December 1st, 2006
I continue to slowly squish down my mokume billets. The cheater one has developed tiny cracks where I burred through several layers, so I plan to add another layer of silver... or maybe bronze or something... to its back. The two soldered ones are getting squished, just very, very slowly. They're small as billets go, but are pretty much at the capacity of my poor little rolling mill, and it is laboring heroically at the task. If I get seriously into this stuff, I'm going to have to find a place for a heavier-duty one- preferably one with a greater than 4:1 gear reduction ratio. The studly ones I keep admiring but have neither the room nor the cost-effective need for have an 11:1 gear reduction ratio.... *sigh* Still, it's fun, and at some point I think it'll start going a bit more easily- when it's not so damn thick! It's still over 4 mm!
I just got a book on filigree jewelry (without a plique focus), and it's fascinating. It's called "Silver Threads," and has info about traditional Scandinavian filigree as well as more general stuff. Today I twisted and annealed my first length of wire for the technique, and I'm looking forward to rolling it flat and starting to play with it!
I also did some work on the second lotus plique earrings- I'm working on the settings for the lapis, which will also hold the earring posts. I kinda wish I'd gone with premade settings... except that the lapis is 6.1mm, and the settings would have been 6mm, and so they wouldn't have worked anyway! Also, I like the heavier bezel I'm using (26 ga. rather than the prefab 30 ga.) I've got 1 bezel filed down to fit the stone, and the other about halfway; I need to add loops from which to suspend the rest of the stuff, and the posts.
I have not yet set the citrine into the sunburst/chrysanthemum plique, or cleaned up the thimble. I need to do one or the other this weekend, as well as the rest of the stuff.
Yesterday I did get another brick's worth of the fussy loops fused for my loop-in-loop necklace; I ought to do at least a brick a day, and just push through it. They are really a pain, what with being both larger in diameter and thinner in gauge. Grr. Good thing I'm not selling this piece, is all I can say! (I think it woudl have been much nicer to do with argentium, at least for this size. Just sayin'.)
Please don't apologize for asking for help! I hope I can provide some! :) I'm going to go through everything I can think of, even though you probably know most of this stuff...
Are you using leaded or unleaded enamels? I've had more problems with bubbles with unleaded myself, but other people have fine results with it.
Are you washing the enamels really, really well before using them? Fines can cause cloudiness and bubbles in firing, though most of them do come out with repeated firings as you've seen.
One of the reasons I usually do use wet-packing is because I can go directly to that after washing the enamels and don't need to wait for them to dry. I think you can get the grains somewhat more compacted with wet packing. I usually put in the enamel fairly wet, then use just the tip of a piece of paper towel to wick out most of the water, and let it dry before firing, and this works pretty well for me with cloisonne.
What colors are changing? What are they changing to? Reds are notoriously fussy, I know.
Also what metal(s) are you using, both for the base and the wires?
I'm rather surprised you're firing at 1280, because that's way lower than my enamels fire at (they usually start at 1350, and I generally have the kiln at 1425 and fire the enamels until the temp reaches someplace between 1355 and 1400- my kiln usually drops 100+ degrees when it's opened).
What brand(s) are you using? Are they medium temp, medium expansion ones? And are you using opaques, transparents, and/or opalescents? Also, are these new colors or ones you've used before?
I know this is a lot of questions, but I'm hoping it'll help us to narrow down what's happening.
And you have my sympathy- that sort of thing is SO horribly frustrating!
i'm using leaded - a pink transparent layered over a white opaque from aoki (i believe) which i got fabulous test results with. i have no idea however what temp/expansion it is. i ordered from a company online without a catalogue to tell me those things and can't find that info online (granted i didn't try very hard).
define washing them really well... i've been doing the whole mortar/pestle/distilled water thing, usually washing it about five times before moving along. is that enough?
i will definitely try wet-packing next time... maybe with hopefully fewer firings, the color won't be as apt to burn out? i've always had hideous luck flash firing things though.
i've been firing at 1280 specifically hoping to avoid burning the red out, since i know they're unforgiving.. i have to wait about two-three minutes for it to flow at that temperature, but, again - the tests i did worked beautifully.
thank you so much for trying to help me... i'll let you know probably tomorrow if the wet-packing helped any.
Is that Ao9ki 669? Because that color is demon-ridden, I swear! Basically, it fires a LOT hotter than other Japanese colors, and is obnoxious as hell as well (in my experience using it in plique).
The expansion stuff is mostly if you were using Thompsons- they divide up their colors thus.
I don't tend to grind mine, but they come already ground. Since I want to minimize fines, grinding them more would be counter-productive for me. I wash transparents until there's no cloudy stuff coming up when I stir them. I am less fastidious with opaques and opals, because they don't need to be clear anyway. Sometimes it takes only a couple of passes; sometimes a LOT more.
I guess you can also sift with a 325 sifter, and keep the fines that go through for "painting" etc., and do cloisonne/plique with the stuff that stays in the sifter. I usually wash with water, though, and put the milky residues into a jar for potential use as counter-enamel.
Now, while the Aoki 669 was nasty and horrible and I hate it... it did not burn out at all for me. It stayed a lovely gentle pink, just was obnoxious in its working properties. I fired it at around 1400; maybe the 1280 is too low? I know some opals don't get pretty unless they're fired high, usually after a lower firing to melt them into place.
I think with pinks and reds, generally, the fewer firings, the better.
One thing I did with the Aoki 669: once I got it more or less filling the cells, I covered it with a soft flux and fired that fairly low. The flux melted before the pink, and gave me a decent surface. (OK, I was after a crackle look, but a little more heat and it would have smoothed out.)
i don't know if it's aoki 669 -- here, this is the site i got it from: http://enamelemporium.com/Enamel_Emporium/PRdct_Enamels_JPn.htm
if you scroll down to the pinks and click the color chart button it'll show you test samples and maybe you can recognize it?... i'm using the 11A, "pink for copper."
the layer of flux is a super good idea. i can't believe i didn't think of it for this project. i've done that before. i'll do another test firing to see what a fire at 1400 will do. and i will stop grinding the enamel and see if that helps as well. thank you so much, i'm really hopeful that this all will help. thank you!
I don't think that's 669; 669 doesn't yellow on silver, and I think it's designed for silver. I recognize some of the colors- I get mine from the Enamelworks Supply Company in Seattle- but not that one.
I think a hot firing might be helpful, as a test. I honestly can't think of why it'd change color at such a low temp- usually reds are vulnerable at higher temps.