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Torch enamelling

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh. (That’s a contended sigh, not a scream.) I’ve just
spent a bit of precious time snuffling around Orchid; the world feels
rightsideout again. Hello, you wonderful people. My name is Andy; I
was an Orchid junky all summer but had to suspend contact when I
returned to my home here in San Miguel, Mexico. I am still awaiting
my phoneline, so my internet time must be purchased at considerable
expense at this local internet cafe–which puts Orchid out of the
picture for now. BUT, I have come up with a
burning–literally–question in my studio work, and so am paying
through the nose to post this question to the one group of souls who
I know will be able to easily, knowledgeably, and thoroughly answer
it: *what is the basic procedure for torch enamelling???
I’ve been playing on copper-depleted sterling, with mixed results.
Dry-sifted powder is working best for so far–but this is
unsatisfactory in terms of precision of application. I can’t seem to
get water-mixed, or gum-T mixed, to come out. Also, should I
pre-flux before applying enamel? Picle after first coat?? Yes, am
using mask, distilled water, heat lamp to dry prior to torching…
As I can’t easily access the Orchid forum, I’d GREATLY APPRECIATE any
responses sent directly to the following e-mail receiving service:
Andy Blair c/o Also, if anyone has any
queries Re: San Miguel, I’d be more than happy to help if I can.
Same address. (Hi, ED, Sandra, Vlatka–I have not forgotten your
warmth/kindnesses. Hope you’re all doing well.) Tx to all.

Hi Andy: I would contact a metal smith from the San Francisco Bay Area
named Deborah Losier - she teaches torch enameling and I have heard
she is very generous with her advice and suggestions. I will save
this message and see if I can locate her email and/or studio address
for you. I know that she is in charge of the local library for our
Metal Arts Guild so I should be able to get back to you soon. If not,
feel free to bug me about it at Good luck!

Dear Orchidians: A post yesterday got me thinking. I have
occasionally seen examples of torch-fired enamel. There’s a jeweler
who is fairly well known for this; I can’t recall her name at
present. Does anyone have instructions for how to do this? Or
references to books? I have been thinking about trying it for a
while, but never could find instructions. I do have kiln enameling
experience and know the usual procedures-used to do a lot of it;
some time back, now.

Thanks in advance!
Lin Lahlum

Dear Lin - The person who is known for torch enameling is Deb Lozier,
and she is her in Oakland, CA. She often gives workshops both
locally and nationwide, so wherever you are - you may be able to
catch up with her for a class.

Ivy in Oakland

Hi Lin - I know that Marjorie Simon does torch-fired enameling. I
think she may be teaching a class at Arrowmont School of Crafts in
Tennessee this spring or summer. Good luck! Sarah Philbeck

torch enameling is very easy to do. the only real problem is
devising a way to hold your work as you are applying the flame
of the torch. I have taught torch firing to classes so that
students who did not have access to a kiln, could still do some
enameling at home. In class we used a prestolite acetylene torch.
Some of my students had success using cheap bernzomatic propane
torches. I had them use heavy gauge copper (or fine silver), at
least 18 gauge for pieces about l or 2 inches in diameter, 16 gauge
for larger pieces. By using heavy gauge metal, the pieces did not
have to be counter enameled. The pieces were placed on a tripod on
which a heavy mesh, or wire grid was placed. The flame of the torch
was directed underneath the grid, and was moved around slowly until
the enamel melted and fused. It is advisable to Keep the torch
moving so as not to melt your silver. For the larger pieces on which
we were using hard enamel it was sometimes necessary to play the
flame over the top of the enamel to assist in the melting of the
enamel. The colors remained true and as bright as if they had been
fired in the kiln. We were using lead bearing enamels so I don’t
know if the results would be the same if one used lead free enamels.

For larger pieces we needed two torches to fuse the enamels.

You might check some of the back issues of Glass on Metal. I believe
that some years ago an enamelist named Maureen Caswell (think that
was her name) had an article on torch firing. She enameled fairly
large bowls formed from copper foil–quite delicate,and very
Hope this helps. Alma

Just tried my first few pieces with the torch. They worked out
rather well. It looks as though my enameling skills are pretty
rusty, but I didn’t;t scorch the enamel. I used a propane torch, and
an old X shaped trivet I had from my kiln fired enamel class years
ago. I have a non-asbestos pad under it, and I heat that to reflect
the heat up.

Thanks Everybody!
Colleen Lewis

I do torch firing , I agree with you on your explanation of the
basics, I have just completed writing a chapter on torch firring,
for a new book that is comming out in the fall of 2002 it will be
titeled “The Fine Art of Enameling” I beleive there will be 21
artist involved in it - I think this book will be a great book as
each artist is contributing info on their special entrest on enamels,
some I have never heard of. By all means fire from the back when
doing flat peices - and beads I fire about 2" from the head of the
torch , (in the blue part of the flame)- I fire with a propane
Benziomatic torch as it produces a clean hot flame, and you don’t get
firescale or oxides in your work. Aileen Geddes @Aileen_Geddes

wonderful listers,

in response to one of my many questions, someone had replied that
one could enamel using a torch.

i thought i had asked more about that, but can’t find a thread

anyone want to elaborate on that process?

Jocelyn Broyles
Costa Rica ph(011 506) 376.6417
U.S. fax (253) 669.1679

Hello Jocelyn,

Yes, it is possible to enamel with a torch. there are some things
you should take care of: your flame must be big enough (round tip) to
heat the piece gently all over (some people use two flames when the
piece is big). Heat it from the back. When the flame touches the
enamel it will react with it (sometimes I do it because I want it,
but try before you spoil beautifull colours). The nice thing is that
you have a perfect controll over what happens. Keep a very good eye
on the melting point: the enamel must flow, not the metal :slight_smile:

Sometimes I built a corner with bricks to keep the warmth. Than I
first heat the bricks, as a kind of oven, and then place the piece
with enamel in it on a frame made from metal gauze. The bricks give a
good even heat and you can heat the piece from below with your flame.
Because you made a corner the heat will not flow too fast. But stay
carefull and don’t heat too much, the enamel will burn away. Try
every colour before you use it in a serious piece - but well, that is
the same as when you enamel with a kiln.

