Category Archives: Tool Reviews

Previewing Art Clay 950

A couple of weeks ago LJS received a parcel from Metal Clay Ltd with a preview packet of the not yet available to buy Art Clay 950. Metal clay tutor Anna Campbell was very excited to have a go with it!

 

Art Clay 950 is a new formula of clay that is also being called sterling silver clay. I have written more here about what Art Clay 950 is in a previous blog post so do have a look back at this before reading the results of my testing.

With the preview packet we received I wanted to test out the following features of the clay and compare them to original Art Clay

  • Strength – both in the dry form and once fired
  • Ability to carve the clay in the dry form stage
  • Shrinkage (particularly important for rings)
  • Setting a fireable stone
  • Enamelling

I was able to make three projects with the clay:

 

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Ring shank with holes

I wouldn’t even try this in original Art Clay! I wanted to test the shrinkage and strength when I hammer it around once fired. It was 5 cards thick before firing.

 

Results

This shows why it is important to do a test of your kiln before you start firing a new clay. My ring shank broke very easily suggesting that my kiln is underfiring (is firing at a lower temperature than it says it is). It should have been strong enough to hammer around into a ring band.

When trying out a new clay for the first time I suggest you make one or two test strips of the clay that are 5 cards thick and about 6cm long. Fire them to the manufacturer’s guidelines and test them carefully when they come out of the kiln. Can you bend them without breaking? If they break it suggests that there may be a problem with your kiln firing and you might need to adjust your temperatures or length of firing. If that is the case I suggest contacted the clay manufacturer for advice.

 

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Ring

With the ring I wanted to test the shrinkage, ability to set a fireable stone and carving.

I made the ring and dried it. I made a paste with 950 and tap water and was easily able to stick the dried set stone to the dried ring. Carving was a dream! I really love that having tried to carve original Art Clay and found it was easy to break it!

 

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Finished stone set ring

Results

The piece fired well with very little warping. The stone did change colour but this does sometimes happen with cubic zirconia stones in the blue colours. I was advised to re-fire the piece in carbon as this sometimes changes the stone back to the original colour but did not in this case.

I am really pleased with this ring. I will be using this clay for all my rings in the future because it is so much stronger than the fine silver of the original Art Clay.

 

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Enamelled pendant

I used a Quick Art template and the Quick Art stylus from Metal Clay to make this pendant.

I rolled the stencilled section out at 3 cards thick. It was easy to cut out the stencil using the stylus which has a really fine tip. My previous needle tool made that quite difficult because the needle was thick so it was difficult to get a neat line.

I dried and filed the stencilled section. I then added it to a 2 card thick layer of wet clay. Once dried I cleaned the edges with baby wipes to ensure no join was visible.

 

Results

The piece had bowed slightly after firing, nothing that I was not expecting.

 

Enamelling

Original Art Clay is excellent for enamelling because it is fine silver and therefore does not require depletion guilding to counteract the effect of the copper. I was interested to see how different this would be to enamel.

I went about enamelling this piece in the same way as I would enamel fine silver (by this I mean I did no depletion guilding).

I cleaned the metal with pumice and dried it carefully. I used the wet packing technique to fill the cells that I had created with opaque enamels. I had already tested my chosen enamel colours on scrap silver to ensure the colours would work well.

I did two firings of the enamelling for about 1 minute 30 seconds each time. On the second firing I added more blue and red enamel as the cells didn’t look quite full.

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Coming out of the kiln the piece looked like this. There were some brown spots and some enamel on the silver (next to the top left blue cell)

I used a medium diagrit (a diamond impregnated mesh that is used like sandpaper to remove excess enamel from metal surfaces) and was easily able to clean the marks off the silver.  I then used a fine diagrit, wet and dry papers and 3M polishing papers to finish the piece.

I’m really pleased with the result. It was much better than I expected as I had expected to see more of an effect because I didn’t depletion guild.

