Glass Enameling Studio Safety and Tips

by Tammy Honaman, Author, Jewelry-Making Expert and Educator,
Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and BeadsĀ®

: : : Materials : : :

  • Paragon kiln
  • Ceramic tile
  • Dust mask
  • Bowl of cold water
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Timer
  • Glossy paper or copy paper for sifting enamels over
  • 50/50 ammonia to water solution when working with fine silver
The process of enameling can be done in almost any size space. Enamels are applied to metal then fired with a torch or in a kiln. Depending on the space in your studio, you may need to perform these tasks in two different areas, which is not a bad thing as this helps prevent cross-contamination of particles. You may find you need to do all of your enameling work in one area and this is fine too, you just need to keep things clean and tidy, again, to prevent cross-contamination of particles.

When torch firing, I enamel my metal as well as fire on the same workspace, cleaning up in between. For me, this is not only a more convenient option, as well as more comfortable as I like one work space over another, but also, when torch firing, things happen more quickly and it saves me time.

When firing in a kiln, I enamel in one area then fire in a different space. This allows me room to be messy with my enamels (not cleaning up as much as I probably should!) and probably slows me down enough to appreciate and concentrate on all that is going on with the enamels while they are heating up. It's also been a great time to stretch and clean up the area near my kiln.

The same rules of safety apply, no matter which way you decide to set things up:
  • The area where you will be working with enamels should have good ventilation
  • Don't eat or drink anything where you will be doing the enameling (particulates could wind up in these items and then inadvertently be ingested)
  • When sifting the enamels wear a dust mask
  • Fire enamels in a well-ventilated area so you exhaust any fumes, especially those caused from metal oxides that may be present in the enamels
  • Change your clothes after you have completed your enamel work for the day. Be aware of removing your shirt over your face, as some enamel particles may still be present.
  • Wear natural fiber clothing when firing in your studio. Should there be an accidental fire, natural fibers will not stick to you like manmade fabrics would.
  • Work in as clean an area as possible
  • Clean throughout the enameling process so you do not add particles of something to something else--e.g. introducing fire scale to your enamel jars, or blue enamel into your white enamel, etc.
  • Clean up your worktable when you are finished enameling and before moving into a new design project
If possible, having running water or easy access to a sink would be great, especially when cleaning the metal before, during and after firing, as well as when using an alundum stone.

Having access to power would be nice so you can use power tools (maybe you want to drill your metal pre-enameling), plug in a kiln, heat a pot of pickle (if you like to pickle your metal in between layers of enamel), for polishing up anything post firing and of course, for access to good lighting!

For information on how to enamel, how to fire enamel using a torch or a kiln, as well as other enameling information, please visit the resources listed.

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