Bronze Clay Success!

I have been fooling around with my special blend of home made bronze metal clay for awhile and have made some beautiful things but have gotten inconsistent results.  Then I moved up to a Paragon Max 119 kiln so I could fire cone 6 pottery as well as glass and metal clay.  I also started trying to make hollow forms in the bronze clay.  I was having problems with under firing and over firing, so I needed to tweak my firing schedule.  I found this article by Mardel Rein to be invaluable.Top Shelf before firing All sintered

Here’s a pan of unfired bronze clay before kiln firing.  I prefer to fire in these heavy, shallow stainless steel pans I get from my local Asian supermarket.  I find that the more you use them, the less they flake.

The ring on the right is perfectly sintered and not overfired.  The one on the left, from an earlier firing, is over fired.Hollow forms

Here are a couple of hollow beads.  The one on the left has been repaired.  The one on the right has not.  I have found that you must put hollow forms through two firings.  The form will come out of the first firing looking sintered, but will break if you drop it or hit it with a hammer.  I save up beads that have made it through one firing and put them through the next firing with whatever else I have.  I don’t plug the holes and I don’t construct screen cages to fire them in.  I just cover them with carbon and whoop-de-do.  You can’t use cork clay to make hollow beads from bronze clay, because you will never be able to get the cork fired out in an oxygen-free environment which is what you create when you fire in activated carbon.  But if you can construct a hollow form with holes and get it through two firings, you should be able to bounce it on concrete without it breaking.  In theory.

OverfiredLThe piece on the left has been over fired.  The pieces on the right went through a later firing and the tip of one broke off.  Rather than try to reattach it,  I just sawed the other tip off and will design something around the new shapes.

Repaired pair

The piece on the left broke in the middle during an earlier firing and I repaired and refired it.  The piece on the right is made up of broken sintered and unsintered pieces from earlier firings for a kind of mosaic pendant.

These pieces went through one firing schedule and sintered perfectly.  What I learned from all my experiences is that when you have thicker pieces, the trick is not necessarily to fire hotter, but to ramp up to temperature more slowly.  I started out firing to 1550 and holding for two hours.  Then I tried two and one half.  Then I tried three.  Thin pieces  were over firing, but hollow beads were breaking.  Then I tried lowering the temperature to 1500.  A little better but same problem.    Then I read that a slow ramp worked best with bigger pieces.  I tried ramping at 250 degrees F to 1000F, holding one hour, then ramping on full to 1500F and holding for three hours.  That did the trick.  All the single layer pieces are coming out fine.  I take the hollow ones out and put them in the next kiln batch through the firing cycle a second time, and they have been fine so far.   You have to experiment to find out what will work for you.

 

 

What’s On My Bench Now

I’m in the process of refining my homemade bronze clay firing schedule. The pieces below sintered beautifully, but they were the only things in the kiln that did. I had to re fire everything else, but they turned out fine on the second firing. Some more tweaking is clearly in order.

 

Second firing before cleaning. Everything sintered

I’ve been fooling a around with low-cost texture sheets. These are silicone brush cleaning mats that I cut up to make them easier to use. You can find these at Five Below, Wish.com, and Amazon

I got this texture stamp at Wish.com. I can’t find the link, but they have hundreds of designs.

 

Some previously-fired bronze that I have shaped in a swage bock. I’m waiting for it to talk to me.

Some more bronze and ceramics. I think the white pieces will end up as earrings. The bronze triangle might end up as part of a toggle clasp.

Some more ceramics and bronze wire in various shapes.

I have been thinking about riveting these two pieces together. I don’t know. They might work better as separate pieces.

A ceramic piece waits for me to decide what to do with it.

More ceramic pieces.

I am in the process of finishing a new batch of ceramic components. I burnish them in a rock tumbler and am trying different polishes to see what I like best.

My new dual barrel tumbler from Harbor Freight. I still have my vibratory tumbler, but I thought I’d give this one a try. The first one delivered from Harbor Freight had a leaky barrel. I asked for a replacement. They said they didn’t stock replacement barrels and sent me a while new unit. Which is a good thing because the first tumbler developed a short and ended up frying a circuit breaker. (Which the electrician pointed out to me after the tumbler tripped the circuit breaker several times.) The second tumbler is working fine and I hope it doesn’t develop a short. Which leads me to another thing. Before the second tumbler arrived, I looked high and low for instructions on how to repair the leak in the barrel. I found nothing. One site said it couldn’t be done. Then I found a tumbler barrel repair kit on line which inspired me to devise my own repair. If you can patch tires, why can’t you patch a rubber tumbler barrel? I mean really.

