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Thread: Silver clay disaster! Please help!

  1. #11
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    Whats with the silver clay bashing... Most of the issues complained about with silver clay are due to under-firing or bad technique, not really the fault of the material... it is certainly possible to produce consistent and good results using silver clay, but like anything you need to go through trial and error to learn what gives a good result. Anyway... agree that the issue here is most likely firing, 15 minutes seems very short, may well be what the pack tells you to do, but experience taught me to ignore the instructions and fire longer for stronger. We use sterling clay and our pieces are fired for about 4 hours. The downside with having one-off silver items cast is the timescales involved with sending to be cast, hallmarked, engraved etc. And castings can also fail, so unless you pay for a mould to be made of each unique piece, which will dent your profits quite some, then you will prob have to re-do the odd wax. In my experience most customers wanting a silver fingerprint charm would not want to wait 6-8 weeks, lots don't like waiting 3-4 weeks

  2. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Melanie View Post
    Whats with the silver clay bashing...
    I've gone back through all the messages and I really don't see anything I'd regard as bashing. Silver clay is a porous, sintered product that is not as strong as solid metal; it requires more solder than solid (again due to the porous nature) and is a pig to repair by welding (due to the same issue). I've seen so many failures with it that I have to wonder how much is really down to bad technique - and if the instructions say to fire for a certain time, then it's not unreasonable to expect that to suffice.

    For one-offs casting is a more expensive option - but that segues straight into my usual rant about pricing things properly. If I were doing them I'd probably go the route of casting the item, doing an image transfer and engraving the print; laser engraving (GETi, for example) would be another option; there's also the Gravograph machines that'll do images, but I'm not sure what level of detail they can do.

    Now, if you want to see some real silver clay bashing I can do that quite easily; I don't use it and I can't see any need for it in what I do.

  3. #13
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    Mar 2013
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    Would those of you familiar with Art Clay Silver agree with firing at 1650 degrees Fahrenheit or 900 degrees Centigrade for two hours? This is such an increase in temperature and time from what I've been doing and what the instructions say but the consensus does seem to be to fire hotter and for longer. All advice gratefully received!

  4. #14
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    Sure, however lots of people do use silver clay and do need it for what they do, in particular it lends itself very well to the keepsake market and provides a good way in to learning more traditional jewellery skills to complement its use. I really don't want to stir a hornet's nest, have found this forum extremely helpful and supportive, but the suggestion that all items made from silver clay are not suitable for sale is one I just can't agree with it - but then I am not going to am I as my family are fed, clothed and sheltered solely on the sales of my silver clay jewellery

    I understand about the structure of clay v's solid metal and yes, if I twist and twist a piece of sterling silver sheet with pliers the same thickness as a piece of properly fired sterling clay, the sheet will last a fraction longer, but really, with that level of force both are quickly distorted. If a piece has been properly fired it will withstand normal treatment. Totally agree that the instructions given should give the best result, but they don't, and a quick google shows up alternative firing schedules and lots of research and experiments by silver clay artists problem solving and getting consistent and strong results from their firing schedule.

    There are other ways of making similar jewellery, but they are expensive and not really accessible to a small home-run business. Gravograph machines were about 6k last time we enquired, and they don't produce the same result as the clay does with the impression. Same argument with laser engraving really, but add 20k or so if you want your own laser and don't want to outsource. You also need have everything else in place to ensure you can get the return from the investment, a lot of small businesses simply won't be in the position to make this happen.

  5. #15
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    Am not familiar with art clay silver but the best way to test is to sacrifice a small piece of clay as a test strip. Fire it like you said above then bend with pliers and see how far it goes before it breaks. I would compare it to a test strip fired using your old 15 minute firing program. Then you will have peace of mind as to the extra strength you are achieving using the new schedule and your kiln.

  6. #16
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    Mar 2013
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    Thank-you very much Melanie for your input. Out of interest why did you choose to use sterling clay? Is it considered superior to fine silver clay?

  7. #17
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    A few reasons really, I used fine silver clay for about six months before moving to sterling, mainly because it is stronger than fine silver, because customers are used to buying sterling silver whereas they are confused as to what fine silver is, and because the main competition had chosen to move to sterling. You should still work harden pieces. Mine all get a good post-firing thwack with a hammer as part of their flattening out process The firing process is more demanding, it has to be fired once on an open shelf, and then fired again in carbon, but once you get to grips with that it is good to work with in both wet and dry stages, and polishes up beautifully.

  8. #18
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    Thanks Melanie, that's interesting to know. I'd seen a major company using sterling and was impressed with the mirror finish but was put off by the complicated firing. Might give it a go though!
    For now though is it fair to say then that I'd need to hammer, burnish and increase the time and temperature? I mean you couldn't get away with firing low and quick and then just burnishing before soldering? I will experiment but it's good to get expert opinions! Additionally I was wondering about shrinkage. I mean if firing the way I have been causes about 8 or 9 per cent shrinkage would firing much longer and stronger continue to shrink? Many thanks!

  9. #19
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    If you fire longer it will shrink more, and personally I would defo fire longer, work harden, and burnish the back before soldering. Firing at low temperatures for a short time isn't going to produce the strongest result I'm afraid.

  10. #20
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    Mar 2013
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    Thank-you I'll definitely increase the time and temperature then. At the risk of sounding like a complete amateur, what does work hardening involve? As I mentioned in a previous post I received a hammer as part of the silver clay starter package that I bought but there was no mention of what to do with it. Similarly I wasn't taught about burnishing and had only been sanding before soldering the backs onto the cufflinks. Is there a particular type of burnishing tool that would be best for this? Sorry for all the questions!

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