Torch Firing Workshop at Sparsholt Conference 2015

Dorothy Cockrell

Torch firing allows us to create pieces larger than will fit our standard kilns and be more flexible in the firing. Holes may be deliberately melted in the metal, the edges distressed, and selected areas can be high or low fired leaving the rest intact. None of this is possible with kiln firing.

Small or thin pieces of copper are used because the common butane or propane torches have a limited amount of heat and, without the shelter of a kiln, this heat disperses very quickly. Mapp gas is hotter and some lucky enamellers have even larger torches so can do larger pieces.

Using mainly copper shim the group had a wonderful time, cutting, crimping, embossing, folding and corrugating to give it a bit of strength. They combined it with copper mesh and wire, sometimes twisted the results; then they added enamels and torch fired ‘to see what would happen’. As experiments of this nature can result in an assortment of unrelated odds and ends, they were then given an A4 sheet of card and invited to make an arrangement to display their pieces.

What follows are the notes Dorothy gave out at the workshop.

Notes on Torch Firing

  1. Know the whereabouts of the fire extinguisher, be prepared for the treatment of cuts and burns and remember the need for eye protection. With torches there is not so much infra-red as with a kiln, but watch for shards of enamel going ‘pop’.

  2. Always keep hair tied back, wear shoes with closed toes and don’t have any loose clothing. You’re not very likely to set yourself on fire, but beware of your surroundings. Do remember while inspecting the enamelling that you have a lighted torch in your hand. For safety and economy it’s best to turn it off as soon as you remove it from the piece.

  3. Always protect the table and, if necessary, the floor with heat proof material and don’t have any paper or other flammable material nearby, hot shards of enamel can shoot off and set something on fire.