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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

How to Set Stones in Precious Metal Clay

Precious Metal Clay lends itself to many different styles of design. One element that can add interest to any PMC design is setting stones into the PMC.

There are two different methods to set stones into PMC. One is setting the stones into the raw PMC before firing and then firing the stone into the PMC to secure the stone. The second way is to fire the PMC piece without the stone, and then add the stone in a traditional metal setting that is soldered onto the PMC base.

Both methods have use, because many stones cannot be fired in the kiln and survive the heat.

If you want to set stones into Precious Metal Clay, first it is important to know more about the stones that you would like to set. Most cubic zirconia are capable of being fired into PMC, and some natural stones. Before you decide to use a stone, make sure that it will not be altered by the heat of kiln firing. Most cubic zirconias and lab made stones are tested for use with Precious Metal Clay.

To set a stone into PMC for firing:

1. Clay must be in its wet, raw form for setting a stone.

2. Determine where you want to set the stone in your piece.

3. Create a small hole in your base piece. The hole will not show because it will end up being directly underneath your stone.

4. Determine what type of bezel you would like to surround your stone.

5. Form your bezel around your stone.

6. Attach your bezel to the base piece of PMC with PMC paste or slip.

7. Add any deorations to the bezel that you wish with a syringe or applique method.

8. Allow your piece to dry overnight to make sure it is thoroughly dry.

9. Dry finish your piece and fill in any cracks with slip.

10. Allow the piece to dry again.

11. Fire the piece in the kiln at the proper temperature for stone settings.

12. After firing, do not quench the piece in cold water. Allow the piece to cool slowly on its own. If you quench it quickly, it might upset the stone setting.

13. Once your piece is cool, you can clean, polish, and finish it.

To set a stone on a fired piece of Precious Metal Clay:

1. Clean, but do not polish or add a patina to your fired piece.

2. Lightly file the surface of the PMC where you are going to attach the bezel or prong setting.

3. Solder your setting to the PMC as you would to any other silver piece. Unless you have already used solder, it is best to use easy.

4. Once the bezel or prong setting is attached, polish and add any patina that you want to the piece.

5. Set your stone into the setting normally.

For more comprehensive information on setting stones into Precious Metal Clay, and PMC resources, follow this link.
Learn more about this author, Paula Atwell.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Basic Tools Needed to Work with Precious Metal Clay

Precious Metal Clay is one of the easiest ways to make fine silver or gold jewelry, especially if you are a beginner at metalsmithing.

Although the PMC itself is expensive, you don't need a lot of expensive tools to work with it. There are many inexpensive household or common items that you can use to work with Precious Metal Clay and are actually used by the most experienced PMC craftsmen.

Here are the tools you need to work yourself with Precious Metal Clay:


The most expensive piece of equipment you need for working with PMC is a kiln. You will get your best quality result with PMC when you fire with a kiln. Most PMC kilns start around $500 new.

If you do not want to purchase a kiln, you will need to work with PMC3 which is the Precious Metal Clay formula that needs the lowest firing temperature. PMC3 can be fired in a kiln, a hotpot, and with a torch which are the most popular methods.

The rest of the tools you need are fairly inexpensive.

Small carving hand tools:

You can use tools designed for PMC, for ceramic clay, or wax carving, or you can design your own from household items.

Needle files:

These can be purchased in sets of 6 or 12 files in any hardware store. Don't buy expensive files because they get covered with PMC dust.

Emery boards:

Emery boards are a great finishing tool for PMC. These can be purchased in any drug store.

Paint brushes:

Small, fine tip paint brushes are good for applying water or PMC paste to your unfinished piece. Make sure to get cheap brushes. These get ruined easily by the PMC paste.

Xacto knives:

You should have at least one Xacto knife for cutting the wet PMC.

Clay cutting tools:

Most craft stores have a good supply of basic polymer clay cutting tools. These work very well with PMC.


You will need at least one roller. The best rollers are plastic or acrylic. You can just use PVC pipe that can be purchased at a hardware store.

Wire brush:

A wire brush is a good tool to have for finishing your fired piece.

