I was lucky yesterday. I had an open space to play for a while in the studio without a crushing deadline, so I decided to experiment with some torch fired enamels, using a new torch system I recently reviewed for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist. I was blown away by the heat that little torch — The Mini Flam — could throw out after I soldered with it for a while, and I have a project due in a few issues that has to feature enamel in some way. So, in my normal hyper-efficient approach to life, I figured why not try the new torch on the enamel tests I have to create anyway before I can start the project? Makes sense to me.
Normally, I torch fire using a city gas and oxygen fuel combo, which is about as hot as it gets — like surface of planet Venus hot. Plus, city gas is clean, which matters with enamel. So, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the propane/butane fuel mix of the Mini Flam. Well, so far, so good. I got four nice little hemispheres, and the enamel behaved somewhat predictably. I love the way copper oxides leach into the glass during regular torch firing with city gas, so I was happy to see little tinges of green and chocolate develop as it cooled, after using the micro torch. It got the metal very hot, very fast — a great thing with torch firing, because the sooner the glass gets past the orange peel stage, the better. And, I was able to hold the copper at angry orange for a minute or two, which is essential to melt and spread the enamel grains and give the richest color.
I am going to try the bench torch version of the Mini Flam torch now, to see what the oxygen boost and tiny torch tip will do. And some silver, too. And thicker metal and larger forms. This is kind of exciting, because the owner of the company told me he hadn’t heard of anyone trying to use it with enamels before. I love being a pioneer. As I get some more samples, I’ll post them here, so stay tuned!
Todays tip: When you are sifting enamel onto a piece, keep at least 4 inches between the work and the mesh sifter. That will allow the grains of enamel to spread apart as they fall on to the piece. You will get a much more even surface that way.