Friday, 4 March 2011

Silver Clay for Beginners

Trying out Art Clay Silver clay doesn't have to be expensive.  The 7g packet of Art Clay Silver 650 contains enough silver clay to make a simple ring or a pendant.

Here a star shaped pendant has been fired and the surface is being burnished.  Burnishing compacts and smooths the surface of the silver and gives a mirror like polish once all the scratches and burr have been removed with the wire brushes and sanding pads.  If you burnish over ‘flaws’ these will become permanent.

Working with Art Clay Silver

The clay will begin to dry out the moment it is exposed to air. These tips will help to increase the working time: 
  • Plan your design before you start so that you know exactly what you want to do with the clay and how you will go about achieving the end result.
  • Keep a bowl of water near by to dip fingers and tools in.
  • Work in a cool room and try to avoid direct heat.
  • Work the clay on a smooth, non-porous surface.
  • Only break off the amount of clay you think you will need and put the remainder in an air-tight wrapper. Covering with a damp cloth or kitchen paper will help.
  • Rehydrate drying clay by wetting the surface, wrapping in cling film and kneading through the film.
  • Do not use aluminium tools or containers as this will contaminate and discolour silver clay.
  • Use the Kemper cutters for tiny shapes.
Firing the Art Clay Silver Clay

The most economical method of firing the clay is to do so on a gas hob or a gas camping stove.  Ensure the clay has thoroughly dried out before starting (allow 24-36 hours depending on the size of the item).

Before you start

The clay will shrink as it is fired. This can be used as an indication of whether the firing has been successful. Place the object on a piece of paper and draw around it. Put the paper aside so that the size can be compared with the fired item.
  1. For pieces up to 30g (no larger than 5cm x 3cm x 2cm) and up to 6 items, lay a stainless steel mesh on the burner and place the fully dried items where the flames are strongest, cover with more mesh for added safety. If you do not have a cover, wear eye protections in case the clay spits.
  2. Turn the gas burner on full and use a skewer to push the pieces into the areas of the mesh that glow red. After a few minutes, the clay will smoke a little as the binder burns away and it will take on a pale orange glow. Now time the firing for five minutes while the piece continues to glow.
  3. Turn off the gas and allow the fired pieces to cool for 20 minutes in situ.
  4. Place the fired Art Clay Silver onto the piece of paper on which you drew the outline. The item should have shrunk by 8-9%. If there is no obvious signs of shrinkage, repeat steps 3-5.
Useful Tips
  • Place items face down for firing, this will protect detailed designs from becoming damaged by overheating.
  • Fired pieces can be added to. Use Art Clay Silver paste to attach fired or unfired items. The silver will not shrink again but newly attached, unfired items will.
  • An indicator of over firing is if the item begins to melt or turn red. Stop the firing process immediately.
  • As long as an item has been fired correctly, there should be no difference between shrinkage for gas hob, blow torch and kiln fired items.
  • Full drying times and firing instructions for the Art Clay Silver clay are in the packaging or you can download this PDF to find out more.
If you wish to progress further, we recommend you check out our full range of Art Clay Silver clays and tools >

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