
sure you don’t get enamel on your oven surface. But if you do, you
can paint kiln wash on it (this is really good due to the use of
granulation). I do both granulation and enameling on my small kiln.
I use my small kiln 80% of the time I am enameling.

Now, about learning. I teach, but I learned on my own in the
beginning. No problem with doing that. There are a lot of books on
the market that will teach you well. 2 authors I like are Jinks
McGrath and Bolton (there are pics of penguins on her cover). They
both give excellent instruction for learning and doing.

You may contact me personally,

Jennifer Friedman
Ventura, CA
enamelist, silver hollow ware, jewelry artisan, and ceremonial silver

Hi Kim

For small pieces, say less than 1 square inch, firing on a piece of
steel mesh over a smith’s small torch is the best way to start. Be
careful not to melt the silver, rather raise the piece to red heat
and simmer there for about 1 to 1.5 minutes or until you see the
enamel flow. Do not allow the enamel to get too hot, just enough to
get a smooth surface. Do not point the flame directly at the unfired
enamel as it will be blown away by the torch of the flame and in
addition it affects the colours. Don’t bother with counter enamel but
use material thick enough to withstand the tension of the enamel. I
use 1mm sterling for cloisonne and 1.5 mm for champleve and thin
coats of enamel. I have three kilns but regularly use the torch
method for jewellery pieces as the kilns can take some time to reach
enamelling temperature and that includes my gas kiln which is the
quickest at 10 minutes for a 900 degrees centigrade. Enamelling is a
very interesting but challenging technique.

mike k


As an originally self-taught enamelist who then took classes, I
recommend taking at least a basic beginning class so that you don’t
spend a lot of time recreating the wheel.

Alana Clearlake

I’ve only just toyed with enamels, really. First off, I’d say to look
to, which is Schlaiffer’s enamels - they’ve always been
good to me, and have absolutely everything you need. I just sat down
and started enameling, and I had many mistakes, but I’m not sure some
would be avoided in a class, either. Speaking as one who’s not too
far removed from beginner, you might start with a small class,
Enameling is quite difficult to get fine results. If you want to just
forge ahead, like I did, it IS just melting glass on metal - I just
read some books to get the technical parts, and started melting some
tests. It’s being good at it that’s the hard part.


I’m a bit of a novice at it myself, but as long as you can but a
little time for trial and error into it, its not reallt hard to
learn. There are a lot of great books to get you started, and a lot
of just in here as well. Just don’t be afraid to get your
hands dirty. It’s ot of fun. Another place you might want to look is
Thompson Enamels (google the name I can’t think of the website at
the moment). They have been in the game for ages and they have a list
of publications and tools and other helpful stuff.


Kim, The answer is yes. You can do enameling in a small Ultralite
kiln. In fact, even though I have 2 large kilns–one 12"X12", I often
do small jewelry size enamels in one of my small kilns. I have a
regular bee-hive style as well as an ultralite.

Later, if you really love enameling, get a large size one—the
bigger you can afford the better, so that you can make enameled wall
pieces. However, for the present your small kiln will do just fine.

One word of caution. The Ultralite (unlike the other beehive
styles), will need extra precaution to keep the floor of the kiln
clean of enamel.

Most beehive styles need kiln wash, but NOT the Ultralite. I was
told that one should never coat the Ultralite with kiln wash, but to
use special pads to cover the floor. Reo caries them.

Perhaps other enamelists here on Orchid, can give you further
on protecting the floor of your Ultralite.

Welcome to the world of Enameling. It is an amazing process, and you
will soon become totally fascinated by it.


