This section is from the book "Arts & Crafts Magazine Vol1-2", by Hutchinson & Company.
The process of champleve enamelling was described in a previous article. The one most nearly allied to it is that termed "cloisonne." It is so named from the use of "cloisons," or metal strips, in its making. In champleve the outline is obtained by leaving metal divisions, whilst other parts are sunk, forming little cells into which the enamel is introduced. In the case of cloisonne, the outline is given by strips of metal laid upon the metal object - which forms the ground - and these are soldered to it with hard solder. Nearly all Japanese and Chinese enamels are cloisonne. The Japanese and Chinese very rarely use solder to fix their cloisons, but make use of a strong mucilage which they obtain from a root, and which enables them to dispense with solder.
I shall here very briefly mention and describe the tools and machinery necessary for making cloisonne enamel. First, there are those by which the wires are made: the dravvplate, through which the wire is drawn in order to reduce it to any size; rolling mills, which consist of two steel rollers that can be made to open or close tightly; a mouth blow-pipe for small work, and one with foot-bellows for larger pieces; a few blocks of charcoal; a Hat circular iron pan containing coke or charcoal, for soldering and annealing; a large pair of iron tongs, a pickling pan of porcelain and one of copper, to contain sulphuric acid and water, one for cold the other for hot solution; a basin for water; variously shaped pliers (cutting, flat-nosed, and round-nosed of different sizes), according to the work in hand; shears, curved and straight, for cutting the wires and the metal; a small gas jet or spirit lamp for soldering jewellery; hard silver solder and borax for soldering; corn tongs or tweezers; a few small riffles; needle files, scrapers, and scorpers to get rid of the solder which may accidentally get on the object away from the wires.
Draw Plate, Draw Tongs, and Vice.
The first operation is to make your strips, or cloisons, which may be cut with shears from a piece of flat metal sheet, or, in a much better manner, by melting some pieces into an ingot, and then hammering it and filing it to a round bar; and, after sharpening one end, which is passed through a hole in the steel drawplate, it is pulled through the holes (with draw tongs attached to a drawbench), successively diminishing until the requisite size is reached. Those cloisons which are intended for large monumental work should naturally be larger than those intended for jewellery, consequently demanding larger tools and appliances. If work varying greatly in size is undertaken, tools varying in proportion will be required. The size of the wire is entirely governed by the fact of whether the cloison can be seen clearly, as it forms or should be the chief part of the design. It is a mistake to suppose that the aim should be to conceal the cloisons, or that they should be so small as to be scarcely perceptible - like much of the modern Japanese work, I am sorry to say - for, let it be understood, the cloisons are not at all necessary to hold the enamel to the plate. The enamel adheres to metal surfaces (copper, silver, and gold) quite as well, if not better, without cloisons or metal divisions. Therefore they are employed solely for aesthetic reasons.
Various Pliers, Tweezers, etc.
Cutting Pliers and Tweezers.
In order to melt your pieces or scraps into an ingot, obtain two blocks of charcoal about half an inch thick, into one of which is cut a shape for the metal to run. Over this is placed the other piece of charcoal, and bound to it tightly with binding wire. Then the blowpipe flame is played over the metal scrap until it melts, when it is run into the mould (as described above) made in the lower charcoal block. When the metal is cold, it is cleaned by sulphuric acid and water, and then is drawn through the holes in the drawplate. If the wire is to be of a large size, then a drawbench has to be employed, for a man's strength is not sufficient to pull it through. After each pull the wire must be annealed and cleaned. When the necessary size has been obtained, pass the wire through the mills. This last operation can be avoided, if, instead of a drawplate with circular holes, one with oblong holes producing a flat strip is procured. This latter appliance would have to be specially made. Most necessary is it to have an adequate supply of good tools.
The design for cloisonne enamelling should be such as is suggested by the bending of metal strip. Long straight lines are difficult, and should be avoided. It is best to practise bending your wire to all sorts of patterns first, and then, after getting hold of the capabilities and limitations thoroughly of the process, to commence a design upon paper, first in outline and then in colour. That design which does not require unusually great technical skill is always better than one that does, for the one that lends itself readily to the method is the one which is most fit, and therefore best. And, as you will find the limitations are considerable, it is wise to keep to conventional form. Again, always remember in making a design that you are making it to be reproduced in a precious material, and that it is not an easy one; therefore let your design be well and thoroughly considered, so that it may be worthy of the work and the work worthy of the design. Try to make it to look as though it had not been designed, but that it had grown. That is one of the secrets of true work. The design should not look separate from the work, nor vice versa. They should be one.
Two Charcoal Blocks, tilted, so that the melted metal may run from the hollow part (a) to the part cut out (b) - drawn with a dotted line.
Soldering with Gas, Blow Pipe, and Foot Bellows.
With these few very broad principles, I leave the question of design, for with them you may choose anything - plant, flower, fruit, or leaf; animal, bird, or fish; or abstract form - and be as free as you please.
When the drawing has been accomplished, trace it and transfer it to the plate, bowl, vase, or whatever object you have chosen to decorate. Then, with a sharp steel point, scratch the pattern firmly on to it. Then clean your object in sulphuric acid and water, and wipe it dry. Afterwards, the process is continued by the wires being bent to the form of the object and to the design upon it in short pieces. This is achieved by the fingers chiefly, with the aid of tweezers and plyers. By continual application to the study of this work, and constant practice, the first difficulties will soon be overcome. When all the wires have been bent to the pattern, take some borax, either in powder or lump, mix it with the solder, and apply little pieces along the edges of the cloisons, when, by blowing the flame on them and the object, the solder will run, and so fix them to the surface of the object. It is advisable to make your own solder. The following proportions are the best for most work: - For brass wire and on a copper body take three parts silver to one of brass, and melt into an ingot and roll, as described above, to 10 metal gauge.
For silver wire upon a silver object take 4 parts silver to 1 of brass.
Calcined borax is much simpler to use than un-calcined, and, if mixed with petroleum or paraffin instead of water, it does not bubble during the heating by the blowpipe flame. The whole process is quite a simple one, but it may become difficult if the details do not receive great attention.
Now you may proceed to lav in the powdered enamel, as was described in the case of champleve, and "fire" the object - that is, pass it into the furnace. The furnace must not be too hot, or the solder on the wires may run, and cause much difficulty to ensue. After all the spaces have been filled well up to the top of the cloisons, file the enamel clown to a regular smooth surface, and finish by rubbing it with pumice stone and rotten stone and water.
Hammered Iron. L. Hornstein.