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Polishing Enamel work


can you please share your experience with enamel polishing to
achieve the bright shine effect? what are the best and the most
effective methods?

thanks a lot

Irma, After stoning my enamel, and glass brushing it to make sure
that all particles are removed, I put it back into the kiln for a
quick flash fire which brings back the high shine.



It depends what enamel you are refering to…are u refering to
powdered glass enamel? or epoxy resin? if it is the glass enamel the
only way is to heat the piece to a point that will make the glass
melt and gloss over the top…

if u are refering to epoxy resin…thats a different story…to
polish that, you can sand down with the different grade sand paper’s
as you would with metal, and go up to grade 1200 paper…after that
take it to the buffer with tripoli, but the one thing to remember is
that epoxy resin is very soft, so when u are buffing dont press too
hard, if you have certain patterns on it you want to keep, or even
if its smooth surface, because if u press too hard, and unevenly on
the buff, you will get buff lines etched into the resin that you will
have to file and sand out again…just remember light hands when
buffing and you will be fine…

Hope this helps…

Irma, I only have a little enamel experience - others here have more,
I know. The best and most effective method is to not polish it at
all. Stone down the surface so it’s regular, clean it thoroughly, and
then refire it - it will be perfect if done properly.

Hi Irma,

It would be helpful to understand what enameling techniques you are
employing, ie champleve, plique a jour, cloisonne, limoge etc as
some finishing techniques are particularly suited to the original
construction technique.

My preferred approach is to attempt to avoid mechanical finishing if
at all possible by a final “flash” firing of the piece, ie high and
fast where the top surface of the enamel is melted to a smooth glassy

When this fails, depending on the enameling technique, a number of
options present themselves.

(i) Mechanical abrasion with progressively finer grits of silicon
carbide abrasive papers, you need to employ care when changing up to
the next finer grit as small particles of silicon carbide can lodge
in the enamel surface and cause scratching, I typically give the
piece a couple of minutes in the ultrasonic cleaner to avoid this. At
the end of the silicon carbide papers, in my case around the 1500 -
2000 grit, I will revert to a cotton mop in the flexshaft, charged
with Tripoli, or Hyfin or rouge for the final polish.

Cerium or aluminium oxides used in the final polishing steps for
faceting stones can also be employed in place of the rouge, this is
particularly useful where the enameled piece has a high percentage of
white/pale enamels as the rouge can leave a reddish staining that is
very difficult to remove.

(ii) If the piece is flat construction, (as distinct from a curved
surface), then a flat polishing lap can be very fast and effective. I
employ an old polishing lap, too worn to effectively polish stones
and employ cerium or aluminium oxide as the polishing agent. The
outcome is usually about as good a finish as flash firing, the
downside is occasional smearing of the metal onto the enamel surface
which can be difficult to remove.

(iii) The 3M bristle mops mounted in a flexshaft can also provide an
effective alternate, I would typically abrade the piece with silicon
carbide papers and then utilize the blue 400 grit mops, followed by
the 1 micron green mops for the final finish. A bit of care needs to
be employed as it is surprisingly easy to end up with small grooves
where the enamel has been preferentially abraded.

(iv) You can obtain small diamond pads in progressively finer grits,
they mount onto a semi flexible rubber mandrel which is mounted in
the flexshaft. The pads are self adhesive but I have found that I
need a reasonable amount of water to keep them cool enough to avoid
separation from the mandrel, the coarser grits also have a tendency
to grab the enamel/ metal surface boundary and can be quite
difficulty to control, that said, they do provide a very rapid and
very clean abrasion, I finish with a 50,000 - 100,000 polish.

Kind regards
Don Iorns

1 Like


I am so glad you finish your enamels the same way I do, I was just
getting ready to email that I don’t do a final flash fire and give
the instructions. But you’ve said it all.

Personally I don’t like the final flash fire, because the enamel
sinks in the center and climbs the edge. When finishing it on
lapidary tools. I finish it with a muslim mop loaded with carnuba
pure wax. It gives the enamel an amazing soft glow and shine.

jennifer friedman

I’ve finished both with cerium oxide and by flash firing, and have
had good results with either. I tend to use flash firing more because
I find it easier and I lack some of the equipment that would make
polishing with cerium oxide more effective.

I’ve found the trick to successful flash firing is firing hot
enough. I pop my kiln up to 1550, which is much higher than I would
use for the regular firings, but only fire for 45 seconds to a minute
or so. The idea is you want to quickly gloss the surface without the
fusing penetrating deeper into the enamel. This way you maintain your
shape and avoid the problem of the enamel sinking in the center and
rising at the edges, but still get a high gloss shine.

It’s vitally important to throughly clean the enamel before flash
firing. Any stray grit left over from the stoning and sanding steps
can cloud and discolor your enamel if it gets fired on. You can clean
the enamel with a glass brush and ammonia, or you can put it in an
ultrasonic cleaner with ammonia and water. Either method should
remove any remaining grit.

Pam East

Hi, Pam
I enjoy your blog! Re. flash firing. I usually finish with alundum stone to even the wires and the surface, then with finer sandpaper and then do the final flash firing. However, I noticed, that enamel is glossy and nice, but there are very small waves just next to cloisonne wires. It’s not sinking, but opposite - it’s a little low at the wires and cloisonne cell is a little bit up. It’s not very noticeable, but still not the same as it would be completely even. Any tricks how to avoid it?

Sandra McEwen has quite a few YouTube videos on the subject of finishing enamels. The link below addresses her solution to additional polishing after the final firing…