 

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Finished Enamelled Pendant using Art Clay 950 by Anna Campbell

Conclusions

I am very impressed with this clay. I certainly plan to use it for my own pieces because of the strength, ability to hallmark as 925 sterling silver (which is popular with customers) and the price.

At LJS we have been discussing whether to create a class in Art Clay 950. I certainly think that an intermediate class would be popular and different from our current classes but the long kiln firing makes it difficult to fit this into our usual one day class format. We will certainly let you know if/when we launch an Art Clay 950 class and would love to hear from you about what you would like to learn to make with it. Please let us know in the comments below.

Art Clay 950 is available to buy now from Metal Clay Ltd and currently you also receive 10% extra free!

I’d like to thank Metal Clay for the opportunity to test out this clay before general release.

 

Come along for a demonstration

I will be demonstrating Art Clay 950 and showing all the samples of pieces I have made at the free Studio Warming at London Jewellery School in our new studios on 29th September 2016 from 6.30pm. There will also be demos of water casting and stacking rings.

RSVP by 20th September to info@londonjewelleryschool.co.uk

 

Studio address: London Jewellery School, Rear Ground Floor Studios, NEW HOUSE, 67-68 Hatton Garden, London EC1N 8JY.

I’d love to see you there and chat to you about this new clay!

Author: Anna Campbell

LJG Guest Blogger - Anna Campbell of Campbell Hall Designs

 

Introducing Art Clay 950

We are very excited to announce that Art Clay are releasing a new sterling silver clay Art Clay 950 on 1st September! Metal clay tutor, Anna Campbell, gives you the low down.

london-jewellery-school-blog-sterling-silver-art-clay-950-ACS950_50g_Bonus_pack_CG__38878.1469094458.800.800

 

What is it?

This is a new product from Art Clay, one of the two main suppliers of silver clay in the world.  Silver clay is made up of fine silver particles, an organic binder and water. Art Clay 950 is 95% silver and 5% copper. The original Art Clay (the one we use in class) is a purer silver, 99% silver and 1% copper.

 

What are the benefits?

 

1. Strength

You might be thinking, well the original Art Clay is a purer silver so isn’t that better? The answer, of course, is it depends on what you want! Art Clay 950 is 60% stronger than original Art Clay because of the copper content. This means it is more suitable for making rings, bracelets etc and other items that might suffer more wear and tear.

 

2. Hallmarking

In the UK silver up to 958 purity is hallmarked as sterling silver (925). Silver purity over 958 is considered Britannia silver (958), and over 990 is hallmarked as fine silver (999).

Sterling silver is recognised by UK consumers more than Britannia and fine silver and so for those of you hallmarking and selling your work this is a big plus.

 

3. Pre-mixed

Many of the clays on the market need to be mixed and kneaded before you can start work but this is pre-mixed, smooth and ready to use out of the packet (just like the original Art Clay).

 

4. Cost

At the time of writing, Art Clay 950 is slightly cheaper than original Art Clay.

 

Other considerations

 

1. Firing

The one downside for the hobby silver clay jeweller is that this clay does need to be kiln fired. This is the same with any of the sterling silver clays I have seen on the market. However, on the plus side this does not need to be done in carbon and if you have a programmable kiln this is easy to set up.

 

2. The firing schedule

  1. Once your piece is completely dry put it on a kiln shelf, in a cool kiln
  2. Heat up to 500C and hold for 30 minutes (this first step burns off the binder)
  3. Heat up to 850C and hold for 60 minutes (this final firing sinters the metal particles)

 

The kiln can heat up at full speed, and doesn’t need to cool off between the two stages. Avoid moving the piece after the first firing step as it will be fragile before sintering.

 

3. Using the clay

I haven’t yet had the opportunity to try it out and will report back on the blog when I do. However, I have heard from those who have used it that it has a longer drying time. This could be an advantage as we often want a little more time before our clay starts to dry out! For those who are interested in more information have a look at this clear and interesting blog post on 950 by Henriëtte van Battum

 

4. Where can I buy it?

Metal Clay Ltd currently have a pre-order available on their website of 25g and 50g packs, including 10% extra free. The clay is due to be shipped on 1st September 2016. We hope also to sell it in our pop up shop after the launch (which is open 7 days a week).

