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Enameling 20g steel wire


hi all,

i have been enameling small sections of 20g mild steel wire. i am no
professional enameler, though i know the basics. i have been using
the traditional sifting method to cover the wires with the standard
enamel i got from allcraft.

the problem i am having is that i am having to do SO many coats to
get a thick enough enamel on the wire for it to look substantial
enough. i am only using one color per wire, nothing fancy, i just
want the color and the properties of the enamel.

i am wondering if anyone has any ideas of how i could dip the wires
into some enamel and have a heavier coat initially so i could only
do one or two firings per wire instead of 5/6 firings. i have
thought about mixing in some gum arabic that i happen to have along
with a bit of water and the dry powdered enamel in order to make the
solution thicker for dipping. but then i have read that gum arabic
might cause the enamel to flake off. i plan to try this later today
as an experiment. i also plan on trying to simply wet pack the
enamel on the wire with some klyr fire. (but really i am interested
in dipping these wires…)

i can order some wet enamel, but to get the colored enamels, it gets
sort of expensive at 18$ or so per color…i am trying to avoid

but…if anyone has any good ideas or ways they know work, i would
appreciate it! i am just having fun experimenting and playing around
with this new idea i have for some simple fun jewelry. and of
course, it is always good to learn more about a new technique as

joanna gollberg


Although I have played with enamels a bit, I’m no expert. Perhaps
this is obvious, but you have considered just using a heavier gauge



I don’t know if there’s a way to dip the wire into the enamel. I
kinda don’t think so, but am interested to see what others say. I’m
thinking it’s too thick to dip unless you really water it down, but
then you’ll have to do numerous firings anyway because your color
will be so light.

I have used klear fire (sp?) to adhere the enamel to the metal, and
have made a paste out of it. It’s great for “painting” the enamel on
to pieces, especially if you’re filling cells, or just want the
color on one section. I’d try this and see if you can accomplish the
look you want any faster.

But, I do know if you use too thick of a coat for one firing the
majority of the enamel will melt off. You have to get it so hot to
melt the thick coat that the enamel turns too liquidy, and just runs.
Or, it’ll crack any coats underneath. This is in my experience with
thick coats, but I am no expert by any means!

good luck, let us know how it works out!




Welcome to the world of enamel! It’s so much fun to add color to
your work with enamels. I have done quite a bit of enameling (but am
still a newbie) and had my share of “experiments” go wrong, so I’m
happy to pass on my experiences. Your enamel will work best if done
in thin, multiple layers. I know it’s a pain, but doing one, thick
layer can result in cracking, bubbling and flaking. You’re better off
firing it several times to achieve what you want. I do mostly wet
packing where I mix my enamels with Kleer-Fyre and distilled water
into a thin paste. Then I apply it to the piece, allow to dry
completely and fire. Again, don’t pack it on too thick. Also, you
might want to sift your enamels and use the finer grains for better

There are many great books out on enameling that can help you. I
have one by Karen Cohen that I refer to when I need help with
troubleshooting. Hope I’ve helped in some way. Feel free to contact
me offline if you want to discuss this further.

Tammy Kirks
Red Bee Designs


i have been enameling small sections of 20g mild steel wire. 

Not knowing exactly what your project is…we enamelists use a thick
holding agent called “Klyrfire” but you can also mix up a thick
solution of gum of tragacanth (available from art supply houses like
Daniel Smith, pastel artists use it for making their own pastels).
If you have any flexibility in your wire the enamel will probably
pop off if bent. If you are applying the wire to the surface of
metal then perhaps enamel threads could be used. If you have a small
crucible and a kiln, you can also make your own threads thereby
getting the color and thickness you want.

Donna in VA


Hi joanna.

Would automotive powder coating “get 'er done”?

Dan Woodard


There is a commercial solution like the stuff they enamel cookware
with that is more like ceramic glaze than traditional 80mesh enamel.
Linda Darty’s new book covers it and I think It might be available
from Thompson Enamel.

J. Richardson


try using a torch to fire your wire. Make sure your wire is very

Jennifer Friedman
enamellist, jewelry artisan
Ventura, CA


Hi Joanna,

When I lived in Germany,we went on a tour of a sign making factory
(where they made industrially enameled street signs, house numbers
etc…) And when we were done they gave us a bunch of tupperwares
filled with this industrial enamel to experiment with.

The industrial enamel is like a thick suspension of enamel dust in
water. It was fun to work with as it is not so picky, works fast and
makes a thick strong coat. It is also formulated for steel which
makes it an even better solution than traditional enamels.

When we used it, we made our steel piece very clean by attaching a
wire(to hold it) and dunking in some kind of light acid/ cleaner to
get rid of finger oils.

Then we dunked it in the base coat enamel (grey) took it out, hung
it up by the wire, and blew the coating dry with a hairdryer. Then
you cook it in the kiln, take it out and repeat with a colored dunk.
Some people said you don’t really need the base coat, but since we
had it, I always used it.

One coating of color should suffice- as it is pretty thick. It has
some really neat qualities- and is fun to experiment with…Colors
are all opaque. Our containers of enamel have lasted for years- you
just add a bit more water now and then.

I was thinking that if you had a local sign shop/ factory in your
area- maybe you could bring some containers over and nicely ask for
a sample. Or maybe Google sign making supply. I always find when it
is jewelry supply- it is more expensive than other industries…

Good Luck!
Rebecca Hannon


Hi Joanna:

Why don’t you try lampworking the enamel onto the wire? I haven’t
tried it with wire that thin but what I’d do is put a pile of enamel
on a heat proof surface (I use photo trays upside down but you can
also use a cookie sheet), heat the wire in a torch flame until it is
evenly hot then dip it in the enamel. You can go back and forth
dipping and re-heating until you have the thickness you want. You
will probably need to experiment with how hot to have your wire and
also with your color mix on the enamels since flame working can
produce different color effects than kiln working with the same
color. We use this technique with 10 and 12 gage to make the stamen
for enameled flowers. Also a fun way to make beads using copper

Hope this helps.
Larry Loban (up to our eyeballs in flower parts)