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Making PMC wedding ring


#1

Hi,

all. I plan to make my fiance’s wedding ring because I wanted
something personal for him, not a generic off-the-rack ring. It will
require some special design work. I don’t want to form the ring and
etch in the design with a tool as it’s drying, lest I make a goof on
the design and wind up ruining the piece. It’s far too important for
that; every design element and ring component has been chosen
specifically for him, down to the colors of the resin, and I don’t
want to risk the slightest flaw.

What I would like to do is make a mold for it, and fit the clay to
the mold. I know such a thing is doable; I’ve seen ring molds before.
I don’t know how to make the mold for this design. I have three
symbols (a Leo zodiac sign with a snake curled into and infinity
symbol on either side) that need to go on it and gemstones inserted
in the symbols. I also want to include a fingerprint on the inside of
the ring.

Here are the materials I will be using:

  • PMC3 clay
  • Kiln-safe, lab-created gemstones
  • custom-made ring mold
  • Paragon Firefly kiln
  • Colored resin, white and black

I plan to draw the design on the molding material and then carve it.
If I carve out the symbols, they’ll be raised, and I want them inset.
After the piece is fired and polished, I plan to use black resin in
the Leo sign and white resin in the snakes. Should I carve everything
around the symbols to get them inset?

So far as the gems go, they’re all kiln-safe and will be inserted
into the clay before firing. Should I make a dent in the clay where
the gemstones will go before I set them, or should I just press them
in where they need to go?

About “closing” the ring: how do I overlap the ends smoothly for a
good junction? I don’t want to have the ring thicker at the
overlapped place, and I also don’t want to smoosh it too flat and
make it too thin.

Any other tips would be greatly appreciated.


#2

I hate to be a party-pooper, but…

It sounds like you are a novice silver clay user. You should
reconsider trying to make such an important piece of jewelry as your
first (or even your fourth or fifth) piece as you will probably not
be happy with your result since you say don’t want “even the
slightest flaw.” You should to be familiar with how the clay works,
how to set stones, and familiar with your own skill level before
finalizing your design–all too often beginners have ideas of what
they want to do which turn out to be impractical, inadvisable, or
impossible with the given media.

Even if you do make the ring to the standard you desire, there is
also the fact that silver clay is not the optimum medium for a ring
that will be worn every day. Fine silver is too soft for a truly
durable ring and pieces made using silver clay are even less durable
than those made using sheet or wire. You need to consider that the
ring will shrink during firing and needs to be made larger than the
desired size. You would want to use a ring insert to make sure the
ring ends up the correct size.

If you are set on making this ring, please consider taking a class
or working with an experienced silver clay artist/instructor to help
you create a piece that you will be happy with.

You should seriously consider taking your design to a local jeweler
and see if they can make the ring for you using a more durable
metal.

Mary Ellin D’Agostino, PhD
www.medacreations.com
Sr. Teacher, PMC Connection
Certified Artisan, PMC Guild


#3

Hi Sredrose,

That’s quite a challenge you’ve set up for yourself! I have a couple
of suggestions that may help.

First, the molding you want to do sounds like it may be a good job
for Photo-polymer Plate (PPP) technology. Make a good, solid black
and white drawing of your design and scan it in to the computer. From
there you can resize it or touch it up as needed. Then print it out
on to a transparency to make the plate. Tonya Davidson of Whole Lotta
Whimsy has made a good tutorial for producing these plates. Be SURE
to follow her advice about transferring the image from transparency
to Thermal Negative File (TNF). It’s easy and it produces the best
results with the finished photo polymer. Here’s a link to the
tutorial: http://tinyurl.com/69jua4 For an image with a lot of
detail, I recommend getting the metal backed photo polymer, not the
vinyl backed.

If you are making a PPP and using TNF, know that when you look at
your design, any BLACK portions of your drawing will be INSET in the
finished ring. White areas will be raised. If your drawing is the
reverse of what you want, it’s a simple thing to invert it once you
have it scanned into the computer and into an image manipulation
program such as Photoshop or Photoimpact (or one of many others).

