Experiments in Enamelling SteelPosted: March 18, 2015
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.
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).
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.
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.
There shall be a follow post about the progress all this takes.