Single-Strand Necklace with Enameled Copper Embellishments and SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS
-- Designer --
Tammy Honaman, Author, Jewelry-Making Expert and Educator, Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®To learn more about Tammy Honaman, read her jewelry artist success story here
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The charms and pendants in this necklace were made using copper blanks and sifted dry opaque enamels. A counter and a top layer of enamel were applied to each copper blank. The decorative touches were done using a contrasting opaque enamel that was applied either in a sgraffito style or with the use of a wet paper stencil.
Set Up Your Kiln Firing and Enameling Areas
Kiln Firing Area
- Place a trivet onto a folded mesh rack
- Place a kiln shelf in the kiln
- Set up a heat-proof area outside the kiln so you can place the mesh rack and trivet onto a safe surface when removing from the kiln (everything will be very hot)
- Place your heat resistant gloves, safety (green tinted) glasses and firing fork next to the kiln
- Place a bowl of cold water and a fire extinguisher near the kiln for safety in the event of an accident
- Cut recycled magazine pages or copy paper into halves
- Have sifters and enamels nearby
- Clean your worksurface so it’s free of debris from any past projects
- Have a good dust mask ready
- Speed - FULL
- Temp - 1460 degrees (Fahrenheit)
- Hold - 3 hours
Prepping the Metal for EnamelingNote: If your metal blanks have a protective coating or film, remove it completely before proceeding.
Place a blank onto a scrap piece of wood. Using a center punch, punch a divot into your metal blank where you want the hole to be drilled or punched.
Use a hole punch to create a string hole or secure a small drill bit into the collet of a rotary drill and drill a pilot hole. Fit the drill with the next-size-up drill bit and enlarge the hole. Repeat until the hole is to the size you would like.
Use a jeweler's file to remove any burs remaining on the metal after the hole is created.
Repeat to add holes to each of the copper blanks in your design.
Rub Penny Brite® onto the surface of a copper blank.
Rinse. The water should "sheet" off of the blank (not drag along the surface). Clean again if necessary. Once clean, do your best to not handle the component with your hands; oil, grease or dirt will impede proper fusing between the enamel and metal.
Note: Once you begin applying enamel, you will be handling the component--do your best to not touch the area where the enamel will be applied.
Clean all the copper blanks for your project then set them aside.
Applying a Layer of Counter Enamel
Counter enameling is done to help prevent the metal from warping, something that can happen due to the expansion and contraction of the glass enamel as it is heated and cooled. (For this project, green was used.)
Put a dust mask on. Place a trivet onto the folded wire mesh rack and have it set aside within arm's reach.
Fill a sifter about 1/3 full with enamel. While holding your work over a piece of magazine or copy paper, place a copper blank upside down on the end of two fingers in your nondominant hand. With your dominant hand, hold the sifter above the outside edge of the blank. Tap the handle of the sifter, and as the enamel comes through the mesh, move the sifter in a spiral pattern around the blank, working toward the center.
Carefully place the enamel-covered blank onto the trivet. Ensure the drill hole is free of enamel. If needed, use a beading awl or toothpick to clean any enamel from the hole.
Put on your heat resistant gloves and kiln safety glasses. Place the kiln fork tongs under the wire mesh rack and lift it up.
Open the kiln door and carefully maneuver the rack into place on the kiln shelf inside the kiln. Close the kiln door.
Allow the kiln to heat back up to temperature. After it reaches 1460 degrees Fahrenheit, wait one minute then open the door enough so that you can look in to see what the surface of the enamel looks like. If it is not to your liking, close the door, allow the kiln to heat back up and wait another minute before checking again.
Once the surface is to your liking, lift the rack with the fork, remove the rack and place onto the heatproof surface next to the kiln. Remove the gloves and glasses. Allow the piece to cool to room temperature before touching it.
Note: The square shown is hot and right out of the kiln. As it cools, the red will become more apparent.
Fold the paper to form a funnel-like spout then pour the enamels back into the container.