Wedding rings are intended to be worn constantly and as such take a
tremendous amount of wear and tear. For this application strength
and construction are going to be big issues. I know you said you
wanted a fingerprint on the inside of the ring, but if you’re willing
to forgo that one element, there may be an easier and better way to
create the body of the ring itself. www.metalclayfindings.com makes
fine silver ring liners specifically for use with metal clay. The
advantages are that you would not have to worry about getting the
ring sized correctly. You buy the correct size to start with and
build on that. You also don’t have to worry about the ring breaking
at the seam. The ring liner provides a solid foundation on which to
build your design. I will be honest here, I haven’t yet tried these
ring liners. I just ordered several to give them a shot, but they
seem like a really good idea on the surface.

When you create the seam for your ring, regardless of whether or not
you use a liner, you need to try and create an overlap. I know this
will be hard to do without obscuring part of your design, but build
it into your plan if you can. The cut where you are joining the two
ends together should be steeply beveled to create the overlap. This
allows more surface area for the join, creating a stronger bond. If
you just do a straight butt seam the ring is much more likely to come
apart or break at that point, especially on a wedding ring which is
worn daily. This is true even if you use the ring liner. With a butt
seam, it could still come apart during firing as the metal clay will
be shrinking and the ring liner won’t. An overlap and a strong
connection are a must.

Good luck with this project!

Pam East
www.pameast.net


#4

Mary: I hadn’t planned on making this very soon. We aren’t getting
married for another two years (waiting to finish school). So there
will be plenty of time to perfect the technique. I asked the
questions I asked about making the MOLD because THAT is something I’m
unfamiliar with. I’ve made pieces with silver clay before. I’m aware
that the metal shrinks. I have NOT made flat-band rings before, only
a couple of bypass rings, and so I don’t know how to join seams. I
asked the questions about the STONES because I’ve never set stones
in a silver clay ring before. I also didn’t plan to make the actual
ring right away after making the mold. I will practice, as I always
do with a new design, on Play-Doh first to get the technique just
right before using the silver clay.

Pam: I will look into the ring liners and the other things you
suggested. I may just forgo the fingerprint, as it’s not crucial to
the design. It’s simply a sentimental extra. I may opt to put the
fingerprint on the outside, if possible. We’ll see how it works out.
If it’s not doable, it’s not doable and I’ll be okay with that.
Thanks for the advice.


#5
What I would like to do is make a mold for it, and fit the clay to
the mold. I know such a thing is doable; I've seen ring molds
before.

The easiest way to do this for what you want to do would be to make
a flat mold, then roll your metal clay over that, then form the clay
into a ring.

Another way would be to use the RingMaker, the Japanese tool now
available from Rio. You can make a thin mold insert that will go into
the RingMaker. Use RTV to create the mold insert.

For the resin, I’m concerned about that for a wedding ring. If you’re
just using the most basic epoxy resin, you may need to replace that
every few years. Do you know how to remove the resin?

Or you might consider a more durable type of resin… Ceramit? Is
that the name of it? The UV light curing system sold by Gesswein and
others.

For the stones, yes, you could make a small dent in your mold to
show yourself, this is where to put the stone, as sort of a
placeholder, then set the stones in the clay while the clay is still
fresh.

If you haven’t already, a class would be very helpful. If you can’t
get to a class, there are a number of online videos, both free and
paid, available.

Yet another option would be to carve the whole thing in wax and have
it cast.

Good luck! I hope he loves it!

Elaine
http://www.CreativeTextureTools.com


#6

Wow! Nice project. I have worked a lot with pmc and bronze clay and
some gold clay. I even teach some classes in it and took Rio
Grande’s class certification with Chris Darway.

You can buy ring molds from Rio Grande for pmc but it sounds like
you are custom making yours with an intricate design. I have always
found it is easier to make the intricate design and then attach it to
the ring after all my work is done and the clay is dry and sanded and
completely ready to fire. You can join your ring by beveling the
edges at a slant and then joining them together. You can also form
the ring after it is fired. I have bezel set many stones in pmc and
it can be done a lot of ways. I actually cut out small disc and form
a bezel around the stone because it looks more finished than just
pushing the stone down in a ball of clay. You can also purchase fine
silver bezels ( or make them) and incorporate them into the clay. I
find that this gives the most finished look. A company called Metal
Clay Findings (metalclayfindings.com) makes some interesting things
to incorporate. They have detailed instructions too. They make ring
blanks, bracelet blanks, bezel wire with feet for embedding in the
clay. I make all of these things myself if I need them.

