Introduction: Copper Enamel Fusing
Want to create glass melded jewelry, but have no idea? Let's go on then!
Not only will I show you how to create, I will compare DIY kiln vs Retail Craft kiln
A "cheap" beehive kiln for metal enameling will run you $230 and $305
To me, that's crazy! All you need is an element and some refractory material for the same effect!
I used both a "professional" kiln and a homemade one. The results are in..
There is a tl;dr step at the end!
Step 1: Gather Your Thoughts (and Supplies)
This instructable deals with glass frit, high temperatures, high voltage, and dangerous fumes.
Please use recommended safety equipment to protect yourself and your surroundings.
List O' Provisions:
- Safety glasses or goggles
- Heavy duty or leather gloves
- Scrap copper or punchouts
- Glass frit -- Amazon
- Gum solution or Arabic gum
- Clay paste
- Kiln stands
- Kanthal or nichrome wire stands
- Spatula (to move stands)
- Sieve or coarse filter
- Metal shears
- Various metal files
- Assorted metal punches
- Hammer (preferably brass)
- Rotary tool (& sanding/polishing inserts)
- 7 foundry/firebricks
- Kiln element (mine was the FA-5-E)
- Glass rods (Thread enamel)
- Mounted wire wheel brush
- Beehive Enamel Kiln ($$$)
Step 2: Design and Fabricate the Copper
Doodle whatever design you want, I do recommend silhouette art from google images if you come up blank
Tape the copper and draw the design to improve accuracy and reduce marring of the copper
Metal shears generally cut better in one direction, so test on scrap first!
I used punches to stipple certain areas to give it more texture, different tools give different results
Make sure to grind away all the copper slivers and sharp edges before enameling. It is jewelry, and as such, will be placed on a human body, so sharp edges are not appreciated.
Step 3: Gum and Speckle the Pieces
Start off by using clay paste (scale-off) on the backs and un-enameled portion of the pieces, prevent oxide
Wait for that to dry, then paint the gum solution on the copper where you want the frit
Use any method you want to sprinkle frit onto the gum, but try to apply it evenly, like a powder coat
Different blends and layering techniques give way to seemingly infinite options, so.. go nuts!
Frit is glass dust and hazardous, so wear proper eye, mouth, and hand protection.
Step 4: Firing With the Retail Enameling Kiln
I tested four pieces in the retail kiln first,
It heated up quite fast, roughly 15-20 minutes to firing temperature of around 1500°F
The pieces took only about 10 minutes to fully fuse after being placed in the kiln
The element does create some fumes when heating up, so proper ventilation!
Here's the link to the instruction manual for this type of kiln, and additional resources
Step 5: DIY Firebrick Enamel Kiln
Create your own enameling kiln!
I used a broken kiln shelf as the base, but concrete works great too!
Foundry bricks or firebricks make up the body and cover of this kiln.
Firebricks are quite expensive to order by mail, since they're heavy and generally in bulk orders. I'd recommend visiting a foundry shop or some place that sells refractory material
The element was a spare from the retail kiln, costs $40, but has longevity
Placing the element on stilts extends the life of the bricks and decreases the space it has to heat
Make sure to properly insulate the power lines, wouldn't want them melting or starting on fire!
It reached the same temperature as the retail kiln, in the same timeframe
The bricks retained heat for way longer that the retail kiln, which cooled down fairly quickly
Step 6: Tl;dr
You can enamel just as well in a DIY kiln as an expensive kiln, just takes a bit more patience!
- Acquire materials and tools
- Draw out ideas and templates
- Cut out copper pieces and grind
- Paint clay paste and gum solution
- Sprinkle that frit!
- Build a kiln (or buy one)
- Fuse pieces for 15 mins
- Flake off clay paste and admire
- Glue or solder hoops on backing
- Loop a necklace chain to complete!
This is a labor of love, with trial and error galore.
If you enjoyed or found it informative, please vote!
Feel free to ask away if you have any questions, comments, or general input
Participated in the
Jewelry Contest 2017
Question 2 years ago
Hi There WarriorStudio,
Just read your item on kiln fired enamel jewellery and am considering trying some items for myself.
The project that I have in mind is colouring and hanging items as a pendant.
I want to enamel some obsolete UK coins which obviously other people have already done but I have a question about this process. If I wish to colour the two sides of a coin with different colours and designs, how do I go about it? Do I do the easy side first or the difficult side first and how do I protect the first side while enamelling the second side?
Your assistance would be appreciated. (By the way do you have any hints about selling on Etsy which I have not yet tried.)
Regards & stay safe,
Answer 2 years ago
Different types of metal expand and contract differently, so make sure to run test pieces! Buff up the metal till it's nice and shiny (to reduce impurities), then apply the glue (gum arabic is common). You can do both sides if you apply only a barest layer of glass frit (so it'll stick to the glue and not just fall off when you work on the opposite side). You'll have to hang it up when you heat it, but it can be done. I only recommend doing one side for best details, especially if using a coin (so you can show off the other side!). I've been busy with life so Etsy has been on back burner, but make a large amount of stock, try to offer free shipping as you can, and share out online as much as possible across platforms (like this one). Cheers!