Metal Clay questions

I have been reading about metal clay for quite some time and have
just begun experimenting. I have a few questions for those of you
that have used it. I am currently using Art Clay but I would like to
hear from you PMC’ers as well.

1- I know that all suggestions point to using only fine silver for
posts, jumprings, findings etc that will be fired with the clay but
why only fine? What is the problem with using sterling for things
that obviously will get wear?

2- I find that I HATE using oil as a release agent. It gets
everywhere and is a mess to clean no matter how careful I am. I am
using Badger Balm on hands and tools because it is a solid but has
olive and jojoba oil as the main ingredients along with cocoa and
shea butter. I still have a problem with release agent for my rubber
texturing stamps. Is there any reason why I shouldn’t use cornstarch
to dust them? It is organic, it will burn off the surface of the
piece during firing and it sure is easier to clean off the stamps
than oil or the balm.

Orchid Rules!..Karla in So. California

Corn starch works fine as a mold release. The only drawback I
suppose, is that it might have a tendency to dry out your clay if
you’re not done working with it right after the molding is done.

The thing with sterling is that when embedded in metal clay the
sterling becomes brittle and breaks off – this is especially
noticeable when the wire extends beyond the clay.

Apparently the problem is the 75/1000 parts of non-silver stuff in
the sterling, that causes the problem. If you want to use sterling,
you have to solder it on after the clay is fired.

Elaine Luther
Chicago area, Illinois, USA
Metalsmith, Certified PMC Instructor
Studio 925; established 1992

What is the problem with using sterling for things that obviously
will get wear? 

You can use sterling, but you will need to solder it on after the
silver art clay product is fired (no matter what kind you use.) If
you try firing Sterling with silver clay products you’ll find that
the sterling gets brittle and breaks apart. (advice given during
various discussions at I have never fired fine
silver in PMC, I always solder to the product after firing, and not
just using a soldering iron, but using a torch and treating the PMC
like regular metal.

Karla, Since you are using badger balm on your hands, have you tried
using it as a release agent. I dab a little on an old tooth brush
and brush my stamps and molds putting a thin layer on the mold. So
far I haven’t had any problems with them releasing and I don’t get
the mess of using oil.

A Handful of Beads
Tallahassee, FL

Karla, I just finished the certification for PMC
instructor…one of the PMC projects was a gorgeous little
triangle pin…instead of making the pin, the triangle is
soldered to a stylized sterling neckpiece, no problem.

I’d tried experimenting with the Art Clay and found it too easily
drying although I may not have worked it properly. The three types
of PMC clay allow for considerable versatility in construction what
with them all having different working properties, degrees of
shrinkage, etc. I highly recommend them.

BTW, I’m in San Diego, where are you?

Karla, the original PMC shrunk about 40% and had to be fired at too
hot a temperature to allow sterling to be in the kiln with it. That
is no longer true. Try PMC3. You can fire it at a low enough
temperature to embed sterling findings. Fine silver is really too
soft to make good posts. Do you have a Rio Grande catalog? the
three currents forms of PMC are pretty well described in it. you
can rech them at: I understand there is
some other place that sells PMC but I haven’t needed to look into
that yet. Eve Welts, Certified PMC instructor, Waltham, MA

Karla: I have been using PMC for several months & love it! The
uses, applications and design techniques are limitless.

1- The reason to use fine silver findings instead of sterling silver
is the oxidation that occurs during firing. This would only apply if
you were firing the findings in place. If you are using jumprings,
earwires etc on a previously fired piece, there is no problem.

2 - Cornstarch works great a release agent on stamps and textures.
Make a “pom” out of a square of t-shirt material. Fill piece with
cornstarch and tie with yarn. Works wonders.

Best wishes. Also check out the for more
You can also privately email me with other
questions. Jacquie Atkins, Certified P.M.C. Instructor