Dial Experimentation – Safe Enamelling Sunday, Apr 17 2011 

The “Harlequin” type design I would like to try in a number of ways, my initial thoughts were to make it using “cloisonne” style enamelling where the diamond pattern would be laid out on a flat base, using small pieces of wire to make the closed cells which are then filled with the enamel colour and fired.

Another similar method is to use my milling machine to cut the cells out of a solid plate, which will be less fiddly for me (and give me faster results while I learn) though the borders between each cell will be a bit thicker, so the design will not be as refined.

Milling out Diamonds.. much easier than the alternative...

A 3rd idea I had was to use the Plique a Jour method of enamelling, where the design is cut completely through, and using transparent enamels, whatever is behind the dial will be visible.

The basic technique is the same for all of these. (though I haven’t tried proper cloisonne yet)

Cut out the design needed in copper plate on the milling machine

Copper plate milled for enamelling (already looks pretty good...)

Fill the cells with a mixture of enamel powder (ground glass of a special composition to ensure even expansion) and purified water

Wet Enamel (Transparent) on a copper base

Allow the cells to dry

Cells filled, waiting to be fired in the oven

Fire until the powder fuses into a glass, and fixes to the metal

Allow to cool

At this stage the object would be cleaned, the enamel re-applied and re-fired until the desired effect was reached. In my case as these were all test pieces, I left them at this stage to explore more techniques

As I am quite fond of luminous material as well, I thought I would try doing a semi-enamel technique as well, to be used later with carbon fiber sheet, for this I used what is commonly called a “soft enamel”, really a 2 part resin, that has a hardness that is closer to enamel than most plastics, though I still would not trust it for use in an external area of a watch case.

Plastic, cut out to take luminous material

Plastic cut in Diamond Pattern to take Luminous Material

The product I’m using is called ceramit, the only problem that occurred was that the material I wanted to test has a melting point quite close to the heat required to cure the resin.. so I used more copper instead 🙂

The big advantages of using this product is that it provides a consistent result with little problems, no incredibly hot pieces of glass and metal (a small electric toaster oven is sufficient for curing), can be used on previously finished pieces quite easily, and the luminous material mixes in quite easily as well. There is also less finishing required and the material can be applied quite thinly, easily, whereas for normal enamel this can be very hit and miss to achieve.

Disadvantages are that it is softer than “real” enamel, so can’t be used on external pieces, and is not regarded as real enamelling (rightly so, as the skill required is no where near)

Being much faster to apply also means I can test more pieces faster, see if a design works, then (once I learn enamelling properly) make a “real” version

Test Piece of enamel powder on copper - dry

Test Piece fired, lots more practice needed...


Dial Concepts Monday, Apr 11 2011 

During early 2010 I started to do some experimentation with dial manufacture techniques, there are a number of dial designs that I know I want to produce, and what I want the finished product to look like, but knew I needed to at least test a few different methods of achieving these.

Bold, practical

This design has inspiration from pilots watches, I would make this from a white enamel base, with the markers being solid metal with the minute markers polished, and the 5-minute markers covered with luminous material.

I think this will also work with a black base (though with light numerals at the 3,6,9 & 12) as a more traditional pilots-type watch, and would be quite neat if cut from carbon fibre sheet with the metal and luminous inlayed.

Masque Dial

This design I would like to do in a range of materials and schemes,

The most complex being with the diamond pattern done in transparent enamels, so you can see movement parts through the dial, and the mask being carved from gold and held in place over the dial. The more simple versions could be done in two colours or tones and with or without the mask.

I knew that dial designs I want to make will need enamelling, so as far back as 2003 I knew that I would have to learn this technique at some stage, to this end I bought from a colleague a small furnace and some basic enamelling supplies, unfortunately before moving to our current abode there was not a space where I could safely fire up a small metal box to the temperatures required, the garage in our current house is such a place, nice high ceiling, concrete floor in case I happen to drop hot metal or molten glass (very important)

Toaster... at 800 degrees Celcius

As is normal with these sort of things, design is much easier than manufacture, as will be seen in the next post…