Experiments in Enamelling Steel

I first cut 4 pieces of my gas bottle foot-ring ( 4mm thick)to use for samples. What I was experimenting with and looking for where how well the enamel took to the low-carbon steel, whether there would be any yellow rust stains showing through the enamel  (meaning several coats would be needed to get a nice clean background colour to work on) and what my firing would likely be.

Foot ring from first steel bowl  cut.

Foot ring from first steel bowl cut.

I cut these pieces with an angle grinder, but realised afterwards that a plasma cutter would have done the job much quicker, I shall remember this for when I cut my next test pieces tomorrow.

Then I proceeded sand them with the angle grinder sanding wheel and then sand blasted them to ensure they were super clean providing a good texture for the enamel to ‘adhere’ to also.

The enamel I am using on my steel is specifically for steel (perhaps more steel sheet but it seems to work well) once there is a layer down on the metal fired to satisfaction I should then be able to enamel on-top of that coat using regular copper, silver and gold enamels. The enamel I bought for this is a super fine liquid enamel from W.G. Ball – a British enamel supplier I think. It is in powder form so you mix it with water yourself. They (on their website) recommend 8 parts enamel powder to 3 parts boiling water. They also recommend firing at 800C for 3 mins (their tests on 10 x 10cm, 1.6mm gauge steel sheet).

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Here is where I got my info for mixing and firing. And here is where I began my general research into enamelling steel.

I started with a 3 minute firing and got a poor result so did subsequent, 4, 5 and then 6 minute firings and saw much improvement with the enamel fluxing properly and smoothing out. Roughly 6 mins was needed to get a satisfactory result , tomorrow I aim to get this down to a t and find my best firing temps. It looks pretty good, I need to find a smooth application technique to get nice even coverings, they are all a little patchy unfortunately. I will design a set up that will be efficient and tidy and let me get the results I want before firing.

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I have plans for future enamel experiments. I shall do a 10 minute firing to test the extremes of the metal and enamel and a large curved piece in the glass kiln to see what happens in the temp fall period – Im scared the enamel will burn out in the large glass kiln as I cant open it at temperature, it has to shut down and I have to wait until it is cold before cracking open. I will also cut some smaller sample pieces for faster experiments (so they can be pour and dip covered ideally) when it comes to trying out possible enamel design ideas.

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There shall be a follow post about the progress all this takes.

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