Sunday, 12 March 2017

What do I need to get started with silver clay?

I've been asked a few times in the last couple of weeks about the tools a beginner needs to start working with silver clay so I thought I would write a blog post about it!
Silver clay is a fantastic material that you can use to make silver jewellery from home. The clay itself is made from silver particles, an organic binder and water. You can roll and shape your clay into your design, dry it and then fire it with a butane torch (a creme brule torch will do!).

One of the things I love about silver clay is that you don't need a lot of space or expensive equipment to get started. Here are the basics that you will need.

Some of these items you will already have at home. For everything else I would recommend checking Metal Clay Ltd who specialise in tools and equipment for working with metal clay 

  1. Silver clay. There are two main brands - Art Clay and PMC3 and you use them in the same way so it doesn't matter which you choose. 
  2. Laminated mat or glass tile. This is to roll your clay onto. You need something smooth and without a texture
  3. Acrylic or glass roller. To roll out your clay. A wooden one isn't a good choice because it can stick to the clay
  4. Badger balm or olive oil. We use a little oil to grease the surface of the mat or texture to stop the clay from sticking. NB. Don't use vaseline as it is petroleum based and this damages the binder in the clay
  5. Playing cards. We use playing cards to ensure that when we are rolling out the clay we do so to an even thickness. You place 4 playing cards either side of the clay and roll your clay out and this ensures that the clay is an even thickness
  6. Texture plates, rubber mats or wallpaper. The clay takes textures really well and one of the real benefits of working with metal clay over sheet silver. You can use many things as a texture - you can buy rubber or plastic textured mats or use textured papers like wallpapers
  7. Small cookie cutters - traditional cookie cutters tend to be too large but cutters designed for sugarcraft/cake making are ideal
  8. Straight tissue blade - useful for cutting your own shapes
  9. Rubber clay shaping tool - you can get rubber tools from art supply shops, they are also used by oil painters. We use these with the clay to shape and fill in cracks
  10. Sanding pads. These are used to clean up the edges of the dry clay before firing.
  11. Butane torch. When your clay is dry it needs to be fired with a butane torch. You can buy one from jewellery suppliers or can use a creme brule torch
  12. Firing fibre brick. This is heat proof and you put your dried clay onto this to fire it
  13. Brass brush. Used to brush the piece once it has been fired and cooled (use water and liquid soap)
  14. Polishing papers/sunshine polishing cloth. To get your piece looking lovely and shiny I recommend the sunshine polishing cloth which is really quick and effective for polishing by hand
 I do suggest that you take a beginners class to learn how to use the clay effectively and particularly to learn how to fire the clay safely. 
You may also be tempted to try one of the base metal clays (copper or bronze) because they are cheaper than silver but these are harder to fire effectively so it is always best to start with silver clay. 
What are your favourite tools for working with silver clay? Let me know in the comments below.


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