Enamelling refers to the technique of coating a surface of metal with enamel. The enamel is a coating of melted glass that, once heated, will fuse to the metal surface, leaving you with a professional finish in a colour and effect of your choice. Most enamels come in powder form, and when heated and fused to the metal you’re working with, transform into a unique glass coating.
Although it can seem a bit intimidating at first, torch enamelling is a simple way of creating varied finishes that will stand out. Use our step–by-step-guide below to perfect your technique, and you’ll be creating unique designs in no time at all.
How To Torch Fire Enamel Step-By-Step
- Ensure your workspace is open and has good ventilation. Some enamelling powders contain small amounts of lead-based toxins you should not be exposed to for prolonged lengths of time in a small unventilated space.
- Put on your safety goggles and tie back long hair (if appropriate).
- Prepare your workspace for the enamelling process, ensuring that you work on a heat resistant surface and all flammable materials are moved away from your workspace. Investing in some inexpensive ceramic tiles is a great way of protecting your workbench as you work.
- Put your tripod in a comfortable working position with the mesh firing screen resting on top. Place your trivet on the surface of the mesh firing screen and your pre-prepared piece of metal onto the trivet.
- Now you’re ready to light up your torch and begin the enamelling process. Before you do, make sure the torch is placed beneath the mesh firing screen, in a comfortable enough position for you to work in.
Enamelling with your torch
- Holding your metal piece in place with tweezers, paint or spray on a thin layer of your holding agent.
- Before applying the enamel to the metal’s surface, it helps to lay down scrap paper to catch any debris as you apply the enamel powder, as this can then be reused at a later date.
- Sift the enamel powder onto the metal surface. This will ensure that the enamel particles are distributed evenly by filtering out larger particles. When sifting enamel powder, it is recommended that a respirator mask is used, to avoid the inhalation of any glass particles.
- Once applied, you’ll need to wait for the holding agent to dry. This can be done quickly by very gently heating the underside of the metal with your torch on a very low flame.
- Start moving your torch in a circular motion, moving the flame across the piece of metal gently. As the metal begins to heat up, the various stages of enamelling will begin to emerge.
The Four Heating Stages of Torch Enamelling
The four stages that enamels move through during the heating process are sugar, orange peel, full fuse and over fired. As you learn how to torch fire enamel, you’ll begin to recognise each stage in the enamelling heating process. The stage that is commonly referred to as sugar resembles fine sugar. Orange peel resembles a bumpy but glossy orange peel. The full fuse stage is when the enamel appears smooth and shiny. And over fired is when small pits start to appear in the surface – the edges of the piece you’re working on may change colour slightly too. Getting to know each stage will enable you to recognise when to remove from the heat and how to successfully achieve your desired effect.
- When you start the first stage of heating your metal, you may find that the side that does not yet have any enamel on will become blackened by the heat of your torch. This can be avoided by applying ball clay to the back of your metal – this will protect it during firing.
- Once you’ve reached the stage in the heating process that is required for your design, you can now move the flame away from the metal. You will then need to let your metal cool before adding any other layers of enamel to your piece. It is recommended that you enamel both sides of your metal work (also referred to as counter enamel) as this can help to reduce the chance of any warping or cracking.
- After each stage of firing the enamel, you may need to file the edges of the metal piece to remove any traces of oxidisation or stray bits of enamel.
- Add two or three layers of enamel, depending on the effect you would like to achieve.
- Most importantly, remember to experiment. Learning how to torch fire enamel can take some practice but the best way to teach yourself is to continue to work with different colours, layering techniques and finishes.
We hope you’ve found our guide useful. Be sure to share your enamel creations with us on social media, tagging in Cooksongold on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.