How to make Metal Clay?

May 31, 2022
1) Personally, I find it

Homemade metal clay oil paste can be used to join metal components, including sintered metal clay pieces, that are compatible with the type, firing method and schedule of the clay used to make the oil paste; to create very strong joins between pieces of metal clay greenware (dried but not fired clay); and to attach dried clay to compatible metal (e.g., fired metal clay, wire, findings).

This article will focus on making silver clay oil paste with fine silver or 960 silver PMC, but the same method may be used to create oil paste with many other metal clay formulas and types, including BRONZclay and COPPRclay. Just check first with the manufacturer to make sure that the formula you want to use is compatible with oil additives.

Homemade silver clay oil paste made with fine silver PMC can be fired at any of the recommended firing schedules for PMC, up to 1650ºF for 2 hours (for fine silver clay and/or metal only).

Because of the flexibility in firing schedules, you can use homemade PMC oil paste to attach sterling silver earring posts, bezel cups, or other sterling silver findings to silver metal (including fired silver metal clay) and fire at 1300ºF for 30-35 minutes. Note that attachments made with silver clay oil paste and fired at this lower firing schedule to prevent the sterling silver from degrading will not be as strong as soldered joins. You can make extra-strong homemade oil paste from PMC Sterling or 960 enriched sterling silver clay.

Homemade oil paste is made with either Sherri Haab PasteMaker, which I find produces the tackiest or stickiest consistency (a very desirable quality when you are joining components with it) and also the strongest joins, or with a 100% pure essential oil. Lavender oil is the most commonly used choice, but another plant-based essential oil (but not a carrier oil) may be substituted for those people who don't like its smell.

As with regular metal clay slip, you can add metal clay dust or scraps and a little water (along with more essential oil) to replenish your container of oil paste as you use it up.

PMC oil paste can be mixed up whenever you need it, in whatever quantity you need, so you never have to worry about running out. If you don't use it often enough to want to keep a container of it on hand, you can mix up only as much as you need, when you need it.

Sherri Haab PasteMaker—Even Better Than Lavender Oil for Making Metal Clay Oil Paste

I was skeptical about the value of a commercial specialty solution for making homemade metal clay oil paste since lavender oil gave me good results in my homemade PMC oil paste and homemade bronze clay oil paste. But after my friend Wanaree Tanner raved about it, I finally ordered some Sherri Haab PasteMaker to see whether it was appreciably better than the lavender oil I had been using. It quickly became my favorite additive for making homemade metal clay oil paste, and I recommend it highly!

I use the prepared PasteMaker-enhanced slip mostly with greenware (PMC, BRONZclay, and COPPRclay) and find that it holds even delicate pieces together securely. And, of course, it works great to join fired components or to add greenware components to fired components.

How to Make Metal Clay Oil Paste with Sherri Haab PasteMaker Solution

Mix 6 to 10 drops of PasteMaker thoroughly into a pea-sized lump of fresh clay. The amount you add will determine the consistency of the prepared oil paste. Immediately scrape the paste into a small, lidded, airtight container.

Here's how I make oil paste with PasteMaker: I start by cutting off a small piece of fresh clay and scraping it onto a glass disc or sheet. I prefer using a glass surface for preparing my oil paste (or any type of metal clay paste or slip) because it' makes it easy to scrape up the clay and oil mixture efficiently. I add just a few drops of PasteMaker initially, mashing it into the clay thoroughly with a palette knife. Then I add more drops of PasteMaker one drop at a time, blending in each drop with the palette knife very thoroughly, until I get the peanut butter or toothpaste consistency I want. As soon as I have achieved the desired consistency, I scrape the prepared oil paste into one of the small glass jars with tight screw-on lids that I've saved from sample-size or travel-size cosmetics and lip gloss and cleaned thoroughly for this purpose.

How to Use Metal Clay Oil Paste Made with Sherri Haab PasteMaker Solution

The prepared slip or paste can be used to join leather-hard, bone-dry or fired silver clay components, including repairs of fired pieces. It also can be used to join bronze or copper clay components in any state—damp, leather-hard, bone-dry, or fired, and it's great for repairing fired pieces.

How to Make Homemade Oil Paste from PMC Silver Metal Clay

Making homemade PMC oil paste is fast and easy. Here's how:

  1. Start with a small jar of plain PMC3 silver metal clay slip or mix up a similar amount of slip from PMC3, PMC Sterling or 960 sterling lump clay.
  2. Mix tincture of lavender (essential lavender oil diluted with alcohol and sometimes water) or 100% pure essential lavender oil (or another 100% pure essential plant oil; see "Don't Love Lavender?", below) and water into some plain silver clay slip, a few drops at a time, stirring with a palette knife until it is smooth and creamy. If you are using a tincture of lavender, start by mixing in 5–10 drops, or if you are using a 100% pure essential oil, start by mixing in 3–5 drops of essential oil and then adding 1-2 drops of water.

    Note: When preparing the paste with 100% pure essential oil (rather than a tincture), some artists also add a small amount of isopropyl alcohol along with the water. The alcohol evaporates as it dries, but some metal clay artists find that it makes the consistency of the paste a bit creamier. Experiment and judge for yourself.

  3. Continue adding drops of tincture (or 100% pure essential oil and water, and alcohol if you're using it), adjusting the proportions a drop or two at a time, until you have a very thick, very creamy slip that smells strongly of whatever essential oil you are using.
  4. Cover the mixture tightly and allow it to sit overnight.
  5. Stir the homemade oil paste well before using.

There is no precise recipe for making homemade oil paste, and of course, the amounts of the oil, alcohol, and water you add will depend to a large extent on how much plain slip you start with. As a frame of reference, when I'm making homemade oil paste from a new, 15-gram jar of commercial PMC3 slip, I usually add about 25-35 drops of lavender tincture, or about 15–25 drops of pure essential lavender oil, about 5-10 drops of alcohol, and just enough water to get the consistency I want.

When purchasing 100% pure essential oils or tinctures, make sure you know whether the bottle comes with a standard bulb-type dropper cap or a European "dropper orifice" ( i.e., the opening of the bottle acts like a built-in dropper). If the bottle doesn't come with a dropper, you'll need to buy either a dropper cap (make sure it fits the bottle!) to replace the original cap, an eyedropper, or a pipette that you can use as a dropper.

You may want to work in a well-ventilated area if you are sensitive to the smell/fumes from the essential oil you are using. If you are extremely sensitive to the smell, you might want to store your prepared lavender oil paste in a room other than your studio.

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