Oh what fun I had in the workshop yesterday. For the last six months, I have been collecting information and supplies to try torch fired enamel and finally gave it a try this weekend. And I'm hooked. I love it!!! Armed with a tutorial or two (and a comprehensive lesson on using the torch from my patient SO) I drilled some pennies; cleaned them thoroughly and then set out to color them like jelly beans! As a surprise, my DSO bought me a "starter kit" (of sorts) of assorted enamel powders - 14 little bags of color - to play with as I wanted. I couldn't wait to get started.
Using the first tutorial I found, I mixed my first enamel powder color choice with distilled water (50/50 ratio) and filled in the top of my first penny.......a penny I hadn't drilled. The tutorial said to let the enamel and water mixture dry but I did not have the patience to let it dry, so I fired away. I was a little tentative with the torch at first, but wisely started out making some copper head pins which relaxed my fears a little. After the first penny was fired, I let it cool in a fiber blanket. Once it cooled down, I was thrilled with the color and look of it and couldn't wait to do more.
Faced with the 14 bags of assorted colors, I couldn't wait to try more colors. Using a screen from a faucet (I absolutely have to get a small hand held sifter) I sifted the colors directly onto the cleaned pennies - and did layers of colors.
Turquoise enamel powder
Base of opaque orange with a layer of red on top
A layer of golden brown with a layer of turquoise on top
Golden brown with a sifting of my run-off waste
Just to prove that I really used pennies!!
A couple of great, informative articles/tutorials on how to torch fire enamel:
thank you for the article, the colors are beautiful and what a great use for all those pennies I have in a jar. I'm inspired
Thank you! Just don't forget when you are choosing your pennies you can only use those that were minted previous to 1981 - the newer ones are more zinc than they are copper and they will melt when you try to torch fire them. And HAVE FUN!!!!
Not to mention torching Zinc can make you feel really funky.
What a wonderful idea - thanks for sharing. I just started torch enameling, and I find one of the big expenses is the copper pieces - this is a great and inexpensive way to get round discs without punching and filing too! Another reason to start saving my pennies!
I really enjoyed this idea - thank you for sharing. I am hoping to start learning how to torch enamel and this is yet another way to use it!
These are the neatest things I ever saw..well....you know... So vibrantly colored with brilliant details. I know nothing about this technique but I admit I have placed pennies on the tracks in my youth. I just loved this and totally despise the zincers too since they do NOT stand up to the "make a memory penny" machines either. Thanks for the tutorial
Prior to seeing your post, I did not want to try enameling...now I do!
This is very nice. They are beautiful for your first try! Looks like a pro.
I am wondering how you drilled the coins? I have some that I would like to enamel also but I only have a cheap dremmel.
What did you use to keep them steady and make the nice little ridges?
Kim - I used a cordless dremel to drill the holes - I use a scribe first to punch a divet in the penny. You can't do a lot of them before the dremel runs out of juice, but for getting started it works!
Fair warning you might want to avoid wheat pennies, some of them are worth quite a bit... http://cointrackers.com/wheat-pennies/
Yes, DO pay attention to the wheat pennies - I have a coin collector reference book that I check before I use any wheat penny so I know I'm not enameling a pricey collectors coin!
They look very nice. As you are collecting pennies be sure to look for a 1943 copper (not steel) wheat back - it is worth a MINIMUM of $70,000.00. :)
I do inspect each penny - especially the wheat pennies - very carefully before enameling. My coin book is never far from the jar of pennies! Thanks for looking and taking the time to comment!
May I ask where your DSO got the enamel powders? Have many pennies to play with ... save all of them past 1964 (why? I don't know, just do) and now looking through all the wheat ones to hopefully find a 1943 ... :)
Janet - they were found on ebay - not sure what seller had them at the time - if you go on ebay, do a search for thompson powdered enamels - she was selling off a large bunch she had.
I completely understand about the saving pennies thing - I do it too!
Good luck finding the enamels.
the pennies look great...can we use copper sheet instead? If so what gauge (do they have to be enamelled on both sides?
Love this and have wanted to try enameling for awhile now. I have seen washers enameled on pinterest and they look great. Have you tried that?
I have enameled some copper washers I got from Harbor Freight and they came out great. I recommend using one of the sprays that adheres the enamel to the copper (I use hair spray)because when you put the torch to the washer it has less copper to blow onto. I wasted a lot of powder at first!
Good luck and have fun!
Hi there !
Would you consider a custom order? Meaning, any chance you might make some for me?
Sarah- I am in the middle of moving right now but when I get situated I would love to enamel some more pennies - is there anything specific you were hoping for?
So, did you enamel both sides? They are beautiful. I didn't even know there was such a thing! I'm going to have to add another thing to my hobby list that I don't have time to explore!
... And what kind of torch?
I did not enamel both sides - the penny (pre 1982 of course!) is a sturdy copper disc so does not require counter enameling. (I did do it once for a pair of inside out earrings - it comes out really nice).
I use a regular "buy it at Home Depot" tank of gas (the yellow one) and a regular plumbers torch tip. I know it's not what everyone says you should use but it is what I learned on and because of that, it is the torch I am the best on.
Thanks for taking the time to comment, I appreciate it!
I got hooked on your site and looked through your gallery. You make some really beautiful pieces!
Thank you Patricia!
Hi, i really find this interesting and want to try it. where do i buy enamel powder?
I found my enamel powders on ebay. You can also find them on Barbara Lewis's site - Painting with Fire.
Isn't it illegal to use pennies? Something about defacing the country's coinage?
Not illegal to use pennies:
Section 331 of Title 18 of the United States code provides criminal penalties for anyone who “fraudulently alters, defaces, mutilates impairs, diminishes, falsifies, scales, or lightens any of the coins coined at the Mints of the United States.” This statute means that you may be violating the law if you change the appearance of the coin and fraudulently represent it to be other than the altered coin that it is. As a matter of policy, the U.S. Mint does not promote coloring, plating or altering U.S. coinage: however, there are no sanctions against such activity absent fraudulent intent.
Are you still making these? Would you be interested in selling some?
I have not made any of these for a while now - I moved and have not yet unpacked my studio fully. Please keep checking the blog for updates, at some point I will be making them again! Thank you for your interest!
Thanks for the information you have provided here; learned a great deal from you as well as from the links you included at the end of your article.
Jolene- Thank you for visiting and for taking the time to leave a comment. I am very glad you found is helpful. I hope you enjoy enameling as much as I do.
what cleansing processor do you use to clean the pennies?
I use a mixture of lemon juice and sea salt to clean the pennies. If the penny doesn't clean up enough i use a green scrubby on it. Once they are clean I rinse with clear water. Hope this helps!
Greetings! I have been enameling for several years now and I am really anxious to try out some liquid enamel. There is limited information (that I have been able to find) on this, but I'm ready to give it a shot. What I noticed in your post is that you made liquid enamel by mixing enamel powder with distilled water. I just purchased two types of white powder that is purposely made to produce liquid enamel. I am now wondering if I can made colors with the white by putting some of my 80 mesh powders into the mixture. Have you ever tried this? I am one always willing to give something new a shot, but I realllllly hate wasting copper pieces to experiment! (The pennies really do work great, though!!)
I was not creating liquid enamel when I mixed the powder with the distilled water. I have never tried the liquid enamel so I cannot answer that for you. There is a Facebook group that talks about torch fired enamel techniques - Enamel Jewelry Artists - and they have talked about liquid enamel. If you are on Facebook, check them out.
Sorry I cannot be of more help.
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