Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Turn a Pipe into Enamels Beads

Before: Copper pipe
We love playing with copper pipes. For only a few dollars you can purchase a long length of copper pipe to make into all sorts of jewelry. We are lucky. We had quite a bit of copper pipe left over from a kitchen renovation. Apparently, we did not need a huge length of pipe to connect our fridge. So we have quite a bit of pipe to use for NJAD projects. Yay.

Today we decided to cut up pieces of pipe and use those pieces to make enamel beads. We had two choices when enameling the copper pipe beads. We could use our kiln or we could use our torch. Both methods produce different results. We opted to torch fire the enamel beads because we wanted a more organic feel.

We will show you how we use the copper enamel beads we made in another upcoming NJAD blog entry.

Copper pipe
Thompson's enamel for copper

Jewelry saw & blades
Half-round file
Wet/dry sandpaper
Soldering tripod or trivet

Mark copper pipe
Step 1
Mark the pipe with a marker or scribe. Use a jewelry saw to cut pieces of pipe.

Cut copper pipe with jewelry saw
Step 2
File and then sand the edges of the cut beads until smooth.

Step 3
Clean the copper beads with acetone and then rinse with water (to remove acetone residue). Enamel will not "stick" if the copper is not completely clean.

Step 4
Spray the copper bead with Thompson's Klyr-Fire so the enamel powder will better "stick" to the copper pipe.

Step 5
Place the enamel powder in a sifter and sift the enamel evenly over the copper pipe. Let the enamel dry on the pipe before firing. NOTE: You can hasten the drying by waiving the torch over the enameled pipe.

Step 6
Place the enamel covered pipe on a trivet or soldering tripod.

Step 7
After: Torch enameled beads by GeltDesigns.com
Heat the copper enamel covered pipe from beneath the tripod. Continue to hold the the torch under the enamel pipe. Watch the enamel fuse to the copper. The same phases of fusion occur in both kiln firing and torch firing. At first the enamel will look sugar-coated, then the enamel will begin to look like an orange peel, then the enamel will reach a smooth, fully fused state and, finally, the enamel will look over-fired. The phases of enamel fusion happen very quickly when torch firing so watch the enamel closely. Stop heating the enamel and remove the torch once the enamel is fused to the look you seek.

The flame of the torch can produce a smokey iridescent look. Sometimes the smokey look is desirable (as it looks a lot like raku firing on ceramics), other times it is not. Since we wanted an organic look, we allowed the enamel to fuse until it was slightly over-fired achieving a "raku" look.

Tip: You can fire enamel multiple times until you get the look you want. To get rid of the discoloration on one side of the enamel (or to change the surface of the enamel from smooth to orange peel), just turn the piece over and re-fire from the bottom. The front surface should clean up.

Step 8
Clean up the copper edges of the beads. Remove oxidation with files and sandpaper to prepare to use the beads in jewelry making.

Related Tutorials
Make Earrings from Copper Pipe and Wire
Make an Enamel Necklace from a Copper Pipe
Make a Beaded Bracelet with Copper Pipe & Wire
Make a Neck-Ring from Copper Pipe
Make a Bangle Bracelet from a Copper Pipe

Further Reading
"The Art of Enameling: Techniques, Projects, Inspiration by Linda Darty"; Linda Darty; 2009.
"The Art of Fine Enameling"; Karne L. Cohen; 2004.
"First Steps in Enameling"; Jinks McGrath; 2003.
"The Jeweler's Directory of Decorative Finishes: From Enameling and Engraving to Inlay and Granulation"; Jinks Mc Grath; 2005.

Month 5. Jewelry from Found Objects.  $ spent: 0
Found materials: Copper pipe
New Jewelry a Day.  

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