Metal Clay Processes

The metal clay used throughout this book has a few unique procedures that diverge from polymer clay's. Metal clay should be completely dry for example, before firing. You can speed the drying process by placing them on a coffee cup warmer, an electric warming plate or in a food dehydrator, if you have one. When your pieces are dry, they are still very fragile, so handle carefully. This is the stage when pieces can break. With a light touch, sand any rough edges now, before firing, using an emery board. Fine grit sand paper may also be used. After sanding, you're ready to torch-fire and then burnish your piece.

1 Torch-fire the dried metal clay

Place your piece on a firing block or soldering block. Make sure the torch is filled with butane fuel. Ignite the torch and hold it about

1 V2" (4cm) from the metal clay. Move the torch constantly over the metal clay while firing. In just a short time, a flame and a little smoke will appear, which means the binder is burning off.

2 Watch for a pink-orange color

Soon you will notice the metal clay piece begin to turn pink with orange edges. This is normal and will bring you closer to the full heat stage.

3 Hold the piece at the red stage

When your piece begins to glow a red-orange color, hold this color for a full 2 minutes, or a little longer if your piece is large. If at any point you see silver areas, pull the torch away from the piece as it is starting to melt, and continue to keep the red glow.

4 Cool the piece

Do not touch the metal clay! Allow it to cool, or quench it in ice-cold water using fiber-grip tweezers to pick it up.

5 Burnish the Piece

Using a brass buff burnishing brush, brush both sides of the metal clay surfaces to cause the particles to reflect a satin silver sheen.

6 Bring up the shine

You may leave your metal clay as is, or you may bring up the shine by burnishing further using a metal object such as the paddle end of a needle tool (shown), a smooth spoon handle or a metal clay burnishing tool. I often shine only part of a piece for contrast. To achieve a mirror finish as seen on the cross, you may buff portions of your piece, for contrast, or the entire surface, with polishing papers.

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