Tips & Tricks > METAL CLAY TIPS & TRICKS : > TIPS : Julia Rai's Top 10 Tips

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Julia Rai's Top 10 Tips

by Julia Rai (2011)

1. If you like making hollow forms, light bulbs are great for drying domed shapes. But sometimes you may want a square, triangular or fancy shaped dome or curve. Have a fun shopping trip round your local hardware store and visit the knobs and handles section. You’ll find knobs and handles in a wide range of shapes, all to feed your imagination. You can attach these to a solid piece of wood with two part epoxy, giving you a great range of doming options.

2. Never underestimate the power of the wet finger! We often reach for the file first when we see surface cracks or uneven edges. Try using a wet finger first to smooth out cracks or small imperfections without removing material from the surface. This is particularly useful for rings or anything with a curved surface.

3. If you have rough areas where the wet finger won’t reach, use a good quality short haired paintbrush. The paintbrush should be damp, not too wet, and use the brush like a wet finger. You’re looking to dampen the surface enough to gently move the clay around and fill small cracks or smooth out small bumps.

4. Invest in a set of tiny diamond files. They can get into very small spaces and remove small imperfections where slightly more abrasion is needed.

5. One of the simplest and cheapest tools you have is a cocktail stick. The surface is rough enough to be a micro sander when you need one and can get into very small areas.

6. Always flatten your clay into a pancake before adding water. The larger the surface area you wet, the quicker the clay will absorb the water and get back to workability.

7. Use lump clay to fill dents or gaps in your work rather than paste. Generally paste is too wet to adequately fill dents and when the water evaporates, you’re still left with a dent. Using a small piece of fresh lump clay, you can spread it into and over a gap with a clay shaper, like spreading butter. This is the quickest and most efficient way of filling any dent or gap.

8. Imperfections in fired pieces can easily be covered with thick paste or fresh clay. Check your piece carefully when it is first fired and if you see an imperfection, don’t touch the area. Oil from your hands will impede the adherence of the clay you add. While it’s still white, the surface of the fired piece is receptive to fresh clay. A favourite trick of mine is to cover the whole surface with thick paste and score a pattern in it with a cocktail stick. This makes a great surface texture at any time but it’s particularly good if you find an unexpected crack or dent in an area after firing. You can add some lavender paste if you want to but I haven’t found it necessary.

9. I often find that I have small, useless bits of paper type metal clay left when I’ve cut shapes out of a sheet. These small bits make great balls. Put them onto a thick firing brick and melt them with a torch. They will go into tiny balls which you can then use to embellish your work.

10. Always use some form of magnification when you’re working. Even if you have good eyesight, magnification will allow you to see even the tiniest of surface imperfections and rectify them. A simple pair of reading glasses at the highest magnification you can find is enough. These can be bought very cheaply. I use 3.5 x magnifying reading glasses and they make all the difference.

Last updated on Fri, January 13, 2012 by Metal Clay Guru