May 22 2010

Updates, and Pearl-grey Steel Clay

My travel-teaching schedule has been updated. You can download it from the right-hand pane of this blog. New workshops have been added in 2011 in Pittsburgh, PA, Cleveland, OH, and Brighton and St. Joseph, MI.

I have just come back from a workshop in Texas and am preparing for a 3-week teaching trip to Europe. I will be teaching in the UK, France, and Norway. The store will stay open during this time and you will be well taken care of.

The rest of this year I will be teaching in Seattle, WA (August), The Netherlands (September), and Rochester, NY (October).

The participants of the workshop in the UK, hosted by Tracey Spurgin in East Yorkshire, will have the first chance (except for my local students) to experiment with Pearl-grey steel clay, which I hope to release after my return from Europe. This is a new type of steel clay, gray in the state of clay and pearl-gray in the state of metal. Unlike my traditional steel clay, it lasts a long time when stored in the refrigerator and does not turn grainy. It is as creamy and soft as the rest of my clays. After firing, it can be easily sanded smooth and brought to a matte finish. In reaction to patina it turns dark blue instead of hematite-black. It is compatible with all my other clays, and can be fired in combination with copper. The sintering temperature is 1750°F/955°C in a top loader, 1830°F/1000°C in a front loader.

Here are some photos:

t-Pearl necklace

t-Pear;grey earrings

The metals in the earrings above are (from top to bottom): Pearl-grey steel, bronze, regular steel, copper, and White Bronze.

t-Cube necklace

Same metals here. The center bead is patinated blue.

t-Pearl grey rock earrings

Hollow rock earrings.

t-Circle earringsThe Jewelry Artist.

t-Cracks with gold

This pendant was fired with a gold nugget.

t-Cracks with gold and patina

This is the same pendant with Birchwood Casey Super Blue patina (see instruction manual for steel clay).


t-squaes in steel

t-Magnet Clasp

The pieces in the three photos above were fired with no bronze in them. Where did the bronze come from? I am not sure, but I am very, very happy.

t-magnet clasp 2

t-Magnet clasp textured

The pieces in the three photos above take advantage of the magnetic nature of steel. They are actually magnetic clasps.

May 5 2010

Update to Firing Schedule of White Bronze

After firing White Bronze almost every day since it launched, I have arrived at a new schedule that works for both thin and thick pieces. It involved a little surprise, but I’ll save that for later.

Here is the new schedule:

Ramp at full speed to: 500°F/260°C; No hold.
Ramp at 400°F/222°C to:
      1160°F/626°C (top loader kiln);
      1250°F/676°C (front loader kiln)
Hold for 3:00 hours

If you don’t want to deal with 2 ramps, use the following, simplified but longer schedule:

Ramp at 400°F/222°C per hour to:
      1160°F/626°C (top loader kiln)
      1250°F/676°C (front loader kiln)
Hold for 3:00 hours

Total firing time is 4:00 to 4:30 hours.

You will find programming instructions on page 4 of the White Bronze instruction manual. All of the manuals – for Quick-fire clays, for White Bronze alone, and the Quick reference guide – have been updated as of 5/4/2010. Please download the new versions.

The manual for steel clay will be updated with the upcoming launch of Pearl Grey Steel.

Now to the surprise. I had a little piece of Quick-fire bronze that needed re-firing. Having nothing to lose, I decided to add it to a batch of white bronze. The repair worked! I then fired pieces of bronze with White Bronze, using the above schedule for White Bronze, and all the bronze pieces fully sintered, although the firing temperature was lower by 300 degrees than what is required for bronze. It seems that at least in this case, slow ramping and longer hold time compensated for the lower temperature.

Furthermore, I included in this batch a mixed piece of bronze and White Bronze. Here it is, as it came out of the kiln:

t-From the kiln

And here it is after sanding and buffing:
t-After sanding

Why is this good news? First, if you have just a few pieces of bronze and White Bronze, there is no need for separate firings.

Second, contrary to what I thought before, in order to combine bronze with White Bronze, it is not necessary to fire the bronze first; they can be fired together following the White Bronze schedule.

So, if you want to mix copper, bronze, and White Bronze in the same piece, you have two options:

1. Fire the copper first, then add bronze and White Bronze and fire again;
2. Fire the copper and bronze first, then add White Bronze and fire again.

I am currently testing combinations of copper and steel. Copper and steel, too, can be fired in the same batch with the same firing schedule. There is no need for separate firings.

Pearl Grey Steel and copper can be combined in the same piece, and the results are amazing!