Here is an article from my blog, which you can find at this address:
Minimal Metalsmithing: which techniques you should add to your
jewelry making choices and why
If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. If
all you know how to use is metal clay, then that’s all you use.
And that’s okay, you can make wonderful jewelry using only metal
I believe that each art material should be used to the best of
its characteristics. What does metal clay do best? What does lost
wax casting do best? What is done more easily and efficiently, or
better, in metalsmithing?
Here are some of the strengths of Precious Metal Clay ®:
Easier to make a hollow object than with conventional metals
and metalsmithing (form over a combustible core vs. hollow
Takes a texture better than wax and faster results than lost
Sculptablility just as good as wax, but for many people
working with PMC has shorter learning curve than wax. Need many
different types of wax to create something, PMC will do it all.
Fast, fast, fast. Faster than metalsmithing, faster turn
around time than casting.
Here are some of the weaknesses of PMC:
I feel that some of the PMC stone setting methods are clunky
Sometimes bails are overly heavy, ugly, or shrink too much.
Limited options for firing natural stones in place.
It’s so fast, that if one isn’t careful the results can look
Play- doh ® ish
How can we resolve this? How best to fix it?
The weaknesses of metal clay (in my opinion, others may disagree)
can be worked around using just metal clay. You can learn better
ways to set stones, you can make a better bail.
But sometimes, you can go to a lot of effort to create a
solution that still isn’t as good, as strong, as clean looking as
it could have been had you added some metalsmithing techniques to
your bag of tricks.
While you can stick with only metal clay and still do great
work, if you add even a little metalsmithing, you will have more
choices. You will be able to look at a technical problem in a
piece of jewelry and say, what is the best way to do this? Not,
just, how can I do this in the clay?
You will have more options when something goes wrong, and know
how to fix it.
What metalsmithing skills do I think you should learn?
Here’s my ideal list of skills for metal clayers to add to their
- Basic forming on steel mandrels
- Making your own jump rings
- Bezel setting cabochon stones using soldering (setting stones
after the metal clay is fired)
If you want to go a little further, I’d add:
- Learning to safely use the flexible shaft to drill, grind and
More on that next time.
© Elaine D. Luther 2007 All Rights Reserved
Hard to Find Tools for Metal Clay