Enamelling on a vertical surface

I am a Second Yr Jewellery Sttudent An am looking for any information
Available to help me with Enamelling on a Vertical Surface an how the
Enamel is applied an fired

thank you for you great site

Hi Robert,

I don’t do a lot of this, but recently I took a workshop and made
several bowls with steep, vertical sides. I used a couple of methods
to get the enamel to stick.

First, make sure your copper form (or whatever metal you are
enameling) is clean and free of all dust or oils. You can fire it
breifly in the kiln just long enough to burn off anything on the
surface, but not long enough to cause fire scale. Then clean the
metal with Pennybrite or the equivilent. Do not touch the surface to
be enameled. I started with the inside of the bowl and enameled that
first. Pickled it, and then cleaned and enamelied the outside.

Spray on a light coating of Klyr-fire (enamel adheasive) using a
Preval areosol sprayer. The Preval gives a very fine mist that should
not cause blobs or beads. Sift a thin layer of enamel over the entire
surface. You will probably have to hold the item at an angle and turn
it to get it on evenly. This isn’t too bad with a bowl since I could
hold the outside while enameling the inside, and vis versa. Might be
tricker on a narrow form. Lightly spray the piece again, and add
another layer of enamel. Keep going back and forth between klyr-fire
and enamel until there’s a good coating of enamel on the piece and no
metal is visible anywhere. Then place the item on a rack and dry it
on top of the kiln. If you’ve done the inside and there’s no enamel
on the outside yet, you can just set it on the rack. Otherwise you’ll
need to put it on a trivet of some kind. The multiple layers of
klyr-fire and enamel should create a crust that will not fall off or
move as you fire the piece. Be sure and give it plenty of time to
dry before firing. If it’s not dry the enamel will pop off.

This method worked well for both the inside and outside of two of
the bowls I made, but I had a problem when I did the third. The third
bowl was much steeper. The inside enameled just fine, but when I got
to the outside, for some reason the enamel pulled from the edges and
drew up. Tried a couple of things to fix this, but what finally
worked was painting the bare portions with Thompson Liquid Counter
Enamel (LCE) and then sifting enamel over that. The LCE has a polymer
in it that helps keep everything in place. Once I sifted a thick
layer of enamel on, I actually used my fingers to gently press the
enamel into the LCE. Dry thouroughly and fire. This fixed the problem
I was having.

This is just one method. I’m sure other enamelists will chime in
with their ideas too. You can also check in with the Enamel Forum,
another great resource for of this type. Here’s a link to
that group: Yahoo | Mail, Weather, Search, Politics, News, Finance, Sports & Videos

Good luck!
Pam East

1 Like

Robert, Check out the Glass on Metal website which has excellent
articles and a listing of books that will help you.

Alma Rands

I am a Second Yr Jewellery Student And am looking for any
Available to help me with Enamelling on a Vertical
Surface and how the Enamel is applied and fired 

Robert, depends whether you’re working on silver or copper. There are
various glues available - KlyrFire, lotus root or gum tragacanth
which are soluble in water. I put a few drops in the ground and
washed enamel, mix it up gently and then wet pack as normal. (KlyFire
is my preferred )

It is possible to spray (very fine) the gum/glue on to the surface
and then sift, turning the piece as you go to get a fine coverage.

Usually I fire the piece upside down, with a sheet of mica
underneath on top of the firing mesh, to catch any spills - my kiln
is very clean, as I hate it when the mesh catches on melted enamel in
a hot kiln, this usually makes me jog the piece when taking it out.

Some traditional enamellers, at least in UK, think glue is dirty and
can cause bubbles. It needs a great deal of patience to keep a large
piece wet all over until firing point, which you must do if no glue
is used. Some excellent enamellers do not mind glue though (eg Jane

Suggest you test various methods on smaller practice pieces. Also
test to see how little glue will serve your purpose.

happy enamelling

Quince Pip oil (juice of the pip) mixed with the enamel. Reference
in~ Benvenuto Cellini -treaties on Goldsmithing + Sculpture, Circa
1640. Dover Books.

Regardos ~ Marcos.
Marcos G. Davidson
Gold & Baker’s Smith

I just want to plug Pat Johnson’s post-conference workshop at the
Enamelist Society Conference in August in Oakland, CA. Pat is coming
from the UK to teach this workshop and it promises to be quite
interesting. It will focus on high- and low-fired enamels on copper
vessel forms. Pat’s approach to enameling is very scientific. To find
out more about the conference workshops:


To find out more about Pat Johnson:

Judy Stone
2009 Enamelist Society Conference Coordinator

Regarding old books with enamelling tips–I was just reading a very
highly regarded treatise from 1951, ENAMELLING ON METAL, by
Louis-Elie’ Millenet, translated by H. De Koningh. He recommends
placing the steep-sided vessel on a turning platform in the kiln,
and watching it and turning it with long tongs as it is being fired.
The turning is supposed to give equal heat to all sides The very idea
of putting it in the kiln, closing the door and leaving it for 60
seconds or more is really discouraged by the author. Now in those
days the kilns were generally not electric. They were gas fired or
coke fired, which might have made the temperature distribution harder
to control-- thus the turning arrangement. But the idea of watching
the piece throughout the firing was essential to creating the perfect
result. And nowhere was it recommended that glasses be worn. So here
are two instructions that are really at odds with current teachings
in the modern enamelling books-- turning the piece and watching the
piece throughout the firing with the unaided eye. Does anyone have a
comment on this? The author was head of a huge company in France that
turned out high end enamelled objects for discriminating clients…Are
kiln glasses really necessary? Is turning a secret from the past that
should be resurrected? He also said that when firing objects with
steep sides, it is good to turn the piece over on the second firing
so that the coverage is more even. Now that sounds like a good tip.

Larry Heyda

To Larry and all who are interested,

H.De Koningh had workshops in London and the company was taken over
by Kempson & Mauger in the 1950s. Kempson & Mauger is still in
business as enamellers but is a much smaller company now. Most of my
finest enamelwork was done by craftsmen enamellers at Kempson &
Mauger and this company was responsible for training many of the UKs
finest enamellers of today. As for current teaching of enamelling
and any part of this trade, we are constantly told to beware of
safety issues. I was shocked at what current day teachers tell their
students, when showing methods of manufacture. We have a hand craft
and as such our hands will get hurt at times, who can say hat they
have never had a finger pierced by a broken sawblade, I have many
scars on my hands from saw piercing, I am just waiting for someone to
suggest the wearing of armoured gloves for benchwork. As for
enamelling all of my enamellers work with the kiln door open most of
the time when firing enamels so they can watch what is going on
inside, and I have never seen a single pair of protective kiln
glasses in an enameller’s workshop here in the UK. Also the method
of turning the piece inside the kiln while enamelling is common
place. I say if you want to create enamelling of the quality of past
masters like Faberge, then I advise you to follow their methods as
they still work fine.

There is a lot of fine enamelling examples shown in my book," The
Work of a Master Goldsmith; A Unique Collection" which will be
published worldwide at the end of this May. Many pieces enamelled by
the craftsmen enamellers of Kempson & Mauger.

Peace and good health to all
James Miller FIPG

the idea of watching the piece throughout the firing was essential
to creating the perfect result. And nowhere was it recommended that
glasses be worn. 

Larry, that sounds a very interesting book.

Although a clock with a second hand is a useful tool, it is best to
open the kiln door and look frequently, taking the piece (nearly) out
if that gives a better view - always watch the enamel rather than the
metal or clock or temp gauge - these are helpful indicators but the
enamel is the thing. You can always put the piece back in for a short
time to finish firing to the stage you want.

Larger pieces - depending on your kiln, it can be useful to take a
piece out halfway through firing, turn it round and put back in,
which gives a more even firing. The idea of a revolving stand inside
the kiln is a new one on me, but if your kiln is big enough it would
work well in theory. Would get very hot though, and retain heat for

With a mesh (trivet) you can cut away from four sides for the fork,
to allow quarter turning too. Firing on alternating sides helps to
correct possible slumping if the piece does get overfired with
thicker enamel.

Glasses: as with all the kiln crafts, years of looking into a hot
kiln can predispose to the formation of cataracts. I never got on
with the dark green type of glasses, but the newer didium type worn
by lampwork glass people seem to be very good, and apparently filter
out some of the infra red and UV spectrum. Even if you ignore the
risks of heat exposure, you should ALWAYS wear some form of eye
protection when opening the kiln, as small shards of hot glass can
ping off the enamel surface - nasty!

happy enamelling

Hi Tamizan,

Regarding protective glasses for enameling; this discussion of
watching pieces during the entire firing process worries me as a long
term technique.

I do think it is worth suggesting that anyone proposing to spend so
much time looking into a kiln to watch the firing process wear some
eye protection for the glare as well as the heat etc.

I’ve been enameling almost everyday for 40+ years and have been very
lax. At 59, I developed some cataract problems. I’ve purposefully
been conscious of the amount of time I look into my kiln as I heard
more over the last decade or two about the potential for damage. I
know of 2 enamelists who are having serious eye problems. If those
problems are related to staring into a kiln, I couldn’t say.

Enameling isn’t dangerous with just a minimum of common sense. I
look into my small jewelry kiln frequently to check firing, but
pretty briefly. I know what it feels like to peer into my larger
kilns, and watching the entire firing sounds fairly extreme in

Also, I remember from the days of firing large plates that my kiln
temp dropped pretty radically each time I opened it to take a peak’so
how do you keep the temp up and steady if you’ve got the door open’

Easy to suggest other’s take precautions, no?