I only have a large kiln and I love it. Others love their small
Ultralite kilns. You can see comments on the small kilns at I am using, and love, the leaded
Ninomiya enamel from Enamelwork Supply Co. I bought quite a few
sample colors of 1 teaspoonful each for $1.00 each. It is amazing how
far that much enamel will go. Thompson enamels also has a starter
kit. I did not buy a kit. Not counting my kiln, I paid $245.00 to
Enamelwork to get started: 26 sample colors, 1 oz. of a color I knew
I’d use a lot of, 2 oz of flux, 1 pint of Klyr-fire, 2 firing racks,
some stainless steel mesh to make trivets, a glass brush, a set of
tools for enamel work (leveler, spatula, etc.), a set of sifters, a
set of diamond sticks (which I love), a set of Ginbari foil, some 24k
foil, a foot of 24k wire, another rack, 20 empty jars, a kiln fork,
and 5 feet each of two sizes sterling wire. Got it all at Enamelwork
but ordered items separately, i.e., not in a kit. Locally, I bought a
set of good sable brushes, some tracing paper, some ceramic tile (to
use to put hot things on as they came out of the kiln), and some
distilled water. I also bought a fire-resistant glove and some 24ga
fine silver at Rio. They didn’t have their catalog yet when I
ordered. I have everything I have needed with the above.

J. S. (Sue) Ellington

Kim, in my very limited experience, yes, you can enamel using a
small bee-hive kiln. Do you need a class? Maybe not, but an
experienced enamelist can sure be helpful during troubleshooting.
Contact the Enamelist Society ( They may be
able to help you locate enamelists and enamel guilds in your area.
Ask the Enamelist Society for a list of enamel suppliers, too. You
may find a local supplier who can provide enamels, all the
accoutrements, and good advice. I’m lucky to have Coral Shaffer and
her Seattle company, Enamelworks Supply, almost in my backyard.

I’d also suggest you look at some books on enameling. These will
give you ideas as well as instruction. I like to get books from my
local library and read through them before I commit my hard-earned
money to buying any. (And I don’t hesitate to request interlibrary
loan!) The enameling books I own are Linda Darty’s Art of Enameling:
Techniques, Projects, Inspiration; Jean Werge Hartley’s Enamelling on
Precious Metals; Dorothy Cockrell’s Beginner’s Guide to Enameling;
Karen L. Cohen’s The Art of Fine Enameling. I haven’t looked, but
there are probably more books out there, too.

Good luck!

Hey Kim,

I haven’t received the new catalog yet so I can’t look myself. But,
what does it include if it doesn’t include a kiln and enamels? I’ve
taken an enameling class and the tool investment (not talking the
kiln) is minimal. I think I used things around my house for the most
part. The only tool I remember buying was a set of sifters. I spent
most of my $$$ on different colored enamels, so I’m curious about
what you’re getting for $160.

Amery Carriere Designs

Hi - not matter what the size of kiln, be sure to have GOOD eye
protection. The constant looking inside the hot kiln will damage your


Everyone has had very good suggestions. I have one more. Go to and take a look at the DVD “Enamelling on
Copper for Beginners”. It is available in NTSC format & PAL (also
VHS). For the USA, you will want NTSC format. There is a short film
clip at the web site and you can order & pay via PayPal. I really
feel this is a great bridge between books (many good ones recently
published) and live workshops on enameling. (Yes, there are 2 L’s in
enameller in Britain). This DVD covers the basic set up of tools,
etc. and goes on to demonstrate several techniques and even has a
"trouble shooting" section. It is very clear and well done. Usual
disclaimers apply. I am a Guild member (multiple enamel guilds), and
have been enameling for around 16 years now. But judge the video for
yourselves. The rest will come as you practice, explore, read, take
workshops–that is, if you get hooked on the “art of surprise”,
vitreous enameling.

I am glad that Rio has taken up the kiln & torch! I luxuriate in
having many sources for supplies & the sometimes peculiar tools of
the enamel trade. Go forth and discover and then also, “enamel on!”.
And somewhere in the Orchid archives there will be listings of many
sources of enamels, metals, tools, etc.

Eileen Schneegas
Snow Goose Designs
Washington State

Hi John and everyone

It's being good at it that's the hard part. 

Thanks so much for the many thoughtful answers to my enameling
question. This is what I look for, challenging techniques. I did do
some reading in my Oppi book yesterday and noticed that the melting
temps of fine silver and gold are both higher than the required temp
for enameling, I am concluding that enamel can be added as an accent
after fusing and granulation.

Sorry for this part though, just one question that may be obvious to
many others out there. Normally, when adhering 2 pieces of anything
together (like gluing 2 pieces of metal together say) the pieces
have to be roughed up in order to adhere. I am not understanding why
glass sticks to metal. Is this why many say enameling is challenging?

