This section is from the "Henley's Twentieth Century Formulas Recipes Processes" encyclopedia, by Norman W. Henley and others.
The plates are generally in lengths of 6 feet by 2 feet, 6 feet by 3 feet, etc., the gauge generally being from 14 to 22, according to the size and class of plates to be enameled. These must be cut, but some enamelers prefer to order their plates in specified sizes, which does away with the necessity of cutting at the enameling factory. In order, however, to make this article complete, we will assume that a stock of large plates is kept on hand, the sizes being 6 feet by 3 feet and 6 feet by 2 feet. An order for sign tablets is given; particulars, say as follows: Length, 2 feet by 12 inches, white letters on blue ground; lettering, The Engineer, 33 Norfolk Street; block letters, no border line, 2 holes. For ordinary purposes these particulars would be sufficient for the enameler.
Cutting the plate is the first operation. The plates 6 feet by 2 feet would first be cut down the center in a circular cutting rnachine, thus forming two strips, 6 feet by 12 inches. Each strip would then be cut into three lengths of 2 feet each. If a guillotine had to be used instead of a circular cutter, the plate would be first cut transversely at distances of 2 feet, thus forming three square pieces of 2 feet by 2 feet. These would then be subdivided longitudinally into two lengths each, the pieces being then 2 feet by 12 inches. Each sheet would thus be cut into six plates.
The cut plates should next have any roughness removed from the edges, then punched with two holes— one at each end, followed by leveling or setting. This is done by hammering carefully on a true flat surface.
The plates should then be taken and dipped into a hydrochloric acid bath made up of equal quantities of the acid and water. The plates are then raised to a red heat in the stoves, and on removal it will be found that the scale—-iron oxide—has become loosened, and will readily fall off, leaving a clean metallic surface. A second course of cleaning then follows in diluted sulphuric acid—1 part acid to 20 parts water. In this bath the iron may be kept for about 12 hours. In some cases a much stronger bath is used, and the plates are left in only a very short time. The bath is constructed of hard wood coated inside with suitable varnish.
In mixing the sulphuric acid bath it must be remembered that the acid should be slowly poured into the water under continuous stirring. Following the bath, the metal is rinsed in water, after which it is thoroughly scoured with fine flinty sand. Rinsing again follows, but in boiling water, and then the metal is allowed to dry. The enameling process should immediately follow the drying, for if kept for any length of time the surface of the metal again becomes oxidized. In hollow-ware enameling the hydrochloric acid bath may be omitted.
The plates are now ready for the reception of the foundation or gray coating. If powder is used the plate is wiped over with a gum solution, and then the powder is carefully and uniformly dusted through a fine sieve over the surface. The plate is then reversed and the operation repeated on the other side. If a liquid "gray" is to be used it should have a consistency of cream, and be poured or brushed with equal care over the two surfaces in succession, after the plate has been heated to be only just bearable to the touch. The plates are then put on rests, or petits, in a drying stove heated to about 160° P., and when' thoroughly dry they are ready for the fusing operation. The petits, with the plates, are placed on a long fork fixed on a wagon, which can be moved backward and forward on rails; the door of the fusing oven is then raised and the wagon moved forward. The fork enters the oven just above fire clay brick supports arranged to receive the petits. The fork is then withdrawn and the door closed. The stove has a cherry-red, almost white, heat and in a few minutes the enamel coating has been uniformly melted, and the plates are ready to be removed on the petits and fork in the same manner as they were inserted. Rapid cooling must now be carefully avoided, otherwise the enamel and the iron will be liable to separate, and chipping will result. The temperature of fusion should be about 2,192° F.* When all the plates have been thus prepared they are carefully examined and defective ones laid aside, the others being now ready for the next operation.
* Melting a piece of copper will approximately represent this temperature.