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Torch Firing Silver Clay
by Mary Ellin D'Agostino
You can use the mini butane torch to fire your own Silver Clay pieces including PMC+, PMC3, Art Clay Silver, or Art Clay 650. Read and follow all directions for the torch.
- You can fire PMC+, PMC3, or Art Clay Silver work pieces.
- You can fire pieces with CZs and Lab Grown Gemstones with the torch.
- Torch firing is not recommended for large hollow forms with cork clay or other flammable cores.
- You SHOULD NOT fire pieces with any type of glass in them (the glass will break).
- You SHOULD NOT fire pieces made of Standard PMC (unless you want to hold the torch on it for 2 hours).
Take out the soldering block and place it on a NON-FLAMABLE SURFACE. If your counter top or table is flammable (most are), place an upside down cookie sheet, pan, or baking dish between the counter and the soldering block.
Place your thoroughly dried Silver Clay project on the soldering block.
It is best to do the firing in a slightly darkened area with good ventilation. Some smoke will be produced during firing. If the object being fired has a flammable core or is a painted leaf, more smoke will be created and could set off any fire alarms!
Fill the torch with the butane provided and light it. Set the flame to the middle of its range and aim it at the Silver Clay object. Move the flame over the piece, holding the torch an inch or two away from the item being fired. It is very important to keep the flame moving so that the object is heated evenly. If you can see it, keep the blue cone about an inch away from the object. As the piece heats up, some smoke will be released.
The piece will begin to glow orange (most visible in a darkened area away from the window or lamp); at this stage keep the flame playing over the item for 2-5 minutes. Larger pieces must be fired longer (5 minutes). Very large pieces should be fired in a kiln.
If your piece never becomes orange, it is too big or has too much surface area to be fired with a mini-torch.
DO NOT OVERFIRE the piece. If you see the silver turning shiny, you need to hold the torch further away from the piece and move it around more. Ideally, the Silver Clay will just reach the fusing point of the silver particles and the surface will have a white matte finish. If the silver has a shiny surface, the surface has reached the melting point. This often results in small holes in the work piece. If you heat it even more, the work piece will fold in on itself and eventually ball up. If you want to, you can practice on a small piece of rolled out dried clay to get a feel for the proper firing and melting technique.
DO NOT use jeweler’s or other very hot torches because it is easy to melt the Silver Clay work piece. The mini butane torch is hot enough and easier to control, as well as being small and easy to handle. Refill butane cartridges are available in most hardware stores.
After firing, turn the torch off and allow the piece to cool. If there are no gem or other stones in the piece, you can quench it in cold water.
After cooling, you see that the fired silver has a matte white finish. This is the natural color of the fired silver. To get a silvery polish, brush the piece lightly with the stainless steel brush. This will give you a brushed surface. Follow the brushing with burnishing—press and rub (or polish) the areas you want to be shiny with the burnisher. This will harden the silver as well as polishing it. You can also use metal polish to achieve the desired look. Note that leaves and hollow forms are often not strong enough to withstand burnishing because they are very thin. Very thin or fragile pieces are often better left with a brushed finish. You can combine all three finishes (matte, brushed, and burnished) in one piece as part of the design.
Last updated on Thu, September 17, 2009 by Metal Clay Guru