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Enamel Q&A w/ Pam East

Q:  My enamel cracked!   What did I do wrong?
 
A: There are several things that can cause cracked enamel.   The most common is not applying counter-enamel.   Enamel exerts force on metal and can cause it to crack.  Putting enamel on both the front and the back of a piece will equalize the force and prevent cracking.  Also, It’s important that you roll the metal clay out to an even thickness when making your piece.   Varying thickness in the metal can cause cracks.
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Q:  My enamel keeps pulling away from the edges as I’m trying to apply it.  How do I get it to stay put?
 
A:  The wet enamels or counter-enamel will pull and bead up when there are oils, dirt, soaps or other contaminants on the surface of the metal.   Clean the piece thoroughly with PreNamel™ or with ammonia until water sheets on the surface when you rinse it rather than beading up.
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Q:  My enamel turned a nasty color!  What happened?
 
A: There are two causes of discoloration in kiln fired enameling.   They are color reaction and over firing.   Some colors are reactive on silver, turning brownish and cloudy when fired.  These are mostly warm colors like reds, pinks and oranges.  Be sure and check to see if you are using a reactive color, and make test strips before committing them to your piece.   Also, over-firing can cause some colors to become very dark or to turn brown or burnt looking.   Watch your enamels closely when they are firing and remove them from the kiln as soon as they are fully fused.
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Q: I scratched my enamel. Can it be fixed?
 
A: Fortunately it’s pretty easy to fix a scratch in enamel.   It simply needs to be flash fired.   The key is the enamel must be very clean before you do this.  If there are any contaminants on the enamel when you fire it, it could discolor.  Use ammonia and a glass brush to clean prior to refiring.
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Q: My transparent enamel came out cloudy. What gives?
 
A:  Enamels contain very small particles called “fines”.  These fines will cause transparent enamels to look cloudy.  You need to remove the fines before using the enamel. This can either be done through washing or screening the enamel.

Last updated on Thu, July 18, 2013 by Metal Clay Guru