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Enameling advice

I wanted to start by saying this forum is great. It is really
encouraging to have contact with other metal artists and the wealth
of The question I had pertains to enameling. I
recently bought two texts Herbert Maryon’s Metalwork and Enameling
and Cloisonne Enameling and Jewelry Making. When I was just about as
frustrated as I could be I called Thompson enamels and talked to a
gentleman who to put it nicely probably would not be an individual I
would get along with. Has anyone else encountered this problem with
Thompsons. It seems I am doing everything wrong, and he told me that
the Enameling and Jewelry Making book was written by a woman who
teaches little old ladies to enamel. I was even told my firing
tempurature was wrong (firing at 1450 to 1500 degrees for 1 to 2
minutes). He said it should be closer to 6 minutes at about 1250
degrees. What is the advantage of firing lower for longer. If
neither of the books I have are suitable, what would be a better
text. He also said he has never seen a successfull peice of
enameling on PMC which is what I am attempting. I have taken one
course in enameling, but am finding my notes insufficient as there
is so much to know. I am also considering switching to Japanese
leaded enamels to see if it aleviates some of my problems.Any advice
would be appreciated as I have already given up on ever talking to a
certain Thompsons tech specialist again, and there are no enameling
classes near me. Sorry if this post is a little long but I just had
to unload some of the discouragement I felt after my conversation
with Thompsons. Thanks again for this terriffic forum.

Jessica Daman

I was even told my firing temperature was wrong (firing at 1450 to
1500 degrees for 1 to 2 minutes).  He said it should be closer to 6
minutes at about 1250 degrees. 

Jessica: First and foremost. I am sorry about your unpleasant
experience at Thompson. There are a number of wonderful people at
Thompson so don’t give up on them they have a lot to offer. Using
leaded enamels may solve some of your problems depending on what
your problems are. I don’t know about PMC for your firing time and
temperature, but I fire my enamels in my kiln, on fine silver, at
about 1450 - 1475 for 2 to 3 minutes. That is how I learned and that
is what I teach my students. (I have heard some enamelists fire at
1600 for one minute.) But, I also let my students know that there can
be many ways to the end result and that I am just showing them how I
obtain my results. There are always exceptions to every rule of
enameling. Some colors fire better at a higher temperature and some
at a lower temperature…depending on your enamels. That is why I
use Ninomiya the firing temperature is close to the same

He also said he has never seen a successful piece of >enameling on
PMC which is what I am attempting 

…yes you can enamel on PMC. I have experimented with it …but
my no means am I an expert…I have seen some beautiful work with
PMC and enamel. Have you tried the PMC web site. I am sure someone
out in Orchid can help you with this.

 If  neither of the books I have are suitable, what would be a
better text.

Look on my website for book recommendations. You can also call me
at 707-459-3747 for any specific problems that you have had with the
enamels or email me directly. There are some new books that are just
coming out on Enameling…one is Professional enamelists and I
believe the other one was just posted on Orchid. They may be more
specific to your needs. Take care and have a happy enameling

Linda Crawford
Linda Crawford Designs
Willits, CA

Probably the reason Thompsons Enamel remains in business is that it
is the only enamel manufacturor in the US. I use their product but
have chosen to buy from suppliers who distribute their products due
the problem you encountered. Try Joan Schlaifer at She
carries most of their products and is also friendly and helpful. It is
difficult to enamel on PMC. PMC II is a better choice. I know there
is a number 3 now, but I haven’t used it. A first coat of flux is
helpful. Because there is not a lot of info about enameling on PMC,
you will probably find doing test pieces is a good idea. There is a
new beginning book that is quite good, and Schlaifer probably has it:
Enameling by Joan Bolton King. I haven’t read it myself, but the book
got an excellent review in our newsletter. Keep in mind that
enameling on PMC is somewhat different than on copper or fine silver,
and so you will have to discover a lot by trial and error. Alana

I have successfully used Thompson’s opague enamels on PMC+. I fired
at the normal 1400. I did find it took longer, but that is because
it was a much thicker piece of silver than I usually use. For solid
pieces, I found it useful to tumble them for a while - several hours
in a vibratory tumbler. This burnished the piece, and I think helped
close some of the fine porosity PMC pieces have. (sort of like
burnishing before soldering) … I know of several others that have
used PMC+ and enamel. I prefer the Japanese enamels for this but
Thompson’s will work.

