No enameling – denied!

So I was all sorts of enthused about starting up with torch-fired enamel. It’s fantastically fun, and easy, and hey – fire! That’s always fun! Or, y’know, not – mostly, fire scares me. Wisely, I feel. But because it was pretty much stationary, I didn’t find it as daunting as the creme brulee torching of metal clay. Plus, it’s over in moments, instead of it taking (at least in the case of ArtClay Copper) a significant chunk of time.

Then I actually bought Barbara Lewis’s book, http://www.amazon.com/Torch-Fired-Enamel-Jewelry-Workshop-Painting/dp/1440308861, which mentions, among other things, that you want to work in a well-ventilated area. It recommends doing a search on how lampworkers ventilate their work areas.

My work area (which is to say, my apartment) is not particularly well ventilated. This is predominantly because I never open the windows. Ever. So unless a closed HVAC system counts as ventilation, this is not good. When I did the search on lampworking ventilation, and my brain exploded. There is simultaneously a huge quantity of information out there, and a complete lack of what I feel, in my case, is actually useful.

I have simple needs, I think: I need something non-permanent and inexpensive, that will allow me to hook it up, do my thing, unhook it, and put it away, while keeping myself safe and not setting my home on fire.

Some people recommended getting materials from hydroponics companies, but the information on how to actually set it up was a bit sketchy (I saw one with what looked like dryer vent tubing hooked up to a hydroponics fan, set up on cinder blocks, and stuck poking out a barn door. Since I’m lacking in barn doors, and wouldn’t leave one open, anyway, that’s a no-go. Plus, I don’t recall seeing how the part you actually sit near and use the torch by should be set up). Others were downright dangerous (make a fume hood with foamcore board covered with aluminum foil. FOAMCORE?! Can you think of ANYTHING more toxic and flammable?! It’s STYROFOAM and PAPER, for the love of…!?) Some had oven range hoods vented to the outside, which of all the available options, seems the most feasible; most of the comments regarding those systems stated that they didn’t accomplish nearly enough in the way of venting, and that they might cause a backdraft explosion in your freaking furnace because fresh air isn’t replacing what gets vented. Some seemed to have seriously complex ventilation systems, and others, just fan in a window.

I am very confused.

I don’t particularly want to fill my lungs with copper oxides and flaming silica and whatever all else is going to fly through the air, during torching (or firing in a kiln, for that matter). I’m not in a position to cut a hole in the wall and hook a duct up to it. On top of that, even if/when I do move to more permanent housing, I was planning to move to a townhome or condo; these sites implied that the HOAs in such places would be very unhappy to learn of torch or kiln use. Which, when you get right down to it, makes perfect sense. I wouldn’t be happy to know that my neighbors were using open flames in their apartments, either (even if they are really small ones. The flames, not the neighbors). This… is kind of a game-changer, I’ve gotta say.

So I will now be extending my search to stand-alone, single family housing. Preferably with… no yard. At all. Whatsoever.

I don’t particularly want to own an actual home (as opposed to a townhome). It opens a whole ‘nother can of worms, and it scares the bejeesus out of me. But I don’t want to be confined to wirework for the rest of my jewelry-making career, either.

The only other option I can think of is finding a studio space to rent, outside the home, where I can keep my torches and kilns and implements of destruction. Problem being, I can find no such place, and might not be able to afford it, even if I could. It looks like there ARE such places in existence; they’re just in urban areas, e.g. Newark.

So… yeah. Feeling kinda discouraged, just at the moment. All revved up, and, quite literally, no place to go.

More as it develops. IF it develops. *sigh*

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3 comments on “No enameling – denied!

  1. I could have written your last entry myself! but it’s good to find someone to share ideas with – that is if either of us had any. I’ve been practicing my torch-fired enamelling, trying it out on everything that doesn’t look like pewter, and trying to get the results I see on the Pwf blog. But I’m concerned that when I finish even a short session, the back of my throat feels irritated. Maybe my two windows open with wimpy fan in one system isn’t working. Plus, there’s enamel dust on everything!

    So, I’ve been doing a similar search for an effective, reasonably priced ventilation system, too, and am familiar with several of the options you found. The smaller commercial systems seem to be more for use with a soldering iron, but the vented hoods cost $700+. I can’t see spending that kind of money on something I’ll use a few hours a week – a hobby.

    I’m thinking at this point of just moving my enamelling table directly in front of the north window where I would insert a strong fan and depending on the west window to draw in fresh air behind me. My husband is trained in electrical engineering, so I’ll see if he has any bright ideas.

  2. Wow! At least you’ve got a free electrical engineer to ask! LOL! I’m on my own!
    I did successfully buy a townhome. I tried to find a yardless house, to no avail. So… now begins my attempts to make things work. If I come up with something, I’ll let you know!

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