New in Enamel on Steel – Some Insights

Christmas Ornament made from welded tin-can mild steel and vitreous enamel. The grey is Thompson GC-16 Cobalt Blue, while the white is a medium fusing white, over a layer of the ground coat as a base

After the enamel course I taught at Pratt in November/December, I was inspired to make some holiday ornaments (insert your regional nomenclature here – the Perth of my youth would say ‘Christmas decorations’) with tin-cans and enamel. I should have known better!

The thin steel doesn’t take too many layers of enamel well, and when I experiment on what are meant to be finished pieces, I always end up sandblasting off as many layers as I put on which, in this thin a material, tends to create its own problems…

But still!

I managed to get enough layers to stick to make the piece that I posted previously here on Christmas day, as well as the little number above, and one other piece a little different to these two that used the centre parts of the lid parts used here and featured some greensih-blue seed beads on a white ground.


What I’m really here to share is that, as a part of this process, I finally used the Thompson GC-16 Cobalt Blue ground coat in anger, and whaddya know? It works a treat!  My previous tip was to fire a BC layer – (BC = Base Coat) of clear – medium or low, (depending on the application) if you were using a tricky steel, but now I’d definitely say try the Cobalt Blue Ground Coat if you’re using lower quality steels (read ‘tin-can’ steel – it really is appalling for anything other than samples, but soooo cheap!) Nothing else will stick as well on first go, though you can get BC layers (these are ‘clear’, or at least transparent, liquid enamels in low fusing and medium fusing versions) to go well too, though they can be more likely to have crackle problems, if that’s something you’re prone to promoting in your work.Like I sometimes am. When in a rush. Around the holiday period, say..

Other steels are less finicky (so a colour straight on is just fine), but if you’re going to build up the layers and don’t want to risk crummy adhesion, or if you are using a less than optimal steel, definitely go the GC-16 as the starter. It has reasonable adhesion direct to the 3″ x 3″ low-carbon sample squares that Thompson sells, which aren’t sandblasted but have a subtle imprinted randomised pattern. Though as you might guess, better adhesion is achieved on a sandblasted surface. Even on shim steel. Of a type that would be better off being recycled than turned into art*.

And of course I’ve updated the Enamel on Steel – Some Insights section of this self-same blog with the above details on the GC-16, so you know where to find this info if you need it again.


* here I use the term loosely

, ,