My metal clay is cracking, HELP!!!!!

One of the biggest problems that plagues newcomers to metal clay is drying clay. Silver metal clay and some of the other metal clays can dry extremely quickly resulting in cracks in your designs. Sometimes the cracks can be a welcomed organic look at other times it can be quite frustrating. Good news though with preparations and tricks these problems can be overcome.
Here are some examples of what I mean and a solution.
First, here is an idea of how the clay dries. I rolled two pieces of fresh low fire silver clay then wrapped them over a small dowel. The piece on the LEFT was shaped 1 minute after rolling fresh regular low fire clay. The piece on the RIGHT was rolled at the same time but left to sit on my work surface for 3 minutes before I shaped it. You can see there are cracks forming on the bail shape on the left.
This demonstrates the speed at which metal clay can dry. Air humidity can affect this as well as the freshness of your clay so your results may be different.

Above are examples of over worked clay. The cracks and flaws are evident and would require quite a bit of work to fix.
If you do not let this clay dry completely but roll it up and rework it, you can bring your clay back to life. The following only works for clay that has not dried up but is just cracking. (Rehydrating dry clay is a different process, also do not mix dry bits with your cracking clay)

REVIVING YOUR CLAY:

If your clay is cracking but has not really hardened you can rehyrdrate it with this trick. There are several tricks but here is the one I find the easiest.
1. Roll out your clay and paint with a coating of water. (Sometimes I will do this between sheets of very lightly oiled plastic, so that I don’t make a “muddy mess”)

2. Fold the edges in over the water and roll again. Repeat this several time until the clay begins to feel smoother/wetter. Ideally if you can allow the clay to rest for an hour or overnight the clay will be much better to work with but this can work in a pinch.

3. A good test to see if the clay is in a good texture is to roll into a tight ball, if the ball has not cracks then it is good to go.

Re roll the clay and VOILA, a nice smooth piece. (Yes this from the cracked clay pictured above, just rehydrated and rerolled!)
Being prepared and working quickly to avoid dry clay is ideal but doesn’t always happen!
There is a learning curve in mastering metal clay.
Having this trick in your bag should help you on your way of being a master of metal clay.
Cheers Heather.

2 Comments

  1. For the first photo, are your comments backwards? I see cracks in the clay on the right, not on the left as you describe.

    Thanks for the tip. I took a class from you (back in April I think?) and I haven't had a chance to try silver clay since. I am going to be really rusty at what to do when I finally get a chance to try it out again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *