Creativity « Cool Tools Blog – Metal Clay Jewelry Making Tips and Trends
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Archive for the ‘Creativity’ Category

Feb
1

Introducing the 2013 Cool Tools Catalog featuring beautiful products in an 85 page spread!

Order today and get one FREE.

Our new full-color catalog features stunning product photos, breathtaking jewelry, and easy-to-use charts and layouts.

Now you can browse your favorite Cool Tools Brand products anywhere, anytime.

Simply add the catalog to your cart with the rest of your order.

Order from Cool Tools today and receive a FREE catalog to help you take your jewelry designs to the next level.

Jan
4

An incredible new array of Jewel Stamps has just arrived featuring intricate new designs for amazing impressions with breathtaking results.

Our new design sheets feature stamps perfect for a variety of jewelry applications. Create centerpieces, pendants, links, and connectors with a simple touch of a Cool Tools Jewel Stamp.

Jewel Stamps are crystal clear, designer images made for creating in jewelry clays of all kinds. Impress beautifully designed, laser sharp images in metal clay, polymer clay, porcelain, and other soft clays.

Jewel Stamps are made of a durable, flexible, washable polymer for years of use when handled properly. Each 4″ x 6″ Jewel Stamp set is crammed with five designs and 3 sizes. Create keep-sake jewelry with customizable designs with ease.

Shop our impressive new selection of Jewel Stamps today to add stunning images to your jewelry quickly and easily.

Nov
19

The holidays are a perfect time to bring your unique custom designs into your home. Saving money and creating one-of-a-kind pieces are great ways to celebrate the seasons.

Create multiple ornaments in several finishes. Mix and match designs and colors to customize your creations. Make ornaments from silver, bronze, and copper clays.

Using a Cool Tools Jewelry Artist Element sheet, and few simple techniques, we’ll show you how to create simple ornaments that can be used in many ways throughout your home.

Video Project: Creating Simple Ornaments

Nov
12

Celebrate the seasons with our impressive new collection of embossed Jewelry Artist Element design sheets.

Our new selection features Autumn and Winter sheets, 4 Tree of Life sheets, 2 Crosses sheets, and 2 new Borders sheets. There’s something for everyone!

The cross is one of the most ancient human symbols and has been used for several purposes. It is frequently a representation of the division of the world, personal faith, the four elements or cardinal points, or alternately as the union of the concepts of divinity.

Winter is known by many to be a time of reflection as the seasons change and the weather turns. Winter brings celebration with our families and friends and represents hope for the new year. These winter designs feature pine trees, stars and snowflakes which can be used in unlimited ways for jewelry making and décor designs.

Autumn is an amazing time of the year and in many parts of the world, autumn represents brilliant colors, beautiful days, rewarding harvest and a transition into winter.

Shop all 35 embossing design Jewelry Artist Element sheets today and start spreading the holiday spirit!

Jul
16

93 eye-catching colors of Sculpey III, Premo! and Premo! Accent clays are here offering easy workability with amazing detail.

Versatile, pliable, and simple to work with, polymer clay offers limitless design possibilities to heighten your creative potential.

Polymer clay is also a wonderful way to explore designs without risking your precious metal clay. Work out your designs in this clay before executing in metal clay. Bake and use as a mold. Use with your metal clay to brighten up your designs.

Add Polymer Clay to your jewelry projects and express yourself with a wonderful rainbow of colors.

Check out Liz Hall’s Jewelry Design Gallery page for some inspiration on how to  make amazing jewelry using polymer clay!

May
1

Here’s how it works:

  1. Be sure you “Like” us on Facebook! Click here to visit our Facebook page or simply search “Cool Tools” while on Facebook. When you are on our page, click the “Like” button at the top of the page.
  2. Pick an Antique Mold to incorporate into your designs. At least 1 Antique Mold must be used in your piece. We offer over 300 Antique Mold designs to fit any jewelry project. Find the mold that fits you best – there are so many possibilities! We have just added a new batch to our collection. Click here to shop our new and expanded selection.
  3. Start Creating! Make any piece of jewelry you desire; pendants, bracelets, rings, anything you would like. Multiple submissions encouraged. We would love to see a variety!
  4. Post a picture of the finished piece that you have created on our Facebook wall with a brief explanation of your direction and inspiration. Be sure to take a detailed photograph so we can view your work.

After May 31st, the winners will be selected. Three winners will be chosen based on Creativity, Design Quality and Imagination! We are looking for designs that use our molds in a new and exciting way.

1st – $500 Gift Certificate

2nd – $200 Gift Certificate

3rd – $100 Gift Certificate

Contest runs the entire month of May

Good Luck and Happy Designing!

Cool Tools Facebook Contest runs from 5/1 – 5/31. Entries must be submitted on our Facebook page to qualify. Submissions are unlimited. At least 1 Antique Mold must be used in your design. Winners agree to send us their piece for professional photography, and they will be returned with a disc containing the images. Winners will be selected by Cool Tools and announced on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and our blog in June.

