|Salvaging Metal Clay
You can reconstitute your metal clay by taking a tissue blade and chop your clay into small, evenly sized pieces. You can get a dedicated pepper grinder, chop the clay into
small enough pieces to fit inside that, and grind. Get a small piece of Saran Wrap, place all your bits in the middle, add either water or glycerine and water. I use PMC Tool and Supply's PMC Extender Liquid. If you use water, use an eye dropper, so you can add water slowly. Add Extender Liquid to just cover, wrap tightly, put inside a small container with a tightly closing lid, wait. Next day, knead the clay THROUGH THE SARAN WRAP, then add more water (if necessary). Continue as needed until clay is recovered and workable.
Elaine Luther, http://www.CreativeTextureTools.com
Sheet Metal and Wire out of Clay (also see Glycerin)
I've been making my own wire and sheet from metal clay with good results by mixing glycerin into the clay. (Purchase at a drug store) Once the glycerin is mixed you can roll your clay to any desired size and thickness, or extrude the desired diameter and length from an extruder. When you roll your sheet you can also texture it on one or both sides. Let them air dry. Once they are dry, they stay flexible, allowing you to fold, weave, knot, even crochet. The advantage over spool wire is that it will never work harden. It's true that a lot of things that can be done with sheet metal and wire are hard to achieve this way, but the opposite is also true; you can achieve a lot of interesting designs that are impossible or very hard to achieve with sheet and wire.
The amount of glycerin depends on the amount of the clay. I roll a whole package very thin and just smear the whole surface with glycerin. Then I roll it into a cylinder, fold it in half, and start rolling under a sandwich bag over and over to work the glycerin in. It's very sticky at first, and you'll need to scrape it off the work surface. Keep working while oiling your hands and the surface to minimize sticking. Eventually the clay will regain its original consistency and just by looks you won't be able to tell it from regular clay.
Now you can prepare sheets and wires. The sheets can be textured and after drying can be cut with scissors or punched with hole punchers to create discs and other shapes. It can be stored for a long time, and if recycled, will be as flexible the second time. However, once fired the glycerin is gone! I will not be flexible anymore, so any work should be done prior to firing.
~ Hadar Jacobson, http://www.artinsilver.com/
Stamps and PPP
Making good impressions
I use some of my own original stamps in my Metal Clay, and I was often getting a "shadow print" on the back of my piece when I press too hard even if I use thick Metal Clay. Here is a great solution to prevent that, get a nice impression, and possibly use less clay. Use a cushion under your work when you stamp, like a piece of thin foam sheet.
First roll your clay out x - cards thick. (I roll my clay between a sandwich of 4 x 5 cut pieces of clear overhead projector sheets - but use whatever thin flexible surface you'd like)
Then I place the bottom projector sheet with the clay on top of it on a sheet of foam. I remove the top sheet so I can stamp the clay. The foam I use is not very thick, about a 1/32". Stamp book people use this foam technique to get really good stamp impressions and now I do too. I heard you could also get the foam at the supermarket. It is used to wrap Pineapples and some other fruits.
~ Holly Gage
Slumping and Distortion after Firing
Can slumping take place with refiring using oil paste or pmc3 or are you safe with fired stuff?
Yes, I think slumping can still take place with fired stuff if the right temperature is reached. I don't know what that temperature is, but thickness and shape are likely factors as well. Generally, I would say slumping increases as the temperature
goes up. I would also suspect PMC standard to slump faster because it is less dense. Just speculating so I could be wrong about that.
Additionally, on the first firing, I think the shrinkage aspect muddies the picture. Some of the pulling and warping is due to how the clay shrinks and not caused by gravity. Other slumping is more predictable. E.g. If you make a bench shape, you would expect some slumping to occur in the middle, the least supported area. You can either support it in the middle or fire it upside down. I'd do the latter in most cases. On the initial firing, you need to consider both shrinkage and slumping. On subsequent firings, if full sintering has already occurred, then you just need to worry about slumping.
I've corrected some slumping by refiring. I position the piece a certain way and I add weight on top of it (like a fiber board). The metal becomes pliable as it heats up and then the added weight makes the correction.
Gordon Uyehara, http://home.hawaii.rr.com/energies/
Question 2, I know people often will fire parts separately and then put
them together with oil paste in a second firing. Can you state the advantages to working in this manner specially when you still
encounter slumping and the oil paste temp. needs to be relatively high.
