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Metal Clay Techniques Overview

Updated on July 14, 2015
Margaret Schindel profile image

Margaret Schindel is a jewelry artist and internationally known expert on metal clay techniques. PMC certified in 2006 by Celie Fago.

Access to All My Metal Clay Techniques Articles in One Place!

This article is a gateway to information about techniques for working with metal clay for jewelry making and objets d'art. It includes links to the articles I have written as well as those I plan to write with in-depth, detailed information about the relevant techniques for each stage in the process.

Metal Clay Techniques - free expert tips & tutorials by Margaret Schindel
Metal Clay Techniques - free expert tips & tutorials by Margaret Schindel | Source

How Much Metal Clay Experience Do You Have?

How long have you been working with metal clay?

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Metal Clay Overview

Metal Clay Brands and Formulas: Precious Metal Clay (PMC), Art Clay Silver and Gold, Aura 22 and AGS Gold Accents

Even though metal clay is still a relatively new jewelry making material and set of fabrication techniques as compared to milled metals, gemstones, enamel, etc., there is now a mind-boggling selection of different brands, metal types and formulas. This article describes the evolution of fine silver, coin silver, sterling silver and gold clay within the two major brands, PMC and Art Clay, as well as gold metal clay paints.

Forms of Metal Clay: Lump, Powder, Paste, Syringe and Paper

This versatile malleable metal material comes in five basic forms, each of them with characteristics that make them more suitable for certain types of applications than others. This article explains more about them and how to select the optimal form for your desired purpose.

Working with Bronze Clay

Bronze Metal Clay for Jewelry and Sculpture

There are many different brands and formulas of bronze clay on the market, and more being added every year. While there are differences between the brands and formulas, especially in terms of firing schedules for sintering, this article provides an overview of what makes working with bronze clay different from working with its fine silver counterpart.

Working with BRONZclay

The Original BRONZclay from Metal Adventures was one of the first bronze clay formulas introduced on the market. Because it was so dramatically different to work with in many ways than fine silver clay, artists did a lot of experimentation to determine the best ways to work with it and the best ways to take advantage of its unique properties, such as flexibility when leather-hard. This in-depth article provides detailed information and tips from many renowned metal clay artists and pioneers on working with Original BRONZclay.

Metal Clay Materials, Supplies, Tools, and Equipment

Metal Clay Materials, Tools, Supplies and Equipment

I've compiled a detailed list of the items you will need, might need and eventually might want for creating with metal clay, starting with my recommendations for assembling a well-stocked, basic tool kit.

BRONZclay Tools, Supplies and Equipment

Cross-contamination is an issue when working with both precious metal and base metal clays. This article explains which tools and supplies need to be dedicated to bronze and other base metal clay and which ones can be shared for use with silver, gold and base metal clay as long as they are thoroughly cleaned before switching metal types.

Metal Clay Basic Techniques

Metal Clay Textures

Probably the most important characteristic of metal clay is its wonderful ability to accept texture through carving, impressing, molding, or a wide variety of other techniques. In this e-book length article I share a mind-boggling array of methods for texturing metal clay using found objects, purchased molds, mats or texture sheets, and your own unique DIY textures.

Making Homemade PMC Silver Clay Oil Paste

As with ceramics, the term "slip" is used with metal clay to describe lump clay thinned with water. Both thin slip and thick slip, often referred to as paste, are used to join either fresh clay or dried greenware. Moistened lump clay will create a stronger bond than slip, as will homemade oil paste, which also is used to create a very strong bond when joining greenware to metal (including fired metal clay) or metal to metal. This article explains how to make it with PMC silver clay, although the recipe and method also work with most other brands, formulas and metal types.

Drying Metal Clay

There's a trade-off between speed and evenness when it comes to drying metal clay. This article discusses several different drying methods along with their pros and cons to give you a variety of choices based on whether your piece is flat or volumetric, and thick or thin, as well as on your patience level.

Metal Clay Storage

In this article I discuss several different methods for both long-term and short-term metal clay storage, including my favorite method.

Reconstituting Dry Metal Clay

What should you do with broken pieces of unfired clay that you don't want to repair, pieces of greenware that didn't turn out the way you wanted, and filing dust? If it's a small amount, you might want to add them to your paste jar. But if you already have enough paste, I recommend that you save up your dried scraps and rehydrate them to reconstitute them into ready-to-use lump clay. You'll be surprised at how much money you can save! I cover several methods including Lisa Cain's excellent video tutorial that produces smooth clay with a great consistency.

More Advanced Metal Clay Techniques

Setting Gemstones in Metal Clay

There are many different ways to set gemstones in metal clay. This in-depth guide will show you stone setting techniques before and after firing your piece. I'll start with explaining how to determine whether the stone you want to set is safe to fire in place and under what circumstances (firing schedule, open-air vs. carbon firing, etc.). Then I'll discuss techniques for embedding gemstones directly into the clay as well as several types of bezel settings, syringe and wire prong settings, faux pavé, gypsy, bezel cup, and pearl settings, as well as how to fire dichroic glass cabs (cabochons) in silver clay. I'll also recommend some of my favorite resources for both learning stone setting techniques and buying gemstones and setting supplies.

