Tuesday, 8 March 2011

First outing in my kiln

At long last, what you've all been waiting for, the story of the first outing in my kiln.  First I gathered together all my tools and materials.  My desk is really only big enough for it all when it's squished together.  We have silver clay, the star of the show, cutters in all shapes and sizes, texture mats, rollers, spacers, olive oil, water, the all important cling film, paint brush, pointy things....

I decided I'd finish the job I started in my Art Clay class all those months ago. On the right in the photo below you can see 3 of the pieces I made.  An end cap (top) and two little textured hearts that I had intended to turn into earrings until I realised I should have punched the holes in opposite sides for that. Doh!

So, I rolled out a pack of PMC3 Silver clay over a texture mat and used cutters to cut out the shapes.  The bead cap had to be carefully rolled into a tube and joined.

On the left you can see the new end cap and two hearts with the holes punched on the opposite side from the first two.  They are waiting to be dried and fired.  You will notice they are bigger than the first set because metal clay shrinks when it is fired.  This is where I have to hope I used the correct size cutters so that the fired versions are the same size as the first set.

In the photo below you can see my attempt at making Yin & Yang symbols using the silver disc at the top as a texture mat then using a needle tool to carefully cut out the individual shapes.

The next day I checked that the pieces were dry then put them on a rubber block to protect them while I carefully sanded the edges to smooth them.  Here they are sitting on the kiln shelf ready to be fired.  I had 3 options for the firing process varying from 10 minutes at 700 degrees to 30 minutes at 600 degrees.  I decided to play it safe as it was my first time and fire them for longer at a lower temperature.

When they came out of the kiln half an hour later they didn't look a whole lot different from when they went in.  The clay doesn't magically turn silver in the kiln, it burns off the binding agent (which is a bit whiffy) but the metal stays creamy white in colour until it is polished.  You can see the difference below.  The heart on the right has had a quick polish with a wire brush:

And now we have the proof of the pudding.  On the left, my newly fired end cap and hearts.  On the right the ones I made in my Art Clay class.  Miraculously, they turned out pretty much the same size.  That wasn't guaranteed as the first batch was made from Art Clay Silver and the second batch was made from PMC3 silver clay. The two types of clay have different shrinkage rates but thankfully not too different.

Does that mean I know what I'm doing with this stuff? 

Now I need to take all of my little pieces to the Edinburgh Assay Office and have them hallmarked so I have another adventure to look forward to.  Once they're hallmarked I can turn them into jewellery.  I think I may make a necklace with the end caps and earrings with the hearts.  Or I might surprise you all and make bracelets instead.


  1. Well done!!! Not at all bad Margaret! How cost effective is the whole process??

  2. Probably not very. I've not worked out how much it cost yet. Individually, I suspect the pieces I have made so far cost a fortune if you take into account the cost of the tools and the kiln as well as registering with the Assay Office and paying for my punch. I'd like to have a go with Copper clay as you get more of that for your money. I have no idea where to even start with pricing this lot. Will have to have a long hard think.

  3. Well done, lots of work, but they look lovely, can't wait to see what they will end up being!! x

  4. Very clever Mags. Looks pretty.