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Archive for November, 2011

Nov
30

I’m still all aglow in the excitement of working with PMC STERLING. To me, this is the holy grail of jewelry clays. It’s affordable, it’s easy to work with, easy to fire, strong and most importantly, I’m working directly in a metal that is desirable all over the world.

According to the insert for PMC STERLING, a double firing is required to transform it from powdered to solid metal. The first firing is supposed to be on an open kiln shelf for 30 minutes at 1000F and then another 30 minute firing at 1500F buried in carbon. Since I’m lazy and since the open air firing sounded too slow, I decided to speed it up.

Skip the First Firing

I found that I can ignite the binder with a torch and skip the entire first firing, saving both time and energy. Here’s how I do it: Turn the lights down. Make a soft, bushy flame with the torch and light the greenware on fire. Watch as the flame eats through the whole piece. If you can’t tell if it’s all burned out, light it again. Then cool and embed in coconut carbon and fire at 1500F for at least 30 minutes.

Here are some more tips for working with PMC STERLING.

Co-Firing Findings & Settings

Any item of sterling silver, as long as it does not contain solder can be embedded and fired in place. If something has solder, it could fall apart or be seriously weakened during firing. Wire, laser-welded and die-struck settings can safely be fired in place. I highly recommend torch burnout if you plan to co-fire sterling silver parts to avoid heating copper in the open air. When copper is heated above 1200F for more than 30 minutes, it becomes incredibly brittle. Heating to 1000F is going to cause deep fire scale that can be avoided by not heating unprotected for so long. And though it might not be 1200F, it’s still going to weaken the metal, and that’s unacceptable for jewelry. Carbon firing, on the other hand, protects sterling silver from the combined damage of heat and oxygen.

Using Paste as Solder

PMC STERLING dust makes fabulous paste that can be used to attach greenware to greenware, sterling to greenware, or any combination of unfired, burned out, or fired clay. I add a little water to make a thick paste and then glue parts together. Prime the places that will be bonded by painting them with thinned paste. Dry and then apply the thick paste to the primed areas. This helps it stick better.

Whatever paste you don’t use, spread it thin so it’s easy to rehydrate. To rehydrate, add water a bit at a time until you reach the desired consistency.  It rehydrates beautifully over and over again.

Co-Firing Gemstones

Use my Gemstones in Metal Clay guide to find which stones are safe in carbon. If they are safe in carbon, they are most likely safe for torch burnout because the temperature is so low and it’s so quick. What damages stones is the oxygen and heat combination for long periods of time.

Make sure you get the table level when you set stones. Crooked stones have a better chance of being ejected during firing.

You’ll have to set glass after firing since it can’t handle a carbon firing.

Firing Time

30 minutes is the minimum firing time for PMC STERLING. Firing time can be extended for extra strength. Pieces that were pasted on low dome wire and fired only 30 minutes broke off when I formed it on a mandrel. After re-pasting and re-firing for 2 hours, the pieces were as good as soldered on.

Soldering

PMC STERLING is no different to solder than any other sterling silver. Use the type of solder that you are comfortable working with. Pickle and polish like any other sterling silver.

How Far Does it Go?

This photo represents everything I’ve made so far with one 25 gram package, and I still have some left. What you see in the photo is as follows, from left to right:

  1. A ring shank in 3 pieces that I broke on the way to the kiln. (tragedy!) This is what the clay looks like after burning out the binder with a torch.
  2. A cuff bracelet with blue sapphires. The sapphires elements were fired in place and bonded to low dome sterling wire. The first firing was too short and was not strong enough. Re-fired for 2 hours.
  3. Blue sapphires bonded onto sterling links. Made with leftovers.
  4. Squiggle earrings with yellow diamonds. Diamonds fired in place. Posts attached using hard paste solder.
  5. Unfired egg earrings with gypsy set yellow sapphires. I used a traditional gypsy setting technique to set these stones in the unfired clay. The dry clay is really strong. The stones snapped into their settings with a click.
  6. Unfired ring top with 1.03 carat cushion cut diamond. I’m not sure how I want the prongs yet. Shank not shown.
  7. Yellow sapphire ring (with replaced shank). I dropped this ring on the way to the kiln and had to replace the shank. The idea behind this ring was to see how strong a ring could be with a very small area where the parts join. To be sure of the strength, I fired this for 2 hours and then rounded it on a ring mandrel.

…and I still have about 5 more grams plus a bunch of dust and paste.

That’s a nice pile of jewelry out of one package of clay. It’s going a lot further because I know it’s strong so I can make pieces more delicate and thinner, and that saves a lot of material.

Stay tuned for the results of the big diamond ring firing experiment!

-Mardel

Nov
23

PMC STERLING is finally here, and I love it! I’ve had a chance to play with the clay a bit and I’m so excited about it!