Silver Metal Clay Weaving Tutorial

This step-by-step tutorial with many illustrations will teach you how to weave either purchased or homemade flexible metal clay paper or sheet and how to choose lump clay with different shrinkage rates for your backing sheets to create flat or domed pieces after firing.

Metal Clay Product Reviews

Metal Clay Product Reviews

My personal reviews of metal clay related products that I think are noteworthy for one reason or another, along with pros and cons and tips for using them effectively. Currently my product reviews include the UltraLite Beehive Kiln, the Metal Clay Findings / Crafted Findings product line, personalized custom logo stamps, and the LiL BeLLA metal clay humidifier dome.

In-Depth Reviews of Metal Clay Books

Book Review: Designing From the Stone: Design Techniques for Bezel Setting in Metal Clay Using the Stone as Inspiration

Lisa Barth's "Designing From the Stone" contains a wealth of valuable information, not just about bezel setting cabochon gemstones in silver metal clay after firing but also about design principles and her unique approach to designing jewelry based on the patterns in each gemstone. She's a highly sought after teacher and her clear and helpful teaching style translates well to the printed page.

How to Make Silver Charms from Metal Clay - Beautiful Handcrafted Silver Jewelry Gifts!

Renowned miniaturist Sue Heaser shares her techniques for creating tiny treasures in fine silver metal clay. Most of the projects would translate well to other metal clay types. All you need are basic metal clay skills to create the wonderfully detailed, beautiful and whimsical silver charms in this book, and the methods she teaches can be used to design and create your own one-of-a-kind charms. Sue shows a variety of clever ways to wear or showcase the charms in addition to the obvious charm bracelet application. The finished charms would make fantastic gifts for a special daughter, mother, sister, aunt, grandmother, granddaughter, teacher, or for yourself.

Examples of Metal Clay Jewelry

Large fine silver brooch pin with Aura 22 gold metal clay paint and iridescent LOS patina
Large fine silver brooch pin with Aura 22 gold metal clay paint and iridescent LOS patina | Source
Fine silver lentil bead with tear-away texture, 24k gold keum-boo and iridescent liver of sulfur patina, made during a class with Celie Fago
Fine silver lentil bead with tear-away texture, 24k gold keum-boo and iridescent liver of sulfur patina, made during a class with Celie Fago | Source
Bronze hand charm with cross-hatched finish
Bronze hand charm with cross-hatched finish | Source
Fine silver round lidded box with LOS patina, textured with purchased and handmade vintage button molds
Fine silver round lidded box with LOS patina, textured with purchased and handmade vintage button molds | Source
Large bronze beach scene charm with heat patina and molded tiny sea shells
Large bronze beach scene charm with heat patina and molded tiny sea shells | Source
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© 2006 Margaret Schindel

Comments? Suggestions? Requests? - Please let me know what you think!

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      Alexey 2 years ago

      Just finished your book and I loved it. I was thninkig with your vast experience you should write an article or webinar on how an artist can get his/her work branded. I'm off to create with all the inspiration I got from reading your book. My sketchbook was right next to me. Thank you for being you.

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      Margaret Schindel 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      @miaponzo: A number of suppliers ship internationally, but not to all countries. If I can find a supplier who ships to Kuwait, I definitely will let you know! Many thanks for your kind sprinkling of angel dust on this lens. :)

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      miaponzo 4 years ago

      I wonder if there would be a way to get metal clay here in Kuwait! Blessed!

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      Margaret Schindel 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      @Kailua-KonaGirl: Thank you so much for your kind words and your sprinkling of angel dust! I am extremely grateful to you for both. Hugs!

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      June Parker 4 years ago from New York

      Quit fascinating. I never knew there was such a thing before as Metal Clay. You are quit the accomplished artist! I followed a few of the links and would like to read more another time. *Squid Angel Blessed*

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      Margaret Schindel 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      @intermarks: Thank you for the lovely and kind compliment! Luckily, I have found that most of the artists who work with metal clay are quite generous with their knowledge about it. :)

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      intermarks 4 years ago

      Very nice lens on Metal Clay Technique. Not everyone will like to share their techniques, but you are just different.

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      Margaret Schindel 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks so much for the wonderful compliment and for your SquidAngel blessings! I appreciate them both very much.

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      julieannbrady 5 years ago

      It's obvious that you know what you are doing with Metal Clay ... I appreciate learning from a talented authority!

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      Margaret Schindel 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      @JoshK47: Thanks so much! They're a labor of love and I'm so glad you like them.

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      JoshK47 5 years ago

      Very good information - love your metal clay lenses! :)

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      Margaret Schindel 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      @Countryluthier: Thanks so much for the wonderful feedback! Whenever you decide to try your hand at this material I hope you enjoy working with it as much as I do. :)

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      E L Seaton 5 years ago from Virginia

      I have enjoyed the lenses thus far and hope to return in the futue and try my hand at making something perhaps.

    • Countryluthier profile image

      E L Seaton 5 years ago from Virginia

      I have enjoyed the lenses thus far and hope to return in the futue and try my hand at making something perhaps.

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      Margaret Schindel 6 years ago from Massachusetts

      @anonymous: You're very welcome, Jennifer! I'm delighted that you found these lenses helpful. Thank you for taking the time to let me know. Best of luck teaching your first PMC class!

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      thanks for the lens. i love all the info. i am about to teach my first intro to PMC class and found your info to be helpful!

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