Working with Precious Metal Clay (PMC)
Hey guys, I posted a picture of this pendant I made on my Instagram and I got a lot of positive responses as well as questions asking how I made it. So in this video I’ll show you the tools and materials I used. Go with the basics and hopefully the video will provide you with the information you need if this is something that you’d like to work with as well.
If you have any questions please leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer. The questions and categories I’ll go over are what it is, where do you buy it and how much does it cost, tools you need and the basic process.
I’m sorry if this seems a lot for one video but I found information from a lot of different places when I tried figuring out different things I needed to get started, so I want to give you all the information in one video.
The material is called metal clay and it’s a clay that you shape like any other clay then let it dry and finally fire it. You can get both silver, gold, bronze and copper clay and the clay I have here is silver clay by the brand ‘Art Clay’. It’s composed of silver microns, organic binders and water. Once fired the organic binders burn away and leave you with a piece of 99.9% pure silver.
Sterling silver that a lot of jewellery is made from is 92.5% silver, the remaining 7.5% of that is usually copper which makes the metal stronger. This clay will give you almost pure silver which can be hallmarked fine silver. There are different brands of metal clay and each brand has different types of clay and each type has different pros and cons so I recommend doing some research before you buy it. As an example the brand ‘PMC’ which stands for Precious Metal Clay has different formulas such as the original formula which isn’t as strong as ‘Art Clay’ but then they also have a clay that will give you sterling silver and I think that they have one that will give you 90% silver as well but I’m not completely sure.
I bought my clay from metal clay UK and they also have all the tools you need so it’s definitely I site I recommend. If you visit this website you’ll be able to find a list of suppliers in different countries. Not all stores are listed on here but it might give you an idea of the places you can get it.
Now this is a fairly pricey product but when you consider that fact that you get 99.9% silver from it I really do think it’s a fair price. The most common sized packs for the silver clay are 7, 10, 20 and 50 grams. I’ve done some research and had a look on different websites to see the prices for the ‘Art Clay’ silver and the prices range from around $30 to $40 for a pack of 10 grams. Then when you count the shipping, the difference doesn’t seem to be too big.
You’ll need some clay, now this clay air dries so if you don’t use up an entire pack at once you will need something to store it in. I keep an open pack of clay in the airtight container. Inside the container I have a couple of baby wipes to keep it moist and then have 2 foil packs that the clay originally came in and inside those I have the clay wrapped in cling film.
You will need a surface to work on, I recommend using a non-stick surface like Teflon sheets. I cut mine into smaller pieces to make them last longer. This is called an ultra clay pick and this is used for cutting out clay instead of an exacto knife and it also works well for making the holes for attaching jump rings or findings. Then there is a pin scriber which is basically just a needle tool and you can use this for writing or engraving words and patterns on dry clay before firing it.
You’ll need a rolling pin and some spacers for rolling out a piece in a uniform thickness. If you don’t want to invest in spacers, you can stack regular playing cards or something similar. You also need a balm that you can apply to your hands and tools so the clay doesn’t stick to it and you’ll need one that’s non-flammable and natural ingredients so you can use Vaseline, but the places that sell metal clay will sell something like this as well.
I also recommend that you keep water on hand if your clay is getting a bit dry. You can spray on a tiny amount of water to extend the working time, also keep a small container with water and some brushes nearby. You can use this to help blend pieces of clay and it can act like a glue to make sure two pieces of clay will stick together properly.
When the clay is dry you will need some files and sandpaper to sand down rough edges or smooth down the surface and stuff like that. I have some needle files as well as some sanding sponges with different grits. If you have any pieces of dry clay from filing or if you made a mistake, don’t throw it away, keep it in a container like this and you can add small amounts of water to it, then leave it for a couple of hours, the clay will absorb the moisture and you’ll be able to reuse the clay.
You can also mix in a large amount of water to create a paste that you can use to glue two pieces of dry clay together, instead of buying the piece that different brands offer.
There are three ways you can fire your clay, I’m using the torch. You can use a fancier version or you can use these ones that you use for cooking as well. Please make sure to do some research before buying the clay because some types of metal clay require a kiln to be fired. If you use a torch like me, you’ll also need a firing block.
Once a piece is fired it will look white and there are different tools you can use to finish it off depending on the look you want. You can use a brass or steel brush which will quickly and easily get into all the crevices and leave you with a satin finish. I use a soft brass brush as this won’t scratch the surface too much. Then for getting that mirror like finish and really bring out the shine you can use a burnishing tool but you can use other things that have a smooth surface such as a spoon or netal budding tool. This can’t get into all of the fine details so it’ll immediately make the raised areas stand out. Another option is fine grit sandpaper or sanding sponges and use these wet in combination with polishing pads to get a mirror like surface as well.
First you’ll need to create a piece, I can’t promise if I’ll be doing any videos using this clay as you don’t have too long of a waiting time before it dries and I’d rather be able to see what I’m doing instead of focusing on getting a good camera angle.
When you’re done, let it dry completely. You can leave it to air dry, use a hair dryer or use a couple of other methods. These are described on the instructions that come inside the packs of clay. Make sure your clay is completely dry before firing it because moisture can cause it to crack or break.
The instructions for firing in a kiln are written on this instruction sheet and I’ll put the information for firing with a torch on the screen. When you fire it with the torch you’ll first see some smoke and maybe a small flame when the organic binders burn away. Then wait ‘til the clay starts to glow alight orange or peach colour, this is when the temperature is just right and you can start timing. If your clay becomes a darker red or if you see any shiny spots, it means that it’s too hot and the silver is starting to melt. If this happens just move your torch further away and continue firing.
You can under-fire a piece but you can’t really over-fire it as long as you make sure it doesn’t get too hot. You’ll be able to find more detailed instructions for each of the steps online, but if you have any questions please let me know and I hope this video was helpful.
Video by SugarCharmShop