Friday, June 08, 2012

Argentium + Metal Clay: The Learning Curve

While some aspects of fusing Argentium and metal clay have become second nature to me, there is still a steep learning curve of techniques to learn to implement my vision. The first Argentium/metal clay Cloud brooch, while exhibiting many flaws, taught me a series of invaluable lessons this week. Notice I said first, because the flaws are serious enough to mean I need to repeat this piece to master the ideas.

Cloud brooch, front
©2012 Vickie Hallmark
hand-formed fine silver clay fused to Argentium, CZs, stainless steel pin stem
Cloud brooch, back
©2012 Vickie Hallmark
hand-formed fine silver clay fused to Argentium, CZs, stainless steel pin stem

Lessons learned:

  1. Although I've fired CZs in metal clay and I was told that they can be torch fused into Argentium, they turned black in the flame and came out milky white. Setting after the fact is easier than removing stones, so why take the chance?
  2. After fusing CZs into tube settings, there's a vacuum seal holding them in place. Just opening the bezel won't allow them to come out. 
  3. Drilling holes from the back to release stones on an irregular piece is interesting, as in 4 out of 5 will be in the correct place.
  4. Extra leaves in odd places can cover holes. 
  5. Tube settings that have been opened up forcibly to remove stones never look as nice as perfect new ones.
  6. Poor torch control can melt adjacent thin, delicate areas. Best to not saw out areas that leave such exposure until after all torch work.
  7. The correct size drill bit is usually unavailable. 
  8. Soldering in the stainless steel pin stem is difficult to do without annealing the steel, which decreases its spring.