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New to metal clay? Here's the clay you should try first and why

Samples from my taster class in silver clay, suitable for beginners
I regularly see questions in the facebook metal clay groups about which metal clay to try as a newbie. Firstly, if you are a newbie to metal clay - welcome! Metal clay is a fantastic material to use to make jewellery. It is flexible and easier on the hands than sheet metal and can be used at home with minimal tools. Of course there are lots of tools you COULD buy - but that's for another post! BUT if you start out with the wrong clay you can quickly become disheartened and decide it's not for you and that would be a shame.
Choosing the right metal clay to start with may feel a little daunting as there are a few different brands and many different metals available including fine silver, sterling silver, bronze, copper, gold, brass and steel. As a newcomer to metal clay you might look at the prices of these clays and think, well copper and bronze are cheapest so I'll start with them. I think this is a mistake and would urge you always to start with fine silver clay - whether Art Clay Fine Silver or PMC3
There are two main reasons:

1. Ability to fire at home
One of the main benefits of the fine silver clays is that you can torch fire pieces at home with a butane torch or gas hob. There are a few caveats to this. Your piece should not be larger than a 50 pence piece (this is quite a big coin for any of you that haven't visited the UK!). I would also not suggest firing rings with a torch, I prefer to use a kiln.
There are some copper clays that say you can torch fire them. I am sure this is correct but I have found that the fine silver is the easiest to fire with a torch and so I would urge you to start with them first.

2. Consistency
At the moment I find the silver clays the most consistent to work with. By this I mean they tend to do the same things every time. For someone who is new to using metal clay this is reassuring!

Why start with fine silver and not sterling silver?
Fine silver is also known as 999. This is because for every 1000 particles, 999 are silver and 1 is copper. This means it is a purer silver than sterling silver, also known as 925 (925 particles per 1000 are silver and 75 are copper). Sterling silver clay is relatively new to the market and you may be tempted to try that HOWEVER at the time of writing the sterling silver formulas all need to be kiln fired. I wouldn't suggest buying a kiln until you have some experience of using metal clay as it is a large investment. So start with fine silver and use an inexpensive butane torch!

Art Clay or PMC? The first two brands to the market with metal clay were Art Clay, manufactured by Aida and Precious Metal Clay (PMC) manufactured by Mitsubishi. There are now more silver clays on the market but these two are the most widely available in the UK so for the purposes of accessibility I will talk about these.
I have certifications from both of the manufacturers and have used both and I can honestly say that you use them in the same way. Do look at the individual instructions for torch firing and follow these guidelines but generally if you use one you can use the other! Historically in the UK Art Clay is usually the cheapest of the two gram for gram. You have to do some calculations to make a direct comparison as they are sold in different packet sizes and I would suggest you do a search when you want to buy some to see who is the cheapest supplier at the time. I normally buy my Art Clay from Metal Clay Ltd so it is worth checking their prices when doing your search.

What questions do you have about using metal clay? Please do let me know in the comments below


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