Repeat Steps 3 - 7 to add a layer of counter enamel to each blank.
Applying a Top Layer of Enamel
The top layer, also known as the base layer, faces forward.
Note: When firing the copper, a layer of firescale will form on the areas not coated with enamel. This is an oxide formed when the metal comes into contact with high heat. Firescale will flake off as the metal cools and the surface will be left with a beautiful reddish brown color. Brush the metal completely then rinse, ensuring the water sheets off the surface. If needed, repeat cleaning with Penny Bright to ensure the surface is clean of any oils or dirt. If applying a transparent enamel, ensure the color is as you would like it as you will see this coloring through the transparent enamel. If needed, scrub the surface to return it to a shiny copper.
- After finishing your first layer on the front, check the edges of the blanks. Remove the flakes of firescale so they do not inadvertently flake off and wind up in your next layer of enamel. You can clean the metal as before or with an alundum stone.
- The edges should be clean and free of enamel. If they are not, it is advisable to clean the edges using an alundum stone. If left alone, it's possible enamel will build up in this area and give your blank a strange shape or it could chip off later and cause more of the enameled surface to chip than you would like.
Using an Alundum Stone
While working with a bowl of water or with running water, stone the edges of the blank with the 220 grit alundum stone. If you find the enamel is not coming off, switch to the 150 grit then repeat with the 220 grit to finish.
You must work wet when using an alundum stone. The water will help remove the aluminum oxide residue and prevent you from inadvertently grinding it into your glass surface.
You can stop your designing here and add your blanks into your finished necklace, as the enamel work is great just the way it is. To add more to your designs, see "Sgraffito with Dry Sifted Enamel" and "Wet Paper Stencil with Dry Sifted Enamel."
Sgraffito with Dry Sifted EnamelSgraffito is an Italian word that relates to the technique of scratching through the top surface to see the surface below.
Put a dust mask on. Place a trivet onto the folded wire mesh rack and set it aside within arm's reach. Fill a sifter about 1/3 full. While holding your work over a piece of paper, sift a layer of enamel as you did before onto the front side of the enameled blank.
Using a tool with a fine point or a finetipped artist's quality paintbrush, "scratch" out a pattern in the dry enamel.
Carefully place the blank onto the trivet. Ensure the drill hole is free of enamel. If needed, use a beading awl or toothpick to clean any stray enamel.
Once the surface is to your liking, open the door, lift the rack with the fork, remove the rack and place onto the heatproof surface next to the kiln. Remove the gloves and glasses. Allow the piece to cool to room temperature before touching it.
Repeat Steps 11 - 13 for as many blanks as your design calls for.
Wet Paper Stencil with Dry Sifted Enamel
Create a stencil using copy paper, brown craft paper or brown paper towels. The stencil can be made by cutting out a pattern using scissors or a craft knife, punching a pattern out using craft paper punches or randomly punching holes in paper using hole punches or any other method you can come up with that creates open spaces.
Using a paper punch, punch a design into a piece of paper.
Wet the paper, carefully squeeze out the excess water then unfold the paper. Place the enameled blank onto a support that raises it off of your worksurface--a jar of enamel was used here. Place the stencil onto the front of the enameled blank.
Choose a color of enamel that contrasts to the color already enameled on the blank then sift a layer onto the stencil.
Carefully lift the stencil off of the blank, trying hard not to shift the paper as you lift it. Any excess motion might cause enamel to fall through the openings onto your stenciled blank.
Clean off the blank and try again, or use a paintbrush to clean any stray enamel.
You can try to reuse the stencil; allow to dry then assess its condition. You can allow the excess enamel to dry and use it throughout the making of this project. Keep this enamel separate from the main container then discard once your project is complete. Enamel that gets wet will degrade over time and if returned to the enamel container it could contaminate the other enamel, affecting the overall look of your enamel at a later time.
Repeat stenciling as many blanks as your design calls for.
Once your blanks are all enameled with designs of your choice, incorporate them into finished jewelry designs.
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