Saturday, 6 August 2016

Previewing Art Clay 950 - making and firing

I am very fortunate to be one of the early testers for Art Clay 950, a product currently available for pre-sale from Metal Clay Ltd and launching on 1st September.
I have really enjoyed working with it today. It's so similar to original Art Clay in terms of rolling, texturing and cutting. It take a little longer to dry but I found I had a longer working time too.

What is it?
This is a new product from Art Clay, one of the two main suppliers of silver clay in the world.  Silver clay is made up of fine silver particles, an organic binder and water. Art Clay 950 is 95% silver and 5% copper. The original Art Clay is a purer silver, 99% silver and 1% copper.

What are the benefits?

Strength
You might be thinking, well the original Art Clay is a purer silver so isn’t that better? The answer, of course, is it depends on what you want! Art Clay 950 is 60% stronger than original Art Clay because of the copper content. This means it is more suitable for making rings, bracelets etc and other items that might suffer more wear and tear.

Hallmarking
In the UK silver up to 958 purity is hallmarked as sterling silver (925). Silver purity over 958 is considered Britannia silver (958), and over 990 is hallmarked as fine silver (999).
Sterling silver is recognised by UK consumers more than Britannia and fine silver and so for those of you hallmarking and selling your work this is a big plus.

Pre-mixed
Many of the clays on the market need to be mixed and kneaded before you can start work but this is pre-mixed, smooth and ready to use out of the packet (just like the original Art Clay).

Cost
At the time of writing, Art Clay 950 is slightly cheaper than original Art Clay.

Other considerations

Firing
The one downside for the hobby silver clay jeweller is that this clay does need to be kiln fired. This is the same with any of the sterling silver clays I have seen on the market. However, on the plus side this does not need to be done in carbon and if you have a programmable kiln this is easy to set up

The firing schedule
  1. Once your piece is completely dry put it on a kiln shelf, in a cool kiln
  2. Heat up to 500C and hold for 30 minutes (this first step burns off the binder)
  3. Heat up to 850C and hold for 60 minutes (this final firing sinters the metal particles)

The kiln can heat up at full speed, and doesn't need to cool off between the two stages. Avoid moving the piece after the first firing step as it will be fragile before sintering.

I wanted to test out a few features of the clay so have made three different items.

Ring
With the ring I wanted to test the shrinkage, ability to set a fireable stone and carving. I made a paste with 950 and tap water and was easily able to stick the dried set stone to the dried ring. Carving was a dream! I really love that having tried to carve original Art Clay and found it was easy to break it!


Ring shank with holes
I wouldn't even try this in original Art Clay! I wanted to test the shrinkage and strength when I hammer it around once fired. It is 5 cards thick before firing.


Enamelled pendant
I have used a Quick Art template and the Quick Art stylus from Metal Clay. It was easy to cut out the clay using the stencil. I plan to enamel in the recesses to see how that works.

Overall I'm really impressed with the clay. I will be firing it overnight and sharing the results tomorrow.

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