Metal Clay Techniques Overview
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.
How Much Metal Clay Experience Do You Have?
How long have you been working with metal clay?
Metal Clay Overview
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
In this article I discuss several different methods for both long-term and short-term metal clay storage, including my favorite method.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
Additional Recommended Resources for Metal Clay Techniques
- PMC Guild
The site of the premier organization for promoting and educating people about PMC / Precious Metal Clay. The PMC Guild ceased operations in June 2012, but Rio Grande has made it possible to continue to access many of the Guild's valuable archives.
- Art Clay World USA
The site of the premier organization for promoting and educating people about Art Clay Silver and Art Clay Gold in the US.
- Metal Clay Academy
A terrific, well-organized, high-quality site whose "aim is to provide comprehensive and independent information and resources for anyone interested in finding out about metal clay."
Examples of Metal Clay Jewelry
© 2006 Margaret Schindel