by Tammy Honaman, Author, Jewelry-Making Expert and Educator,
Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®
Cleaning enamels refers to filtering or washing out finer enamel particles to give you consistently sized enamel particles to work with. Clean enamels yield cleaner and truer enameled results. Depending on the application though, you do not need to clean your enamels, as the results will be the same, cleaned or not.
When dry sifting opaque enamels onto copper, I do not clean the enamels and rather work straight from the container. When wet packing transparent enamels onto silver, I do clean my enamels. Let your design and testing guide your decision-making.
Place a coffee filter into a funnel. Place the funnel onto a jar.
Pour a small amount of enamel into a small container, one with a lid is recommended. Pour distilled water into the container until it just covers the enamel powder. Place the lid on the container then swirl the contents. Allow the contents to settle. You will see a clear separation between the cloudy water and the heavier enamel powder.
Pour off the water into the coffee filter, pouring just the water, not the enamels.
Repeat, adding water to the container, swirling and pouring the water off. Continue this process until the water is clear after swirling.
Allow the particles of glass in the filter to dry, allow the water in the jar to evaporate. You can save the glass particles that remain after evaporation, using them for other tasks, storing them for a short period of time or dispose of them in the trash along with the coffee filter.
The wet enamel in your small container is now washed and ready for use. Store in a tightly sealed container.
Note: These enamels should be used within a short time, as the enamel will start to breakdown. You will know if it's been too long if white spots form on the surface of the enamels in the container. At this point, dispose of the enamels in the trash.
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