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|Before I say
anything about using copper leaf, I want to make sure you are aware
that it is pretty toxic, more so than the other metal leafs in my
experience, so make sure you have good ventilation before playing with
Ok, here we go :)
Using copper leaf is not hard to do. The problem that most people have is that they don't burn it in properly. It is not like silver, gold or palladium. Copper discolors as soon as the hot glass touches it, it will even begin to burn up and flake off before you ever get it back into the flame, so don't worry, this is normal!
I like to use light ivory as my base color, I also roll the shaped bead in white enamel before applying the copper, this helps the copper to stick to the bead better.
When cutting your strip of copper leaf, keep in mind that you do not want to use an excessive amount, that will just make it harder to burn off later. Cut your strip so that it will fit closely from side to side and so that you only get one layer as you roll. It you do get more it's ok, it just means you will have a longer burn time later.
Rolling bead in white enamel powder. I usually use a few coats.
Make sure your bead is fairly cool, with just a low orange glow before you place it onto the copper, this will help to keep it from totally burning away as the bead touches it.
Burnish the copper well onto the bead with a metal tool or marvering paddle and then get it back into the flame. You will have to work quickly so that the bead doesn't cool so much that it cracks before you get it back into the flame.
Begin to burn the copper into the bead slowly, let it adhere to the bead, it will look like grey ash and look terrible at this point, but keep burning it in. Notice that I am farther out in the flame in the beginning.
You can see in the picture below the ashy grey coating on the bead. This is what it looks like before moving in closer to the flame and burning it completely in. This is what many people see and think that their bead is ruined...it's not, just keep going :)
Now move the bead closer to the torch head, burning quite a bit hotter now. You will begin to see sparks and fireworks on the surface of the bead, this is a good thing so keep going! Don't forget to also work each side of the bead near the mandrel, do this in fairly short bursts so that you don't loose the shape of your bead. Every so often take the bead out of the flame, let it cool enough so that you can see any patches of ashy grey that might still be there. Burn them off. Keep burning and checking. Once the fireworks die down you are getting there, just keep checking and burning... it takes a while.
Once all the copper is burned in to your satisfaction, you can leave the bead as it is, or add any surface decoration that you wish. Try adding strips of silver foil on top once the copper is burnt in. Burn these in too, to add a bit more blue/green colour variation. Copper leaf is great stuff, experiment and see where it takes you!
I hope this tutorial helps you, have fun and happy torching!
Copyright LavenderCreek Glass
December 25, 2005