On the first firing, the shrinkage is a bigger factor than the slumping. The large bezel example is a good illustration. If you have a big bezel, insert it into the clay and fire the piece, you will get a lot of distortion because of the clay shrinkage. If you attach it with oil paste on a subsequent firing, you may not have to make any shape adjustments at all. Clay joins and thicker areas also are affected by shrinkage in sometimes unpredictable ways. Joining after the shrinkage occurs takes some of the guess work out, and it depends on how precise you want to be with your shape. So this is not an issue with all designs, but sometimes I want to avoid it. So I am making a distinction between slumping and shrinkage. Slumping is mainly from heat and gravity. Shrinkage is associated with the sintering process. Both will change the shape of your piece. On the first firing you have to consider both.
Question 3. Do you seem to run into any/many shrinkage issues since your paste will still be shrinking and the rest of the piece is not? This would be more of an issue with a piece that had a lot of paste applied vs a little. What type of issues or problems can you anticipate from that aspect?
Not many problems since you are not using a lot of oil paste. Sometimes a joint may have a tiny separation crack. If that happens, I just apply more oil paste right over it and refire.
Gordon Uyehara, http://home.hawaii.rr.com/energies/
Correcting Slumped or Deformed Parts. In high temperatures silver will become soft. It will slump because of its own weight. This also happens with finer alloys of silver and fine "regular" (non-metal-clay) silver. What I do is to use stainless steel tweezers, or any stainless steel tool that I don't mind burning (never do this with a beloved stainless burnisher), and I gently push the slumped or deformed part back to where it belongs, while the piece is salmon color. As I usually fire pieces with a torch, I do this while heating with the torch after the hold time. It takes a lot of attention as not to lose sight of the salmon glow nor over-heat and melt the piece.
There is a safer alternative for this: the stove top. Place a stainless steel net over the stove, light it, place the already-fired piece over the most red-hot part of the net. Place the piece upside-down, so you can push the slumped "belly" down. Wait for the piece to become hot. Put your oven mittens on both hands, use one hand to hold the piece with tweezers and the other one to push down the "belly". Careful not to mare the surface with the tip of your tool, as the surface will be soft as well.
I recently made a fairly large rectangular box, and when firing the walls it kinda "moved outside", meaning that the mouth of the box was larger than it was supposed to be. I used this correcting method to push the walls inside and make them straight again (with a torch, but it would work as well on the stove top).
Priscilla Vassao, http://www.artclay.com.br
Pretreatment for 3D pieces for people without a kiln. First, I make sure that the clay is REALLY dry. Then I put the piece in a small terra-cotta dish with perlite (vermiculite would work too), or I put it on a kiln blanket on a soldering board, and fire it with the torch. This does not finish the firing needed, but it does burn off enough binder and sinters the silver enough to let it keep its shape when I finish the firing on the SpeedFire cone or the UltraLite kiln. I also have found that after this "pretreatment" I can put just a few pieces of perlite or kiln blanket in strategic places under the piece (on the SpeedFire or UltraLite) to assure that the piece keeps its shape.
I also have begun to make my rings by making the band and stone setting separately, drying them and then firing them also separately. Then I join them with PMC3 paste or AC Oil Paste after they are fired and refire for 1/2 hour. In order to help the ring keep it's shape, and not develop an out-of-line stone, I put a "ring pattie" in the ring. Sometimes the head of the ring will splay out otherwise and not be level. These are all fixes for folks without a real kiln.
Laura Hastings, http://www.rubylane.com/shops/eclectica
When I fire hollow forms, I fire on a bed of vermiculite, then sometimes I will just fill up the form with vermiculite. The form in this case should have an opening so the vermiculite can spill out as the piece shrinks. I don't pack it in there too tightly or it gets like packed brown sugar and doesn't spill out freely, preventing the piece from shrinking without distortion.
~ Holly Gage
If you'd like to keep syringe clay fresh until the next time you're ready to use it, try dipping the open tip once or twice into a pool of melted wax. This will quite effectively seal the opening against exposure to air and will keep the clay fresh for quite some time (I've kept mine for months this way). And next time you're ready to use the syringe, just pop off the wax seal and you're good to go!
Stop Syringe curling A big part of the problem in curly syringe extrusions is the tip itself -- try going for a new tip. As you use them, the tips get damaged and this can contribute to the curly factor (brand new tips that have the problem may have started damaged!). Also, if you start the syringe away from your piece -- stick it down on your work surface -- then proceed to put it on your piece, you can remove the extruding tail after the syringe dries. The PMC3 syringes are great for this as they are fairly stiff and don't actually stick to the surface you apply them to without some extra moisture added. The old PMC+ syringes sometimes stuck too well together!
