The Top 10 Reasons that I Love to Work with PMC
Precious Metal Clay
I am an avid fan of Precious Metal Clay, also called PMC, a non-toxic material made by Mitsubishi Corporation. PMC is made of metal particles bound together in an organic binder which acts mostly like ceramic clay in its green state.
Then once it is fired in a kiln, the binder burns away and what is left is either fine silver or gold which can be worked in a traditional metalsmithing manner.
I am trained as a metalsmith, but I love working with the claylike functions of PMC, and can get very different results than I would get with metal sheet. Here are the top 10 reasons that I love to work with PMC.
Buy PMC and PMC supplies from Delphi Glass
What I Love About PMC #1-3
PMC is Non-Toxic
I love that PMC is a non-toxic substance. With most art supplies, you are constantly taking your life in your hands. And that is true of jewelry making as well. PMC is totally non-toxic, safe for touching your bare skin. The binder is organic, and the smoke when it is burning away in the kiln is harmless. I can work with it in any room of my house including the kitchen.
I don't need a lot of fancy tools to work with it. Although I prefer to use a kiln to fire PMC with, it can also be fired in a small hot pot that costs less than $100 (pictured above which can only be used with PMC3). Other than firing, tools can be anything from regular silverware to straws, plastic forks, toothpicks, and many other household items.
PMC can be purchased in small quantities. I can buy one pack if that is all I need and one pack lasts me a very long time. I work pretty small, so I can easily get a lot of pieces from just one package.
Buy PMC+ (This is what I use the most)
This is the most common form of PMC. PMC+ is available as a Clay, Paste, or Sheet. It has a shrinkage rate of about 10%, and fires in 10 minutes in a kiln. Use the Paste to coat organic objects such as leaves or pine cones to create an exact replica in silver, or build it up around a completely organic form to create a hollow piece. The water-free Sheet won't break or crack and can be folded like origami paper. Note — Because PMC product is pure silver and gold, prices are subject to change based on market fluctuations.
Buy PMC Cubic Zirconia
Cubic Zirconia make wonderful decorative additions to PMC sculpture. Each is selected for its ability to remain stable and withstand the high temperature of kiln firing. They are one of the few crystal/glass products that can remain stable in the kiln environment.
Tim McCreight is the U.S. master of Precious Metal Clay. He is the authoritative voice in the field. Tim was the first person to really use it in the U.S. and has written most of the best books about it. PMC is still relatively new and much is still being discovered by jewelers and metalsmiths.
More Resources for PMC - Precious Metal Clay for the beginner
These books are all good guides and idea generators for working with PMC. After a while, you will want to come up with your own designs, but these will help get the techniques down.
PMC is Fun to Work With #4-6
PMC is extremely versatile
PMC is fun to work with. It does take some practice to learn how to keep it from drying out, and to understand how it bonds together, and how it shrinks. But you always have to get to know any new medium.
Precious Metal Clay lends itself to many different styles. I personally prefer an organic look in my work, and I can get that with PMC. But it is also possible to get a delicate filigree look, and a shiny polished look.
PMC comes in several different varieties to work with. It comes in three different formulas with variations in shrinkage and firing temperatures. It is available in paste, lump, syringe, and paper--all which give the artist more ways to work with it.
PMC+ Sheet (This is really cool to try)
This is the most common form of PMC. PMC+ is available as a Clay, Paste, or Sheet. It has a shrinkage rate of about 10%, and fires in 10 minutes in a kiln. Use the Paste to coat organic objects such as leaves or pine cones to create an exact replica in silver, or build it up around a completely organic form to create a hollow piece. The water-free Sheet won't break or crack and can be folded like origami paper. Note - Because PMC product is pure silver and gold, prices are subject to change based on market fluctuations.
Designed in PMC, and then cast in fine silver.
Paula Atwell Jewelry
Needle Files - This is a necessary tool for working PMC
This is one set of tools that it is worth buying when working with PMC. The easiest time for finishing your piece is in its green state but you can also file it after firing.
There is No Limit to What You Can Make with PMC #7-10
PMC is fine silver which is 99.5% silver
In its green state, once dry, PMC is easily smoothed, filed, and finished. Engraving can be added in its dry state. Shapes can be changed or modified. And it can be re-wet to continue working it wet or to bond another green piece to it.
Firing is very easy. I prefer to use the kiln for firing. But you can fire some of the low temperature varieties with a torch or a small hot pot.
Once you know how to use the material, it is much quicker to finish a piece then traditional metalsmithing. Much less sawing, soldering, and cleaning.
It is compatible with so many other items like base metal, gold, polymer clay, found objects, sterling, and glass. I have added fused glass, gemstones, and watch parts to some of my pieces and fired them right into the piece.
Buy PMC Tools
Needle files are really important for working with PMC. You should get a basic set of 6 or 8 files.
This is the most common form of PMC. PMC+ is available as a Clay, Paste, or Sheet. It has a shrinkage rate of about 10%, and fires in 10 minutes in a kiln.
This is definitely the best form for any PMC beginner to start with unless they don't have access to a kiln. PMC+ has to be kiln fired.
The reason I recommend this one is that it is the most versatile, it doesn't shrink very much, and of the three versions it is the easiest to work with and learn on. It also comes in all of the forms, lump, paste, syringe and sheet. You can get various size packages of PMC+ and price changes with the price of silver.
If you are planning to fire in a hot pot, then you need to get PMC3. Hot pots are only good to fire small pieces. PMC3 was designed to fire with fused glass at a lower temperature than PMC+, however that also cannot be done in a hot pot.
You can fire small pieces or veneers with a torch as well with PMC3 or PMC+.
Buy PMC3 Hot Pot Kits
Hot Pot Project Kit - These 3 refill kits include clay, instructions and tools to make a bead, a pendant or another earring and pendant set. These refill kits include clay, instructions and tools to make a bead, a pendant or another earring and pendant set. If you like working with kits to start out, this is a great way to go.
The Final Finish #11
After firing PMC
(I know, I said 10)
My favorite part of working with Precious Metal Clay is finishing the piece after firing. My finishing technique is to polish pieces after firing until they have a high sheen. Then I decide how I want to add color. Some pieces are left the bright color. Others are changed to gunmetal gray.
The majority are oxydized with Liver Of Sulphur. Liver of Sulphur allows me to have a range of color from yellow to black with every color in between. I love to work with the Liver of Sulphur because I can such great colors on the silver. I never really know exactly how they will turn out, and that is part of the fun.
Buy Liver Of Sulphur
A chemical for antiquing copper and silver only. Changes color to darker shades from brown to black. Directions on label. 4 oz bottle.
Dremel Tools - Perfect for Working with Precious Metal Clay
A Dremel tool is a great addition to your tool collection for working with fired PMC. It is also good for a myriad of other uses, of course.
Polish Many Pieces at the Same Time
Use a tumbler
Buy Barrel Tumbler
This is the tumbler that I use to polish my finished PMC pieces. It also hardens the metal. It is nice and small and simple to use. You need to get stainless steel shot, do not get plain steel.
Uses 2 lb steel shot, sold separately.
© 2008 Paula Atwell