Good luck.

Hi Jessica, I am so sorry that you had an unpleasant experience
with the gentleman from thompson enamel. I don’t know with whom
you spoke , but I have consulted with Tom Ellis at Thompson’s
numerous times over the years and he has always been very very
helpful—always coming up with helpful suggestions which have
solved many problems for me. I do hope that because of the
disagreeable experience you had, that you will not become
discouraged about enameling. It is a wonderful medium, and you will
find that almost all the enamelists you ask questions of, will be
more than happy to help you. There are many excellent enameling
books available, and each contains many valuable helps. Also, I am
sure that many Orchidians who enamel will be glad to assist in
all ways possible. So, don’t get discouraged, and please ask for
any help you need. I have not worked with PMC so cannot offer
suggestions in that area, but may be able to help with other
problems. --Good luck- Alma


I am assured, by people who would know, that it’s certainly possible
to enamel on PMC. In fact, PMC is touted as being an ideal base for
enamel, since once its fired, it’s fine silver, not sterling. (That
guy at Thompson’s should find another career.) For more information
on the subject, visit This is a fairly
frequent topic of discussion in their forums. You can check out the
forum archives, or post a question yourself.

Good luck!
Suzanne Wade
Phone: (508) 339-7366
Fax: (928) 563-8255

Hi Jessica, I use niyomya (sp?) enamels (leaded) from Coral at
Enamelworks in Seattle. She’s a wonderful woman, well educated in the
art of enameling, informative, and easy to get along with. You do
however have to be careful when using leaded and unleaded together.
I believe you can put leaded on top of unleaded, but not the other
way around. I would also assume that in some instances you’ll find
incompatability no matter what. I don’t use unleaded so I could be
all wet on those last two sentences. I’m sure Coral would know.
Good luck, Lisa

Lisa Hawthorne

I’m so sorry but I really burst out laughing at your Thompson’s
experience as I just had a very similar experience with them myself.
The man who is their primary tech support guy does not suffer fools
gladly, and he considers most of us fools. I met him at the 2001
enameling conference and people were flat out afraid to ask questions
in his demo after he mocked the first couple of people who did so. On
the other hand he knows more about the topic than a whole bunch of us
put together.

My most recent problem was with production pieces I do using one of
their colors…suddenly it changed drastically…dark blood red to a
very bright orangey red. I requested on whether this
would be a permanent change…or if I was shipped the wrong color. I
was pretty much told twice that this is the color it is now and they
would not comment on whether it might revert back to the dark version

On the other hand…the office staff is usually really pleasant to
deal with, I think of it as one of the interesting side effects of
working in the arts.


I am not an enameler, and I don’t do business with “Thompson’s.” But,
I am a businessman, and the fact that several Orchidians took the
trouble to complain about this tech support person interests me. I
strongly suspect that, if a number of Thompson’s customers were to
find out who owns Thompson’s and communicate directly with the owner
about this, he/she would be very interested. (Maybe send copies of
Orchid posts, too?) I know that I would appreciate being informed if
an employee was driving business away. I think that all
businesspeople would. David Barzilay, Lord of the Rings

This response is in reply to the ruckus I seemed to have cased by my
original posting regarding enameling advice and Thompson enamels. I
was pleasently surprised to receive a telephone call this Monday
from Woodrow Carpenter at Thompson enamels. I was very impressed
when Mr. Carpenter called me in person. He was a pleasent and
informative gentleman who seemed very concerned that an employee of
Thompson’s had upset me enough for me to bother to post it on this
forum. Mr. Thompson also asked me to identify this employee, (and I
agreed) his name being Bill so that it would be clear to other
Orhidians that it was only this individual I had the conversation
that started this all with and not Thompson enamels in general. I
think that Bill is a excellent enamelist and knows a great deal
about the subject, he did not say anything that was directly
insulting to me I was just upset with the manner in which I was
treated by him.

I would also like to add that Tom the other tech representative and
anyone else I have spoke with at Thompson’s has been very helpfull
and nice to deal with. I certainly did not mean to imply that
Thompson enamels as a whole is difficult to deal with, that is
really not the case. My thanks goes out to the many individuals who
took the time to reply with so much helpfull advice about enameling
and enameling on PMC. I am certainly going to try some of these tips
out. I hope this clarifies things a bit.

Jessica Daman