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Construction and Enameling of Dials


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I've taken an interest in perhaps making a dial.  I would like to make a double sunk type.  I am stuck on the enameling portion.  I've read a brief two pages from Max Cutmore's Collecting & Repairing Watches.  I am posting what I read in order that you may see where I'm coming from. 

This is not my text:

"Coat the blank with gum tragacanth (mixed from powder to paste methylated spirits and diluted with water: 15g (1/2 oz.) gum to a liter (2 pints) water,) place it on a coarse metal mesh and sieve the white enamel powder through a 60-gauge mesh on to the face.  Treat both sides to avoid edges, but the butane method burns enamel off the back.  Apply the torch to the back of the dial until the enamel fuses at about 820°C (1,500°F).  Repeat this process until a satisfactory white finish is obtained.

I understand the "recipe," but once the paste is made, it dries to the consistency of rubber cement.  Given that this must be sprinkled on the copper before firing, I'm at a loss as far as taking the cake from solid to powder.  Is Mr. Cutmore suggesting to spread this paste onto a fine screen of some type and let it dry there; somehow liberate it, then sievet through the 60-gauge mesh? 

If so, I'd be unsure how to remove the gelatinous matter from the first screen.  If not, unless I'm missing something in the text (which is not out of the realm of things,) how does one get the paste to powder form? 

Finally, nowhere did I find that gum tragacanth is vitreous upon firing.  I'm guessing I would have to find vitreous powder on the interwebs?

Edited by SparkyLB
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Upon reading this again, it seems that the gum tragacanth is just the adhesive to capture the ceramic powder.  The coarse metal mesh is what the item to be enameled rests on.  I read it wrong, it seems. 

I'll pick up some white enamel powder and go from there. 

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Yes the gum is the 'glue' to hold the enamel on the metal until it is fired.

Go look up a enameling supplier and you will find they sell a premixed gum that you can use which is easier than making your own.

You can also buy preground enamel rather than having to grind your own which just requires washing with distilled water.

Years ago I played around a bit with enameling to make some jewelry for my wife. To do enameling well isn't easy and for something as large as a watch dial you really need a kiln to heat it evenly and to allow it to cool gradually so the enamel does not crack. You also need to enamel both sides of the dial to even the stress out, for the back sides most enamelers save their waste enamel, that is bits that missed what they are enameling when sifting it on that has mixed with other colours. Not much modern written material on enameling watch dials, but lots on enameling jewelry which would give you a good place to start.

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19 minutes ago, Tmuir said:

Yes the gum is the 'glue' to hold the enamel on the metal until it is fired.

Go look up a enameling supplier and you will find they sell a premixed gum that you can use which is easier than making your own.

You can also buy preground enamel rather than having to grind your own which just requires washing with distilled water.

Years ago I played around a bit with enameling to make some jewelry for my wife. To do enameling well isn't easy and for something as large as a watch dial you really need a kiln to heat it evenly and to allow it to cool gradually so the enamel does not crack. You also need to enamel both sides of the dial to even the stress out, for the back sides most enamelers save their waste enamel, that is bits that missed what they are enameling when sifting it on that has mixed with other colours. Not much modern written material on enameling watch dials, but lots on enameling jewelry which would give you a good place to start.

Thank you for the confirmation.  I've watched a few videos of jewelry applications and the enamel never seems to set flat and true, and they're using a kiln.  The final product is domed, undesirable for a good-looking watch dial.  Also, the absolute crisp white color seems to require enamel containing arsenic, which is not readily available.  The only white I see for sale is "off white."  Lastly, I have no kiln, so I don't think I'd fare better with a torch.  

I'll save the torch for bluing steel. 

  

 

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Thank you, jdm!  Great read.  Certainly not easier.  But I got into this hobby for love of "fine" work.  Not saying I'll take this on, but I love the patience and craftsmanship required.

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Thanks, vinn3.  Maybe I'll look into it. 

For the time frame ahead, I have an ETA 6497 on the way.  I'm going to make hands for it I think before anything else.  That would give me a tremendous amount of confidence.  Each of the 3 hands, blued with heat.      

Edited by SparkyLB
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  • 7 months later...
On 2/8/2020 at 2:48 AM, SparkyLB said:

Upon reading this again, it seems that the gum tragacanth is just the adhesive to capture the ceramic powder.  The coarse metal mesh is what the item to be enameled rests on.  I read it wrong, it seems. 

I'll pick up some white enamel powder and go from there. 

You can use wallpaper glue or a special liquid such as Thompson. ( klyr fire )

 

 

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Edited by EnamelDial
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