I had some liquid latex that I use for mold making. I cut a two-inch square of scrap silk fabric (because I figure silk in strong), soaked it with the latex and applied it to the barrel. I let that dry and added another layer of latex. When that dried, I covered the patch with a piece of packing tape.

No leaks yet and the tumbler has been going for a few days. Liquid latex is not that expensive and has many uses. For more information, check out the ultimate guide.

Flower Challenge

I am delighted to be taking part in the Art Elements Blog Hop for July.  The theme is one of my favorites: flowers.  I’ve written about flowers on my blog many times.   But  I usually photograph flowers instead of trying to make them (unless you count my felt flowers).

I took the opportunity of the July Flowers theme to complete a project I’d left unfinished for some time.   I had fired a batch of bronze clay and had been making rings and embellishments from 10 gauge bronze wire I was annealing and shaping in my rolling mill.   I had some bronze clay flowers I made in molds that I wanted to attach to milled rings.  I have been a bit challenged in the hand department lately because of some kind of tendonitis or impaction and can’t do much with my right hand.  But I was able to finish some gentle shaping of the wire that I had previously hammered into shape and to solder it on to the flower.    Here is a brief explanation of the process:

The bronze wire is  stiff and hard when it’s 10 gauge thick but I love the look of thick wire and the versatility a thick gauge gives me.  You have to anneal it often as you pass it through the rolling mill.  I changed it to a square shape.raw materials Bronze Clay

The bronze clay behaves very much like ceramic clay in its unfired state, so I was able to push a bit of it into a silicone mold to make the flower. I had to let the flower dry and refine any cracks and sharp edges before firing it in activated carbon.  The firing was successful and I got metal which I then soldered to the bronze wire ring I had previously made.Flower

 

ring2

The ring is fun to wear.  Not too flashy and it looks at home next to the stack of bronze and silver rings I wear every day.

 

terra cotta flower magnets

 

And here are some fun flower magnets that I made from Terra Cotta clay and a press mold.  I painted them with underglazes and finished with a glossy clear glaze.

If you are interested here is some of my flower  photography from past travels.  Mendocino, and Singapore,

Please visit all the artists participating in the Art Elements Blog Hop for July:

Visiting Artists:
Alysen
Cat
Divya
Evie and Beth
Jill
Kathy
Linda
Martha
Melissa
Michelle
Rozantia
Sarah
Sarajo
Tammy
Alysen
Cat
Divya
Evie and Beth
Jill
Kathy
Linda
Martha
Melissa
Michelle
Rozantia
Sarah
Sarajo
Tammy

and the Art Elements Blog contributors:
Caroline
Cathy
Claire
Jenny
Laney
Lesley
Marsha
Susan

 

 

 

 

 

My Head Is Exploding

My head is exploding this week.  I have been working with bronze metal clay and making bigger pieces and hollow forms. unfiredBronzeClayBead I am going to have to rethink my firing methods and schedules.  The folks on the Metal Clay Now Facebook group have given me lots of great advice.  Stay tuned on this one.

I went to Baltimore last week to play with  friends and to go to a sale at Maja, one of the most incredible bead stores I have ever encountered.  I treated myself to an incredible sterling bead decorated with dragonflies.  (When I manage to take a decent photo, I will post it. ) The next day, we went to the stores in the Village of Cross Keys and I saw the most incredible fiber jewelry in The Store LTD,  the very same store that Betty Cooke owns and from which she sells her marvelous modernist jewelry.

I was so inspired that when I came home, I got out the fabric stash and began dyeing and cutting silk that I’ve recycled from thrift shop finds I bought on a former fabric frenzy.

Then I got out the drop spindle  and started to make knittable fiber (could I even call it yarn?) from  strips of fabric sewn together.

Fabric of spun yarn

My aim is to ply this fiber with ribbon or cord and make something from it.  Stay tuned on this one too.