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Threaded connection pendant

Create threaded metal clay components to use in finished designs

One of my favorite places to ponder creative solutions to construction problems is our local hardware store. This threaded technique is the result of one of those hardware-store “Eureka!” moments. It occurred to me that I could use threaded plumbing parts to create threaded metal clay components. The thread components could then be incorporated into a design, providing an innovative way to connect two parts of a finished piece.

The pieces I used for this demonstration are rather large because I used COPPRClay and needed to compensate for its 20% shrinkage rate. You can practice using clays with lower shrinkage percentages and smaller couplers to make more delicate pieces.

See the project instructions below. For the free project PDF, click here.

Materials

  • Copper metal clay: 30 g 

Tools & supplies

  • Copper plumbing coupler, male and female: 3⁄4 in. (19 mm)
  • Circle cutters: 1 in. (25.5 mm) diameter, 1⁄2 in. (13 mm) diameter
  • Graph paper
  • Stainless steel firing mesh
  • Tape

Toolboxes

Instructions

Threaded connection pendant 1
Photo 1

Prepare the clay. Knead 30 g of copper clay into a smooth ball.

NOTE: You can incorporate a little water or olive oil into the clay [1] to prolong its workability. Move through the steps as quickly as possible until you have placed the clay on the copper plumbing coupler.

Threaded connection pendant 2
Photo 2
Threaded connection pendant 3
Photo 3

Cut out a clay ring. Roll out the clay to at least 3⁄8 in. (10 mm) thick. Use a 1-in. (25.5 mm) circle cutter to cut a circle from the clay. Remove the excess clay [2]. Use a 1⁄2-in. (13 mm) circle cutter to cut a hole in the center of the clay circle, creating a ring [3].

NOTE: The seamless shape makes the threading smooth and prevents a seam from separating during drying and firing.

Threaded connection pendant 4
Photo 4
Threaded connection pendant 5
Photo 5

Create the female threaded component. Lightly spray olive oil over the threading on the male half of a copper plumbing coupler. Gently work the clay ring over the male coupler, pressing the clay down over the threading [4], and squeezing the clay all around the coupler to prevent bunching and gapping [5]. Set the piece on a mug warmer until the clay is semi-dry.

NOTE: This half, although formed on the male coupler, becomes the female half of the metal clay coupler.

The clay will shrink while drying. If the clay is left to dry completely on the male coupler, it will not shrink to a compatible size. Very carefully, unscrew the clay ring from the male coupler. Allow the ring to dry completely.

Threaded connection pendant 6
Photo 6
Threaded connection pendant 7
Photo 7
Create the male threaded component. Repeat the steps to make a second clay ring. Lightly spray olive oil on the threading of a female copper plumbing coupler. Work the clay ring inside the female coupler, pressing the clay so it takes the shape and depth of the threads [6]. Set the piece aside to dry until semi-dry. Remove the clay from the female coupler and let the clay ring dry further until it is completely dry [7].
Threaded connection pendant 8
Photo 8
Threaded connection pendant 9
Photo 9

Size the threaded components. Carefully screw the male and female halves together. Use a craft knife to score the rim of the female half 5⁄64–1⁄8 in. (2–3 mm) taller than your desired final height of the finding [8]. Brace the male half with your fingers and slowly unscrew the pieces. Be patient, and don’t force the pieces.

Use a craft knife to gently shave the clay away from the female half until you reach the scored line [9]. Repeat to trim the male half so it equals the height of the female half.

Refine the outside. Place the female half on your work surface and assess the outer surface. If needed, trim or sand the surface of the clay until it is smooth. Be careful not to trim so much that you carve through to the threads.

SAFETY NOTE: Some people find copper clay dust irritating. You may want to wear a dust mask while sanding.

Threaded connection pendant 10
Photo 10
Threaded connection pendant 11
Photo 11

Adjust the height. Cut a strip of graph paper that is the desired height of your finished component. Tape one end of the strip to the female half, and wrap the strip around the ring until the strip overlaps [10]. Make sure the graph lines line up, and use tape to secure the strip.

Place a piece of sandpaper flat on your work surface. Working in a figure-8 motion, sand the clay down to the edge of the graph paper [11].

Threaded connection pendant 12
Photo 12

Remove the graph paper, and screw the two clay halves together. (Work slowly so you don’t distort or wear down any threads.) Sand the male half even with the female half [12].

Your findings are ready to insert into your vessel. To create the pendant as shown, I formed and fired the clay in three different sections: the cap (with the male component), the barrel (with the female component,) and the base. (For basic firing instructions, click here to see “How to Fire a COPPRclay Piece with Threaded Findings” in the project PDF).

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