Tips & Tricks > METAL CLAY TIPS & TRICKS : > TIPS : Hattie Sanderson's Top 25 Metal Clay Tips & Tricks

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Hattie Sanderson's Top 25 Metal Clay Tips & Tricks

by Hattie Sanderson


Easily create beautiful matching jewelry sets.
Use repeatable jewelry components with HattieS® Texture Mats (#52108 pictured.) Choose three of the shapes to create several metal clay textured components. Use the different shapes over and over in various ways to create a matching jewelry set. Here are some ideas. Form metal clay over a dome armature, wrap metal clay around a straw to create a bail, paste a fine silver bezel cup to the metal clay for setting a stone, use metal clay component as a ring top, join several components with jump rings to create a bracelet, paste components together or string metal clay components together with your favorite beads. Before you know it, you will have a fabulous matching set of jewelry!

Make a custom logo stamp to mark your work. Design a logo and make a small photo polymer plate of your design. Press a slab of metal clay into the photo polymer logo texture. Fire the metal clay and then use 2 part epoxy to attach the metal clay logo to a dowel or decorative handle.

If you can’t get rid of the seam in metal clay when kneading 2 or more lumps together, press the seam into a “large flowers” brass texture plate. Repeat as needed and the seam will disappear. (Brass Plate #50150)

Create perfect holes in your already fired metal clay creations by using the Lilly Punch. It punches through fired metal clay, sterling, etc. like butter and allows for precision hole placement!

Get more working time out of your metal clay. Keep a fine mist spray bottle of distilled water at your work bench. Give the metal clay a spritz of water as needed and let it soak into the clay for 30-60 seconds.

HattieS® Mold Compound (#50972) is great for making flexible detailed molds of antique buttons and other treasures. You can also use it in other ways. Form HattieS® Mold Compound by hand into a freeform shape that can be used as an armature for forming dimensional or wavy slabs of metal clay. Form mold compound to the inside of a wine glass or other object to create a dome armature, etc.

Fine silver wire makes an excellent armature when creating delicate “finger-like” protrusions in your design. Build up paste or lump metal clay over fine silver wire to create the desired look.

Inexpensively add 24k gold accents. Gold is very expensive! Quickly and easily add 24k gold accents to your metal clay designs using the Gold Pen Plater for just pennies!

Use inexpensive children’s washable markers to draw on leather hard or bone dry metal clay when marking drill holes, center lines, carving lines, etc. They are also great for making “tick” marks on your non-porous work surface to keep track of layers when building up paste on leaves or other armatures.

Don’t fully fire your metal clay??? Sometimes you will find that it is best to fire one or more delicate components of silver clay during the creation process. You do not need to fully fire the metal clay at this point. Fire the piece with a butane torch until the binder burns off and the metal clay shrinks. Then continue working. When the entire metal clay creation is completed, fully fire the piece as one unit.

No more dried out clay! Use a ClaySafe™ to conveniently store metal clay and keep it moist during a work session. Use a larger ClayVault™ with included water crystal for long term storage of metal clay.

Create a one of a kind pendant with smaller matching identical earrings. Make a master design out of polymer clay and bake it according to the package directions. Make a mold of the polymer clay master using HattieS® Mold Compound. Press a slab of low shrink metal clay such as PMC3 or Art Clay 650 into the mold and fire it as usual to create the pendant. Press a slab of PMC Standard (30% shrink) into the mold to create an earring. Repeat for the second earring. Fire the earrings. See images below.

To perfectly center a circle within a circle on slab of silver clay, place it over the center of a HattieS® Drying Mat. Center a circle template over the center gridlines of the drying mat and cut out the small circle in the center of the slab using a needle tool. You should see the center lines of the drying mat lined up perfectly in the center of the cut out circle (if not, carefully reposition the slab so that it is perfectly centered over the grid lines.) Center a large circle template over the grid lines and cut out the outer circle using a needle tool.

