Large Scale Enameling at The Enamel Foundation

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HomeLearning CenterJewelry MakingEnamelingLarge Scale Enameling at The Enamel Foundation

The Enamel Foundation provides the furnace and offers the use of their standard workshop tools, equipment and workshop enamels. (A word about workshop enamels, considering the investment of time and expenses, one might want to supply his/her enamels from home for two reasons: l. to assure familiarity with color and enamel interaction and 2. To avoid using possibly contaminated enamels.)

Workshop enamels are those made available to the enameling classes held frequently throughout the year at The Enamel Foundation. Inexperienced students may inadvertently cross contaminate enamels.


Contact The Enamel Foundation to reserve use of the large scale furnace and avoid scheduling conflicts. It is important to compose a list of materials, supplies and tools well in advance. Check with The Enamel Foundation to assure the availability of the items on your list.

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Averill Shepps and John Smith using large scale enamel furnace

What is provided by The Enamel Foundation: furnace, work tables, utility sinks, glass brushes, Alundum stones, workshop enamels, Penny-Brite, sifters and screens, paint brushes, furnace tools, gloves, trivets, standard workshop firing forks and trowels. Additional supplies and enameling forms are available for purchase on site. It is best to call ahead to check availability.

One may need or want a larger acid container and acid, a heat lamp mounted in a utility fixture, specialized trivets, larger firing forks, larger trowels, and larger press plates as well.

Planning Over Time

At the very least, one ought to plan to allow time to fire test pieces checking for color etc., using enamel from the same jar as will be applied to the large scale work. If it becomes necessary to use enamel from an additional jar, it is beneficial to perform a test again.

Averill Shepps working on 13 ½ inch diameter copper form

Using the Furnace

The furnace at The Enamel Foundation is not front loading but an elevator kiln. The heating elements are distributed across the ceiling of the furnace which is raised up and lowered by a simple crank arm. The floor of the furnace rests directly beneath the furnace top, on a platform that rolls sideways on rails. The piece to be enameled is first placed upon the appropriate trivet. Then, the crank arm is rotated quickly, raising the furnace ceiling high enough to allow the furnace bed upon which the work sits to be moved along the rails until positioned beneath the heating elements. Finally, the crank arm is rotated to lower the top down onto the bed, closing the furnace.

Averill Shepps working on 13½ inch diameter copper form.

The design of the large scale furnace incorporates a peep hole which allows an excellent view of the work when heating; aiding in judging when to lift the top again and roll the furnace bed out from under it. With the enameled workpiece removed to the side to cool, the top must be cranked down to contact the base allowing re -heating to begin. A little trial and error will soon indicate a useful range of firing temperature and time.

Going bigger in enameling can be a lot of fun. Most artists get into a creative groove using a limited size of materials. But for those ready to expand their enameling horizons, the large scale enamel furnace may just be the best next step forward.

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Sifted enamel on shallow plate form, 6 firings, 13 ½ inch diameter, by Averill Shepps

Larger sizes of materials present different creative opportunities to express the principles and elements of design which enamellists routinely use, like color and pattern. How exciting it is to move from enameling say, a six inch disk to enameling one that is 18 inches! The size of the large scale furnace can conveniently accommodate up to 21 x 21 inches with a working height of 4 inches or so. The actual interior dimensions are a little larger.

Get Started

To register for use of the large scale furnace start by phoning or e-mailing The Enamel Foundation. Have in mind the dates and days (Monday through Friday). Once that has been established, creating a complete checklist is a good second step.

Effective communication is key to a successful experience so drat one does not have to rely upon an incorrect assumption. The contact persons at The Enamel Foundation are knowledgeable and helpful and are an essential resource prior to arrival. They are happy to provide a basic orientation upon arrival and will instruct the user in the proper operation of the large scale furnace and the location of supplies. It should be clearly understood, however, that while The Enamel Foundation rents the large scale furnace and provides, at no extra charge, workshop enamels, equipment etc., instructional time by the professional staff is not included. One is on one's own to a great extent.

John Smith moving furnace base with enamel work under beating elements
John Smith moving furnace base with enamel work under beating elements

Large scale furnace enameling is appropriate only for those having a solid foundation in enameling and who are comfortable working independently of an instructor. An experienced enamelist working alone should have no problems. However, having an enameling partner may have advantages. Alternating the firing of two persons' projects works just fine, especially if one person raises and lowers the top while the second person moves the work-piece into position along the rails. A partner with whom to share the excitement of the day has a certain value, as many times two heads and four hands are truly twice as good.

Expanding the parameters of enameling by increasing the size of material used can provoke new expressions of artistic creativity. The larger size of the enameling "canvas" opens new pathways toward expression as well as encourages the development of one's skills. Meeting the challenge of enameling using the large scale furnace can result in a stronger visual statement.

Contact the W.W. Carpenter Enamel Foundation; 650 Colfax Ave., Bellevue KY, 4f073 or call 859-291-3800. You can also email them at

By John Smith [Volume 28, Number 4, August, 2009]
In association with
glass on metal
Glass on Metal is the only publication dedicated to enameling and related arts. Technical information, book reviews, how-to articles and insight on contemporary enamelers highlight each issue.

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