Tools You'll Need for Steaming:

Steaming screen: Cloth (like an old sheet) stretched over a wood frame and stapled to the frame. You can also use the spatter screens from the Dollar Store. They cover frying pans and are meant to keep grease from spraying all over.

Pan, 12-inches or larger, for holding water. Steaming screen should be made to fit over your pan. You can also use a large bowl in a microwave.

Dull knife and spatula to pick up the heated ornaments.

Microwave, Portable electric burner or a burner on a stove.

Optional: X-Acto or sharp knife to cut the heated ornaments.

Steaming Instructions:

Fill your pan a little less than half full with water. Cover the top of the pan with your steaming screen and heat the water in the pan to a LOW steady steam. A gentle steam is all that is needed. Do not boil the water. You can also use your microwave to heat your water to the steaming point. Just don't put any metal screens or anything like that into the microwave.

Before steaming the ornaments, determine exactly where the onlay will be placed. Make sure that the surface is free of dust, grease and dirt. I like to make my placement marks with a pencil.

As the water heats and starts to steam, your steaming screen will get wet. A damp steaming screen is important because the hot moisture is what activates the glue. It helps to brush the steaming surface with water to add moisture. This should be done at the start of your project and then as needed throughout. When you have a gentle steam, place one piece of onlay at a time, flat side down, on top of the damp steaming screen.

Leave the onlay on the screen for approximately 30 seconds to two minutes depending on the thickness and age of the piece. Test the underneath side. If the bottom is wet and slick and the piece is pliable, it's ready. If the onlay is not ready, leave it on the steaming screen a little longer. This is a feel thing that you can only learn by doing but one that you'll pick up quickly.

When the onlay is ready, lift it gently off the screen. Properly warmed onlay is sturdy enough to pick up by hand but also flexible enough to bend without breaking or cracking. It's similar to undercooked pasta except not as slippery. If you prefer you can pick up the onlay with a thin painters spatula or dull knife. Lay it carefully where you want it, judging the spacing, and simply press it firmly but gently into place. (Don't press real hard or you will leave your finger prints!) Be sure to check all the edges to make sure they are all pressed down and bonded to the surface. Any onlay residue on your project or on the ornament itself can be brushed away with a paint brush and water. This is an extra step that will make for a great finished look.

IF YOU OVER STEAM THE ONLAY and it becomes too soft to handle, remove it from the steam as best you can and lay it design side down, slick side up to dry and harden. When it's firm again, re-steam and start over.

Onlay is very flexible and easy to cut with a knife. Use a very short, strong bladed knife. The onlay can be cut apart, combined with other designs and laid out in different arrangements. Breakage? No problem. These easily can be "restuck."

The onlay sets very quickly. If necessary, within 10 minutes of application, an ornament can be removed with a putty knife. Clean the surface where it was applied with water. The ornament that was removed can be re-steamed and used again. All tools and onlay residue can be washed away with warm water and soap.

When the onlay has cooled and is dry, you can paint your project with your favorite finish. Once finished, the onlay endures for many decades. If you are applying an onlay to a finished piece or you want the ornament to have a different finish, you can finish the ornament before steaming it and then apply it.

When steamed, the onlay becomes quite pliable and can be stretched. Take care when applying the ornaments not to stretch them beyond their original size, which could cause slight variations in the layout of your design.

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