Guide PMC Technic: A Collection of Techniques for Precious Metal Clay

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Editorial Reviews. About the Author. Ten authors, each a leading master in the field, bring Sculptural Metal Clay Jewelry: Techniques and Explorations.
Table of contents

A broken piece that is solid metal across the entire cross-section indicates that the piece has sintered partially all the way through, but not completely i. Keep in mind that even fully sintered BRONZclay bronze metal will crack or break under excessive force if it has not been properly annealed first.

Do whatever amount of testing will make YOU feel comfortable that your pieces will not break when subjected to reasonable wear and tear. Pieces made from BRONZclay are more likely than their silver clay counterparts to develop cracks or fissures during firing, especially if the kiln is ramped too quickly.

PMC technic

Repairing fired bronze pieces — filling holes or cracks, reattaching broken pieces, etc. If bubbles, holes, cracks or joint gaps have developed during firing, repair the metal in its "pristine" state straight out of the kiln. If problems develop while you are finishing the piece e. Use conditioned clay straight from the package vs.

If you need a slightly moister consistency for the repair, knead a little extra water into the repair clay. If you wish, you may apply a little BRONZclay oil paste to the prepared repair area on the metal before adding the fresh clay. Make sure the oil paste if used is completely dry before re-firing the piece at the longest firing schedule. Remember that the fresh clay will shrink as it dries and as it fires. Either overfill your repairs slightly or plan to re-fill and re-fire your breaks, cracks, holes, etc. When one of Barbara Becker Simon's pieces breaks, she sometimes "makes lemonade from the lemons" by taking the opportunity to add new design elements.

When one of her carved bronze clay bangles broke, she reattached the pieces with large cubes of fresh clay, allowed them to dry, and carved them to complement the rest of the design before re-firing. The photo above shows the repaired bangle with the added carved, cube-shape "nodes". Barbara explained that "The reason these 'boxes' worked is that the new clay surrounded and clamped on to the ins and outs of the nasty break, thereby covering up all the ugliness and making a joint that was secure. Even though I accounted for shrinkage by making the nodes larger, I still had to go back and re-caulk and re-fire cracks that developed on the boxes, in some cases more than once.

But I felt it was worth it to save a piece on which I worked a long time. Adding fresh clay "nodes" in various shapes isn't Barbara's only trick for salvaging badly broken pieces. At first, the larger bangle shown below looked like it might be beyond repair. Barbara was trying out a faster firing schedule and one of the large rectangular cubes "just completely took a dive.

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Never re-fire pieces that contain both bronze and silver! Bronze clay is extremely hard after firing and cooling, if the pieces have sintered fully in the kiln. Lora Hart explains that bronze becomes heat-hardened if it is heated to a high temperature and allowed to cool slowly. If you need to shape the bronze metal, she recommends annealing it first by either quenching or crash cooling the hot metal rapidly.

If annealing is needed, reheat the metal with a torch to a dull red and quench it. Pieces look great straight from the kiln.

A Collection of Techniques for Precious Metal Clay

If you want a different finish, or if you want contrasting finishes for example, wire brushing for a soft satin finish or polishing the high points on a texture , you can use most of the same methods as you would use on fired silver clay. The main difference is that finishing bronze metal requires more time and effort because it is much harder than fine silver. If you plan to wire brush a fired bronze clay piece for a satin finish, both Celie Fago and Lora Hart recommend using a soft brush with stainless steel bristles. Most though not all metal clay artists use brass brushes on fired silver clay because brass bristles are less likely to scratch the soft fine silver.

However, steel bristles are more effective on the hard bronze metal. Lora likes using a mounted stainless cup brush on her flexible shaft tool "to finish bronze to a nice golden color. Either works fine; motorized brushing is just faster and more efficient. Note: As always, remember to wear proper protective gear when working with power tools.

Kiln patinas develop in the reducing atmosphere created by the hot activated carbon granules in the firing pan. Kiln patinas from coal-derived carbon are very unpredictable, but they also can be extremely vibrant and colorful, as in Celie Fago's fence bracelet and this trio of beautiful hollow beads by Aja Vaz of WanderingSpiritDesigns:. If you don't like the kiln patina on certain pieces, you can try re-firing them along with your next kiln load of BRONZclay.

For best results, wire-brush and burnish, if desired before re-firing the pieces. To paraphrase Forrest Gump's mama, firing bronze clay especially in coal-based carbon "is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get. There's no downside to trying it, and if you still don't like what you see you always move on to other heat- or chemical-based patinas. While the patinas on BRONZclay straight from the kiln can be very attractive, they are completely outside your control. There are other ways to heat-color bronze that provide a little more control over the colors.

Torching is the most common approach to heat-coloring metal. The basic idea is to warm the metal briefly with a torch and then air cool it or quench it, repeating until you see colors you like. Air cooling and quenching produce slightly different results. Some people find that quenched flame patinas are duller. Try both methods to determine which one you prefer.

