Metal Clay

A new hobby.
Unfortunately a quite expensive new hobby.. Nevertheless I sometimes “find” some money to create some new things. So far I have been only working with silver metal clay. I might try some copper at some point since it is cheaper. Only problem is..I would need a kiln to fire it.
Anyways. This post will be about my first experiences with silver metal clay.

I found it somewhere in the Internet. A book about metal clay. I’m not quite sure how I found it. But I guess I had been looking for some books about beadwork and other small creative things, as I sometimes do.
So I found this book and bought it. I read a bit in this book and in the Internet and then decided to try it.

But first of all I needed equipment. And -of course- metal clay. When I looked for these things I almost couldn’t believe it…it was so expensive! But of course, think about it: it’s going to be real pure silver afterwards. Just go to a shop and take a look at silver jewellery. You’ll notice the price.

I found a quite good shop for the equipment. If anyone is interested: Check out the Akisashop. They have almost everything you need for smaller creative things 🙂
I found a good starter-set with basic equipment and 10g of slow dry silver metal clay.

I didn’t expect the 10g to be much..but I was still a bit shocked when I saw how much it actually was.

Anyways. I started my first project. Or actually my first 2 projects.

I didn’t really plan what I wanted to do, what turned out to be a mistake. Because even though it said “slow dry”, this metal clay is drying quite fast.

So..I will write a small step-by-step report about metal clay. It won’t really be an instruction..if you want to try it yourself I would recommend buying a book, since I am not professional in working with metal clay. Not yet 😉

after forming the metal clay. Looks like normal clay.

Step 1: Forming the clay.
When I was trying it the first time, I wanted to make a pendant (the left one on the picture above) and a ring. But while I was trying to create a ring I realized that I didn’t have enough clay left and it was starting to dry out. So I made a second pendant.
Forming those pieces is mostly like working with normal clay. Nothing really special. You just form them, use some water whenever it gets too dry. But I think it might dry faster than normal clay. I’m not sure though since it has been quite a while since I worked with “normal” clay the last time.

Step 2: Drying.
Quite easy. I put both pendants on a mesh and dried them with a hair dryer.

Step 3: Sanding.
Sanding pads and a small file did a good job there. Only difficulty was not to break the dried pieces.

Step 4: Firing.
In  my opinion the most interesting part.
Silver metal clay doesn’t need that high temperature, a normal gas burner is enough.
Just put a mesh over the flame of the gas burner. As soon as it starts to glow (will happen soon after turning on the flame) put the metal clay on the glowing part.
First it looks like the clay piece is burning, since there’s a flame showing. I have to admit that it shocked me the first time. But it is only the binder that is burning away and it will stop after a while.
When the light isn’t too bright, you can see the piece glowing orange.

I think it looks quite cool when it glows orange 🙂

When it is glowing it needs around 5-10 minutes of firing. In some cases longer.

Step 5: Quenching.
After the firing is done the metal clay needs to be cooled. The fastest way is to pick it up with tweezers and plunge it in a bowl with cold water.
Afterwards you dry it with a towel or paper.

Step 6: Brushing, burnishing and filing, sanding.
Right after the Quenching it still looks like clay. The first time I did it, I was afraid that I had something wrong. But after step 6 I saw that I hadn’t done anything wrong.
So this step is to get the clay dust away.
Tools to use are different stainless steel brushes, a steel tapestry or other burnishing tools, small files and sanding pads.
After this step you can already see the silver.

Step 7: Polishing
To get a nice shiny piece of silver it needs to be polished. I had some paste for polishing and a soft cotton rag is good to use.
The rag was dark gray/black after the polishing. And my fingers as well.

After step 7 the piece of metal clay is ready. 🙂

Or you can continue with an additional step: Oxidation.
I have to admit that I still have to learn how to do this step properly. But well, at least it turned out almost as I wanted 😉
Anyways. For the oxidation you have to put warm water in a bowl. Then add 2-3 drops of liquid liver of sulphur. Stir the bowl carefully. Attention: It smells really really bad. 😉
Then take the piece of metal clay with tweezers and dip it into the bowl. You will soon be able to see a change of color. If you want to stop this process fast, just rinse the piece with fresh water.

There are some more techniques of working with metal clay. This is only a short introduction.
My projects can be seen on my DeviantArt-page.

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