Tuesday, May 15, 2012

More Torch Time

Sonya and I did some more torch enameling yesterday, and - I hope you're sitting down - I did NOT burn myself!

I have invested a small fortune in all the tools and equipment to do this torch enamel, and I'm very Type A, so it grieves me deeply that I am not very good at it. After our last session at the torch, which was basically disastrous for me, I had really mixed feelings about it. Honestly, if I didn't have so much money sunk into it, I might have given up, because I am pretty discouraged about my results. I knew I needed to dive back in, so Sonya and I set yesterday aside - but when I woke up yesterday, it was pouring rain, and I really wasn't in the mood to torch fire enamel (TFE)! But I had committed to Sonya, so I pulled it together, drove to Augusta, and we got started.

And speaking of starting, TFE would be a whole lot easier if I had a permanent place set up for it, because it takes 30-45 minutes to get the stuff set up. Arrrgghh! But I don't have the space, so ... it is, what it is.

First good outcome yesterday: none of my beads are peeling! Remember these from last time?

Turns out these beads peeled because of zinc solder - an undisclosed component, which makes the enamel incompatible with the bead, resulting in peeling.

Here are my beads from yesterday:

Some round beads. Nice color coverage, but if you look closely, you can see that I am struggling to get the beads off the mandrel. That dent near the holes is from my attempts to dislodge the beads once enameled.

I didn't do a whole lot of color experimentation yesterday, because I really was concerned about my ability to do this, period - get some enamel to stay on the beads.

Here are some filigreed beads and some other miscellaneous stuff:

I really like the large, somewhat flattened filigreed beads, like the 2 tan ones at the top right. I call these squash beads, because they look like they've been squashed. They have a nice-sized hole for the mandrel; large filigree holes, which don't trap enamel; and they have a nice thickness, meaning they don't melt easily!
The large round filigree beads have much smaller holes - too small for any of my mandrels, so I fashioned a home-made "mandrel" out of 18g copper wire. The copper wire gets very annealed, and very soft and bendy, during the TFE process, and can only be used for one bead. And the holes on these beads tend to fill up with enamel, too. The size of the beads (and the fact that I was holding them on bendy 18g wire) made it very difficult to get them evenly heated, and to get them completely submerged in the enamel, too.

The large flowers at the lower right were another challenge. They are thin, so they want to melt and fold in on themselves, plus their hole is barely large enough for the smallest mandrel, so they are extremely hard to remove from the mandrel. In fact, the green one at the far right has enamel completely filling its hole, because it just wouldn't come off the mandrel, and the hot enamel flowed down and filled the whole as the flower finally dropped off the mandrel.

At the bottom right, there is a copper washer that is completely covered in peacock enamel - yay! Because, remember these from last month?

More peeling - this time, we're not sure why. But I did the one washer yesterday, and to ensure I was getting it hot enough, I actually got it too hot, and melted the washer a bit. But the enamel stuck, so I feel somewhat victorious.

More bad memories from last month: My foxglove pendant (another peeler):

And the other 3 pendants I did last month - some peeling, orange peel, and difficulty removing from the mandrel:

I wanted to see if I could fix these, and fix them without burning myself, since I was firing one of these when I stuck my hand in the flame last month.

For the blue/green one and the foxglove one, where there was a good bit of peeling (it's on the back of the blue/green one) I tried heating the pendants and then shocking them in ice water to remove all the enamel, but no more enamel would come off. Of course not - not if I WANT it to come off!

I had already planned to "cheat" a little - I had bought a torch tripod, figuring I could place the pendants on the screen, add enamels, stringer, millefiore - whatever, without worrying about the flame PLUS I could add them with my dominant hand, and not worry about them falling off because I couldn't hold both hands steady in the flame! So one at a time, I placed a pendant on the tripod, made the desired changes, and fired them with my torch on the tripod. And here they are, along with a heart pendant I made when I took Barbara's seminar in Florida - this heart was all orange-peely to, so I knew it needed to be brought to a higher temp.

Much better - I lost the half-and-half effect I was going for with the blue-green pendant, but I like the new version, too.

This is the heart, with its orange peel, and its stuck vermiculite, before I "operated" on it:

So, all in all, a pretty successful day. My major issues are: good, even enamel coverage; getting the bead off the mandrel once it is "done"; and getting vermiculite stuck on the hot enamel. And finding enough time to squeeze in torch time!

1 comment:

Maggie said...

I'm glad you solved the problem of peeling enamels. Torchwork of any type, I'm thinking, takes lots of hours of practice, practice, practice. Lampworkers love to give ppp as advice. I'm loving these enamel beads, but making sure I don't catch the fever.