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When you need more flair...

Cloisonne is the art of using metal to outline your drawing and filling in the open spaces with something that dries to a hard glossy finish like enamel paint or a fired pottery glaze.

This was an experiment to see if I could make a cool custom cloisonne pin without the industrial process used to make them.

There are already many methods to simulate the look of cloisonne. I am going to fabricate the pin itself with tools and materials I have on hand. From the dollar store, I got a few different colors of nail polish to use.

Step 1: Bend a Little...

To form the border of your pin, use a thick wire. I used a piece of 12 AWG copper wire. You may be better off with a thinner wire since it was difficult to make small detailed shapes. I used a pair of regular needle nose pliers to bend the wire. There are smaller and more specialized pliers for metal jewelry work.

Leave the formed shape with the excess wire on it so that you can use that as a handle for working the shape.

To close off the ends of my shapes, I knew I could solder them together. And that was when I discovered, so that's what those 75 watt soldering guns are for. I only had my electronics soldering workstation, 45 watts max, with a fine tip. It took a minute or two to heat up the wire to get it tinned and that was only on one side of the wire. Which brings us to the second thing, so that's what those jars of flux are for. You don't know how good it is to just use handy flux-core solder.

Once you have your big shapes ready we need to put a bottom on it to hold all the paint. I thought I could get away with some copper foil tape. It is way better to use real metal stock. Solder it on and then do the work to trim and file away to a smooth shape.

Since I only had a thin copper tape, I had to use several pieces to cover the opening. It would form one piece once I tinned it all. Since there was an adhesive side, which is not solderable, I could only tin the back and then try to solder the edges on the back to the wire shape to seal the seam.

Step 2: Back It Up...

With one shape done, I tried to clean up the whole thing by sanding with emery paper.

You can see the adhesive layer catches the particles that sanded off. When trying to tweak the shapes with pliers, the tinned foil broke away at the seams. There was not enough solder to really attach the back edges and the adhesive prevented any bonding.

I spent a lot of time trying to flow more solder on the back seams. It didn't help that I did not have the proper heavyweight soldering iron. As the pictures attest, it is a case study in cold solder joints.

When I finished with getting all the shapes prepped and sealing all the seams with solder, I figured out how to attach all my shapes together for the final product.

And so more bad soldering...

Step 3: Get Your Pins Done...

I tried to smooth out everything with emery paper. A set of jeweler's files would be handy to get in the tight spots.

After you clean up the pin as best you can, you are ready to paint. I did wipe down the entire pin with rubbing alcohol but an acetone bath might have been better. I knew there was still adhesive on the copper foil and it was gummed up with particles from the emery paper.

Use the nail polish applicator brush that comes with the cap to dribble in nail polish in an open space. Tilt the pin to get the nail polish to flow to the sidewalls. Use toothpicks, pins, bamboo skewers to nudge or push paint into tight spots.

You should paint the nail polish in thin layers instead of one big pour. Let the layer dry before you add the next. When you apply the first coat, you will notice if there are any leaks in the shapes. Just tilt the pin to keep the nail polish from coming out. It will eventually dry and further coats will create a plug for the hole.

It's best to wipe up the little spills or excess before it dries. Don't use a cotton swab like I did. It leaves behind fibers that get stuck in the tacky nail polish and rough metal surfaces.

When dry, put a pinback on it.

Wear with at least 15 other pieces of flair.

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