Dremel tool:

Many people like to use the versatility of a Dremel tool for finishing Precious Metal Clay. Dremel tools have a lot of different heads each with its own purpose.

Barrel tumbler:

Another finishing tool for your fired PMC is a barrel tumbler. This is a fast way to finish a lot of pieces at one time, and clean them quickly.

Other tools can be found in just about any home:

Playing cards-preferably old ones from an incomplete deck

Olive oil

Graph paper

Page protectors (plastic sheet)

And don't forget the PMC itself:

PMC comes in several formulas. The most popular is PMC+, but you do need a kiln to fire it. If you are going to fire in a hot pot, you need to make sure to buy PMC3.

If you would like to read more about the best tools for working with PMC, follow this link.
Learn more about this author, Paula Atwell.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

How to Create Designs in Precious Metal Clay

One of the things that makes working with Precious Metal Clay so innovative is how easy it is to add design motifs to the material. PMC has several states, and as a designer you can add design elements at each stage.

Raw, wet clay:

This is the easiest stage to design with PMC. PMC is soft enough to press or stamp designs in. Many artists make their own molds or stamps to add designs to the raw clay.

Raw clay is also great for etching designs with a stylus or any pointed tools. Artists can deepen impressions that they etch or carve out designs in the wet clay. Wet, the clay can also be cut into any shape or molded.

Applique techniques can be used with PMC, adding pieces of cut out lump clay or PMC sheet.

Pieces of any organic material can be embedded into the clay. At the firing stage it will be burned away.

Green, dry clay:

There is still much that can be added to the PMC piece at this stage. One thing to keep in mind is that PMC is much more fragile when it is dry and unfired.

Dry clay pieces can be sanded, filed, and smoothed until perfect. Wet slip or paste can be added at this stage, dried, then blended in with the rest of the piece.

Two pieces of clay can be put together with slip or paste.

Holes can be widened with a round file. It is not recommended to create the hole after the clay dries. It is better to start the hole when it is still at least damp.

A lighter style of etching can be added to dry clay. This is a good point to sign the piece.

With care, applique techniques can still be used and may be preferable for some designs. For instance, it might be better to add metal wire or leaf at this stage. Stones can be added to a dry piece. Some artists prefer to add syringe designs on dry clay. The key here is to make sure that the connection between the dry piece and the new addition is wet enough to hold.

Unpolished, fired clay:

PMC can be fired more than once, and for some designs this is the best way to add to the piece. To add to a fired piece, do not polish it. The binder that is left at the surface of the clay helps hold the unfired clay to the fired clay. Add the raw clay with slip just as if both pieces were raw.

Once fired, PMC can be drilled with a metal drill, hammered, sawed, or soldered. It's best to do these before you polish and clean the piece. PMC is fine silver or 18K gold, so the metal is softer than sterling. Take care to not hit it too hard when hammering.

Polished, fired clay:

After the piece has been cleaned and polished, an artist can add patinas. This works best with silver. The most popular patina is liver of sulphur which applies an oxidation to the surface in colors ranging from light gold to black.

Author: Paula Atwell

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Mold Making for Precious Metal Clay

Firing Precious Metal Clay 3

One of the beauty's of Precious Metal Clay is it ability to create small piece quickly, and rather using a kiln for just one piece many designers prefer to use a hand torch to fire & start the sintering process.

Is the piece suitable for hand torch firing?

When deciding how to fire a piece consider its weight. Pieces weighing 25g or less are ideal of for torch firing, but also consider that your piece should be of a relatively even thickness for torch firing to work effectively. If your piece is of complex nature kiln firing is recommended to ensure even heat distribution.

Preparation before firing

Before starting to fire its worth considering the preparation of your working area. Make sure that you work in a well ventilated room, and that you have a dedicated area for soldering. Ensure that you have a heat proof surface i.e. soldering sheet, and then place a soldering block on top to work on. Plus consider you own safety with glasses, apron and tweezers and even protective gloves on hard to protect you whilst working.

Test firing

The first time you torch fire clay, practice on a small piece to watch how the clay reacts to the heat, and to practice the firing process.