This is a great way to add color to designs. Amery, I looked at the
price again and I think I will have my husband look at the kit. You
are right, why does it cost that much if there is no enamel? Maybe
buying a small enamel sampler kit and looking at using homemade or
alternate tools is a better option. I have to start getting more
resourceful to keep some of that money I am working hard to attain!

Thanks everybody

I looked over the list of startup tools for enameling being offered
by Rio. There are a number of things you definately do not need.

  1. In all the years I have been enameling (and they are many), I
    have never had any use in my enameling for the 6 piece steel carving
    set. I have a set, but use it for purposes other than enameling. A
    piece of 14 gauge wire flattened at one end serves beautifully for
    putting wet enamel into cloisonne cells.

  2. Unless you are going to be setting your completed pieces into
    sterling backings, you will not need the pickle pot, copper tongs or
    sparex. Some people do clean their copper in sparex, but I find it
    just as effective to use some good copper cleaner found at any super

3 If you are planning on using the small table top kiln (Ultralite
or beehive), you will not need the Kevlar firing gloves.—I have a
pair and rarely use them even with my 12"X12" kiln and even when I am
inserting and withdrawing 11" pieces of copper.

  1. With the small Ultralite kiln, you will not need the fireing
    mesh, or the 2 prong firing fork.

  2. Forget the line sifter. I have one and used it only once. It is
    not useful, and does not give one a nice clean line, but drops the
    enamel in little round globs.

Put the money you have saved toward getting your kiln, the medium
sized sifter (the small one offered in the kit has its uses, but you
will need a larger one in addition). And get a good book on
enameling. Also, for additional be sure to check out the
Glass on Metal website. It has all kinds of past articles available
for you to download. These are filled with good


Maybe buying a small enamel sampler kit and looking at using
homemade or alternate tools is a better option. 

Kim - Thompson Enamel has a nice start-up kit (marketed for Metal
Clay users, but useful for anyone). You can either sift your enamels
onto your item (get Klyr-fire to help the enamel adhere) or you can
wet-pack your enamel. If you wet pack, you just wash your enamel so
you won’t need to worry about a screen set-up. I use old dental tools
to pack my enamels, and I have successfully used paint brushes of a
variety of diameters also. Those can be had very inexpensively at
your local craft store. You can fire enamel with a small hand-held
butane torch (if the item is small), or use one of a variety of
kilns. The Ultralite kiln is a nice beginning and will be useful for
small items for granulation and metal clay down the line if you
upgrade to a larger kiln. Spend your saved money on Linda Darty’s
book or a book that is similarly excellent and you will be
well-served. And most of all - have fun!!!

BBR - Sandi Graves, Beadin’ Up A Storm
Stormcloud Trading Co

I am not understanding why glass sticks to metal. 

Since no one else has answered this… I don’t know why (technically),
but it does, and no, it doesn’t need to be roughened up. It’s one
reason to use (enameling) flux, too, I guess - to improve adhesion.
The bathtub in your bathroom is likely enamel over cast iron, that’s
how well it can stick. There’s another post by a real enamelist, too.
What I’ve used is some screens, plastic spoons, bits of wire, dental
tools - and abrasives for stoning it down. Work over newspaper…
About $10 worth of stuff, at most. All you are doing is putting glass
powder on metal, it’s not rocket science, tooling wise. Whatever
works, as long as it’s clean. I would echo that advise - invest in
enamels, a way to heat them, and metals to put them on - and a book
or two, if you don’t already have them…

get in touch w/ a local enamel guild and inquire about classes.
Start w/ “run, dick and Sally run”,. if you like where it’s going,
follow your heart. Are you thinking about this as a side exploration
or your bread and butter? enameling is a very beautiful, and
seductive takes years to be able to channel it into a
viable commercial venture. If you find that you love it because of
its timeless beauty and depth, pursue it with a passion. Don’t give
up your day job.

you might want to get in touch w/ the Enamalist Society. They are a
national organization that fosters the enamel arts in all its
ramifications…They can point you in the right direction…

don’t forget the axiom…“How do you get to Carnegie
Hall?”…Practice, Practice, Practice…


rp leaf
the Mr. Rodgers of glass on metal
Sharon Art Studio, Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, CA