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redbearmountain 2008-03-08 6:31pm

Hello, I need a tutorial on using enamels. I just purchased some thompson enamels tried making a bead and it was yuck! So I need help on how to use enamels! Thanks! Jacque Duxbury

Rudy 2008-03-08 6:40pm

I need help with this too....big time! Not sure where to start. I'm dabbling, but desperately need a tutorial! pllleeeeeeeeease!

redbearmountain 2008-03-08 6:46pm

Rudy, I know the feeling! Couldn't wait to get my enamels and then made a reall yucky bead. So I was disappointed! So hopefully we will get some help!

Rudy 2008-03-08 6:51pm

So glad you started the thread....I'll be checking every 5 minutes!!!!LOL

I gotta get a life!

Rudy 2008-03-08 6:52pm

Just checked out your are a correctional officer and I am a probation officer. WOW....coincidences!

melissabeads 2008-03-08 7:44pm

I will try to add a little to this... I am by no means a pro at using them.. but I have used them a lot..

First thing.. YOU HAVE TO HAVE REALLY GOOD VENTILATION.. (ie not a fan and an open window.. CLASS A.. if you talk to an HVAC person).. NEXT.. You HAVE to wear a respirator...not a dust mask either.. :-)

I really like using the little sifter that Thompson sells.. it allows you to really place your enamels on evenly and you don't get as many clumps as you do when you roll your bead in them. Start by using the opaques.. and use the transparents as you work more with them.. I find layering them can be a very cool effect too. I don't mix them before hand to come up with a blend.. but I have heard others that really like doing it that way.. Raking them in after they are applied or super heating and allowing your bead to droop to blend them works neat too..

Also, they work wonderfully with silver foil..

After you work with them for awhile you will be able to control the application more, whether you are sifting or rolling..

I just can't emphasize enough to use proper safety precautions.. have fun with them! They really add a lot to our color palette.

Mustang Dawn 2008-03-08 7:56pm

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When working with enamels there are several safety rules to follow:

Use your enamels in a well ventilated work area and wear a protective dust mask if you are working with enamel powders for an extended period of time.

Wash your hands prior to eating and do not smoke or handle food when you are working with enamels.

Always open your enamels under your ventilation system.

When placing enamel beads in the kiln make sure that they do not touch other beads. The enamel will cause them stick to each other.

I use enamels a couple of ways. You can have a small pile of enamel on your marver and roll your molten bead in it. Or you can use an enamel sifter and sift enamel on your bead. You can use enamels with brass stencils to create patterns in your beads as well. You have to be careful not to fry your enamel once you have it on the bead as well.

For this cameo set I used a stensil with a sifter.

Have fun and be safe. I can not stress the point enough that you need an EXCELLENT ventilation system to work with enamels.


redbearmountain 2008-03-08 10:33pm

Thank you for the input! I made a bead but it turned way dark no color at all and it was made on an Ivory Base! Did I heat the bead to much? Dawn your beads are beautiful!

redbearmountain 2008-03-08 10:39pm

Hello Rudy, Yes, I am a correctional officer at Montana State Prison! Have done that now 8 years! I make jewelry and glass beads that is my escape and stress remover! Been making beads now four years and I am addicated! But here in Montana it is primitive and there are no lessons on glass. I bought couple books and video and taught myself. So there is alot I don't know yet and this subject is one of them. I love the colors of the enamels and they should go well with the type of beads I make.

jaci 2008-03-08 11:21pm

what color enamel did you try on the ivory?? Ivory is very reactive to other colors. Ever notice the black line if you put pink or turquoise or green or... The list goes on!!!! Try starts with black white and clear. Then try other colors.

Sarabella 2008-03-09 8:58am

I love enamels! Pay attention to the safety information already listed ... it is so easy to get caught up in the moment of building a bead ... next thing ya know - enamel everywhere! I am not an expert at enamel beads by any stretch of the imagination, but a fun session at the torch produced my favorite bead so far... ivory base, rolled in silver and melted in, dipped in enamels and melted in, black stringer accents.


redbearmountain 2008-03-09 10:45am

Thank you Jaci and Sarabella! Jaci I probably over heated my bead I think plus I got carried away and used three different colors I liked. Oh no couldn't just use one color to start with had to jump right in there! LOL! I will make stringers and play around today see what happens. That is a nice bead you made Sarabella! Thanks for sharing!

redbearmountain 2008-03-09 10:49am

Dawn, How does the sifter work? When do you stencil the enamel on, bead can't be hot it would melt the stencil! Would you please explain how that works?

Listenup 2008-03-09 10:56am


Originally Posted by jaci (Post 1715880)
what color enamel did you try on the ivory?? Ivory is very reactive to other colors. Ever notice the black line if you put pink or turquoise or green or... The list goes on!!!! Try starts with black white and clear. Then try other colors.

One of the way cool things about enamels is that when they are mixed, they act like pigments and not like chemicals. In other words, there are no color reactions: blue plus yellow equals green, not crud. I've tested all of the Thompson Enamels with Ivory and have not gotten any reactions.

Also, because this enamels topic comes up quite a bit, I've added some links to my page on enamels for everybody's ready reference:

Mustang Dawn 2008-03-09 11:25am

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Originally Posted by redbearmountain (Post 1716426)
Dawn, How does the sifter work? When do you stencil the enamel on, bead can't be hot it would melt the stencil! Would you please explain how that works?