Try it, it is fun to see how the enamel flows, good luck, Marleen.

Marleen B. Berg

Maastricht, Nl.

Simply set your piece up on a mesh and heat from underneath. remove
the torch as soon as the enamel has fused.

You have to be careful that the flame does not disturb the enamel
and the piece is heated evenly. Half an hours practice with some
scrap blanks should make everything plain.

I believe that most of the old enamelled advertising signs were
fired in this way.

Bill Bedford

Hi Jocelyn,

I have just come back from demonstrating “torch enamelling” on
account of being the guest artist (artist-in-residence) at a local
festival here on Vancouver Island. It was a blast.

The reason I do torch enamelling is to provide potential customers
with an understanding as to how enamelled pieces are made. Below is
the way I do it. You will likely read about as many processes as there
are responses to your question.

My demonstration starts with a piece of rectangular copper of 0.5 mm
thick. In general, I fold-form it (isn’t it amazing how many lives
Charles has influenced) because the forms stengthens the piece but
still provides visual interest. The final size is about 3cmm by 4cm.

Strengthening the piece avoids the problem of unequal compression due
to enamelling only on one side. Compression is caused by the enamel
having a higher expansion coefficent than the copper. Compression can
lead to the enamel spalling.

Once the piece is formed I heat it to when the colours of a pigeon’s
throat (gorge de pigeon) appear, let it cool a little, immerse it
pickle (it’s at ambient temperature as I am demonstrating outside
under a tent - there is some splashing but the jar is high and it’s
in a bucket), rinse it and clean it with a brass brush.

Then I apply the enamel (sifting or wet packing whatever strikes my
fancy). Once the piece has the enamel on it, and it is dry, I place
it on top of a mesh mounted on a trivet.

I use brazing fuel or MAP gas, because of the higher heat content
relative to that for propane, and heat from beneath. I always heat
from beneath because otherwise I will blow the enamel away.

This is when the magic occurs. Just before I apply the heat, I let
the audience know what they can expect to see: a layer of copper
oxide forming, followed by the enamels just melting, then forming an
orange peel, and then after some time lightening up as the copper
oxide dissolves in the now molten glass. Lot’s of ooh’s and aaw’s.

I let the piece cool and then pass it around.

It’s that simple. Well almost.

One can make torch fired beads. In that case one heats the copper
tube placed on a mandrel, and while it is hot one spins it around in
the enamel powder and then heats it up again in the flame to melt it;
contrary to what I said above. The difference is that the enamel has
partially melted onto the copper before the heat is applied.

Hope this helps.

David Popham
David Popham Enamels
"Contemporary designs of an ancient tradition"

Hi there jocelyn.

Years ago when I took an enamelling course with a wonderful tutor
in London (Gudde Skyrme), attending the same course were two men who
helped run their mother’s business making 18ct and 22ct gold
cufflinks for a very up-market outlet. We all listened in amazement
to hear how these cufflinks were laid out in a row and fired from
underneath with a torch. It is ten years since then and I don’t
remember the details, but before I bought a kiln, I did experiment
with the torch, and as long as I was careful not to let the flame
touch the enamel. I had some very good results. Some enamels do not
like this treatment though so sample firings are a must. I set the
pieces on a stainless steel mesh on a tripod and fired away. The mesh
does tend to dissipate the heat but it works! Counter enamelling is
tricky though so I made items from 1.2mm silver etched with a design
and slightly domed and they did not warp. Sorry I cant be more
technical about the process but I expect other orchidians out there
will be.

Good luck.
Ruth in the UK.

Be sure to use hard solder for any soldering. Also, just as with
kiln firing, if you are going to use more than one layer, melt only
to the orange peel stage and be sure to counterenamel or you will
have warpage.

Marilyn Smith

regarding soldering 2 pieces together before enamelling.

I enamel only on fine silver and if I need to connect 2 pieces
together wether it is a backing or a structural issue the only
solder to use is IT solder. This is a very strong and hard solder
no tin present. silver and copper. Before enamelling you must
pickle and quench many times (at least 6) to bring the fine silver
back to the surface of your metal so that you do not contaminate
your enamel.

Another form of connection is to allow for holes in your piece and
rivit them together “very carefully”. Again you do not want to
crack your enamel.

Please email me if you have any questions. I am instructor of
cloisonne and plique-a-jour enamel.


Jennifer Friedman
Ventura, CA 93004
phone: 805-650-4639

Why do you have to do the heat, pickle and quench if you are using
fine silver?


You have to use the heat pickle and quench because you are soldering
it with an alloy and the alloy contaminates your enamel.

Ventura, CA

    You have to use the heat pickle and quench because you are
soldering it with an alloy and the alloy contaminates your enamel. 

Is this true with IT solder?

yes, IT solder has alloy (copper) in it. Depending on what you are
soldering and where you are soldering. If you are doing findings
then it isn’t any big deal, if you are soldering fixtures on the
front of the piece you intend t o enamel then it can be a big deal.
If you are using opaque enamels: no big deal, if you are using
transparent enamels, yes big deal. the copper in the alloy turns
black when put into the kiln.


I have worked with Felicia Liban and have done extensive soldering
before enamelling, using IT, with no bad results. I wonder?