Preparation of the clay

Before you fire ensure you are happy with the shape and detail of your piece and that the piece is complete dry, as excess moisture will turn into steam causing the clay to expand or crack. If your piece contains gemstone, shells, or even findings consider how this will react to direct heat.

Firing the PMC

Once ignited adjust the torch flame so the flame is around 6cm, and the blue inner flame is around 4cm. Hold the torch at 45 degree, about 5cm away from the piece using the outer flame first to warm and then bring closer to increase the heat, ensure you keep the torch moving keeping the flame on the piece.

First the binder will begin to smoke and then flame, burning away. The clay will be then exposed and begin to glow red/orange (at sintering temperature). At this point continue firing the piece for 2-4 minutes depending on its size, be careful not to over fire the piece -if the piece beings to look shiny (indicating the surface is starting to melt) then move the torch away to reduce the heat. Once heated the particles fuse together and form a solid dense metal, and PMC3 only shrinks around 6% of its original size. To complete the process let the piece cool down to room temperature. Once fired silver PMC 3 becomes fine i.e. 99.9% pure - and can be hallmarked as fine silver.

Adam Hunter - E-commerce Marketing Manager of cooksongold.com. Cookson Precious Metals offer a choice of supplies from over 10,000 products including [http://www.cooksongold.com/category/Jewellery-Tools/]jewellery tools, findings, precious metal clay, wire and precious metal sheet - gold, silver, platinum and palladium plus technical information for jewellers, jobbers, designer, craftsmen, artisans and students.
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=A_Hunter http://EzineArticles.com/?Firing-Precious-Metal-Clay-3&id=942148

How to Use Precious Metal Clay in Jewelery Making

Precious metal clay (brand names are PMC and Art Clay) is modern-day alchemy. PMC is a clay base with tiny pieces of silver suspended within it that, when heated, burns off the clay leaving a solid silver residue. The clay base acts as a binder for the metal particles. Once this has been removed, the remaining silver particles bind together, giving you the finished product.

The real beauty of precious metal clay is that it can be manipulated like any ordinary modeling clay, making it perfect for jewelery making. The modern precious metal clay can be using a jeweler's torch, as the firing temperature is much lower than the early versions of this clay. However, a small kiln will produce a much more constant temperature range and can be controlled exactly, meaning that the results will be more consistent.

Precious Metal Clay once had a very bad reputation for shrinkage, making it unsuitable for fine work or detail. Modern precious metal clays have a much lower shrinkage rate (around 10-15%), but you still need to factor this into the final piece to ensure that really fine detail is not lost in the firing process.

Once fired, the silver piece will seem very lackluster and dull, so it will need finishing. The dull matt surface hides the real beauty underneath, so finishing and polishing will reveal the shining silver below. When soldering finished precious metal clay pieces it is essential to remember that the surface will be more porous than standard sterling silver, so it is best to burnish the piece prior to soldering. But because it is almost pure silver there is little risk of fire stain on the surface and the final results are almost indistinguishable from sterling silver.

Because precious metal clay is a clay, it takes impressions very well. A design can be pressed onto the surface of the clay and be revealed in the final silver piece. Patterned rollers, lace or even leaves can be used to create unique effects that are difficult to reproduce in ordinary silver unless it has been cast. Precious metal clay is a popular way of making silver beads. The clay can be formed into beads, decorated with a surface pattern and then fired in a kiln quickly and easily, producing high quality silver beads.

Safety considerations have to be taken into account when working with precious metal clay because of the high temperatures required to fire the clay. A small enameling kiln allows you to safely achieve the temperatures required for optimum results, but ensure that you have all the correct equipment such as tongs with heat resistant handles to extract work from the kiln safely and a heat-proof surface upon which to work.

Precious metal clay is an ideal medium to work in if you want to create pieces of silver jewelery that are unique to you. The only thing that limits you is your imagination. Precious metal silver clay is widely available from good jewelery equipment suppliers. There are two main brands - Precious Metal Clay and Art Clay Silver. The clay is also available in other metals including gold, but the cost is significantly higher than the silver clay.