Here is the biggest problem I find with Pmc rings - they are not
strong enough. I would be very concerned about a Pmc wedding ring.
Pmc in a ring does not hold up to even the slightest of stresses. If
it is enameled that causes even more concern because the ring will
not hold it’s shape and enamel does not like to be moved around. I
sell to the general public and no longer sell pmc rings - too risky.
Good Luck - joy


#7

Oh great! I run into students who want to do something like your
project as a first project all the time. Not long ago, I even had one
student (with no background in metals, clay, or any kind of art) who
insisted on trying to do her very first project out of gold clay! I
hate to discourage budding artists, but they are never satisfied with
what they make on a first try when they start with such high
expectations. Pardon me if I came off too strong in my earlier email.

Pam’s suggestion of using the photopolymer plates is the best
approach to your mold problem. Just be aware that you may have to
make several before getting it perfect.

Do look into the metalclayfindings ring liners as Pam suggested. Or
make your own using sheet/wire. You also might be interested in the
ring shank molds now being offered by several of the metal clay
companies. These molds make a seamless ring blank that is solid and
smooth.

When you make a metal clay ring by wrapping it around a mandrel,
finishing the interior to be smooth can be very time consuming. If
you choose this method, you can use the following directions to join
the ends.

Always be sure to wrap the ring mandrel with freezer paper, teflon,
or some other kind of release paper. Don’t build a ring directly on
the mandrel as it will shrink as it dries and get stuck. Wide rings
should be made on a stepped mandrel rather than a tapered mandrel.
Most metal mandrels are made of aluminum or carbon steel and you
never want to leave wet clay on these. The aluminum reacts with the
silver and will give you a poor result (see

http://www.medacreations.com/AluminumSilverClayContamination.aspx

for details). Carbon steel will rust, leaving a stain on both the
mandrel and the silver clay.

To join the ends of the clay, wrap the clay tightly around your ring
mandrel and overlap the ends and cut on a diagonal, remove the excess
clay, place (not join!) the ends together and dry until the clay is
leather hard. A diagonal will spread the stresses on the clay and
give you a stronger join than a vertical cut. As it drys, the clay
will shrink a little, and you may need to shift the band to a smaller
mandrel. Now you can join the ends using paste and pressure without
deforming the band. Allow to dry and add clay/paste/syringe as
desired for fine finishing.

Silver clay rings are generally made anywhere from 1.5 to 3 ring
sizes larger than the desired end result. If you do a lot of sanding
on the inside of the ring, you effectively increase the size of the
ring, so you might want to start at the lower end. If you are not
going to remove clay from the interior of the ring at all and intend
to fire at 1650F for 1-2 hours (to get the strongest ring possible),
you will find that it shrinks almost exactly 3 full ring sizes (US
sizes). Fire the ring around a ring insert made of jeweler’s
investment that is the size you want the ring to end up as.

Ring inserts can be purchased from a number of silver clay vendors
or you can make your own. Several vendors sell molds for making your
own inserts. You can also make your own by wrapping freezer paper or
teflon around a stepped mandrel, taping it and using the resulting
tube as a mold in which to pour investment. Be warned that making
your own this way is trickier than it sounds as you often end up
with ovals instead of rounds, air bubbles/gaps in the pieces, and the
process is pretty messy. Be sure to use a jeweler’s investment for
the most accurate results even though you may hear claims that
regular plaster will work. Some plasters may work, but many plasters
shrink when heated.