 

Art Clay 950 class at LJS

I am looking at creating an Art Clay 950 class that uses the clay to its advantages e.g. in making a ring. The class would not be for beginners but for intermediate and advanced metal clay makers. The challenges are the longer drying time and longer firing time meaning that it might be difficult to fit the class into our normal one day schedule. If you are interested in attending a class in Art Clay 950 please let us know via the comments below.

 

Author: Anna Campbell

LJG Guest Blogger - Anna Campbell of Campbell Hall Designs

Tool Time – Barrel Polishers

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For the next post in our series about great workshop tools to add to your collection we are going to be talking about Barrel Polishers (also called Tumblers)!

When you first start to make silver Jewellery you will probably polish by hand using sand paper of varying grits to get a nice smooth finish on your piece, and a liquid metal polish such as Glanol which comes as part of our fab new polishing and finishing kit.  This process can take quite a while to do by hand, and we have no doubt that soon you will be looking for a tool to speed up your polishing and finishing time.

There are a few options in terms of polishing machines you will want to consider such as a pendant motor, micromotor or even a bench polisher, but one of the most common polishing tools that are purchased first for a new workshop is the Barrel Polisher (also known as a Tumble Polisher).  So what does it do?

A barrel polisher allows you to quickly and economically polish small quantities of Jewellery and Jewellery findings and components at the same time.  You place your Jewellery in the vaned container or ‘barrel’.  And depending on the finish you want you either add steel shot and a teaspoon of polishing compound such as BarrelBrite and just enough water to cover everything and have approximately 1cm of water above the steel shot; or cutting powder, ceramic cones and water for a matt finish.

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Shot and Barrelbrite in the barrel.

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Jewellery ready for polishing, plus enough water to cover the shot added.

You seal up the barrel so it is watertight as per the manufacturer’s instructions and place onto the rotating motor.  Typically the motor just plugs in at the wall and starts as soon as you turn on the switch at the socket.

Make sure that your barrel is not wet at all or it might not turn properly and don’t touch your barrel with wet hands when it is on.

Ideally tumble your pieces for as long as possible – I always aim to tumble my pieces for at least four hours but I often check them every hour to see how they are looking.  Please note it is best to open and drain your tumbler over a large plastic bowl or container so that you don’t lose all your shot and have to spend ages picking it up.

I normally tend to tumble either smaller pieces or larger pieces together as mixing them can cause damage to the smaller pieces.

Pros:

The biggest benefit of barrel polishing your pieces is that you can polish multiple pieces at once – you can have your work polishing in the background whilst you do other things so it is a real time saver!

One of the key benefits of tumbling your Jewellery and findings is that the steel shot gently work hardens the outer layer your pieces which is essential for things like ear pins and ear wires.  I normally still gently hammer or twist my findings in addition to tumbling so that I am 100% sure they are hard and robust but the tumbler hardens them a little too and makes them lovely and shiny.

Cons:

It is important that you bear in mind that for very smooth surfaces the little pins in the steel shot mix can occasionally leave little dents in your pieces.  For this reason you may prefer to remove the pins from the shot if you are polishing pieces with no texture, or chose another means of polishing your piece.

For intricate pieces you might find that the pins don’t quite get into all the nooks and crannies so you may need to either finish your pieces by hand, or look at investing in a pendant or micro motor.

If you intend to use different compounds to enable to you finish your pieces to a matt or polished finish I recommend having different barrels for different compounds so that you don’t get any contamination.  I have two barrels – one for getting a matt finish and one for getting a polished finish.

Barrel polishing won’t unfortunately remove any scratches so you still need to spend the time removing scratches beforehand using your files and your emery papers.