Mary Ellin D'Agostino, PhD, http://www.medacreations.com
I quit pressing so hard on the plunger part of the syringe. I would start the clay coming out of the syringe and then almost let it pull itself out, just gently pushing on the plunger so it wasn't forced out too quickly.
Squirt the MC out in the air and then lay it down on the surface you want, rather than trying to stick it to the surface as you squirt. (Adapted from Gordon Uyehara's advice) start the squirt under water so it doesn't curl.
Tina Carvalho, http://www.pbrc.hawaii.edu/bemf/microangela
First anchor your elbow on the table for stability.
You can holding the syringe one of two ways:
- Put the syringe in palm of your hand, wrap your 4 fingers around the barrel, thumb at the plunger (sort of like when you click the end of a pen to expose the point)
- Hold it like a doctor when giving a needle with two fingers under the tabs and thumb on plunger, and use the other non-dominant hand to steady the syringe
I start by drawing with a pencil right on the base piece where you want the syringe line. Put a drop of water on the area of the piece where you would like to start. Start pushing the clay out of the syringe in the air, maybe a 3/4" (you'll get a feel for how much you should do in time). Anchor the end to the place you put the water and where you intend to start applying the syringed clay. Lay down the clay on the line you drew. Always have a 3/4" of clay hanging out of the syringe as you go. Never press the tip on the piece directly unless you want a flatten line.
To straighten lines that didn't go down as well as you intended, use a wet brush to nudge the syringed line in place. The brush should not be soaking wet.
Also try this..... Make the syringe lines first and then apply them to the piece.
Draw your designs on a piece of paper. Put a piece of clear plastic flexible sheet on top. Draw on the plastic sheet over top of the lines. Let the lines dry and then apply them to your finished design by wetting the area, placing the lines, adding gentle pressure, then double checking they are adhered properly. Going back with water or thin slip to make sure it is attached if necessary.
Tear Away Technique Tips
The tear away technique is used to make texture plates. The techniqe was developed by polymer artist, Gwen Gibson for texturing polymer clay and adapted by Celie Fago for us with Metal Clay. Use glossy paper, Sculptey 3 polymer clay, and a black and white drawing with no half tones. Make a photocopy of the drawing using the heavy setting on a toner based copier or printer. Condition and roll the clay to a 1/8 inch thick. Put the drawing face down on the polymer clay. Bend back a corner to be used as a "pulling tab". Burnish the paper with a spoon or burnisher for 1 min. Set the clay with the paper still on top under a household lamp for 7 mins. Repeat by burnishing 1 min. and letting set for 7 mins. Quickly, but carefully tear away the paper covering using the pull tab. Tear away low and close to the polymer clay. Bake at 275 for 15 mins. The paper should have pulled up some of the polymer clay and stuck to the black portion of the paper making a low relief "paper" stamp, the polymer plate with a low relief texture as well with the opposite impression from the paper. both parts are using for making textures.
The relief is shallow in tear away, but definitely there. Tear away does have a characteristic grainy texture (from the tearing), but the edges are crisp, and clearly defined; not fuzzy. Its not really all that subtle. Delicate, but definite.
To moderate the grainy texture (and also to combat clumping) mix small amounts of the mica clays into the light colors of Sculpey 3. This will make the surface of the tear away and also whatever you texture with it, smoother and less grainy. However, the more mica in your mix, the more shallow your relief.
You can do tear away with any brand of polymer clay. You can also use many types of toner, and many types of paper. If you want consistent results use iron based toner (I recommend very specific ones) and use fresh Sculpey 3 (not more than 1 year old) in light colors, and 32 lb glossy paper. No other polymer/ toner combo does it.
You should also invert your artwork (black to white, white to black), and then load up toner when you make the copy (all the way to the max with the dark button).
Celie Fago, http://www.CelieFago.com
The hammer look. I achieve a hammered look by using a stylus, a tool with a ball on the end. Just make a row of dents with the tool in the fresh clay and on the next row alternate the dents to be seated just below the first row and in between the dents above it. Continue on as so. You can also add your dents randomly. Different sized stylus ball heads will create a different effect. I suggest a larger one (1/8") head for a ball peen hammered look.
