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Why handstenciling?

The original technique for creating enamel signs is labor intensive but delivers the most brilliant results

If you are looking for a house number with personality and that sets you apart from your neighbours, look no further than hand-stenciled porcelain enamel signs.

The technique has been around for more than 2000 years and is still one of the most exclusive and sought after material used for house numbers and name plaques  in Europe today.

If you are not familiar with porcelain enamel signs, you may have heard of  “French house numbers” – the classic blue and white sign seen in the picture on this post.

You may also  have seen imitations out there and wondered whether it’s worth the extra money for the real thing. The answer is yes.

Traditionally, craftsmen used a porcelain surface and enameled it on to a metal backing. Porcelain enamel can withstand weather without losing color or clarity and will last for many years. The same cannot be said for the knock-offs.

The process can take time, but the result is stunning. The design of a hand stenciled sign, whether is a name plaque or house number, is built layer after layer, with each one stenciled out by hand before being coated with enamel and burned at a very high temperature. This end result is a surface which is very durable and vibrant in color.

The color of the enamels can be affected by factors such as the firing time and temperature, and air humidity.  Once the layers have been added and fired, and the sign cools down, the vibrant colors of the enamel  command the attention of anyone passing by.

Traditional hand stenciled enamel signs can be hard to find – mainly due to the level of skill and experience needed to craft them. But it is worth the investment to make your house number or name plaque “pop”

How porcelain enamel gets it colour

Coloured enamel can be produced either by grinding highly friable coloured glass, or by adding specific minerals – usually oxides – to clear glass.

The most often used minerals are metal oxides such as cobalt (blue), praseodymium (yellow), iron (green), tin (bright white), gold (red) or neodymium (which can give differing hues from violet, to wine red, to warm grey).

Coloured enamel can be opaque, transparent or translucent, the latter getting more and more “milky” the longer it is fired.

Unlike paint, different colours of opaque enamel do not mix, so you can’t, say, use blue and yellow to make green.

Instead, mixing enamel colours results in that beautiful “flecked” look – blue with yellow flecks or yellow with blue flecks, depending on the amounts of colour used. Although, a clever artisan can grind the two colours so finely that the eye is tricked.

Also mixing opaque and transparent enamels in combinations of two or more can produce some amazing effects.

For example, an opaque yellow, overfired with transparent blue would produce a green affect – but a close look would uncover that the eyes are, once again, being deceived.

Designers often mix and match various techniques and bring out lovely colours in their enamel artworks.

Getting the best colours from enamel requires specific skills that are, unfortunately, being lost in these modern times.

Address Plaques


Address plaques are as beautiful and decorative, as they are functional. The enamel address plaques offers good visibility from the road, yet the design is clearly “old world”. They make the perfect house sign, and can be used for private homes and small businesses alike.

Porcelain enamel signs have proven their worth for centuries, and to this day they have no match. For instance, graffiti can be removed within minutes using acetone without leaving a trace. In fact, no solvent will affect the extremely hard and glossy surface.

Ramsign’s collection of classic address signs come in three popular shapes (square, oval or arched) and different styles, typefaces and trims. The price is $249, including original mounting materials and free delivery.