Thursday, July 26, 2012

My 100th post!

I'm a little surprised, but I shouldn't be.  I was very prolific in posting when I first started the blog - 76 posts in 2010.  Only 8 in 2011, but I'm picking up speed in 2012!  Fifteen posts so far, with 9 (including this one) in July.  I'm really looking forward to experimenting with different techniques and telling you all about them.

Before I get into today's topic, I want to show you the bracelet I made yesterday (referenced in yesterday's post):

I think it turned out cute, even if it is mostly brown.  I'm not fond of brown, yet I have many brown beads.  The best thing about this bracelet is that I used all of those round brown beads!  Zero left!

Today's experimental technique is enameling.  I've been interested in enameling since I saw Jill Erickson do a demonstration for the Loose Bead Society in March, 2010 (you can see a picture of her here - feel free to scroll through the pictures to see more from that meeting).  I became more interested when I found C-Koop - her enameling is really neat, but I can never afford more than a few things at a time.

Then came the Bead&Button Show this June.  Steve likes to go shopping with me - to monitor my spending (although I can get away with more now that I have a business and that I made a lot more than I spent at Meet the Teachers) but also because he likes to spend time with me and to get something for me as a challenge.

We went by The Urban Beader booth.  I like them in general because they've had postcards that say "got stamps?" (although they're talking about stamps for metal instead of the stamps I have - I don't care!), and I got a T-shirt with "got stamps?" on the back and "tool whore" on the front (available for purchase here).  Steve does not like this T-shirt.  We looked around the booth and saw the enameling stuff.  Kieu (pronounced "Q") asked if we'd like to see a demonstration.  "Sure!" we said in unison.  She showed us how to enamel on a bead.  I knew I had a pack of those beads in the B&B Show bag and was quite interested to see the transformation.

Well, before I know it, Steve grabbed a pack of 12 colors of enamels.  Then he looked at the copper gears that they had.  Kieu said, "The process for flat things is different than for beads - you can't hold flat things on a pick like you can a bead."  Next thing we knew, we got a tripod, a very sharp and dangerous trivet that Steve thinks looks like some sort of throwing death star thing, and some holding agent so the enamel will stick to the flat things.  "I'm buying you a new hobby!" he said, even though some of it came out of my own budget.  We should have gotten a few more things, like a tray to put the enamel in while working, some Penny Brite to clean the copper pieces, and a sifter.  We're making do with an empty (and clean!) tuna can to put the enamel in while working and vinegar to clean the copper.

We did not buy a torch because I already had one that I use for silver clay.  Click here if you'd like to read about the last time I worked with silver clay.

After everything from the Show died down, I decided to try the enameling.  I grabbed all of my supplies and my handy-dandy micro torch and.... became quite frustrated.  I must have tried to put 10 layers of enameling on the bead.  Steve tried it and got slightly better results, but it still wasn't great.

Steve's side is on the left, and mine is on the right.

After much discussion:

So I bought a bigger boat torch.  My previous one fit easily in the hand, could be filled with butane, and wasn't cumbersome to use.  My new one... enormous.

Why did I pick today to enamel, you may ask yourself?  Steve needed to pull stubborn, overgrown weeds in the driveway (before his parents come tomorrow) and thought torching them might work.  It didn't.  They got scorched and a bit burned and smelled of roasted corn on the cob, but it was pretty ineffectual.

It's not heavy, but it's a little difficult to hold one-handed while twirling a bead to get hot.  I have to put it down so I can get the enamel on the bead, then pick it up again... I can work with it standing up like that, but the flame is nearly above my head.  I put three layers of enamel on a new bead.  Here each side is next to the first one I did:

It's better, but still not great.  I'm finding it difficult to get enough enamel on the round surface while it's hot enough to stick.

I decided to try a flat piece.

Last weekend we broke down and bought a tea sifter (we thought we had one, but if we do it's lost to the ages) from Williams-Sonoma (which is how I know that their magnetic knife holder is $40).  We only paid $1 more for the tea sifter than what Urban Beader sells, and the look that the Williams-Sonoma people gave us when we told them we were going to use it for enameling and not tea or spices was priceless.

I had to mix together the holding agent (I hope it's equal parts water and holding agent - I couldn't quickly find online what the proportions are supposed to be), then I brushed it onto a vinegar-clean gear, careful not to touch it again.  I sifted enamel onto it then asked Steve to take the halves of the tea sifter apart - the chain was irritating me.  I torched it from below like Kieu said to on my tripod/trivet apparatus:

On the stove with my fire brick handy.  Very safe.  Not like when Steve tested the torch out - in my studio near the scrapbooks!  Send your hate mail to.....

After a few touch-ups it looked pretty nice.  I remembered Kieu saying that you need to enamel both sides, so I dutifully flipped it over (using the tweezers) and repeated the process.  After a few touch-ups, it's gorgeous!

The back side, though, doesn't look so good anymore:

It looks neat, but not like it did when I flipped it over.  I don't know why that is.  Steve and I were a bit dubious about firing a side from underneath that already had enamel on it, but it's supposed to guard against the other side's enamel from coming off.  I'll have to ask Kieu about it.

I also enameled a few head pins:

I'll use those for earrings, possibly with my two enameled beads.  If anyone asks about the thin color, I'll say it was an artistic choice and not that I don't know what the hell I'm doing.

Yes, all of the projects seen here are using lime green.  "Bitter green" actually.  I initially chose it because it was my least favorite color in the set, but, as I mentioned in the Red and Black post, I'm starting to like the color.

I have a number of gears I can enamel plus a number of copper blanks that are plain or embossed.  I'm now very much looking forward to what I can come up with!


  1. Awesome job! I like the side of the gear you do not like....I think it looks more interesting. How brave you are to work with blow torches....I'd have set the house on fire by now!!
    Congrats on the 100th post, and I love that bracelet. You are very artistic!

    1. Yeah, I think it looks more interesting, too, but I'd like to know what I did wrong to make that happen - so I have the option of doing it again or not. Thanks for the compliments! I can always count on you!

  2. It's a Kamino saberdart. (click my name if this link isn't live):

  3. Almost like a train wreck, I cannot stop reading your funny blog, wondering what you will come up with next! You're into EVERYTHING! (Even "worse" than I!) (No wonder we're friends!) Love your enamel experiments! Keep it comin', Traci! kat

  4. Wow that's quite a torch. Bet it'll do the creme brulee in quite a flash. Whoooooosh, done!