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Enamelist Society ZOOM Meeting Notes

My Notes for ChampleClay or Preparing Metal Clay

for Champlevé-Style Enameling

May 5, 2020



Before I begin, I want to thank Cullen Hackler and Stewart Hackler for setting up and

        moderating these Tribal Meetings. I also want to thank my husband Evan for being

        camera man and tech assistant for my presentation.  


So…why do I use metal clay, but I don’t want to take up much time with this.

    I use metal clay because it lets me do stuff with metal that cannot be done as easily in other ways.

It can be:

  • Molded;

  • It accepts textures, from very deep to as shallow as a fingerprint;

  • It makes it easy to create hollow forms, domed forms, spheres- almost any dimensional form;

  • When dry, before firing, it can be carved and sculpted;

  • Before firing, it can be refined so that little or no additional finishing is required post-firing.


As a result, it has added to the repertoire of traditional jewelry making techniques I use to make

          my work – For example, the process I’ll be demo-ing. For want of a better word, I facetiously

          call it Champleclay, because, though the process is different from traditional champleve,

          a finished piece can resemble a finished champleve piece.

Many of you may have some experience with metal clay, but there may be some who do not. 

So...what is metal clay?

1. What is it? Very quickly, It is talcum powder-fine metal particles, held together with 

          a glue-like binder and a little water.

2. It needs to be fired at a precise temp for a precise time; a digitally controlled kiln 

          makes this easy. It can be torch-fired, but I do not trust that it is as efficient 

          or precise a process.  I don’t do it or teach it.

3. The fused metal that results from firing metal clay is called Sintered metal.

4. Many types of metal clay are available: sterling silver, fine silver, bronze, copper,

          even steel and gold.

5. Each type fires at different temperatures and durations. 


      I fire PMC3 Fine Silver, at 1650º F/ 900º C for 2-1/2 hours, though the manufacturer

          suggested several different firing schedules. 


      I use PMC3 exclusively, which is Fine Silver. It is possible to enamel on copper clays and Pam East

          has done this very successfully. Since I am not fond of using copper, I stick with what I like. 


      You can check out Pam’s excellent dvd’s for her procedures, which differ from mine, and also

          learn about her method of enameling using copper clay as her foundation metal clay... And, 

          she has a great project in Karen Cohen’s newly revised book, The Art of Fine Enameling.


6. Metal clay shrinks during the firing process (more about this later).


7. Once fired, Fine Silver metal clay can be enameled easily, the same as when enameling using

          traditional milled or rolled sheet.


Let’s get rid of a couple of myths about metal clay:


1. Metal clay is not like earthen clay or polymer clay,

          The resemblance is only that metal clay is a soft, putty-like material;

2. Once metal clay has been fired, it is no longer metal CLAY, 

          the water and binder have been burned off and only the metal remains.

3. Metal from metal clay is Sintered metal. It is not porous metal. 

          Castings can be porous; Fully SINTERED metal is not. 

          Sintered metal is simply less dense and there is no real downside to that. 


What this means is that: 

a. You can make larger pieces because they will weigh slightly less than work made from milled sheet; 

b. When you solder or enamel sintered metal, 

          the surface needs to be burnished to compress it. (More about this later)

What I’m Going to Cover


But First, let me tell you what I won’t be doing:

I won’t be showing enameling today, since I assume that all of you watching have some experience

          applying enamels to metal. The application of enamels to sintered metal is exactly the same

          as applying enamels to milled sheet metal.


There are some interesting differences, though:

   • I rarely counter-enamel. Since pieces made using metal clay are thicker than those that are

          made using milled sheet metal, it is not necessary to counter-enamel.

   • Pieces made from metal clay do not necessarily have to be domed, for the same reason

          they don’t need to be counter-enameled.

   • Pieces made using metal clay can be completely self-sufficient – that is, they DO NOT HAVE

          to be set in bezels or even have separate findings soldered on, because, in most cases, 

          findings, like bails or hinges, can be part of the metal clay construction.


Here’s what I will be doing: 

I’ll show you a series of short videos that demonstrate the process of cutting a printing plate,

          which will be used to print/impress, in metal clay, integral cells for enamel.


The videos show:

    1. Transferring a Design/Drawing to a Printing Plate and Carving It;

    2. Transferring the Carved Drawing from the Printing Plate to Metal Clay;

    3. Refining and Firing the Metal Clay Form;

    4. The Fired Form and Shrinkage Comparisons

After all the videos have run, I will talk about the finishing and burnishing processes I use,

          and include images of samples, examples of my own enameled pieces, and a few

          images of other metal clay artisan’s work. Again, please use the CHAT function for

          any questions you might have.

Post Videos – Preparing the Sintered metal Before Enameling:

   • Repairing Flaws, Bumps, Scratches;

   • Flexible Shaft or other rotary tool;

   • Radial Bristle Discs;

   • Burnisher


What if there’s a really deep scratch, depression, or crack you didn’t notice before firing?

   • Add a little metal clay paste or slip mixed with a tiny drop of essential Oil of Wintergreen

          or a product called Pastemaker, and then add a little fresh metal clay, over-filling the

          flaw (because of shrinkage). 

   • Refine it a little after it’s dry and then fire it.

   • You might need to use a flexible shaft machine to grind off a little after firing. 

          You can use a rubber or silicone type wheel. Start with a Fine grit, and if that doesn’t

          do the job, use a Medium grit then a Fine. 

   • Then use Radial Bristle Discs. 



   • Hand burnishing 

   • Jeweler’s brass brush plus mild detergent plus water

   • Steel burnisher, if possible

   • Magnetic Finisher

   • Commercial burnishing compound, not dishwashing liquid

    . Pins

   . Run 5-10 minutes

   • Rotary Tumbler

   • Shot, smallest round

   • Run 30-60 minutes


Penny Brite 

   • Removing residue of burnishing compound and grease from hands; rinse well


   • I use the Magnetic Finisher after enameling, then I usually patina and put it in the finisher again.

A couple of things: 

   1. I have compiled a list of the sources for the tools, equipment, and metal clay that I use.

          The list is on my website, in the "Resources" menu:


   2. These notes are from my ZOOM presentation. 

 One last thing – The reason I wanted to do this presentation: 

   3. I believe that there is a potential benefit from a further collaboration between the metal clay

        community and the enameling community, a collaboration that can be achieved by the sharing of

        information and the challenge of hands-on experience. So I guess I’m challenging this group

        today to consider all the possibilities of exploring the application of enameling to metal clay.

• • • • •

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