Metal Clay

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I finally got to play with my metal clay.

I ordered ArtClay copper to play with before messing with PMC (Precious Metal Clay) as I didn’t want to make mistakes with silver (forget the gold, that’s way out of reach in today’s market)

One of the things that attracted me to that particular product is that unlike most copper or bronze clays which oxidize easily and need to be kiln fired in a container with activated charcoal, it can be torch fired.

I have a kiln I recently acquired on craigslist but I haven’t had time to test fire it yet. Also, it seems wasteful to fire up a kiln for one or two test pieces.

OK… and it’s fun to play with the torch.

The first thing I did was mold a couple of pieces that I wanted to cast in copper.

You can see the mold making process by clicking here

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Unlike polymer clay, metal clay needs to be dried completely before being fired.

Here are the pieces after drying completely. You can allow it to dry naturally (usually at least 24 hours) with a hair dryer or in the oven at a temperature low enough so as not to melt the binder.

You can tell if it’s dry by setting the still warm clay on a glass or stainless steel surface. If moisture appears, the clay is still too wet to fire.

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The super fun part it firing up the torch…

Butane is often recommended, but I use a propane torch as it burns hotter.

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As the piece gets hotter it will start changing colors.

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You want to get it to the red stage and hold it there for seven minutes. If the surface begins to blister or bubble it’s too hot and you need to back off on the torch.

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As soon as you’re done firing (or even take the torch away for more than a second or two) it begins to oxidize, so you need to plunge it into a pickling solution and boil until the fire scale comes off and it looks like copper.

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this made a huge, blue gooey mess in my stainless steel pan so I’ll be hitting thrift stores to find a “pickling pot” dedicated for just that use.

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Next was trimming and burnishing the piece. Being lazy, I love using my dremel tool

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After you dig all the scaly bits off, it’s time to polish.

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One thing I did not have was a brass brush which I think would help a lot with the final detail work.

I’ve ordered that as long as a polishing kit for the dremel tool in order to finish this piece up.

Since I want to work with bronze clay, firing in the kiln (in a container of charcoal) is going to be a requirement.

As much fun as the torch is, it sure leaves a black, scaly mess on the metal which takes a lot of a work/hassle to get rid of. (of course, this won’t likely be an issue with the silver)

I learned a lot during my first experience with the metal clay, and am looking forward to experementing and playing with it more.

~L



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Fun with polymer (soon to be metal) clay

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I scored my long coveted kiln and potters wheel on craigslist last week and have been super excited about creating some awesome tiles for 100th Monkey.

I decided that I also wanted to play with precious metal clay and add some bling to the tiles after they are fired and glazed.

I searched all over Tacoma and could not find anyone who carried PMC or any other variation of it, so I had to order online.

I was excited and just couldn’t wait, so I pickd up some shiny Fimo and Sculpey Premo to practice my mold making.

I’ll likely be using plaster molds for my ceramic work once I create the designs I want to reproduce, but was excited to try the RTV (room temperature vulcanizing) silicone putty as it sets up fast and creates a permanent, flexible mold that not much will stick to.

Like epoxy, the two components are separate and need to be well mixed together. You have approximately three minutes to work with it before it starts to set.

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I chose two very different pieces to mold so that I could determine how much detail the silicone picks up. One was a lovely pewter angel from my friend Michelle’s funeral. The other was a fire bird earring with extremely fine detail.

I also molded the special piece that I hope to add to the tiles, but that’s going to be secret until the tiles are unveiled at the event.

I mixed the putty, making sure not to leave any air bubbles, pushed in my test pieces and set the timer for 25 minutes. I ended up giving it an extra 5 minutes just to be safe, because the 25 minute time is based on a 70 degree air temperature and my living room was about 67 at the time.

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I was extremely pleased with the results, especially the detail in the fire bird as the design was etched very finely.

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The next step was to roll/knead the polymer clay until it was smooth and easy to work with and press it into the mold.

Once again, I was extremely pleased to see how much detail was picked up on the fire bird.

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Next I trimmed up the pieces to remove the excess clay before baking.

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Since I was using polymer clay rather than metal, I didn’t need to kiln or torch fire it; the pieces were just popped into the over between 235 and 250 degrees (depending on the brand) for the time listed on the package (minutes are per ¼ inch of thickness)

They came out nicely, even the super thin beak on the fire bird which I was worried might over fire even though I left it much thicker than the original.

Once they cooled, I used my dremel tool to clean up the edges…

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and to buff the surface…

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I’m quite pleased with the way they turned out.

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Here are the two items (middle) with the molds and the finished polymer products.

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I’m very happy with the performance of the RTV silicone for mold making. I’m also looking forward to creating my own pieces to mold; but for now, it’s handy to have different bits and findings to practice with. (I picked up a few fun shinies at Joanne’s yesterday)

I made these thicker than necessary, as I hadn’t worked with polymer clay before and was worried that I might break it after baking. The metal clay pieces will be much thinner as well as a bit smaller as shrinkage when the binder burns off is 10 – 30 percent depending on which product you use.

I’m anxiously awaiting the mail delivery as my copper clay is scheduled to arrive today.

Next up… torch firing metal clay…

~L


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I DID IT!!! I DID IT!!! I DID IT!!!

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I Can Haz Knitting Badge? (and cast on for matching hat)

I DID IT! I DID IT! I DID IT! (with help from Francine and Alice of course)

I learned to knit and completed my first project (five balls of yarn, yeah that was quick and easy)

I finished my scarf, knitted out of my super yummy Chunky Mochi yarn.

I made mistakes, it’s not perfect (and I should have left my glasses on for the photos, my eyes look like hell when I’m sick) but… I DID IT… I DID IT… I DID IT…

I present to you, my now and forever favorite scarf I knitted myself.

first knitting project completed 004

first knitting project completed 005

first knitting project completed 003

It still needs to be blocked, but I’ll do that tomorrow

~L

Mood: On the Warpath



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