Adam Hunter - E-commerce Marketing Manager of cooksongold.com. Cookson Precious Metals offer a choice of [http://www.cooksongold.com]jewelery making supplies from over 10,000 products including gold and silver, jewelery findings, tools, [http://www.cooksongold.com/Precious-Metal-Clay/]precious metal clay and gold and silver sheet - gold, silver, platinum and palladium plus technical information for jewelers, jobbers, designer, craftsmen, artisans and students.
Adam Hunter
E-commerce Marketing Manager
Tel(DDI): +44 (0) 121 212 6491
E-mail: adam.hunter@cooksongold.com
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=A_Hunter http://EzineArticles.com/?How-to-Use-Precious-Metal-Clay-in-Jewelery-Making&id=1875790

Types of Silver Clay Explained - Precious Metal Clay and Art Clay

Metal clay is a suspension of tiny particles of metal in a clay binder, which can be used to make jewelery, beads and small findings. The beauty of metal clay is that it can be manipulated in the same way as any modeling clay, but once fired the binding agents are burnt off leaving the metal form intact. Although there is a certain amount of shrinkage (between 10-15% for the more modern versions), very fine detail can be achieved, including impressions that would require casting in any other method of metalwork.

Silver metal clay results in objects containing almost pure silver (also known as fine silver) which is ideal for enameling. There are two popular brands available - Precious Metal Clay (also known as PMC) and Art Clay Silver (ACS). Precious Metal Clay was developed in the early 1990's in Japan and consists of microscopic particles of pure silver (or fine gold powder) and a water-soluble binder which burns off during firing. The original formula of PMC (now called 'Standard') has to be fired in a kiln at a temperature of 1650F and has a high shrinkage rate of around 30%. Two additional versions were later developed called PMC+, which can be fired at 1490F and PMC3, which can be fired at temperatures as low as 1100F. Both of these later versions of PMC have much lower shrinkage rates, allowing much finer detail to be worked into designs.

Art Clay Silver (ACS) was also developed in Japan and is similar in consistency to PMC+. The main difference with ACS is that it can be fired using a hand-held torch or gas oven. Because of subtle differences in the binder components and the longer firing times, ACS benefited from having a considerably lower shrinkage percentage - only 8-10%. This means that ACS can be worked in more detail without any loss of definition in fine work. Art Clay Slow Dry was introduced soon after, which has a much longer working time before requiring firing, allowing intricate work to be molded into the clay with no loss of malleability.

Art Clay 650 and Art Clay 650 Slow Dry are now becoming increasingly popular, as not only do they have a longer working time but can be fired at temperatures as low as 650C/1200F. This allows jewelers to incorporate glass and Sterling Silver into the designs without fear of damaging the components. AIDA, the manufacturers of ACS have also introduced Oil Paste, a product only used on fired metal clay or milled fine silver, and Overlay Paste which is designed for drawing designs onto glass and porcelain. These two products have allowed the use of metal clay products to be incorporated into a whole new range of designs and mediums, expanding the potential of this product.

Metal clays allow jewelers to work with a material that is as malleable as ordinary modeling clay but produces fine (almost pure) silver jewelery of exquisite intricacy and beauty. Once polished it has a luster and shine that is easily comparable to cast silver and because of the development of the products over the last few years shrinkage is now no longer an issue. The type used depends on personal preference as both types have their advantages, but incorporating metal clays into your jewelery design gives you a new medium to explore with beautiful results.

Adam Hunter - E-commerce Marketing Manager of cooksongold.com. Cookson Precious Metals offer a choice of [http://www.cooksongold.com]jewellery making supplies from over 10,000 products including gold and silver findings, tools, [http://www.cooksongold.com/Precious-Metal-Clay/]silver art clay and gold and silver sheet - gold, silver, platinum and palladium plus technical information for jewellers, jobbers, designer, craftsmen, artisans and students.
Adam Hunter
E-commerce Marketing Manager
Tel(DDI): +44 (0) 121 212 6491
E-mail: [mailto:adam.hunter@cooksongold.com]adam.hunter@cooksongold.com
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=A_Hunter http://EzineArticles.com/?Types-of-Silver-Clay-Explained---Precious-Metal-Clay-and-Art-Clay&id=2036804