What is Metal Clay? Metal Clay is a putty or clay like medium. It is used mostly in jewellery making but can be used to make small vessels and sculptures. Metal Clay is made up of minute particles of metals - either Silver, Gold, Copper, Bronze, Stainless Steel or Platinum mixed together with an organic binder and water. Metal Clay is very user friendly and can be shaped, moulded and carved with simple tools or fingers. it can be pressed into moulds or onto textures. After it is dry, it can be fired in a variety of ways. On a gas stove top, hand held gas torch or in a kiln. The organic binder burns away during firing leaving pure fused or sintered metal. Depending on the product used, shrinkage is between 8% and 28%. This is not regarded as a disadvantage by metal clay artists who use shrinkage to produce very fine detail.
Fired Silver Metal Clay results in objects with 99.9% pure Silver. This is also known as Fine Silver which is an ideal medium for enamelling.
Gold Metal Clay is very expensive to use but the results can be spectacularly beautiful. Gold can be used to make very special solid Gold objects or in moderation as an embellishment or accent on Silver pieces.
The Clay Type or "Lump" Metal Clay version is sold in press locked, sealed packs to help maintain moisture and keep the product workable. Pre-filled syringes are available in Silver Metal Clay and also Prometheus Bronze and Copper Clay. The Metal Clay Syringe version can be extruded and used for decoration, adding gemstones or filligree. Slip or Paste and Metal Clay Paper or Sheet is also available in Silver.
Where did this amazing product originate? There are two Japanese Companies that manufacture the most popularly known Silver Metal Clays - Mitsubishi Materials Corporation and Aida Chemical Industries.. That is where the metal clay story began.
Precious Metal Clay or PMC as it is popularly known, was developed in the early 1990's in Japan by Mitsubishi. Success was first achieved with Gold and later with Silver.The Original or Standard version of PMC has to be fired in a kiln at 900C for 2 hours and has a shrinkage rate of up to 30%. Mitsubishi Materials Corporation later developed two other versions of Silver called PMC+ which can be kiln fired at 810C for 30 minutes and PMC3 which can be kiln fired at 600C for 45 minutes. Both of these products can be fired for 10-15minutes with a hand held torch or on a gas stove top. PMC+ and PMC3 have a Syringe version and a Paste or Slip version. PMC+ also comes in a Paper or Sheet type. The shrinkage rate for both PMC+ and PMC3 is between 12-15%. Mitsubishi Materials Corporation manufactures 22K Gold Lump Clay and a Gold Gilding or Paste Material called Aura 22 which is a much more economical way to embellish and highlight already fired Silver Clay items.
Art Clay Silver or ACS as it is popularly known was developed by AIDA Chemical Industries. ACS followed PMC Standard with their Art Clay Original Clay which allowed the user to fire with a hand held torch or on a gas stove top. Due to differences in the organic binder ACS shrinks less than the PMC versions at approximately 8-10%. Further developments produced the Art Clay Silver Slow Dry which has a longer working time and shortly afterwards the ACS 650 Series and ACS 650 Slow Dry followed. Both of these clays can be fired as low as 650C which allows the user to combine glass and Sterling Silver in the design. ACS Syringe Type, ACS Paste and also ACS Paper Type are available. AIDA Chemical Industries also produce ACS Oil Paste which can be used to repair or add to already fired Silver Metal Clay. They also manufacture ACS Overlay Paste which is designed for drawing designs on Glass and Porcelain. In 2006 Aida Chemical Industries introduced Art Clay Gold Paste which is a more economical way to add Gold embellishments onto fired Silver Metal Clay.
Introduction of the Base Metal Clays.
Bronze Metal Clay (BRONZclay) in lump form was introduced in the USA in 2008 by Metal Adventure Inc's Bill Struve and in 2009 Metal Adventures Inc's Copper Clay (COPPRclay) followed. These original base metal clays require a very long firing schedule to fully sinter or fuse. The base metal clay flood gates opened and AIDA Chemical Industries introduced Art Clay Copper to the market in 2009. Art Clay Copper revolutionised the base metal market with this quick fire Copper Clay that can be fired in a kiln without activated carbon for just 30 minutes.
Prometheus Bronze Lump Clay and Prometheus Bronze Syringe Type were introduced by Odak Art, Hobby & Craft Ltd in Turkey. Prometheus have just released their Copper Clay in lump and Syringe form.
Metal Clay Adventures Inc released FASTfire BRONZclay in late July 2010.
Hadar Jacobson's Hadar's Clay Powder, Metal Mania and Silver Smiths Metal Clay Powder all produce "Do It Yourself" Base Metal Clays in powder form. The user adds water to obtain the desired consistency.
The Base Metal Clays - Bronze, Copper and Steel are best fired in the absence of oxygen. This is to eliminate the oxidisation of Copper by atmospheric oxygen. Bill Struve of Metal Clay Adventures Inc discovered and developed the simple measure of placing dried base Metal Clays into a container filled with Activated Carbon before kiln firing. Bill's discovery really opened up the possibilities with the base metal clays. Odak Art, Hobby & Craft Ltd in Turkey have discovered their own successful method of wrapping dried base metal clays in paper towel and ceramic blanket to eliminate oxidisation.
It can be argued that the base metal clays should only be fired in a kiln for full strength and sintering/fusing. However Art Clay Copper have had success with Gas Torch Firing their Copper Clay as have Odak Art, Hobby and Craft Ltd with their Prometheus Bronze Clay. It is necessary to use a warm "pickle" solution to remove the oxidisation residue from pieces fired in this way.
I encourage you to experiment and try working with some or all of the Metal Clays. The discovery of metal Clay has revolutionised the skill of jewellery making around the world. Artists and aspiring jewellery hobbyists are no longer restricted by the long, involved learning curve and enormous monetary investment, if they aspire to be creative with precious metals.
Let the fun begin! Purchase Metal Clay Supplies