One way to add titanium to your Metal Clay creations that can not be fired in place, is to use fine silver components. Different shapes and gauges of wire, bezel wire, ready-made bezels cups, and other fine silver findings can be purchased from Metal Clay and jewelry suppliers.
Fine silver components work great because they do not oxidize, and need no special firing care. They can be used to hold almost anything, and they work well with low fire Art Clay or PMC3. (I have found that the higher temperatures and shrinkage rate of other clays increases the likelihood of the Metal Clay pulling away from the fine silver during firing.)
Whether your components are manufactured or hand-fabricated, a few general rules apply for attaching them to your Metal Clay pieces before firing.
- First, use sandpaper to roughen the surface of the fine silver setting or component where it will contact the Metal Clay. If the contact area is large enough, it’s also a good idea to give a slight texture to the Metal Clay where the silver element and the Metal Clay meet.
Use a thick paste to “glue” the fine silver element to the Metal Clay. (The rough surfaces give the paste something to grab, making the bond more secure.) After the paste dries, check for gaps, and fill any you find with more paste.
Good contact between the two pieces is essential, since gaps may allow the pieces to come apart after firing. If necessary, you can blend in a thin snake of syringe paste or lump Metal Clay around the base of the element. If you discover a poor connection after firing, you can repair the problem by adding slip to “glue” the pieces back together, then refiring.
Create Your Own Bezel
One of my favorite setting methods is to create my own bezel from fine silver bezel wire. (Shown here to set the purple tanzanite gem, but can also be used to bezel set the titanium.) Making my own bezels allows me to set objects that are not a standard shape or size, and it’s very simple to do. The following is my no-solder method for making a bezel.
Step 1. Choose a bezel wire approximately twice the height of the stone to be used or in the case of titanium the perimeter edges. It needs to be taller than a standard bezel because you will lose some of the height when you push it into the Metal Clay base. The style and thickness of the bezel wire is entirely a matter of preference.
Step 2. Wrap the bezel wire around the stone or titanium to be used, overlapping the ends a bit. Follow the contour of the bottom of the stone or the edge of the titanium. The sides of the bezel should remain vertical, and not curve inward. You will push in the top edge of the bezel with a burnisher in the final stages to hold the item in place.
Step 3. Use a flush cutting plier to make a straight (not angled) cut through the wire where the ends overlap. Cutting through the overlapping portions simultaneously insures that the ends meet up nicely. Check that the item to be set can be taken in and out of the bezel easily: It should not be snug.
Step 4. Sand the bezel wire anywhere it will come in contact with the Metal Clay to give the paste something to grab onto. If you do not sand it, the paste will pull away when fired. This can be fixed by adding more paste to fill the gaps and refiring the piece, but you can avoid this extra step by preparing the edge properly.
Step 5. Embed the wire into the Metal Clay base. The base should be thick enough that you do not go through the back side of the base when pressing the bezel in. Check the fit of the item to be set again.
Step 6. Put a thin snake of Metal Clay, syringe Metal Clay, or several layers of slip around the base of the bezel to secure the wire in place. Blend it in half way up the bezel. Put slip on the inside of the bezel as well. Check the fit of your item to be set again to be sure you haven’t added too much slip in the interior, so that the item will no longer fit. After the piece dries, check for gaps and fill them with slip as needed.
Step 7. Use slip to cover the seam where the ends of the bezel meet. Do this on both sides of the bezel wall.
Step 8. Make an opening in the base where the item to be set will sit. This opening should be fairly small, the seat behind the item should still be substantial and not too close to the bezel walls. There are several reasons for this opening. The opening will reduce stress and possible tearing during firing for items larger than 10 mm. It also conserves Metal Clay and helps to keep your piece lighter and more comfortable to wear. Finally, an opening allows you to remove the item later if repairs to the piece become necessary.
Optional: Many of the pieces of titanium are beautiful on both sides, but there may be an occasion where you do not want the back to be seen or it is very rough and you are afraid it will come in contact with the wearers' skin or clothes. In that case, you will want to cover the back with colores resin epoxy or follow directions for tacking a very thin piece of leather on the back of the titanium as mentioned in "Titanium and Leather Necklace". The only thing that you would then have to make sure you do is adjust the height of the bezel wire taking in account the thickness of the leather or colored epoxy.
Step 9. Make a placeholder to fit in the bezel during firing. I use paper clay shaped like the bottom of the titanium or stone, but with straight sides. The placeholder prevents the bezel wire from moving during firing, which can open up the seam and cause the ends to misalign. (Make sure the paper clay is completely dry before firing.)
Meanwhile Create Your Own Prongs
Prongs made out of 16 gauge wire were used here to hold the titanium in place. You can use any gauge you feel is sturdy enough to securely hold the item in place without distortion when the piece is finished and being worn. In the picture above, the prongs were attached on the reverse side with thick slip and bent around to the front, but they can be attached in infinite ways. Consideration should be taken to incorporate the wire as a part of the design. Please remember to use the sanding and scoring methods mentioned above to attach the fine silver wire to your creation.
It is also possible for the wire to be embedded in the Metal Clay as to hide its ends instead. Be sure if you embed the wire that a good portion is well under the clay surface. Also a couple of bends added to the wire before embedding it underneath the surface will keep it more secure and help prevent it from being pulled out after firing
Finishing the Piece
Step 1: Attach the wire using one of the methods mentioned above. The wire will be shaped and bent over the titanium to hold it in place after it is first fired.
Step 2: Set the paper clay placeholder in the bezel. Fire at 1290 for at least 20 minutes on vermiculite or other support material.
Step 3: Polish the piece with the finish of your choice.
For the bezel: Place the stone or titanium in the bezel and use a burnisher to push the bezel wall down onto the stone or titanium. Do not work around the stone or titanium -- instead, press down areas opposite each other, leapfrogging around the circumference to avoid creating a pucker.
For the prongs: Test fit the piece of titanium in place. Shape and bend the wire as desired pressing them down to securely hold the titanium. You may choice first to add epoxy to the reverse side of the titanium for additional insurance. When Using epoxy, coarsely roughen the fired metal clay surface before applying the epoxy. Use the tips in "Titanium and Leather Necklace" when using epoxy.
Step 4: To work harden your piece with out changing the finish, put it in a heavy duty plastic bag (or double bag), use a bag just bigger than the piece and pop it into your tumbler for 20 - 30 mins.
For the necklace above, the two rubies are syringe-set and fired in place, while the tanzanite was set after firing with a fine silver bezel that was incorporated into the Metal Clay prior to firing. The prongs holding the free-form crystalline rainbow titanium are made using fine silver and then are attached on decoratively on the reverse side of the piece.