Deb Jemmott says she gets the best results by burnishing her fired bronze pieces and then heating them very gently on a charcoal block. She recommends heating around the metal, rather than applying the heat to it directly. Like the hot carbon in the kiln, the burning charcoal creates a reducing atmosphere around the metal.

Heat the charcoal and, indirectly, the metal with a torch. Heat a little, then pull the torch away and watch the colors develop on the metal. Repeat the process of heating briefly, removing the torch, and watching the colors develop until you see colors you like. It is important to heat the metal gently and briefly because the colors will continue to develop on the hot metal even after you pull the flame away. Deb says "if you see the colors while the torch is on the piece, it is too hot and when you pull the torch away, the colors will be gone.

Beverly Gallerani of Mango Tango Designs flame-colors her bronze pieces selectively. She places the brushed and tumbled metal on a steel bench block, arranging it so that only a small section that she wishes to color extends past the edge of the block.

She heats the overhanging section from the underside, moving the torch flame in slow circles. She watches carefully, cautioning that "the colors can develop quite suddenly. Bev finds that as long as she keeps the heat away from the areas she has colored already, she can place the cooled piece back on the bench block and color a different area without affecting the colors she added previously.

Her "Catch the Wave II" pendant shows one of her beautiful flame patinas:.

Even if you torch a piece too long, it can be salvaged easily. Wire brush and burnish or tumble it until shiny and just toss it back in the kiln with your next BRONZclay load. When Judi Weers accidentally kept her torch on some bronze charms for too long and they turned black from surface oxidation, she used this technique very successfully.

After re-firing them with her next load, the charms came out of the kiln with a beautiful deep gold and pink patina. A torch is not the only way to color bronze with heat. Taos, New Mexico artist Susan Dilger sometimes warms her fired bronze pieces on a preheated, uncovered UltraLite beehive kiln. She warms only only one piece at a time, watching it very closely, and removes it from the heat the instant she begins to see a hint of colors she likes, knowing that they will continue to develop as the metal cools.

As with torch coloring, pieces heat-colored on an UltraLite can be quenched to inhibit further color development.

Comprehensive, independent information and resources for metal clay artists

Liver of Sulfur reacts to bronze differently than it does to silver. In her book "Silver and Bronze Clay: Movement and Mechanisms", Hadar Jacobson explains that although you cannot get the range of colors on bronze that you can on silver, a Liver of Sulfur solution can be used to achieve a dark gray almost black patina on bronze.

She recommends dipping the metal in LOS solution very briefly and then in cold water, dipping alternately in patina and water until the desired depth of color is achieved. When the color deepens to you liking, immediately rinse the piece thoroughly in cold running water to stop the reaction. Hadar warns that if bronze metal is left to sit in the solution rather than being dipped alternately in patina and water, the patina will be very difficult to remove from the areas where you do not want it. Alternatively, instead of building the color gradually, you can use a paintbrush, toothpick or cotton swab to apply patina just where you want it.

PMC Technic: A Collection of Techniques for Precious Metal Clay by Tim McCreight

It's a good idea to neutralize the patina after achieving the desired color. Swish the piece in a saturated solution of baking soda and cold water, then rinse thoroughly under cold running water. Celie Fago sometimes uses ammonia fumes to add bright blue or blue-green patinas to her bronze pieces. The bright blue patina in her Blue Bronze Pendant, shown below, was made by fuming the bronze piece over plain household ammonia. Celie explains, "You can add salt to the ammonia for a bit more green in the blue but here I used only household ammonia.

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Suspend the piece over not touching an inch or two of ammonia in a glass jar with a lid. Drill small holes in the jar lid to pass a wire through or work it out so the jar lid will close over both ends of the wire on which the bronze piece hangs. Leave it to fume until you like the color, anywhere from 24 hours to 10 days. It is wise to open the jar slowly, and out of doors, as the ammonia fumes build up and you won't want a big whiff of it.

Caution: Breathing any type of chemical fumes can be hazardous to your health. Some chemicals are worse than others in this respect. Read the label warnings before using any chemical and always work in a ventilated area. Consider wearing a respirator when using these chemicals; read the packaging carefully and ask your supplier if the model you are buying is rated for filtering out chemical vapors.

Since then I've also seen it recommended by many other top metalsmiths and jewelry artists as the best source of information on metal patinas and other techniques for coloring metal. The authors have brought together, tested and organized literally hundreds of metal patina recipes and other color treatments! There are recipes for coloring cast bronze, cast yellow brass, yellow brass sheet, copper sheet, gilding metal sheet and silver sheet, and silver-plate and copper-plate.

There are hundreds of illustrations and beautiful color photos throughout the book as well as notes on each recipe that focus on potentially dangerous chemicals or processes and emphasize safety procedures.


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Although you cannot diffusion bond fine silver or gold foil to bronze using the keum-boo method, you can add silver accents with Accent Silver, a product created by the company that brought us Accent Gold for Silver AGS. Accent Silver comes as a metal powder that is mixed to a slip consistency as needed.