|Skill-intensive metalsmith techniques aren't required to make beautiful objects d'art with precious metal clay. Basic pottery skills and techniques, with a few minor adaptations, are all one needs to use this innovative jewelry-grade medium. However, once the metal clay is fired and sinters to 99.9% fine silver metal, it can be worked using traditional metalsmithing skills and tools if you choose.
Art Clay® and PMC™ are two brands of precious metal clay. Original formula precious metal clays are very low in moisture, so they become dry to the touch--within 30 minutes depending on the climate where you live. A slow dry formula exclusive to Art Clay dries more slowly, giving you more working time with the clay--as much as an hour depending on the climate where you live. The following tips apply equally to Art Clay and PMC.
After re-moistening dried out clay designs with water, seal them in an airtight plastic container and let sit to become thoroughly hydrated and pliable again. This is made easiest if you place the design to be remoistened in the container before you re-moisten it. Special care must be taken to evenly moisten the entire piece or cracking can result due to uneven drying. If you add a little too much water, it will be okay, just loosen the plastic container lid and give the clay a little bit of drying time to firm up enough to handle.
|Place a ball of clay onto your non-stick worksheet. Using a brayer, roll it out to desired thickness. Slats can be used to create an even thickness.|
|Move clay onto the texture of your choice, then place thinner slats on either side of the clay. Roll across the surface of the clay to achieve desired impression.|
|Move clay to non-stick worksheet and cut out desired shape.|
|Refine the surface of the clay using progressive grits of sandpaper and polishing papers.|
|The fine particles of clay and binder, when wet, have amazing adhering properties, which is very helpful when sticking pieces together in a design. It is helpful to work on Teflon sheets because it will make picking up and positioning moist clay designs easier while preventing the bottom of the clay from drying out too quickly. Sparingly apply olive oil or mineral oil to hands, tools and work surfaces to keep wet clay from sticking excessively.
Rolling clay out to specific thicknesses is easy with acrylic spacer strips or playing cards stacked and taped together. It is easy to begin with thicker strips and work your way down to thinner strips. Roll clay while it is wet.
There are several tools to cut moist precious metal clay such as the Klay Kutter™, Super Slicer blades, craft knives, razor blades and even the edges of a single playing card. Paper type precious metal clay can be punched and stamped with scrapbooking paper punches and embossers as well as cut with rectangle and deckled-edge scissors. Long razor blades or a single playing card can be used to slide between working surfaces and clay designs to aid in unsticking and removing the design from the working surface.
|Clay has several stages of drying--semi-moist, leather hard and bone dry. Semi-moist clay is still wet and malleable but quickly begins to dry along the edges. Leather hard clay is still too moist to fire, and you can make an indentation in it with your fingernail or dental tool. Bone dry clay is completely dry and can be sanded and fired. Semi-moist and leather hard clays are the easiest stages of dryness to make repairs or add additional clay to your design.
Leather-hard clay can be fragile but it is still possible to lightly file, carve, sand, make holes in and otherwise continue to refine. It is much easier to finish leather-hard clay than trying to alter the clay once it is fired to sintered metal.
|Sometimes it can be easier to create clay designs and design components with dry clay. You can put them together with the use of clay slip. When creating designs in the ''dry state,'' you may encounter minor chips or dislodged clay pieces that can be repaired by remoistening the clay evenly with water and then applying precious metal clay slip to adhere pieces and fill chips. To do this, paint the slip along one edge of a remoistened piece and press the two broken pieces together. Let the join dry completely. Follow up with additional coats of thin slip over the seam until the join line disappears. Smooth out imperfections by thinning the surface of the applied slip with water. Once it is bone dry, you can sand the seam smooth and fire.|
|There are several firing options once your precious metal clay designs are ready. You can fire them in a kiln, with a butane torch, on a gas stovetop or in a pot such as cast iron over intense heat. The manufacturer's directions included with each package of clay will tell you the correct temperatures and times for each firing application.|
|Once fired, metal clay appears to have a white or grey residue on the surface. This is actually not a residue, it is a bumpy texture caused by an effect known as scaling, for as the silver sinters, it sticks up from the surface of the metal as the binder is burned away. If you looked under a microscope at the metal, you would see that these scales resemble the texture of sandpaper. Rubbing the surface smooth causes the metal to become smooth and it will again reflect light and appear shiny. You can use a steel brush and soapy water to give the metal a brushed finish. To give the metal a brighter polish, use an agate or steel burnisher. Tumble pieces for 30 minutes with the appropriate steel shot and burnishing compound or polish using the appropriate wheels and polishing compounds with either a rotary tool or a bench lathe.|
View the free metal clay online videos in the resource gallery for more tips, easy to follow directions and complete projects. Also check out the Secrets to Art Clay Success DVD hosted by Tamara Honaman, available for purchase for your home library.
|We would like to share some of the customer comments we received in response to the article, "Precious Metal Clay Tips and Product Information," featured in a newsletter. Please keep in mind that the comments expressed below are those of our customers and do not reflect the views of Fire Mountain Gems and Beads.|
"I found the information very helpful and appreciate the time and effort taken to compile and present it. Thanks"
"Good stuff - a useful addition would be information on CZ's you stock that are fireable with the metal clay. Many thanks :O)"
"Very helpful and detailed for the beginner! I would love to read more tips on various tools and techniques in the future! Thank you!"
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