Convergent Series

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

Posts Tagged ‘tools’

Having Fun with Bronze, and More.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/05/07

It’s not that I haven’t been doing anything with metal clay recently: I’ve just been so busy with that and other things I haven’t had time to sit at computer and muse. I’m also assembling some new projects for workshops (which I’ll discuss in upcoming posts), so I’m again paying a lot of attention to process: to what I do for a specific reason versus what I do out of sheer habit.

The photo with this post shows both sides of a little piece I made during several demonstrations of working with metal clay in general, and bronze clay in particular. I made the various elements separately, to illustrate a range of techniques at different times. I showed the application of a simple texture with the hibiscus, and the use of a pastry cutter to get the oblong shape.

What started that: I was saying how much I really do like to use cutting forms with metal clay–special “clay” cutters, pastry cutters, even scissors, anything where you are pressing down into the clay. Whenever I can figure out how to do that, I prefer it to the often-suggested needle tools (or X-acto knives) that drag through the clay. The “pressed” cuts are so much cleaner, and it’s very easy to smooth out any small imperfections while the clay is still wet with a finger or other small tool. A “drag through” tool, even a needle or blade with the finest tip, still leaves a rougher edge. You can try to smooth such cuts while wet, but it’s rarely as effective, so you’re forced to sand more and create more “dust.” (“Refine the edge” is the term of art for that process.) Although you can salvage much of the dust, there will still be some that drifts off; besides wasting any metal in that, you’re also wasting time with sanding and clean-up. That may seem like just a small amount of either time or metal, but the “waste-cost” does accumulate with each piece made (especially if, unlike this example, the dust is from a precious metal such as silver!).

Plus, if I want a shape for which I don’t already have a cutter, I can always just make one. I admit that I am someone who’d rather spend my time making a cutter than making dust and then turning that into paste (which is another metal clay “staple” that I do use, but only very rarely)!

Then, in another setting, I showed how to cut out washer-shapes, and how you could even reshape a round washer into another shape, such as the oblongs shown here. In yet another, I showed how to attach two washers to each other with an “invisible join” (here, in yellow bronze; and how to do that with water only, not paste) and how to cut washers and other dried pieces to use in various ways (in rose bronze). At one point, I even made a little ball (in copper) to demonstrate that technique.

Finally, looking over the bits and baubles I had scattered across my worktable from all of that, when I was talking about how I attach pieces of dried metal clay with just water (so yet another situation where I don’t need “dust” to make paste with!), and it just struck me how to assemble those particular bits this way.

Most of the time, I enjoy methodically developing and then executing a deliberate design. But, sometimes, it’s such fun to just let a piece evolve on its own.

Posted in General Techniques, Teaching Metal Clay | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Conference Vendors’ Hall … and my selections

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/08/09

Well, I’d started writing up reports of various aspects of the PMC Guild Conference at Purdue (for any readers, but these were intended in particular for my local guild-chapter mates who were unable to join Debbie, Donna, and me there this year). Then I got distracted by a few other developments. But here’s another of those reports.

Many of the vendors who sell metal clay and related products participate in a Vendors Hall. Particpating vendors in 2010 included (in alpha-order):

Gem Resources
Metal Clay Findings
Naturescapes Studio

Oregon Sunstone
PMC 123
PMC Connection
PMC Supply
Rio Grande
Whole Lotta Whimsy

and one or two others that I am blanking on at the moment. (If you can identify any others who were there, please leave a comment to help me out and I’ll be happy to update that list!)

I didn’t buy as much this time as I did in 2008: a little bit of that is “the economy” but mostly ’twas because I’ve done a pretty good job of stocking my studio since then. Yes, there are some items I still want, but either they are pricier things (I have to sell some more pieces to earn the money for those) or they just weren’t available at the show. But I did go for one “splurge”….

I’ve been getting e-mailings from Metal Clay Findings for some time now, but had not actually bought anything from them before last week. They have a lot of interesting fine silver components, plus bronze and copper ones, that work well with metal clay (ring shanks, for example, that you can embellish, and embeddable eyelets and bails), although I’ve remained happy working out ways to make my own. But the thing that drew me in this time was this tool:

On the right side of the photo is a little piece I made using the tool at their booth with their sample materials. (Yep, I’ll bring it to Clay Play Day this month for local folks to see.) There’s a rectangular copper blank to which iI added a bronze bail and a little bronze star. Both are riveted on: the bail, with a close-top rivet, and the star with a tube-rivet. You use a separate setting bit for each of those, so that’s the extra handle and little round seat; the allen wrench is what you use to swap that part out.

What the hardened steel tool does is to punch a hole of exactly the right size to accommodate either kind of rivet. Not that one can’t do this by hand, of course, but with this tool it is just soooo easy and quick and smooth. In finished products, what I’ll be trading is this: spreading out the cost of the tool instead of charging for my time to do them laboriously by hand. This may come easy to you, and I’m not too bad myself with larger rivets, but these are lovely little jewelry-size ones! Fiddly to work with, but super-easy to set with this device! I’ve been doodling design ideas, and hope to have some samples shortly. (For me, please note, “doodling” means cutting out and building little 3-D models more often than it means sketching ideas on paper, so that step often takes me a while…)

I also bought a collection of pre-cut rivets and eyelets to use with the tool (though, over time, I will experiment with comparing the use of these versus making my own).

Just for the sake of comprehensiveness, I’ll mention the other “little” things I picked up:

Since I’d broken down and started buying from Metal Clay Findings, I also tucked in a small sample of their bails and embeddables. I look forward to comparing the use of these to the ones I’ve cobbled together by hand:

I’d been perfectly happy using hockey pucks as rubber bench blocks, shown in the upper right of this photo (Go, Penguins!), but I decided to spring for one with a hole in the middle too (upper left). And, rather than have to remember to take brushes from my studio to class sites, I picked up a couple extra of those (one each, brass and steel) so I can just pack a set (probably my older ones) in my class-kit.

And then Gem Resources had a little bin with “3 packs for $10” CZs, so I picked up three sets of cut triangles, in three different sizes. I’ve not done much with ones that shape, but figured this was a chance to give a few a try.

If you were there and found any other goodies, please feel free to leave a comment describing them!

Posted in Guild, Shopping | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

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