My Guide: My Basic Tool Kit For Metal Clay
My experience in metal clay has been a fun, steep learning curve and over time I have gathered tools to help. I wrote this guide to help you learn from my experience, to share ideas and places to source products (listed at the end).
Please note: Health and Safety precautions must be taken to protect yourself and others during use and storage of any tools and clay you use or have in stock.
You need to chose which metal clay you wish to focus on. I advise silver metal clay, though this is a more expensive, due to the ease of use and success rate. I advise trying:
Art Clay Silver 7g (shown below)
There are three types of metal clay products:
- Clay: Slabs weighed in grams
- Syringe: Clay with added water which adds a flow and you can use it to stick clay together, dot or place clay in lines or swirls
- Paste: This is a cross between slab clay and syringe clay, which gives it the ability to build thicker layers and details
2) Basic tools to start creating designs with metal clay?
Simple tools are needed and these are as follows:
* Teflon Mats: A4 and smaller mats to dry designs on
* Cutters: Round, Square, Oval, Rectangle. I recently came across a fantastic mini round set of cutters called ‘Tubey Cutters by Joy Funnel’ which I bought from Metal Clay UK (link at the end).
* Balm: A product that reduces sticking, sometimes called ‘Badger Balm’ featuring lavender or olive oil.
* Hard Clear Plastic Rollers: These rollers are best to be clear plastic, because you can easily see what you are doing through the roller.
* Rolling Slats: The original method used to control how thickly you roll the metal clay in Japan was by using playing cards. I find they are fiddly and so I invested in a set of plastic strips at different thicknesses, as shown below:
* Water Pen: This is a perfect tool to add water in a controlled manner from the water storage part, into the bristles. I also find this useful to smooth edges and to stick layers gently together.
* Carving Tools: These tools enable you to handle clay, gently stick layers and edges. I use a set which are used for wax carving, but perfect for metal clay as well.
* Tissue Blades: I use one that is inflexible and one that is bendable.
* Mist Spray: This is a small mister spray that creates a light, fine mist of tap water.
* Tupperware Containers: I use a lock tight Tupperware container once I have opened a packet of clay, in order that the clay stays at its best condition. I also add general household cling film into the container and spray a light spray mist of tap water into it before closing the lid.
* Cutting Blade: I found that a craft knife, often used for card making and Sculpey Polymer Clay is useful. This must be handled with care and following health and safety precautions
* Perforating/ Point Tool: I found a perfect tool to make holes or designs in the clay.
* Texture Sheets: There are an endless array of texture sheets made out of soft rubber or clear/ opaque plastic
3) Sanding Your Designs
To finish my designs I use 4 different types of sanding tools, taking a great deal of time to remove even the smallest flaw. The sanding tools I use are:
Sponge Backed Sanding Sheets
Sanding Needles or Strips: Plastic and Metal:
4) Making Your Designs Shine:
* Polishing Wax:
This cleans and shines your work with lots of shinning.
* Agate Burnishers:
These tools use a piece of a genuine gemstone called ‘Agate’ carved in different shapes, mounted onto a wood or metal handle. These tools mean you can get a mirror shine on your work. They come in many sizes and shapes.
I have written a blog about Agate Burnishers you can read by clicking here
5) Setting Gemstones:
Gemstone Tweezers: I thought that any tweezers would be fine, but they do not grip the gemstones properly. I advise you to buy a pair, which will make your gemstones easy to handle and avoid dropping them, thus damaging them.
Bezel Settings: These are machine made cups, which are either fired in place or soldered after firing to mount gemstones, mainly cabochon cuts.
Prong Settings: These are machine made ‘settings’ that look like a crown of sorts, which are fired in place in order to mount gemstones, faceted gemstones. They are sunk into the clay, fired, cooled and then the gemstones are set with gemstone setting tools.
Bezel Wire: This is a thin, rectangular wire which is submerged into an extra layer of clay and then fired in place. Once this is done, you put the gemstone in place and rub or bend the wire over the edges with a metal or agate burnisher. This bezel wire can come in many designs and means you can set both cabochon and faceted gemstones.
Glue: Yes, this is a very controversial option of setting gemstones or components. It is very commonly used in major retailers and jewellery sellers, so do not discount it. It is a simple tool or method to mount your gemstones. I would suggest to use E6000 silicone glue as it is permanent, flexible and does not go brown or brittle.
6) Other Tools For You To Consider In The Future:
Rotary Tools: This tool can range in price from £20 GBP to £200 GBP+. I have found that there is the best/ most expensive in the market by a branded company called ‘Dremel’; however, my years of experience has taught me that even a cheap rotary tool can last and work perfectly well. Mine has, so test the tool by buying a cheap version you can afford is best to test how a rotary tool can help your work. A rotary tool can:
7) Other Types of Metal Clay to Consider:
- Silver: 925, 950 and 999
- Bronze: Classic, White and Sunny
- Goldie Bronze: This powder comes in a huge array of colours, which is hydrated with water to make clay just like the ready hydrated types, such as brands like ‘Art Clay’
- Metal Clay UK: They sell a starter kit and many other products along with amazing Customer service
- Cookson Gold:
- Metal Clays 4 You:
All artworks & designs displayed are © Copyright by Laura H Elliott BA (Hons), Dip
Buy my work online @ http://www.lhe-art.co.uk
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