I wouldn’t recommend tumbling pieces with stones set or beads already set as there is a risk that the steel could crack the stones.

Finally please use stainless steel shot!  It is a bit more expensive to buy (do shop around) but it more rust resistant and so will save you money in the longer term!

Which one to buy?

There are a number of tumblers on the market that vary quite substantially in price.  The best piece of advice I can give you is to buy the best tool you can afford at the time.

I initially bought the Metal Barreling Starter Kit With 3lb Machine from Cookson Gold with the plastic barrel and lid.  However I found it was prone to leaking and you do have to heat the lid with warm water before use otherwise it was impossible to get the lid on without cracking it.  You can get replacement barrels, lids and belts for this machine.

Basic Barrel Polisher-CooksonGold

Metal Barreling Starter Kit With 3lb Machine from Cookson Gold

After about a year I upgraded my tumbler to one of the rubber ones.  I upgraded to the Cookson Gold Gold Pro one and I love it!   It comes in 2lb or 3lb sizes and you can buy the tumbler on its own or as part of a starter kit.  I have since purchased a second barrel to use with cutting powder and ceramic cones so that it is more versatile.  It is a great option for a good workhorse at a reasonable price.  FYI – I don’t tend to keep my shot and water in the rubber barrel – I transfer it between uses into a large jam jar.

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Gold Pro Barrel Polisher by Cookson Gold

If you will be using your tumbler round the clock however, you may want to consider one of the semi-professional machines from Evans or Lortone or a Rotabarrel for the serious workshop!

Barrel Polisher

Author: Karen Young

 London Jewellery School Blog_Karen Young Bio

Metal clay tool – the humble baby wipe!

Copy of start your own jewellery business (1)

In today’s Blog, metal clay artist and tutor Anna Campbell outlines the many uses for baby wipes as a tool when creating metal clay jewellery!


One of the great things about metal clay is that you don’t tend to need expensive tools to get started, so for this tool review I decided I wanted to choose something people might not have thought to use. UK metal clay artist Joy Funnell was the person that first got me into the idea of using baby wipes for working with metal clay. Baby wipes are inexpensive and easy to get hold of in shops and supermarkets (for environmental reasons, I do recommend you buy biodegradable wipes).

You might be surprised at how versatile they are!

London Jewellery School Blog_Baby-wipes-for-metal-clay_Tool-reviewBiodegradable Baby Wipes

So how can the humble baby wipe be used with Metal Clay?

1. Keeping your clay moist

When you’re working with clay and have some lump clay out of the packet it is always best to wrap that lump clay up before continuing in order to keep it nice and fresh. However, you don’t always want to be wrapping it up and opening it, wrapping it up and opening it etc. So, put the clay onto a plastic mat and drape a baby wipe on top. This keeps it nice and moist.

When I’ve finished working with the clay and have some left I’ll wrap it up tightly in clingfilm and put a moist baby wipe around the clingfilm and then put this into a tupperware box.

2. Filing and smoothing your dry clay

Once your clay is completely dry you will want to file and smooth out the edges. Often we do this with sanding pads but a baby wipe is perfect for this as it helps to round off edges neatly and to get a nice smooth finish before polishing. You can do this just by wrapping the wipe around your finger to smooth the clay or, alternatively, wrap a tool in the baby wipe. I often use a cocktail stick to get a fine point.

London Jewellery School Blog_Tool Review_Smoothing Metal Clay with a Babywipe

Source: Metal Clay Today

3. Manipulating dry clay

If you have dry clay but want to change the shape, wrap it in a baby wipe for 15 minutes. When you unwrap it you should find that the clay is malleable. I use this technique for manipulating bails to ensure they are the correct size (with thanks to Tracey Spurgin for this tip).

Do you have any metal clay tips and tools to share? We’d love to hear them in the comments below or via our instagram, twitter or facebook pages.

Author: Anna Campbell

LJG Guest Blogger - Anna Campbell of Campbell Hall Designs