Working With Metal Clay

Metal clay is an amazing form of jewellery making, It sounds like magic... a clay that transforms into real silver! It opens up so many different design possibilities and is accessable to all levels. On this page we look at some of the main questions people have when starting out with metal clay. 

We highly recommend experimenting to get the most out of metal clay and see how you can use it to best effect, it is definitely a learning curve but hopefully we can answer a few questions you may have here. 

MY PMC/ ART CLAY SILVER PIECE IS DRIED BUT NOT FIRED YET, THE EDGES ARE ROUGH AND LOOK MESSY CAN I NEATEN IT UP BEFORE I FIRE IT?

Yes, once the PMC/ Art Clay Silver has dried out you can use emery boards or fine sandpaper to smooth edges or carve into it to make patterns or textures. It will be much easier to make any alterations or neaten it up at this stage than after it has been fired, as then it will be a hard metal and will take much more effort to work it.

MY PMC/ ART CLAY STARTS TO LOOK CRACKED AND DRY OUT WHILST I AM STILL USING IT, HOW CAN I PREVENT THIS?

This is because the air is drying it out. You can avoid this by trying not to over handle the PMC/ Art Clay Silver. Before you open your PMC/ Art Clay Silver, have an idea of what you are going to make - you could create a mock up using plasticine to help you design it. Once the pack is opened you need to keep any unused PMC/ Art Clay Silver airtight, cling film is great for this. It may also be a good idea to put a damp sponge in the packet to keep the atmosphere damp. If the piece you are working on is drying out too quickly you can spray it lightly with water to rehydrate it.

I'VE BOUGHT SOME OF THE PMC+/ ART CLAY SILVER SHEET BUT AM NOT SURE WHERE TO START ...

The PMC+ Sheet is made with a different binder than the clay which means it will not dry out and will not stick to itself (so cannot be rolled up and remoulded). Unlike the clay you won't be able to impress textures into it, but you can create some really interesting effects that you couldn't with the clay. You could cut the sheet with fancy edged scissors, cut it into strips and weave together, fold and drape it to create a fabric-like effect or even fold into origami. There are so many techniques that you could use, why not try incorporating the sheet and clay together in a design - see the projects section for ideas.

I AM USING PRECIOUS METAL CLAY/ ART CLAY SILVER AND FIND THAT IT IS STICKING TO MY FINGERS AND WORK SURFACE, HOW CAN I PREVENT THIS?

Rub a little olive oil onto your hands, work surface, rolling pin and any other item that will come into contact with the clay, to prevent it from sticking.

ONCE I HAVE MADE A MOULD WITH THE 2 PART MOULDING COMPOUND WILL I BE ABLE TO REFORM IT INTO ANOTHER MOULD?

No, once the 2 parts of the moulding compound have been mixed together they will begin to set and after about 15 minutes it will have set to a hard rubbery state. This cannot be reformed again. However you can use the moulds that you have created again and again to create many PMC/ Art Clay Silver items.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF I GET MY PMC/ ART CLAY SILVER TOO HOT WHILST FIRING?

If you get the Precious Metal Clay/ Art Clay Silver too hot whilst firing then it will begin to melt. As with all silver it has a melting temperature and if you get it too hot it will simply melt into a ball. The surface will begin to look mottled and silvery, this is a sign that the PMC/ Art Clay Silver is too hot and you will need to remove the flame to prevent it melting. If you are new to PMC/ Art Clay Silver and silverwork it is a good idea to experiment with a small ball of PMC/ Art Clay Silver and fire it to melting point so that you can recognise the signs when a piece is getting too hot.

MY PMC/ ART CLAY SILVER DESIGN LOOKS WHITE AFTER FIRING - IS IT MEANT TO?

After firing, PMC will have a white, matt look to it, this is normal due to the surface being uneven and porous. To achieve a silver finish, first brush with water and soap using a brass brush to get a brushed, satin finish. It is advised that you use the brass brush with water and soap as a lubricant to avoid the risk of brass being deposited from the brush onto your work which may give the PMC a dull appearance. If you want a super, shiny polished finish, burnish with either a curved or straight burnisher.

WHAT GEMSTONES CAN I FIRE IN PRECIOUS METAL CLAY/ ART CLAY SILVER?

Many gemstones are not able to withstand the high temperatures of firing. We carried out some experiments and discovered that the stone that withstood the high temperatures of torch firing the best was White Cubic Zirconia. Lab grown stones like this are more tolerant to high temperatures than natural stones. Some gemstones will discolour, shatter, or blacken. Some stones will survive better if fired in a kiln, as the PMC/ Art Clay Silver can be fired at a lower temperatures for a longer time. Remember never to quench (plunge into water) hot PMC/ Art Clay Silver set with stones, as the stones will be unable to withstand the sudden temperature change. We would always recommend that you carry out your own experiments before firing a gemstone in a PMC/ Art Clay SIlver design.

HAVE A DIFFERENT QUESTION?

Can't find the answer you are looking for? Contact us with any questions you have regarding metal clay or general jewellery making questions, we would love to hear from you! 

If you have any further questions, feel free to call our friendly team who will be more than happy to give you some advice through Facebook, Twitter, Email or simply calling us on 01872 573888 8.30am-4.30pm.

Alternatively, for more information and how to's on all areas of jewellery making visit our other Gemstone Setting Advice pages.