Wednesday, December 10, 2014

How to Make Decaled Enamel Necklaces

I've been wanting to play with enamel decals ever since I took a class at The Ranch Center for Arts and Crafts with Gail Nelson.  She had cool sheets of zentangle drawings that she printed on waterslide decal paper.  That was almost 2 years ago.  Well, I've done it. The hardest part was finding the right laser printer.  I could have bought one, but my husband is always coming home with someone's cast offs.  We acquired an old HP printer that can't seem to print more than one sheet of something at a time.  It's bad for a business, but I can put up with that problem...  You can't use just any laser printer or photo copier.  The one you choose has to have iron oxide toner.  You can look at the MSDS sheet of the toner cartridge online.  Just Google it!

So, anyway, on to the details...  What's needed for this project is a sheet of copper that has been cut to your desired shape and drilled for a jump ring.  You will also need enamel, of course.  I like to enamel both sides in the same color.  After your shapes are enameled on both sides, clean your edges of all firescale.

For the decals...  I purchased mine at Delphi Glass.  The item you want is "fusing photo paper."  It comes in a 10 pack of 8.5" x 11" sheets.  Next, you'll need a black line drawing.  I created these zentangle designs on a heavy weight white sketchbook paper with a micron fine tip pen.  You want a crisp, clean line that doesn't bleed.  I made several sketches and scanned them into my computer.  With a photo editing software like Photoshop you can size your designs to the scale you are working at and duplicate them across your sheet.  I like to leave plenty of room around the design so that the decal can be cut just a bit bigger than the enameled piece.  If you cut close to your design and have a lot of room around it on your piece, depending on the color of enamel, you will see the outline of the plastic.  I found this out the hard way with bitter green.  The other colors I've worked with so far didn't seem to be a problem.

As for enamel colors that work with decals, you want to choose fairly light colors.  In the photo above, I chose two light colors and one medium one.  The lighter colors have the best contract with the sepia tones of the decals.

The application process is super easy.  Get a bowl of warm, clean water.  Place your decal, cut to size, in the water and make sure it is completely submerged.  Let it soak for a minute or two.  You'll know when it's ready if the decal can be slid off of the paper backing.  When your decal is ready, slide it off gently onto your enameled piece.  I like to get the enameled piece a little wet first before applying.  Smooth out any wrinkles or bubbles and dry with a paper towel.

Now, the hard part...  You have to let these puppies dry overnight.  Why you ask?  Because if you don't, the little bit of water that lies between the decal and the enamel will cause the surface of the enamel to pit and crease.  It's really a pain if that happens.  The pits and creases can be fired out, but you run the risk of losing the decal image.

Firing...  I fired my decals at 1450 degrees.  I don't use a timer.  I take them out when the kiln gets back up to 1450 - 1460.  At that point, the decal plastic has burned off and the iron oxide has fused to the enamel surface.  If you listen for it, at about 1340 degrees the decal plastic ignites.  You'll hear a little pop.  I have peaked in to see it and it's appalling.  You think your piece is ruined.  It's all black and yucky looking.  Just shut the door and wait for the kiln temp to get back up to 1450-1460.  The finished product is just minutes away.

When your item is completely cool, clean the firescale off of the edges.  Gently wipe a damp paper towel across the surface of the decal to see if it stays clean.  The decal is permanent if your paper towel remains clean with a good wiping.  Sometimes a faint tinge will appear, but with a little more aggressive scrubbing, there should be no more residue.  If you still get residue, refire.  Wait for the kiln to come up to 1470 this time.

Well, that's it!  I hope you have fun with waterslide decals!!!

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