As for stone setting in a ring, it is the same process as setting in
a flat piece, but needs to be done after the ring is wrapped around
the mandrel. If you try to place them (with dents or holes) on the
flat, the warping when you curve it may be a problem. Exactly how
you do it will depend on the method you intend to use for setting the
stones. You can make dents in the clay (with a tool or by pressing
the stones into the clay), cut or drill holes after the clay is dry.
For the most precision look, you will want to drill holes after the
clay is dry. Use a pin vise and a small drill bit to get started. If
you want a flush setting and your stones are round, use a setting
bur that matches the size of the stone or is 10% larger. Obviously,
the clay will need to be thick enough to accommodate the stones you
are using.

Does that cover all the questions raised?

Mary Ellin D’Agostino, PhD
www.medacreations.com
Sr. Teacher, PMC Connection
Certified Artisan, PMC Guild


#8
I asked about making the MOLD because THAT is something I'm
unfamiliar with. I've made pieces with silver clay before. 

It sounds like you’re asking if you can make a 3-D mold, like a
regular jewelry rubber mold and inject PMC into it. The answer to
that is no. Okay, you can fill the mold cavity with PMC, but there
will be excess around the edges which you will have to remove and
clean up. That will be such a pain to clean up, that it just makes
more sense to make it in another way.

I have had success in making relatively deep one sided molds and
using those with PMC.

Elaine
http://www.CreativeTextureTools.com


#9
I will practice, as I always do with a new design, on Play-Doh
first to get the technique just right before using the silver clay. 

May I suggest polymer clay as a better practice material? Play-doh is
pretty soft. You may like to use silver colored polymer clay.

Elaine
http://www.CreativeTextureTools.com


#10

I do believe it does cover all the questions I had.

However, I was informed by another silver clay expert type that PMC
is too soft to be durable for daily wear. I was given a few options,
including making a prototype sans stones and having it cast in gold.
The option I like the best is using a sterling silver ring as the
base, making the symbols separately and attaching them to the ring.

Details of that are as follows: make a mold for each of the symbols
and set the stones into the symbol pieces bezel-style. Fit them to
the ring, and let them dry overnight.

ere’s the tricky part. I’m told that sterling silver can ONLY be
fired without oxidizing at less than 1400F. Since the stones won’t
survive anything higher than 1150F anyway, I can use PMC3 to make the
molded pieces. I should, theoretically, be able to attach the
molded bits to the sterling ring with slip and fire the whole thing
as one without risking damage to the color of the sterling. Or, I’m
told, I could fire them separately and solder them onto the sterling
ring.

So it appears that I have two options: make the ring according to my
old plan and risk having to remake it every few years (at roughly
$100, if prices don’t skyrocket, which they might), or make it
according to this new plan and have it last longer. I don’t plan to
begin work on the ring for another year and a half, so I have some
time to decide, but some input would be most helpful.


#11

Actually, I was asking about making a typical ring mold, similar to
those sold at metalclaysupply.com. My problem with those is that the
design is in positive relief and I wanted it in negative relief. Of
course, I may wind up altering my design altogether anyway. I sent
another response just a minute ago to Mary which explains why.


#12

I have made lots of Pmc rings and none of them have lasted a year
without some kind altering to help them along. It would also help if
I did not wear them all the time like when I am stacking wood. I
would not personally want a pmc wedding ring. My wedding ring is 15
years old and after I clean it it looks like the day it was made.
Big difference from pmc. However pmc is a very fun medium to work
in. Firing pmc with sterling is not recommended because of the
oxidation that takes place. It is very easy to solder pmc on to
sterling though. Make a couple rings for yourself - family or a
friend and have them wear it and see how durable it is. My largest
concern is that if I sell something I do not want to repair it in a
year - then I am losing money and I have a nervous customer. It’s
not good business to have things break. Good luck. Pmc is too cool -
but it has limitations. I save my pmc for pendants, beads, coins,
earrings. Joy


#13
... PMC is too soft to be durable for daily wear. I was given a few
options, including making a prototype sans stones and having it
cast in gold. The option I like the best is using a sterling silver
ring as the base, making the symbols separately and attaching them
to the ring. 

Sterling is still kind of soft for a ring worn daily. I have a friend
with a sterling wedding band which she has had to replace every 8-10
years… Gold would be a better option if you can afford it.

