Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Copper and Pearl Ex Powdered Pigment Mirror Frame - a Tutorial

Copper and Pearl Ex Powdered Pigment Framed Mirror

I am not sure if I am the first to do this, but I kind of discovered this process by accident.  I was trying to do sort of an enameling effect, that didn't exactly turn out.  I had a few containers of Pearl Ex Powdered Pigments from Jacquard Products, so I thought that I would give that a try with the same process as copper enameling.  Being  a total novice at this technique, I really didn't know what it would do,  but was really excited about the results that I received!  So I had to run out and get myself some more colors of the Pearl Ex Powdered Pigments, because I was on to something really awesome! You can read about all of their products here.

So here is the process:

First I have to make some wooden frames.

I like to use pine 1 x's. I like for the frames to be kind of wide so there is more room for decorating. I usually get 1 x 8's or 1 x 10's.
Frame sections ready to be glued and screwed

After I have the frames made, I start to figure out what design I want to use with the copper.  While I am thinking, I paint the frame with flat black paint.  This particular frame I decided on 2 x  2 squares.  I start cutting the copper and laying them out to see how many I am going to need.  

I use the Kreg Jig to drill my holes  to join the frames - it makes things so much easier!

I buy my copper from Storm Copper Components, you can find it here.  I buy the 36 guage 2" wide rolls in the 50' lengths.  There is more than enough to do a mirror this size, and I will probably have enough left over to make a smaller mirror too.
50' Roll of 2", 36 gauge Copper 

Laying out the copper pieces

Next comes the fun part!  After I have all the squares cut, I need to take the shiny finish off of the copper, so I do that with my torch.  I have an area fixed up for this on my work bench.  I have a fire proof shield to support some fire bricks, and then under that I have a slab of marble. My dad gave me that slab of marble years ago, I never knew what to do with it until now!  Thanks Dad!   He probably bought it at an auction somewhere.  I lay out the pieces of copper and then use the torch to burn off the shiny surface.

Taking the shine off

After all the pieces of copper are torched I take them into the house and rinse them with water and then dry them completely. 

The next part of the process is to apply the Pearl Ex  Powder Pigments.  I do this by mixing the pigments with A-1 Klyr-fire.  I also decide which colors I want to use.  Actually, I like to use all the ones that I have, cause that is how I roll!  The more colors the better!  
A-1 Klyr-Fire

My stash of Pearl Ex Pigments

Here is a little tip about using the torch on the copper.  I swirl the torch around on top of the copper until I can see a  pretty rainbow color, then pull it off.  This rainbow of color will show through the Pearl Ex and looks really awesome!

The colors that I used on this mirror frame are Super Copper, Bright Yellow, Salmon Pink, Pumpkin Orange, Duo Blue-Green, Spring Green, Super Russet, Misty Lavender and True Blue.

With a paint brush I apply this mixture of Pearl Ex and Klyr-fire on the pieces of copper.  If it is a nice sunny day I set them out in the sun to dry.  The mixture has to be completely dry before you do the next step.  Don't ask me how I know that, but I do.....
Copper drying in the sun

After all the pieces of copper are dry I take them back to the torching station and fire them up again.  This time I use the torch on them long enough to get the copper glowing.  The trick is to keep the torch moving and not to get the copper too hot or it will start to melt!  After all the pieces cool off, then they go back into the house to be rinsed and dried.  Some of the pigment goes down the drain and you might think nothing stayed on the copper, but when you apply a poly sealer the Pearl Ex color's sparkle and shine comes out.
I am sure I am not the first to come up with this ingenious idea, but I use an egg crate for mixing the pigments

After all the copper pieces are dry I start to apply them to the frame.  I use an electric brad nailer.  The brad nailer doesn't push the brads in all the way so I have to use a tack hammer to persuade them in all the way.  This gives the copper a Industrial, distressed look.  Some times in addition to the tack hammer I use a small ball peen hammer for some more distressing.
Burning Pearl Ex onto the Copper Pieces

Starting to lay out the pieces of Copper
Almost finished!
My Persuader 
Mirror is attached to the back
Close up of the Pearl Ex Powdered Pigments Shining

After all the copper pieces are attached, I apply several coats of  poly sealer. On this mirror frame I wrapped the copper over the edges, so after I attach the mirror to the frame I attached a piece of felt, purple of course, to the back to cover any sharp copper edges.  This also helps in protecting the wall and your fingers while hanging!  I sign my work and it is done!

So what do you think?  Has anyone else used the Pearl Ex Pigments in this way?

Here are some of the other Mirror Frames that I had made:

The technique on this Mirror frame is a little different in this post.  On this frame I mixed the Pearl Ex with a Poly  Sealer and just painted it on the copper pieces.  This was the first Mirror that I Sold!
Same Technique as above, but the copper pieces are attached with black upholstery tacks
Close up of another design - same technique as this post
This frame I used a combination of copper with the Pearl Ex using the torch and Paint mixed with the Pearl Ex Pigments.  I also used a wood burning tool to define the different areas.
Same techniques as picture above.
Some of these mirrors are sold, but some are still for sale!

Thanks for looking!