Thursday, October 2, 2008

Working with Bronzclay

I was so excited back in July when I heard a new precious metal clay was about to come on the market. Precious Metal Silver Clay is a lot of fun to work with but the cost of silver clay will make anyone hesitate before undertaking a large, complicated project.

Bronzclay is composed of 11% tin, 89% copper, water and non-toxic binding materials. Bronzclay pieces can be molded, carved and then placed in a kiln where the binders burn off, leaving a piece that is composed of casted bronze, a process similar to silver clay. The difference in price though is extreme. This summer the average price for 10 grams of silver clay was $20, but currently I can by 100 grams of Bronzclay for $20. At $0.20 a gram, I have been experimenting a lot more with Bronzclay.

There is another large difference between Bronzclay and silver clay. This main difference is the method to fire the material. With Silver Clay a beginner could utilize a torch to fire their jewelry pieces but Bronzclay requires a kiln. The Bronzclay must be fired at such a high temperature and at such a long period of time (think 5 hours) that torch firing would be impossible. A kiln is not the only other piece of equipment that is required, a stainless steel container and activated carbon is also necessary. While sliver has to be fired in environment with oxygen, Bronzclay requires the opposite. No oxygen can be introduced to the Bronzclay during the firing process and this is why it must be buried in a layer of activated carbon.

So about three weeks ago, I am in my basement playing mad scientist. I got the kiln, the Bronzclay, the activated carbon and the Bronzclay directions in my hand. I follow the firing directions that came with the clay to the letter. So after about 5 hours of waiting I rushed to my kiln and after carefully extracting my pieces out I found them to covered in raised bumps. So a word to the wise do not follow the directions that come with the clay. These temperature are too hot and will simply cause the piece to blister.
Cooltools has a learning section on their website that has been super helpful when it comes to figuring out firing times for jewelry pieces of different thickness.

I am currently working on a King Arthur Pendant and a Koi Fish Pendant. One of the aspects of Bronzclay I do like is the ability to easily carve into the dried clay. I am carving some cool scales onto my Koi Fish Pendant. But above is a picture of my first successful bronzclay piece, my Pirate Ship Pendant.

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