The Art of Enameling

The art of enameling is within the reach of any girl who is willing to bring her latent gifts into play. It is generally supposed that enameling entails expensive lessons from an expert, and that a knowledge of making jewelry is essential; but this is not so, as it is only necessary to understand the process of enameling and the cutting of the metal to receive it.

All the mounting can be done by a jeweler. It is best to find a working jeweler who will take an interest in carrying out the ideas of the enameller, and who is content to charge for labor only.

It is also possible to make use of the cheap jewelry which can some- times be picked up in such good designs. When the metal is covered with enamel, it only requires an edge to protect it from being chipped, which can be added by the working jeweler.

The Kiln and Tools:

The work will require some outlay for the necessary tools and kiln; but it is best to get only a small stock of tools at first, and add to them as they are needed. There are three kinds of kilns — charcoal, electric, and gas; the latter is usually the most convenient. Inside a kiln is fitted a “muffler ” — a hollow, semi-circular shaped piece, the opening of which is just the size of the door.

The flames burn around and underneath the muffler, and must never come in contact with the enamels. When ready for firing, enamels are put on small iron plaques, which must be kept scrupulously clean with whitewash, for if the irons come in contact with the enamel it would spoil the colors.

The furnace must be brought to a white-heat, and the plaque carefully set in the muffler with the pincers. The door, which is in two pieces, is then put in place. The time of firing varies from two and a half minutes to five, but the enameller must learn by experience just how long to fire the pieces. Sometimes they require three or four firings. Each time the enamel is painted over the glass already fired.

Preparing the Colors:

Enamel is made of powdered glass, which is bought in small lumps; a skilled worker will use as many as forty colors, but it is best for a beginner to start with about six. The glass should be kept in envelopes, and the name of the color written on the outside.

A couple of mortars with pestles and some cups must be provided. Put the colored glass in the mortar, and cover the lumps of glass with water to pre- vent particles flying about the room. First break the lumps into little bits, not directly with the pestle, but by pounding the pestle down upon them with a wooden mal- let.

Then crush these bits into powder with the pestle. With some colors the powder must be finer than with others, but this point can only be determined by experience. After the crushing, the powder is very carefully washed. Part of the secret of beautiful clear color lies in many washings sometimes fifty or sixty. At first the water is very cloudy, and dust rises to the top.

Again and again the water must be poured off and fresh poured on; wash until the water is absolutely clear and the glass powder all lies at the bottom. The glass must be washed as it is needed, or dust will get in and dull the color.

The enamel is now ready to be painted on the metal, which may be gold, silver, copper, brass, or iron — even tin can be utilized. Long ago enamellers had to have banks, or beds, of metal to keep the enamel in place, but to-day the color is kept ”still” with- out metal boundaries, and the process only requires that the enamel be applied like paint.

The Metal:

The metal can be procured in small sheets of various thickness; a medium weight or gauge is best suited to enameling. First draw a design on thin Japanese tracing- paper, and paste it over the metal; then, with a jeweler’s fret-saw, cut out the design, following the lines of the pat- tern.

It is best to begin on simple things, such as tops for umbrella handles, lids of boxes, or hat-pins and buttons, using articles that can be bought in the shops, and adding the distinctive touch of good enameling to them. Suppose a silver box is bought with a concave lid.  It shows such a box ornamented by the figure of a swan, a most effective design.

This may be engraved, which is scratching a simple design with an engraving tool, or, if preferred, the top of the box could be hammered instead of engraved. Place the metal on a piece of iron, and use a small tool called a “cup tool.” Hammer this tool with a wooden mallet, which will make a small round ring-rising relief. Some workers use only a fourpenny nail filed blunt at the point, but the cup tool makes the work easier for an amateur.

After engraving or hammering, clean the piece with powdered pumice-stone and water; then polish with a burnisher until bright. This must be done on both sides, and has to be repeated after the article is enamellist and fired The metal assumes a bright, lustrous finish, whether it is brass, copper, or silver, after the burnishing, and is then ready to be enamelled.

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