When using stamps or texture plate, I put a very little bit of olive oil on the surface of my clay instead of the plate. I find it to be quicker
Capturing Texture. Keeping a chunk of polymer clay on your person at all times. You never know when you will see a texture to die for.
Embossed greeting cards or paper
handle on silver ware
alphabet soup pasta
scan or copy and make Photoploymer plates.
Jammie feet material used on the bottom of kid's pajamas
Rubber on a ping-pong racket
Make Your Own tools and tool ideas
Make your own paint brush rest from polymer clay, too. Roll out a thick coil and place several indentations in it to rest your brush while working. A pencil or the side of your finger work nicely as indentation makers.
Making slow dry clay by adding 2 drops of glycerin to 20 grams clay, mist with water, mush in plastic wrap and wait an hour.
Make your own needle tools from polymer clay formed into a handle and inserted with a sewing needle. Various sizes of sewing needle can be used.
Keeping different size straws on hand. Collect straws EVERYWHERE. Places which sell milk shakes usually have bigger ones, like Arby's. Most vendors will willingly give you extras if you ask nicely!
Tumbling (See finishing, prefinishing, and polishing )
I use stainless steel shot, a 2 lb bag. I fill my tumbler with the shoot, put water 1 inch above the level of the shot, and use a squirt of "non abrasive" hand soap (which does fine) or for a really high shine burnishing liquid (rarely).
Tumbling time: When you tumble, you may want to consider the piece your working on before you consider how long to tumble. For instance, a piece with lots of detail may loose some of that detail if tumbled for an hour or 2. Basically, tumbling is somewhat similar to burnishing -- by that I mean, the little beads of shot are bouncing off the surface thereby flatting the surface ever so slightly. If you saw unpolished Metal Clay, (or any metal for that matter) under a microscope, you would see a surface of peeks and valleys. The goal of burnishing or tumbling, for the most part, is to make it shiny, the smoother, the more light can reflect off the surface and the shinier it gets.
If this is your first time with a tumbler, I suggest seeing what it does at 20, 30, 40, 50 minutes. If you see you are starting to loose detail then it is time to stop.
It is true the longer you tumble, the more you are work hardening the surface of the piece. But what if you want to work harden it, but you don't want it shiny or don't want to loose intricate detail? A trick I developed is, to put the piece in a heavy duty small plastic bag, just bigger than the piece, and pop it in the tumbler, then you can tumble all you want without changing the finish once so ever. Remember to use a heavy-duty bag. Once I tumbled and the item broke out of the plastic bag at the bottom. For this reason, I check the tumbler every so often just in case.
I always give items with prongs and such a good long tumble to work harden them so they are not so delicate.
~ Holly Gage
UV resin can be placed in a tumbler. After warming, the resin thins a great deal and is more like hot corn syrup. A great number of other colorants can be added. You have to experiment; heating reduces the number of bubbles. You can also hold one of those long, BBQ lighters to it for a second, and the bubbles will burst. The resin's not flammable, so there's no harm. The biggest advantage over the 2-part epoxies is time. You cure it when you want, and use as little as you want. Very, very neat.
(Available at Art Clay World)
Jackie Truty, http://www.artclayworld.com
The color dyes for regular resin can be used with UV resin, as well as adding glitter, and iridescent powders used with polymer clays. I'm sure there are a lot of other options. I don't recommend using food coloring as it loses its color over time.
~ Judi Weers
The UV resin is foolproof and you don't have to put the resin in a safe spot to dry, as you have to do with the resins you mix. I have mixed small amounts of colores resins (from Rio Grande) into it with good luck.
~ Susan Lambert
White on the Surface of Metal Clay (also see polishing above)
The white, which seemingly appears on the piece, is actually what fine silver sheet, casted silver or silver metal clay looks like out of a kiln or torch. If viewed under a microscope it is the peaks and valleys of unpolished silver. Brass brushing is just the first stage in polishing - flattening those peaks and valleys. The more polishing you do, including burnishing, tumbling, polishing papers etc., the flatter and more reflective and shinny the surface becomes because more light can bounce of the surface.
Work Hardening a piece
Work Hardening a piece by putting it in the tumbler for 30 mins or so.
If you want a matte or scratch brush finish to remain unchanged, put
it in a zip lock plastic bag and it will come out hardened without
effecting the finish.
As far as work hardening prongs, I actually think it is a good idea to work harden them as much as possible. For me, they never get so hard that I can't bend them and since it is fine silver it could use the extra strength.