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Metal clay-wrapped bangle

Make a lightweight custom bracelet with metal clay and a prefabricated tube bangle

Second only to rings in the “sustain wear and tear” department, bracelets are not necessarily the best jewelry candidates for fine-silver metal clay designs. Another factor to consider when making bracelets with metal clay is the sizing issue — metal clay shrinks. To get around these challenges, we used a commercially available sterling silver tube bangle as an armature for our bracelets. The armature is durable and lightweight and takes the guesswork out of sizing. With the infrastructure taken care of, you’ll have more time for the fun part: making textured metal clay strips to embellish your bangle.

SUPPLIES

  • Sterling silver premade tube bangle
  • Cork clay (optional)
  • Metal clay: silver, low-fire formula, 30 g
  • Metal clay overlay paste
  • Metal clay syringe clay
  • Jeweler’s saw frame, 2/0 blades (optional)
  • Cotton pad, denatured alcohol
  • Two-part silicone molding compound (optional)
  • Liver of sulfur
  • Steel shot cleaner

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Part 1: Prepare the tube bangle armature

Metal Clay Wrapped Bangle 1
Step 1
You’ll use a premade bangle as an armature for the bracelet. To make the bangle smaller, use a jeweler’s saw and a 2/0 blade to cut out a section of the bangle.
Metal Clay Wrapped Bangle 2
Step 2
To make the bangle larger, spread the ends. Bridge the gap with a cylinder of cork clay; push the clay 3⁄16 in. (5 mm) into each end of the bangle. Allow the cork clay to dry completely.
Tip!
When you’re firing a bangle that contains cork clay, use a slow kiln ramp speed of 1500°F (816°C) per hour.
Metal Clay Wrapped Bangle 3
Step 3
Clean the bangle with a cotton pad and denatured alcohol.
Metal Clay Wrapped Bangle texture
Textures are everywhere

There’s no need to limit yourself to pre-made rubber stamps or sheets for interesting textures for your metal clay projects. We’ve used two-part silicone molding compounds to pull textures from wallpaper, wood, fabrics, and even fly swatters!

To get a great waffle pattern for one our bracelets, we made a mold from a piece of plastic needlepoint canvas.

Part 2: Add metal clay embellishments
Metal Clay Wrapped Bangle 21
Step 1
Using natural hand balm or olive oil, lightly oil a flexible Teflon sheet, a plastic roller, and your hands.
Metal Clay Wrapped Bangle 22
Step 2
Use hand balm or olive oil and a flat-tip paintbrush to lightly oil your texture sheets.
Metal Clay Wrapped Bangle 23
Step 3
Use a hard, clear plastic sheet to roll out a cylinder of low-fire silver metal clay to 2 playing cards thick and about 1 in. (25.5 mm) long. 

NOTE: We prefer low-fire formulas of metal clay for this project because these formulas don’t shrink as much as high-fire formulas.
Metal Clay Wrapped Bangle 24
Step 4
Flatten the clay cylinder with your roller.
Metal Clay Wrapped Bangle 25
Step 5
Peel the strip of clay from the Teflon sheet.
Metal Clay Wrapped Bangle 26
Step 6
Gently press the strip into an oiled texture sheet.
Metal Clay Wrapped Bangle 27
Step 7
Peel the strip from the texture sheet.
Metal Clay Wrapped Bangle 28
Step 8

Use a cutter or tissue blade to cut the strip into pieces that are long enough to wrap around the armature with some overlap.

NOTE: You can make a paper template (as shown) to help you gauge how long to make the pieces.

Metal Clay Wrapped Bangle 29
Step 9
Using a fine-tip paintbrush, apply a coat of paste to the back (non-textured side) of the clay pieces. 

NOTE: We use Art Clay Silver Overlay paste because it’s a good bonding agent for attaching metal clay to smooth surfaces like metal and glass.
Metal Clay Wrapped Bangle 210
Step 10

Wrap the textured piece around the bangle, making sure that there is overlap. If necessary, use the fine-tip paintbrush to apply a little paste to secure the overlapped portion to the clay beneath it.

Metal Clay Wrapped Bangle 211
Step 11

Repeat the previous steps to add more textured pieces to the bangle, using various texture sheets. We staggered the placement of our wraps so that pieces with the same texture were not adjacent. 

Metal Clay Wrapped Bangle 212
Step 12

Repeat the process to add enough textured pieces to cover the bangle armature. Or, leave a few areas uncovered, and wrap thin cylinders of clay around these portions. We also added a few syringed clay designs directly to the bangle armature.

As the clay dries, it will shrink, creating some gaps. Use a syringe applicator to fill the gaps with clay. Smooth the clay with your flat-tip paintbrush. Allow the clay to dry completely (see the “Metal Clay Dryness” chart).

Metal Clay Wrapped Bangle 213
Step 13

Using your fingertips, check the surface of the clay for any sharp bits or pieces that would make the bracelet uncomfortable to wear. Use a sponge-tip applicator moistened with water to smooth these areas. Or, use fine-grit sandpaper or emery tools to smooth the surfaces. Allow the assembly to dry completely.

 

Part 3: Fire and finish

Fire the bangle according to the clay manufacturer’s instructions. 

We used a low-fire clay and fired at 1250°F (677°C) for 40 minutes.

Metal Clay Wrapped Bangle 31
Step 1

Due to clay shrinkage, there will be gaps in the pattern after firing.

Metal Clay Wrapped Bangle 32
Step 2

Use a syringe applicator to fill the gaps with clay paste.

Metal Clay Wrapped Bangle 33
Step 3

Smooth the clay with a fine-tip paintbrush. Allow the clay to dry completely. Refire the bangle according to the clay manufacturer’s instructions, using the same firing schedule that you used for the first firing.

Metal Clay Wrapped Bangle 34
Step 4

Use a wire brush and soapy water to finish the bangle. Place the bangle in a tumbler with steel shot and burnishing compound, and tumble for 2 hours.

Metal Clay Wrapped Bangle 35
Step 5

Apply a liver of sulfur patina. We used a very strong solution to achieve an almost black patina. After polishing, this brought out the details of our textures.

Metal Clay Wrapped Bangle 36
Step 6

Using a soft cloth, remove the patina from the high points, leaving the dark color in the recesses of your textures. To really make the silver highlights pop, tumble the bangle again. 

NOTE: After you tumble the bangle, clean your tumbler barrel and steel shot to remove all traces of the liver of sulfur solution. We add steel shot cleaner and water, then tumble for about 20 minutes before we rinse the shot and barrel thoroughly. 

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