Convergent Series

learning, using & teaching metal clay, and other aspects of life

Trying Rose Bronze (Part 4 of 4 … for now, at least)

Posted by C Scheftic on 2011/10/15

Before I end this series of posts about rose bronze, I’ll note the one major lesson learned (or, more accurately, re-learned) while working with that form of metal clay for the very first time:

Precious Metal Clays (silver, gold) and Non-precious ones (bronze, copper, steel) differ in how they dry! I can’t quantify the difference, but it’s there, mixed in with a number of related factors. With silver, for example, I will often just let pieces air-dry. I will have several pieces under construction at once so, while one is drying, I’ll work on others. If I want to finish a particular piece more quickly, I’ll put it in dehydrator. (I have a very old Excalibur that I use in my studio. For workshops elsewhere, I cart around a hairdryer and a cardboard box with a hole for the dryer nozzle.) I have several mug warmers, but rarely use them.

With non-precious metals, “the word” is that they may not sinter as well if they’ve been air-dried: It’s best to dry them as quickly as possible. When Hadar was here last March, we did use mug warmers in that workshop. I’ve done that with other pieces made since then too: not a deliberate choice, but more because I was rearranging furniture in my studio and didn’t have a good place for the dehydrator during the stretch when I made a lot of other bronze and copper pieces. With these, however, I just stuck them into the dehydrator, like I do with silver I want to dry quickly. Wrong!!! ‘Tis best to keep this stuff right in front of you, on a mug warmer, so you can flip them over frequently to avoid warping. (Silver may warp too, but there’s a difference: either it takes a bit longer to happen, such that it’s easier for me to catch before it gets really bad, or else I somehow work more quickly with the product, such that I’m setting a new piece off to dry and thus checking on previous ones more quickly. I am tempted to believe it’s the former but, since before this I never thought to time it all, I can’t rule out the latter.)

I had to apply some serious repair techniques to several of these, to restore flat surfaces that had warped so much that elements I’d planned to pair up and attach together no longer fit snugly against each other. It wasn’t that difficult to do, but having to re-moisten the warped surfaces and press them between two flat surfaces did take up both time and workspace area that could have been used more productively.

Hadar does say that flat pieces are the most likely to warp while drying but, in this case, even the simple domed piece (lower left) warped slightly out of round. I did not try to repair that. I decided that, by sheer luck, that piece looked fine even if it is slightly oval. But I’ll have to pay more attention to domed pieces in the future too, because there are times when that will matter.

Still, I think the all turned out fine in the end and I had lots of fun making these pieces. Plus, working on them helped to generate some other ideas I want to try out with these clays too. As ever, the question remains: how to find the time to make them! Please stay tuned for reports on that….

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