Easily remove hollow form cores. When using a removable core (such as a pebble) for creating hollow metal clay forms it can be difficult to remove the metal clay from the pebble. Dip the pebble in warm wax 2-3 times to coat it. Then form the metal clay over the pebble/wax. When the metal clay is dry, use a sharp blade to cut the metal clay in half. Place the piece on a paper towel and gently heat the entire piece with a hair dryer. The wax will melt into the paper towel and the metal clay halves will be easily be removed from the pebble core. Use paste to rejoin the 2 metal clay halves before firing.

When creating a large armature out of wood clay it is best to make the armature hollow. This not only saves money, it lessens the smoke that is produced by the wood clay during firing. To do this, form the wood clay armature around a core of raw polymer clay. Leave an opening in the wood clay. When the wood clay is dry, remove the raw polymer clay center with a needle tool. Cover the opening by blending a flat slab of wood clay into the dry wood clay. Use a little white glue if needed to adhere the fresh wood clay to the dry wood clay.

Make small bone dry embellishments out of metal clay. These “creative components” can be stored indefinitely. Paste them to your metal clay creations to add just the right creative touch. Create your own designs or press metal clay into ClayMolds™.

Make complex metal clay rings the easy way. Create the ring 2 sizes larger than the desired finished size to allow for shrinkage using low fire metal clay. Roll out a slab of metal clay and trim it on HattieS® Ring Shank Guide. The measuring has been done for you. Form the ring on a MultiMandrel™ with a full 1.5” of creation area per size. Place a HattieS® Pattie™ inside the ring in the desired finished ring size and fire. The metal clay will shrink tightly to the pattie resulting in a perfectly sized ring.

Make your gold clay go farther! Roll out gold metal clay so that it is paper thin. Texture, dry and fire. Then attach the gold element to a slab of thicker silver metal clay using paste. Incorporate some silver clay elements around the edges of the gold piece to capture it during firing. The less expensive, thicker slab of silver clay will support the gold clay.

Test your stones! If you are not sure a stone will hold up to firing, fire it alone first encased in fiber blanket. If the stone melts, breaks or explodes the fiber blanket will protect the walls of your kiln.  You can also buy from a company that provides a stone colorfast chart.

Create wonderful custom magnetic focal clasps using HattieS® Maglettes™. Think about clasp designs that have gemstones, gold accents, holes for beading and more. There are several different sizes of super strong magnets to choose from when designing your clasp.

Use an every day object as an armature to drape and shape a slab of metal clay to create very interesting shapes and hollow forms. If the armature object is porous, protect it with a layer of thin plastic wrap. When the metal clay has dried, it will peel away from the plastic wrap very easily.

This is a cool tool tip when traveling. A battery operated rotary fingernail file/buffer will hold sanding and finishing mandrels that are made for your Flexshaft® or Dremel® tool. This is a convenient and inexpensive tool to use when traveling or in a workshop.

When your rotary tumbler won’t turn on the rollers because it seems to have lost its grip, run the rubber barrel under warm running water for a few moments and then wipe it dry with a clean towel using a brisk rubbing motion. The barrel should now rotate on the rollers with renewed grip.

Protect your fingers from heat & grime when using a flex shaft on fired metal clay. Wrap each finger with a self adhesive bandage wrap available in the Band-Aid section. The wrap is flexible and has a good grip. (This product is also known as “vet wrap” and comes in several colors at your local animal/vet supply store.)

Prevent shot from getting inside of beads when tumbling. Always thread a piece of chenille stem (pipe cleaner) through the holes. If you forget to use the chenille stem, there is still hope of getting the shot out of the center of the bead! Tumble the bead by itself (no shot or liquid) for 10 minutes. The shot should free itself from the bead. Repeat at 10 minutes intervals as needed until all of the shot is removed.

Many more hints, tips and techniques can be found on HattieS® Contemporary Metal Clay DVD series. These DVD’s are top recommended educational tools for metal clay enthusiasts around the world.

Last updated on Fri, October 23, 2009 by Metal Clay Guru