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The Process Of Making Enamel Headpins OR… Why I Only Do This Once A Year

May 8, 2017 , In: Glass, Jewelry, Studio

This post is about my process when making enamel headpins – I learned how to do this in a class with Barbara Lewis of Painting With Fire.  I am not publishing a tutorial on making enamel headpins. But if you like process posts, this is for you!

First, I begin by cleaning off my lampwork bench – I use my glass torch to make enamel headpins, and need to have lots of room.  I cut endless pieces of copper wire (I use 22 gauge) and open all my little tin containers of enamel.  This is not the same enamel as lampwork enamel (although you can use lampwork enamel on copper – but not the other way around).  I would say I put about 2 hours into cutting all that copper wire to size.  I have developed some recipes to create certain colors with the enamel, and I also use it in single colors as well.

As I’m making the headpins, I store them in my little baby crock pot so they hopefully won’t crack.  I filled this baby crock pot 3 times. I would estimate that I spent 5.5 hours in front of my torch making the headpins, and used up all the copper wire that I had cut.  So far then, I have almost 8 hours in the process.

When they are all done, I have to sort them.  This takes quite a bit of time, because you know, copper wire are like hangars – they somehow decide to mate while you’re not looking and get all tangled up!

Sorting this number of headpins took me over 1.5 hours to do.  After I sort the colors, I have to double check and sort for waste – some headpins crack no matter how careful you are and you will have a certain amount of waste.  Certain colors also crack more easily than others.

When I’m finished culling the waste, I then pickle the headpins in citric acid and water, heated up.  I don’t like to send work out into the world without removing the firescale – but this is an added step.  To do all these headpins, even in three batches at a time, took hours….

When I’m finished pickling the headpins, I divide them into trays based on color – I pick pairs out of the trays, and want to get a nice assortment of colors in every set of headpins I offer for sale (the photo below shows them in their slots *before* I pickled them).

Finally, I lay the trays out and pick pairs and put them in little baggies.  I sell them in sets of 10 pairs – however, I always include 2 extra pairs in case of breakage. 

I got 25 packs of 12 pairs (24 headpins) from all the copper I cut.  That’s quite a lot of copper. Here is a finished set of enameled heapins.

I hope you enjoyed this process post for a look at how long making enameled headpins actually takes!  You can find my enamel headpins listed in my SueBeads etsy store.

Susan Kennedy

Susan Kennedy Susan, the owner of SueBeads, started making glass beads in 2005 because she loved lampworked beads so much, but wanted to make her own instead of buying them on ebay! She also makes enameled components and dabbles in polymer clay, but her first love is glass. She has attended jewelry-making classes at ArtBLISS and has taken classes from Barbara Lewis (torch fired enameling) in addition to several classes at the Pittsburgh Glass Center.
    • Kathy Lindemer
    • May 8, 2017

    I think you are smart doing this once a year. It looks exhausting! The headpins are lovely.

  1. Reply

    Wow – that is a lot of work. I love the way you laid out the process of what it all entails.
    Nice colors!

    • jewelsofsayuri
    • May 8, 2017

    wow, that is time consuming. May I know what sort of a adhesive you use for the enamel to stick on before firing? Does hairspray work on wire like it does on sheet metal?

  2. Reply

    I love the riot of colors when all in a pile before sorting.

    • Deborah Boyet
    • May 11, 2017

    Wow! Really cool! Enameling is next on my list. All the supplies are expensive if you want a range of colors

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