If you want those transparent enamels to shine like gemstones, metal preparation is key. Texturing your metal, by engraving, etching, or roller printing, will allow the surface to catch light and sparkle. I like to use the Bonny Doon steel texture plates (riogrande.com) or brass texture plates (metalliferous.com) in the rolling mill with annealed fine silver.
After texturing the silver, I saw out my shapes. I use files and sandpaper to smooth out the edges. I give the shapes a slight dome in a shallow wooden dapping block. The wood doesn’t press out the textures like steel might.
Meanwhile, my ultralight beehive kiln has been heating up to 1500 degrees F. I place my silver shapes into the kiln on a hot spot, cover with the lid, and allow them to get very red.
I then light my acetylene torch and adjust to a bushy flame. I remove the kiln lid and set it aside. Using a sweeping motion with the flame, I slowly heat the silver until the surface just starts to liquify, or shimmers. If I need to concentrate in a particular area, I will quickly bounce the flame up and down until I see the shimmer. I instantly remove the flame when I see this so that I don’t melt the texture away. My texture may soften a bit, but it will still be there.
This surface treatment gives the silver a very shiny, mirror finish. You can see the difference in the photo. Of course, don’t touch the surface with your fingers and keep it clean before and during enameling.
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