I am continuing to fail to enamel flat discs. I want to make my own dials. About 38mm in diameter. It is important that they be flat (as possible) as I am unable to find any way to slightly dome them.
I am working with fine silver and am ready to use any gauge and any metal. All I want is to put a couple of coats of enamel that may potentially stand a few firings of overglaze/miniature painting. My pieces are cracking after just one or two firings. Can anyone please recommend something? I have tried and am continuingly failing with no progress.
You can also hollow out a shallow cavity in a piece of wood or the top of a stump. A curved-faced mallet would be best, but you could dome a piece of wood to use as a punch, or use a sandbag, a thick piece of rubber, or layers of towel and hammer on that. Getting slight doming on a small piece shouldn’t be that difficult.
As to enameling a flat disc, are you enameling both sides? You should counter-enamel the back side to counter-balance the contraction of the enamel as it cools from molten to hard on the face side.
Neil has given you many good options to dome a disc. His question as to whether the disc has been counter enameled is most likely to be the cause of your enamel cracking. Using a counter enamel, especially with thinner metal, is vital to balance the stress caused by expansion and contraction.
If your fine silver is very thin you could apply a counter (either sifted and held in place by klyr fire or using a liquid enamel), let it dry and then apply your base coat so that you can fire both sides at the same time. This should help to eliminate warping and/or cracking.
Your metal needs to have the same amount of enamel on the back to counteract the stress of the glass on the front. So do what Neil and Pam said and counter enamel. To keep it flat, put a piece of flat steel (small anvil) on the top of your kiln and also an old-fashioned flat iron or a flat trowel. Upon taking the enamel out of the kiln, place it immediately on the anvil and immediately press it flat with the iron or trowel. If you let it cool too much the enamel will crack so speed is essential.
For slight doming, there used to be inexpensive wooden dapping blocks specially for watchmakers with very shallow indentations (as opposed to the regular jewelers blocks which have half-spheres). They were used for watch cases. It used to be a common item and they were a much cheaper than the jewelers’ dapping blocks.
I have questions before I can give answers. Are you using a torch or a kiln to enamel? How thick of a layer are you sifting on each time? Have you done much enameling before trying watch dials? Whenever possible it’s a good idea to enamel both sides equal thicknesses at the same time on your first firing.
Thank you for the tool recommendations and the advice. I shall follow it along and try. The primary problem with doming is that dials are secured using feet, and a dome means tricky soldering/misalighment of feet is highly possible making it more challenging.
It is true that I have not been using counter enamel. I shall use it and try it! Thank you again!
Thank you Pam for the advice, you are correct in assumig that I am not using counter enamel. I shall use it! I have Klyr Fyre…yet sometimes it produces bubbles. How do I know that the piece has dried? Is there a test?
Thank you for your advice. I have not been using counter enamel but I have tried the technique that you mentioned (pressing flat with a flat iron) and every single time it has cracked. I think this is due to lack of counter enamel. I shall do it with counter enamel and update you with results!
I am using a kiln. It is a 4x4x20inch deep muffle furnace with excellent thermal insulation and little to no drop in temperature upon open/closing of doors thanks to such a deep depth.
I am a beignner enameller and my primary goal (arguably…only goal) is to make dials as I am very passionate about watchmaking and love the brilliance and finish of enamels. It is unmatched to any other lacquered dials or other materials.
I do not have prior experience and am self learning. Thank you, i will sift on both sides. So far I have only been wet packing and it has led to many many bubbles (visible when I grind on a lap) so I will move to sifting enamel.
Janet, please check into MerryLee Rae online enamelist diva in the courses she offers. She has a watch Making firm associated who asked for fine Enamels to put in her fabricated cases. They did offer a class, I believe was in person in MLR’s CA studio. I have taken 2 courses in person, fortunately. The rest are online. Her video online courses are well worth the time and cost.
I would recommend that you take a workshop on enameling from an expert. It is a beautiful but very exacting art form. There is a lot of science involved in it. Merry-Lee Rae teaches online classes. “Merry-Lee Raes Online Classroom” can be joined for free on facebook. There is some great info there. Her online workshops cost money but are very affordable. There are also for inspiration several other enameling pages on facebook .
I’m a very experienced metalsmith and fell down the enameling rabbit hole a few years ago. There is so much to learn that I kick myself for not starting to learn enameling 30 years ago. I floundered and got very discouraged for the first year or so and then finally took lessons from an expert. I was gob smacked at how much I learned just in the first day. Vitreous enameling is truly one of the most beautiful metals based art forms out there. Good luck and enjoy the wild ride of enameling.