The most of the CZs and lab stones (usually corundum or spinel) can
be fired up to 1650F–what type and color are the ones you intend to
use?

Attaching silver clay to sterling can work, but will require that
the sterling be prepared by either coating it with silver paste or
depletion gilding. Argentium might be a good choice instead of
traditional sterling as it doesn’t have the same fire scale issues.

You still might be happier in the long run by making a model of the
ring and having it cast in sterling, argentium, or gold. This doesn’t
have to be all that expensive–especially if you can take a casting
class and make it yourself that way.

Mary Ellin D’Agostino, PhD
www.medacreations.com
Sr. Teacher, PMC Connection
Certified Artisan, PMC Guild


#14

The stones are garnet, sapphire, and emerald, all lab-grown and the
dealer recommended firing them at 1150F in a kiln. They’re faceted
round gemstones with points on the bottom, 4mm diameter each.

The more I think on it, the more I think that, if I really want to
do this myself without the added expense of a casting class, I
should make the symbols separately and attach them to the ring band.
I’ll look into how to do this. I know I have the option of attaching
them with thick clay slip or the option of soldering them on. I
don’t know how to get the stones set that way. We don’t want prong
settings on his ring - too feminine, he says, and I agree. I was
thinking about bezel settings.

Out of curiosity, where would I find someone to cast it if I made a
prototype? I don’t have the extra money to take a casting class,
since they all involve travel as well as the course and materials
fees. It may be less expensive to make the prototype and send it out
for casting. It would have to be sterling, because he has metal
allergies and the only metal he can wear is silver. Sterling and fine
silver don’t cause breakouts. Everything else he’s worn (including
gold, oddly enough) gives him a red, itchy rash that doesn’t fade for
nearly a week after he stops wearing the piece. I don’t think he’s
tried argentium, but it’s worth a shot. If it’s mostly silver, he
shouldn’t have a reaction to it.


#15

Of the high silver alloys only heat treated Argentium is close to
hard enough for wedding rings and even it is a little on the soft
side. Stick with karat gold for a wedding ring.

Jim

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#16

It is possible to make a two section mould for metal clay.

Start by making a deep mould over the ring - by placing the original
ring shape or object you want to make the mould from on a flat
plastic sheet. Mix up an appropriate amount of the two part compound
and press it down over the object, starting at the centre and working
outwards so you do’t create any pockets of trapped air. I usually
press all around down onto the sheet then gently press the top of the
mound flat using a bit of acrylic sheet. When it has set you will
have a mould that is completely flat on one side but also with a flat
base when you turn it over. Leave the object in the mould - turn the
whole thing over, rub a little olive oil over the flat surface of the
mould you have already made. The mix up some more of the two part
compound and press it down onto the object and open side of the
already completed mould. Again work from the middle outwards to avoid
trapping air - I usually turn it over and gently press to make the
outside of the mould flat (again). Leave it to set - make a notch
using a knife through the edge of both moulds so you can re-aligned
them when you use them and then separate the two sections and flex
the original mould to remove the object.

The tricky bit is the first time you try to estimate how much metal
clay you need - press the clay really firmly into the original deep
mould, with a tiny amount of excess above the line of the mould.
Press the other half of the mould on firmly being careful to line up
you registration notches. I usually have them on a flat surface and
press down on top of the mould using my piece of acrylic sheet to
make sure you have even and strong pressure all over.

Lift the second mould away - I usually dry the top surface of the
metal clay with a hairdryer at this point to start to stiffen it up.

You need to be really careful when you take the main part of the
mould away - not to spoil the texture as the metal clay deep in the
mould will still be soft. You can’t really dry it out completely
first as the mould will stop the piece shrinking.

I hope this helps a bit.


#17

Just thinking, seeing as he has allergies, what about making a
silver (pick your own flavour here) liner for a karat gold band?

This would give a nice hard/strong band (as James mentions, it’s
about the hardness) without as big a potential for an allergic
reaction as a plain karat gold band would have…

Just a thought. Good luck with it.

Cheers, Thomas Janstrom.
Little Gems.
http://tjlittlegems.com