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Torch vs. Kiln firing of enamel

Forgive me if I have upset anybody with my comments, but in my
experience I have never seen perfect enamelling that was fired by a
gas torch. David Wendelken posted some photos of the torch fired
enamel work of Marcus Synnot, stating that he had held these pieces
in his hand and that the colours are pure. Well looking at this
photo of a plique a-jour enamelled flower that he posted I can see
multiple black specks within the fired plique a-jour enamels, there
are two possible causes of these specks, either dirty enamels or
dirty gas from a torch. My customers would not have accepted this as
high quality enamel work. I am sure that many might find my comments
wrong, but please bear in mind I have spent my working career
supplying very choosy customers who want the best for their money
and imperfect enamelwork would never have been accepted. 

Peace and good health to all.
James Miller FIPG

I’m with James Miller on this. That’s why I used his work as well as
Fabege’s as an example of of fine enamel work.

The enameling photos posted by David do not stand up to close
scrutiny I would not find them acceptable and if presented to me by a
student would have made them do it over.

I’m all for fun in the studio and love being inclusive to all sorts
of techniques, materials, and designs however I do have high
standards for craftsmanship.

My late father the painter said “Any artist who is happy with is or
her work all the time has set their standards too low.” Have fun and
make lots of jewelry.

Jo Haemer

I have a torch and a kiln but I choose a torch, for many reasons. Not
everyjeweller aspires to pleasing the super picky elite rich
customer, for those who love enamelling and the creativity it enables
us to achieve, black specks or not, I say the torch has great
potential and scope. I have seen flaws in Lalique plique a jour
pieces too, doesn’t reduce their value or their artistic worth.

Torch firing is not pompous or self important or anal but fun,
achievable fun. i can’t understand why this matter seems to divide
enamelistse so if you want to give enamelling a go for fun for work
for competitions a torch will serve you well.

"Not everyjeweller aspires to pleasing the super picky elite rich

But there is nothing wrong with that? Just as there would be nothing
wrong with being a super picky elite rich jeweler? Just a matter of
how high or how low one sets their goals? As long as one can admire
those who do strive for excellence while “possibly” settling for less,
just which vision has for ones self.

I have found a little discipline to be valuable.

Just observing.

Richard Hart

"Any artist who is happy with is or her work all the time has set
their standards too low." 

Kind of embarrassing actually, Jo and others. Somebody fairly
prominent in teaching circles who I will give no clue as to who or
what posted some examples not too long ago. It wasn’t just bad,
lousy or awful (this being pure craft) or even rejection quality. It
was, “Not only are we not going to pay you, we are going to charge
you for cleaning up the mess you made.” For the PR of this person,
me having never looked before, it was really surprising to me.
Fundamental stuff never learned and no knowledge that it is

I am really discouraged by the lack of ambition I hear some folks
speak proudly of around here, at times. Not monetary ambition, just
plain old drive and initiative and a desire to become a better
jeweler. And then rantingabout Chinese jewelry while they toy

Sorry, a bit of a rant but it’s heartfelt. Here in our building we
get all the university dreamers because they frequent certain
businesses. Every once in a while there’s one who actually has their
eyes open, so all is not lost.

Back on track, there was a company I knew, long ago, who made super
fine, custom Masonic jewelry. They were renowned for it. All of the
enameling was done by torch, and the reason for that is because
flame never touched glass. It was filling boxes and spaces on rings
and pendants and the torch wasalways on the bare back or inside the
rings, plus they were primary colors, largely, and opaque. There’s a
place for everything… John D.

Back on track, there was a company I knew, long ago, who made
super fine, custom Masonic jewelry.

Oh my that brings back some memories. I used to work in a Nursing
Pin and Class Ring factory. It was mostly staffed by refugees from
the Viet Nam war. I was the only line worker who spoke fluent
English. I learned some important lessons there.

Even though we were paid by the hour the folks I worked with worked
at the most breakneck speed. Full tilt. Literally jogging from one
station to the other. As a result, I learned how to work without
thinking or looking for my tools. Every second counted if I was to
keep up. Even though my bench looked a mess I could grab any tool I
needed without looking for it.