Sure I can,

I use a brass stencil and place it on my marver. Then I use my little red sifter (see picture) and lightly sift the enamel over the stencil. Next carefully lift your stencil off of the marver not to disturb the design. Make your bead and then roll or place your bead on your stencil design. The heat never touches your stencil.

This all needs to be done under your ventilation system.

I all ways clean up my work area after with a damp paper towel.


maisyjoe 2008-03-09 12:31pm

I have begun to use copper leaf using enamels as a flux. Remember safety as stuff really flies around now! I have gotten some really beautiful effects using different colored rods and different colored enamels. I have been really pleased with the effects.:happy:
I spent literally hours reading all about copper leaf and how to use them before I began. So i wasn't disappointed in my very first efforts!
Just another fun way to play with your enamels.

redbearmountain 2008-03-09 8:52pm

Thank you Dawn! I have plastic stencils! Same thing just be careful! I understand things now!

redbearmountain 2008-03-09 8:54pm

MaisyJoe, I wondered about copper leaf have not used that before. I have used silver foil, silver leaf, gold leaf, and blue leaf and have had wonderful effects with them. I heard to stay away from copper leaf as it was very hard to work! So I have avoided that problem. Thanks for the advice!

evolvingBeau 2008-03-09 9:04pm

Something alot of people don't realize about the little sifters (red plastic with a twisted wire handle), is the tricky way to use them..Scoop up your enamel then while holding with your fingers, gently run your thumbnail towards you along the wire handle while aiming the enamel where you want it to go, as your thumbnail bu-bu-bumps along it will vibrate out the enamel in a controlled way. Less messy and more accurate than moving the whole sifter around.
Frantz also sells line tools for dispensing fine streams of enamel on your piece.
With enamel it's fun to experiment with gradients of more heavy to sparse coatings for cool fading effects.

Jamn! 2008-03-24 11:20am

I took a class and now I want to play with my enamels more! :)

SunDoorBeads 2008-06-06 3:39pm

I know I am going to be dissapointed in the answer but I work in my garage (door up) with just a heavy duty construction fan and I do not have a vent system leading outdoors (ie hoodrange style) Can I still work with the enamels as long as I am wearing a resperator or do I have to install a HVAC system? I am kinda bummed cuz funding won't let me put that system in yet. Well safety first so I will hold off if the answer is copmpletely no. Thanks in advance.

KarenBeth 2008-06-10 10:24am

I'd like an answer to Michelle's question as well since I'm in Florida too and I have a heavy duty fan bringing air in and one bringing it out. I haven't used my enamels yet but plan too. If I have to wait, so be it. I've been waiting all along lol.

Mustang Dawn 2008-06-10 1:08pm


Originally Posted by KarenBeth (Post 1901499)
I have a heavy duty fan bringing air in and one bringing it out. I haven't used my enamels yet but plan too. If I have to wait, so be it. I've been waiting all along lol.


Your makeup air should be passive, you do not need a fan for makeup air.

To answer the enamel question I would not use them until I had a proper ventilation system in place. There are a lot of great threads on how to install one on LE :) Here is a link to how I set mine up:


Kym 2008-06-11 1:02am

I am not advocating it for anyone else but I use enamels with just a Mask.
It is a P1 valved particulate mask that filters out things right down to particles of silica and asbestos and since I can't even see them, I figure if I can see enamel specks, they have to be bigger and this sort of mask will block them. I buy them in boxes of ten and they have a non return valve at the front. They even filter out animal proteins and pollens. I use them for a few sessions and then get a new one. I don't use enamels much at the moment tho' but will be in future.


LyndaJ 2008-06-11 1:00pm

I wouldn't use enamels without an real ventilation system. The problem with small particles (enamels or powdered glass) is that they don't fall back out of the air very quickly. They can stay airborne for minutes to hours depending on their size and air currents. [we deal with this at work for contaminants and air quality FDA and OSHA requirements]

So even if you were using and tapping/sifting onto a bead, unless your ventilation system is pulling that out, those particles will float around and get on other surfaces in your room/area. You can contaminate your work area if you aren't careful.

I have a vented hood. When I use powdered glass, I open the container on a wetted paper towel, and use that for clean-up when I'm done, before I turn off the ventilation. We only get one set of lungs. Safety-wise, I'm less fearful of burns than of harming my lungs.

Glasswytch 2008-06-11 1:37pm

I got this tip from an enamelist friend. When you clean the little red sifters use distilled water. She has a small jar and just swishes. The enamel sinks to the bottom of the jar
and you can use the water until there is too much enamel in it. This keeps the teeny weeny bits of debris out of the sifter.


Nomac 2010-09-04 3:02am

Glasswytch, are you sure that such method can help?

PerfectDeb 2010-09-05 3:12am

I dont have ventilation either
i make sure my work area is very clear - no surplus tools or rods littering the desk
then i wear a really good mask - the best i could get, it has special filter pads etc
then i clean up with a wet paper towel before i ever take the mask off.
also, i'm very careful with how i use the enamels, like one of the posts above i have the metal sifters with the ribbed handle and you run the little bar up and down the ribs instead of shaking it.

i remember years ago when i was at school we did copper enamelling - no mask, no ventilation and the last classes mess was always all over the desks, we swept up with a dustpan and broom if it got too messy!

Mitosis Glass 2010-09-05 8:39pm

It's too bad JC Herrell and Margaret Zinzer aren't selling their enamel tutorial anymore. That was chock full of good info.

PerfectDeb 2010-09-06 5:57am

i have JC Herrell's tutorial and yes, it's got tons of info, maybe she could be pursuaded to put the safety info up here as she's not selling the tutorial anymore

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