Dec
12

Even though I’ve pioneered co-firing diamonds in metal clay, I was not sure my big diamond would succeed because it was not the best quality stone.

The color was G (which doesn’t really matter), but the clarity was I1, which means that there were inclusions that are easily visible with the unaided eye. It had a carbon crystal (black speck) and a ton of feather inclusions (cracks). I didn’t know if the stone would fracture completely or if the carbon crystal would blow up or what the heck might happen.  The fact is, in the world of diamonds it was a crappy stone and a big risk to fire. 

Diamonds are harder than any other gemstone* and only a diamond can scratch a diamond, but firing tests that were done years ago revealed that they have a habit of vaporizing  or crazing when heated in a kiln. That may seem odd, but as a classically trained jeweler I know that diamonds can be heated directly with a torch for a few seconds without damaging them. What they can’t take is a long heating. So to me, putting a diamond in the kiln for the 30-minute burnout cycle would be insane.

In order to fire the diamond safely, I had to skip the burn-out firing, which I don’t think is necessary anyway. I ignited the greenware with a flame, allowed it to burn away, cooled it, and then fired in activated carbon for 2 hours.  The stone was totally undamaged, but it shifted in the setting during firing and is a little cattywompus, which is no big deal for me to fix. What I was concerned with was if a low quality stone would survive. And the answer is yes. My stone was unharmed.

Tips for Strong Jewelry in PMC STERLING

One of the things I’ve learned about PMC STERLING is the same thing I know about all the other types of metal clay, the longer it’s fired, the more dense and the stronger it is.

For items where strength is not an issue, fire for the least amount of time. 1 hour is sufficient for most earrings and necklaces. For rings, bracelets and delicate items (things with fine parts and tendrils), fire for 2 hours and you’ll have amazingly strong jewelry….just like cast sterling.

Even in an unfired greenware state, PMC STERLING is super strong. To make the prongs for the diamond ring I cut out a tiny ring of clay, cut the ring in quarters and let it dry. To place the prongs, I picked each one up with diamond tweezers and dipped one end in water and then held it in place for a few seconds on the ring. I guess I held one prong too tight and it broke in half. I was in a time crunch so I just put a tiny bit of water on the pieces and held those together. I can’t tell which prong I repaired, and I’ve hammered on all of them.

What is important when firing PMC STERLING is using a reliable kiln with a temperature that can be held accurately for the duration. PMC STERLING is sintered at a temperature that is just a few degrees away from its melting point. If you try to use a tiny kiln that does not have a digital controller, you cannot be sure that your work is properly sintered or melt your work by going over temperature. The Ultra-Lite Beehive kiln, the Amaco Trinkit kiln and other tiny kilns with pyrometers for temperature control are not appropriate for PMC STERLING firing. You must be able to accurately gauge the temperature for the duration of the firing.

Recommended kilns: Any of the kilns we offer with a digital controller are perfect for PMC STERLING firing such as the Paragon SC series, Caldera, Digital Firefly, Home Artist and E Series kilns. The Evenheat Kingpin 88 series and Olympic Jewelry Artist are also great choices. You’ll also need a firing vessel and activated carbon to contain your work during firing. Click here to learn more about kilns.

*Diamonds are no longer the hardest substance known to man. There are man-made nanoparticles that are harder than diamonds, but some years ago 2 substances, wurtzite boron nitride and the mineral londaleite were discovered that can handle 18% and 58% more stress respectively than a diamond.

-Mardel

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

Sep
9

Check out our FREE Gilders Paste video featuring application techniques. Find out how adding color to your creations can be fast and easy!

Our latest videos are all in high definition. Click on “360p” in the lower right of the video and select “720p” for high definition. You can even watch full screen.

Keep an eye out for more videos, projects, and Tools Demos featuring other Gilders Paste techniques.

Jul
25

Congratulations to Katherine Steinbring, our final Facebook Contest winner!

“Wow! I really was totally excited and surprised when I found the e-mail on Thursday night.  I am a retired high school teacher (15 years teaching art and 17 years teaching English). Discovering metal clay really saved me after I retired, as I had no idea who I was beyond being a teacher. I’m not certified from any of the metal clay certification programs, because I can’t seem to get that much money together at one time. I have and do, however, take classes as often as I can afford them. I am lucky to have a site close to home, and I took classes just so I could fire for a while (I never knew about torch firing). I spent a week at Arrowmont in TN last year, too. MCWC was my first metal clay-related conference; I also took a polymer clay class there. As silver prices continue to skyrocket and fluctuate, I am glad to have found polymer to “play” with. I do belong to the Windy City PMC Guild. Cool Tools lets me indulge my love of tools and gadgets; I actually discovered Cool Tools through my first metal clay teacher. You are the best for quick shipping (I am sure it helps that I am not that far away from you).

Thanks again for choosing me as the lucky winner! It is always great to win something, and to win a Cool Tools gift certificate is awesome!”

Thank you to everyone who participated in our Facebook Contest. We will continue to offer great contests, promotions, and inspiration through our Facebook page! Keep an eye out for something new and just post on our wall anytime if you have any questions when making your creations!