Here is a summary of what I’ve noticed so far in working with PMC STERLING – Sterling Silver Jewelry Clay:

Right out of the package, PMC STERLING feels like it’s been conditioned with something to make it anti-stick because it doesn’t seem to want to stick to my fingers the way other forms of silver clay do. It’s not as squishy as PMC3 and it seems to have some rebound when I impress it. When I roll it into a ball, the clay feels almost rubbery. I can roll out fine tendrils and form curves and coils without having to add water and without the clay cracking. (Awesome!) Wet parts have more body than the other formulas, and the clay seems to have more integrity and more strength in it’s moist state. It’s also really nice to handle. I can even move small parts around with tweezers that I’ve just formed.

There was one surprise with PMC STERLING. It sticks like mad to textures. I made a couple of videos showing my first experiences with PMC STERLING so you can see what happened and how I dealt with it. Here are links to the videos: PMC STERLING -Working With PMC Sterling Clay, and Storing PMC Sterling Clay. I’ll be adding more videos as I get them done to cover firing, finishing, soldering, stone setting and other things you can do with PMC STERLING.

Our first shipment of PMC STERLING is on the way to us and it’s available right now for pre-order in our store. Pre-orders will have shipping priority when our stock arrives, so order now and be the first to work with this amazing clay.

Have a wonderful holiday and thank you for supporting what we do here at Cool Tools!

-Mardel

Nov
8

Congratulations to Valerie Valenzuela, the Random Review Winner for October! She has won a $100 Cool Tools gift certificate simply for offering us her thoughts on a product she purchased. Valerie reviewed one of our Design Stamps and gave them a 5-Star rating calling them “effective & versatile”.

Valerie was very excited and told us a little about herself:

“When I got the email that I won this months drawing I couldn’t believe it, I never win anything. I can’t wait to use my gift certificate. I started out being a sales  associate selling fine jewelry.  I was transferred to a jewelry boutique and got interested in making fine jewelry, went to school, and that is how it all began.  I am now retired and decided I wanted to do some creating and this is what I choose to do.  I enjoy working with the Art Clay and PMC and I also enjoy working with beads. Cool Tools has made it much easier with all the information I get from your website and my tool purchases.  Thank you for making this journey of my life a very enjoyable one!”

Keep reviewing products and offering us your thoughts. Your comments and reviews help other jewelry artists get a better idea of the products! Help us congratulate Valerie this month!

Nov
4

What does bread and a leather sandbag have in common? They both need to be kneaded!

Use the sandbagto deaden sound and absorb shock, and to cushion items such as when engraving, carving, and texturing metal, and to raise work off the surface of the bench.

Do not use with metal stamping tools. Always work directly on a steel bench block which is set on a firm surface for stamping.

Keep an eye out for more Tool Demo videos in our Video Library!

Nov
4

This Bench Block is a hard rubber dapping block with 6 working surfaces which offer ideal resilience when working with steel and hardwood punches, perfect for filing and other detail work.

Use below a bench block to absorb shock and deaden sound. Use as a platform for sanding, filing, finishing and even assembling metal clay works.

Makes a perfect platform for bezel setting because the rubber grips the piece and helps hold it in place.

Check out all our videos in our Video Library today!

Nov
3

Congratulations to Dianna Whitlock, our ”How Are We Doing?”  survey winner for October. Dianna completed our survey after a purchase in October and was selected in our monthly drawing.

Dianna was very excited and told us a little about herself:

“Cool!  As in, Cool Tools, is my favorite site!  I’m thrilled.  :-)     I don’t often win contests so I was very nicely surprised when I opened my email today.I’ve been making jewelry for about 10 years but recently discovered PMC.  I, like so many others, am now addicted to this medium! 

I work in the field of animal welfare, dedicating my time to the rescue and adoption of dogs and cats.  I love to incorporate dogs and cats into my PMC using artwork, stamps and molds that I’ve created myself.

We’re getting ready for the second snow storm of the season here in the foothills of Colorado.  I’m planning on spending a few of those snowy hours perusing your website looking to see what wonderful things I can use in my PMC work.”

Dianna has won a $100 Cool Tools gift certificate to use any way she prefers.

Every time you purchase a product you have an opportunity to take a survey and tell us about your experience with Cool Tools. The survey only takes a few minutes and automatically enters you into a drawing to win a $100 Cool Tools gift certificate. A winner is selected every month. Your thoughts and suggestions help us get better every day.

Help us congratulate Dianna this month and keep letting us know how we are doing!

Nov
2

Let your imagination soar with our new Feathers and Wings Jewelry Shape Templates!

Cool Tools now offers 8 feather designs in 4 sizes and 18 wing designs and shapes. With our new templates, your jewelry designs will  take flight.

Only genuine Jewelry Shape Templates have a frosted blue surface. This special surface makes it easy to find these templates on your workbench, but allows clarity for positioning.

Order your Feathers and Wings Jewelry Shape Templates today and start making amazing jewelry.