The Joy of Metal Clay: METAL CLAY RINGS

I love creating metal clay rings! Today, I am teaching a metal clay rings class at BeadFX.

Rings can be frustrating and problematic at time. Two main problems that one can run into is with SIZING and STRENGTH. Since most of you won’t be in class today, I am going to give you a few thoughts, tips and a project.

Sizing: Sizing metal clay rings can be frustrating for the beginner. First, metal clay shrinks, so you need to account for this. Second, everyone handles their clay a little differently so one method that works for one person may not work for you. For example, I may wrap my clay around the mandrel tighter that you may and therefore even if we put our clay on the mandrel at the same spot, my ring will likely be smaller. Alternatively, if you sand the interior of the ring you may run the risk of sanding away clay and therefore making the ring bigger.

I don’t have great suggestions on sizing. My tips are to:

  • Practice to find out what works for you
  • Err on the side of making the ring slightly smaller as it is easier to make your ring bigger as opposed to making the ring smaller.

Ring sizing guides for metal clay are harder to find than I thought. (Art Clay World has a handy guide. One note it can be a little confusing, when looking at the different band types it looks like a wide band it will shrink differently – but the reason why they suggest that you make the wide ring bigger is that everyone takes a larger size when the band is wide!).

Strength: Metal clay is a sintered metal and therefore will be less durable than a milled metal. In addition, when working with silver metal clay the result is fine silver, which is softer than sterling silver (sterling silver has alloys added to it to make it stronger). You need to understand these principles when building your metal clay rings.

My general rules to help with strength are:

  • Avoid making a ring band thinner than 1.5 mm.
  • Kiln fire your silver metal clay at 1650 F for ring bands.
  • Make sure you work harden your ring when you are finished!
  • Alternatively use fine silver wire for your ring band.

FINE SILVER WIRE BAND RING by Heather Bell Denison
Here is a ring with a fine silver wire band which helps with the problems of sizing and strength!!!To make this ring you will need:

  • Metal clay
  • Fine silver wire 2.6mm (approximately 7 cm)
  • Your metal clay tools (roller, slats, cutter, textures, olive oil….)
  • Kiln to fire you ring

With this ring you can modify the design to suit your preferences!!! Go crazy or keep it simple.

First you need to cut and shape your fine silver wire. Make sure you use fine silver wire as sterling silver will not tolerate the firing at 1650F!

1. First you need to cut and shape your fine silver wire. Make sure you use fine silver wire as sterling silver will not tolerate the firing at 1650F!Shape your wire around a mandrel at the size you want, here, I am making the band to be a size 6.5.

2. Cut the wire and shape the ends with a slight curve. Also make sure that you have approximately 3mm of length on the ends so that they will embed into the clay.

3. Roll and cut a piece of metal clay that is at least 2 mm thick. The shape can vary, but this will be your base for your design. Make sure that the piece of metal clay is wide enough to fit both wire ends in the clay and surround them securely.

4. Embed your wire into the fresh wet metal clay! Press it all the way into the clay making sure the wires are embedded well. Now leave it to dry, don’t fiddle with it as you don’t want to wire to come loose. Dry your ring (if you find that there is a gap where the wires are embedded, add a little paste and fill this area, you want to make sure the wire is embedded well, otherwise this is a place of weakness).

5. After your ring base is dry, you will want to build your “topper”. I have made a large ring to go on top (Note: I modified the round to accommodate my design Your topper could be different, a heart, flower, and so on….) In this piece the texture I used for the topper was done by Canadian Artist Helen Breil – the texture is called Watusi you can see more on her site.

Dry your base before you add it or you could end up warping it. Once your base is dry add some paste and attach securely.

6. Allow the whole thing to dry, touch up and fix any cracks, gaps or problem areas. Then kiln fire for 2 hours at 1650F and polish.

I don’t have the sample project fired. Here is a photo of a variation. (In this one I used two smaller wires, I think they were 1.6mm and I embellished the front with balls and layered clay).

Here are some more examples!!!

If you make one and want to share, send me ( a picture and I will add it in a later post. Have FUN!

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