How to Make an Enameled Switch Plate

Use copper wire, enamel and etching techniques to create a stylish touch for any room.

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Materials and Tools:

copper light-switch plate
copper-plated screws
cloisonné wire in copper
powdered enamels
Klyr-Fire adhesive
flux transparent enamel
ammonia-and-water mixture
sulfuric acid (pickle bath)
soap
pumice
ferric chloride acid for etching
paint pen
masking tape
respirator/mask
kiln
pliers
wire cutters
sifter with handle
paintbrushes
paint tray for enamel
small spoon
old magazine paper
glass of clean water
brass brush
Alundum stone
spray bottle
paper towels
container for pickle (slow cooker)
kiln
kiln tools: trivet and screen, firing fork, tweezers
acid tools: ferric chloride acid, tongs, container with lid
safety glasses
rubber gloves

Steps:

1. Draw your design to the same scale as the switch plate.

2. Clean the copper switch plate with an ammonia-water solution, pumice and a brass brush.

3. With a paint pen, draw lines along the edges of the switch plate in the design for etching. Let dry.

4. Cover the back and front of the switch plate, except the edges to be etched, with masking tape. Use a craft knife or sharp blade to trim away excess tape.

5. Wearing safety glasses, safety gloves and a mask, put the switch plate into a bath of ferric chloride acid. Leave it in for five to eight hours.

6. Remove the switch plate from the acid, remove the tape and clean the metal with ammonia water, pumice and the brass brush.

7. Wearing a mask or respirator, brush Klyr-Fire onto the back of the plate. Sift blue powdered enamel onto the back of the plate. Then brush Klyr-Fire onto the front of the plate. Sift the flux (appears white) on the front of the plate and put the plate on a trivet.

8. Place the switch plate in the heated kiln until dry. Steam will rise as it's drying.

9. Fire the switch plate in the kiln for three to four minutes. Remove it from kiln and cool.

10. Cut and bend copper wire with pliers into square and rectangular shapes, following your drawn design.

11. Add Klyr-Fire and arrange wire shapes on the plate.

12. Quick-dry again and fire for three to four minutes. Pull the switch plate out to check that the wires are flat. If they aren't, press the wires down with tweezers and continue to fire until they're sunk into the transparent flux.

13. Remove the plate and cool.

14. Put the plate into the pickle (sulfuric acid) for about 15 minutes.

15. Clean the plate as before.

16. Apply Klyr-Fire to the background and sift yellow powdered enamel onto the entire plate.

17. Brush out all the yellow enamel from inside the squares with a paintbrush.

18. Spoon all the enamel colors into a paint tray and add Klyr-Fire to each one.

19. Fill (wet-pack) the squares with all the colors, using a paintbrush dipped into the enamel.

20. Quick-dry and fire for three to four minutes. If the plate begins to bow, press a steel plate with a flat surface on the piece directly after removing it from the kiln.

21. Remove, cool and pickle the plate.

22. Clean the plate the same way as before with the ammonia water, pumice and brass brush.

23. Repeat steps 19-22 two to four more times until the square wires are almost completely filled in with enamel.

24. Sand the wires with an Alundum stone until they're even.

25. Clean off any residue from the Alundum stone with a fiberglass brush.

26. Flash-fire the plate in the kiln to remove any remaining scratches.

27. Remove, cool and pickle.

28. Stone the etched edges to bring up the copper.

29. Perform a final cleaning with pumice and soap, and use the brass brush to give it a final finish.

30. To produce matching screws, apply Klyr-Fire and wet-pack in the color.

31. Quick-dry and fire in the kiln.

32. Remove and cool.

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