That was lesson one.

I also learned that I never wanted to work like that again. So as a
result I decided to make fewer more expensive pieces for more money.
Lesson two.

Actually both fall under the saying “Work smarter not harder.” I
have to because my hands neck and eyes are shot. I can now only work
a few hours a day at the bench any more. Tim is younger than I and
not far behind. No surgery yet for him, but he is reliant upon
acupuncture and epidural neck shots to keep going. Newbies need to
not underestimate the long term wear and tear on the body that making
many many inexpensive pieces can do to you.

Oh and we did do both vitreous and soft enameling in that factory.
The vitreous we did in a kiln, the soft Ceramit style we did in an
old electric frying pan.

Although I’ve been at this for a long time I still strive to make my
work better and learn new things every day. Does anal-retentive have
a hyphen? Hell yes, and I put it there.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry. but not so much that you wear
yourself out.

Jo Haemer

Hey John, that wasn’t Van Wormer & Rodrigues in San Fran was it? I
started there in 1976 and they had beautiful emblematic jewelry and
all of the enamelwas hand ground in an agate motor and pestle then
torch fired. We would do 100 nursing pins at a time all torch fired.
Great place to work for a first job. Man that was a long time ago,
ha ha. Tim

Hi all

Any artist who is happy with is or her work all the time has set
their standards too low.

I agree. I can always find fault with pieces I make or think of ways
I could have done the process better. One should always strive to
improve in this trade.

This is why I make technical comments but do not post photos, too
embarrassed. But I have sent photos offline and have received some
very positive compliments. That said I do sell a lot of jewellery so
the public appreciate what I make.

It is just that on this forum there are so many far beyond my skills
and my pieces are very simple and basic. But very well made.

Not every jeweller aspires to pleasing the super picky elite rich

Why not? You cannot tell who they are by looking at them. They do
not all “dress to impress”. They also do not always spend thousands of
dollars. I know of one gentleman who has his Rolls Royce shipped to
Australia to drive for his holidays yet I know another who is far
wealthier who just drives a standard rental car for his holidays in
Australia, who’d have thunk it?

Pretense and ostentation do not often equate with wealth. I have one
customer who regularly has dinner parties for 50 or more.

Does she stand out from the crowd? Not by dress, but manners and
speech give a hint. This lady will carefully inspect my jewellery and
buy a piece for under a hundred dollars.

The “super picky” do not have to be the “elite rich”. Those without
a fortune to spend may have an eye for quality and detail.

I am one of those. I am a fool with cash so put my money into
investment properties, stops me buying things I don’t need like laser
welders. But when I do part with the cash the item is of the highest

Point is make the best quality you can and always strive to improve
design and technique, your customers will appreciate it.

I made an order for a mobius bangle this week. Not happy re-made one
bangle 3 times, yes it will sell. Not good enough for me so made
another one today. Almost happy with it. Customer will not see the
faults I do, but that is not the point is it?

all the best

Hey John, that wasn't Van Wormer & Rodrigues in San Fran was it? 

No, Tim, is was Fred Buhn and Company. It was a century old place
that had been taken over by fresh people in the 60’s or something.
They made custom Masonic and fraternal jewelry, very high end stuff.
Not a lot of production, just custom. Ed Bieneke was your basic
master engraver and he ran it for quite a few years. I’m not sure
what all happened but in the end Ed got work engraving urns for a
cemetery and that was basically a full time job that paid extremely
well so he took that up and the company closed for good. Haven’t
heard what ever happened to him, we were pretty good friends in a
business sort of way.

Much the same thing happened with the best diamond setter I’ve ever
personally known. He got a gig setting Rolexes and took that to his
home shop and that’s all he does now, is set watches all day long
for a single client. John D.

Torch enamelling may be fine for small non perfect items, but to
achieve high quality enamelling a kiln is a must. 

The temperature differential may be important. What is the maximum T
from each?