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Metal clay earrings

Try your hand at a new technique—metal clay carving

If you like working with metal clay and have been looking for a way to personalize it more, try carving. Small gouging tools give you the control you need to create your own designs.

SUPPLIES

Pair of earrings

  • 10–25 g lump-form metal clay
  • 2 3-in. (7.6 cm) 20-gauge head pins
  • acrylic roller
  • 3⁄4-in. (1.9 cm) circle or square cutter 
  • 3⁄8–1⁄2-in. (1–1.3 cm) circle cutter
  • craft knife or scalpel
  • 1⁄32-in. (.8 mm) drill bit 
  • finishing tools, such as a hand burnisher, stainless steel wire brush, sanding and finishing pads, or a tumbler
  • food dehydrator or warming tray* (optional)
  • kiln legs
  • nonstick work surface
  • olive oil 
  • paintbrush
  • plastic sheet protector
  • plastic wrap
  • 20 playing cards
  • programmable kiln
  • sandpaper, 400–1200 grit
  • sealable container*
  • sponge
  • stainless steel container and coconut or carbon granules
  • V-gouge and U-gouge carving tools (Rio Grande, 800-545-6566, riogrande.com)
  • water
  • roundnose pliers

* Dedicated to non-food use

INSTRUCTIONS

1. If you’re using BronzClay or CopprClay, make a humidor for your clay, and condition the clay.

Metal clay earrings Photo A
Photo A
Metal clay earrings Photo B
Photo B
Metal clay earrings Photo C
Photo C
Metal clay earrings Photo D
Photo D

2. Lightly oil your hands and the insides of a sheet protector. Pinch off 10–25 grams of conditioned clay, and place it in the sheet protector. Use the larger amount if you want to make several pairs of earrings, and the smaller amount for one pair. Place a stack of 10 playing cards on each side of the clay, and close the sheet protector. Place the rest of the clay in the humidor.

3. Flatten the clay slightly with your hand, and then roll the clay flat with the acrylic roller. 

4. Remove the clay from the sheet protector, and place it on your work surface. Using the larger shape cutter, cut out two shapes for each pair of earrings you are making. Using the small circle cutter, cut a small circle from each large shape (PHOTO A). Gather up the excess clay, roll it into a ball, and place it back in your humidor.

5. Allow the clay shapes to dry overnight on your work surface, or to speed things up, dry them in a food dehydrator or on a warming tray. If you do, keep an eye on them and flip them if they begin to warp.

6. Lightly sketch a design on the surface of the clay. Make sure any pen or pencil markings will be carved away because too much of either can prevent the clay from sintering properly. Using the U-gouge or V-gouge, gently carve along the design (PHOTO B). When you get close to the end of a cut, slow down, and lift your tool carefully so you don’t scrape across any portions of the clay that you don’t want carved.

7. After carving the design, use the drill bit to create a hole through the top edge of the shape (PHOTO C).

8. Sand the edges with sandpaper if desired. Start with 400 grit, and move progressively to the finer grits.

9. Repeat steps 6–8 with the other shapes.

10. Load the pieces into the kiln or stainless steel container, depending upon what type of clay you’re using. If using the container, place it on kiln legs. Fire according to the firing schedule. Sand and polish the pieces as desired.

11. Slide a shape onto a head pin. To create the earring hook, gently bend the head pin around the thickest part of your roundnose pliers about 1 in. (2.5 cm) from the shape (PHOTO D). The end of the wire should stop behind the shape, not above or below. Repeat with the other shapes.

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