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By feebs-ks, Aug 14 2016 06:41PM

I was delighted to come back from holiday to find a packet of the new Art Clay 950 to test from Metalclay.co.uk. The new clay has a stronger bending strength than Art Clay Silver as it has 90% silver and copper particles with the binder. This means that the clay is great for certain pieces of jewellery that require extra strength and is a bit more scratch resistant.

Wet stage…

When the clay first comes out of the packet, it looks slightly darker than the fine silver version. It came out of the packet easily and was perhaps slightly firmer that I am used to. With a few rolls and ‘squidges’ the clay was the perfect consistency.

I use olive oil as a lubricant when I work with clay and found that this worked just as well with the new clay. I tried the clay in a mould made from two part silicone moulding compound. The clay came out of the mould really cleanly – I tried one mould with olive oil and one without and the clay came out of both equally as easily.

I rolled the clay to four cards thick and then used a texture roller on three cards for a simple pendant shape. I felt that the ArtClay 950 took the texture exceptionally well. Cutting out shapes with a needle tool was also very clean.

I made a ring out of a textured strip and then placed a decorative element on top. The ring began six sizes larger than I wanted because I was expecting it to shrink quite alot. The clay mixed to a paste very easily and stuck the two pieces together well. I added a fireable stone to the centre of my ring to find out whether that would be affected in any way.

Dry stage…

I used a sanding sponge to refine my pendant and found that the sponge needed very slightly more pressure than with fine silver – this is consistent with the fact that it will end up being a harder material. Drilling a hole for an ear wire was very easy – and felt no different. I needed to remember to make the hole a little larger than usual as the shrinkage is higher.

Firing and Post firing…

I used the firing schedule recommended – that is ramp to 500°C followed by 850°C for 60 minutes. I then let the kiln cool down completely before taking the pieces out. I had made a test strip to make sure that the items were sintered so I checked this first. The colour of the fired clay was less white – more a sort of putty grey. The clay had sintered and was hard. Brushing was easy and quick.

My pendant started life as 3.3cm long by 0.8cm at its widest point – it shrunk by about 10% I think.

When the pendant came out of the kiln, it had arched more than I wanted it to – so I bent it gently into shape and gave it a gentle tap with a hammer. I decided I liked it slightly arched though so I left it like that. I can tell that the clay is a bit stronger than fine silver by feeling the resistance.

The ring had shrunk about 6-7 sizes in the kiln – the stone, a purple cubic zirconia had not altered in the firing. I used Liver of Sulphur and this took well. I decided to add some keum boo gold foil and this adhered well with lots of burnishing on a hot plate. Polishing papers worked well too.

Reconstituting the clay…

I was very pleased with how well the clay reconstituted. I chopped up the dry clay with my tissue blade rather than use my coffee grinder – I wanted to see whether the clay would still soak up the water as well. The clay was back to being perfectly workable in about half an hour after spritzing, mixing and rolling in cling film a few times. I was impressed with this.

Torch firing…

Although neither AIDA nor Metalclay.co.uk recommend torch firing of the new clay, I thought I would have a go to see what happened! I fired a small stud earring element and then soldering it onto an earpost.

I gave the earring 5 minutes under the torch and was genuinely surprised that it seemed to sinter so well. Soldering was also hassle free – how exciting! I have not as yet tried anything larger under the torch.

Overall, this is a great addition to the range and is available from metalclay.co.uk for pre-order now.

Fiona Ingram


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