Graceful Petals- Incorporate metal clay into traditional metal working with soldering by CANDACE STEPPES

MCAM 4.3_Page_45_Image_0001Providing elegance and sunshine to everyday, flowers can always brighten a mood. Create a flower of grace and splendor with carved leaves for that added touch of detail. I will then show you how to solder the foliage to a sterling silver cuff that will allow you to take the flower with you everywhere.

Project and Photos by CANDACE STEPPES
Editing by Jeannette Froese LeBlanc, Margaret Schindel and Joy Funnell
(All images and text copyright to the artist and permission must be given by the Artist or Creative Fire to reproduce.)

Project Materials and Supplies

  • 20g fine silver clay
  • 5g fine silver clay syringe with a medium tip
  • 1”x 6” (2.5 cm x 15 cm) strip of 18-gauge (1 mm thick) sterling silver sheet
  • Medium solder (wire, chip/paillon or paste)
  • 3/4” (20 mm) circle cutter or template
  • domed drying form
  • 1/2” (12 mm) oval cutter or template
  • large drinking straw
  • 1/2” (12 mm) teardrop cutter or template
  • 600- and 1200-grit sandpaper (or substitute a 3M™ superfine or ultrafine sanding sponge for the 1200-grit)
  • Micro file, escapement file or other carving tool
  • Jeweler’s saw frame with 2/0 blades (or metal shears and a hand file)
  • Bench pin
  • hand file
  • Chasing hammer
  • steel bench block
  • Bracelet mandrel (or a baseball bat)
  • nylon mallet
  • soldering brick (charcoal is recommended)
  • Third hand tweezers with stand
  • solder pick
  • Jumbo Max flame butane torch (or propane torch from a hardware store)
  • Quench bowl (glass or metal preferred)
  • Copper tongs
  • Pickle pot
  • Pickle
  • Also Basic Metal Clay Tools and LOS set up.
  • Basic Metal Clay Set Up_Page_1Basic Metal Clay Set Up_Page_2

Project Step-By-Step

Step 1

Make the metal clay petals, leaves and base of the flower.  Roll clay to 3 cards (.75 mm) thick. Cut out a 3/4” (20 mm) circle of clay and place it on a domed drying form, using your fingers to gently make the clay conform to the shape of the dome. al- low it to dry [1]. roll out more clay to 3 cards (.75 mm) thick. Cut out ten 1/2” (12 mm) oval pieces for the petals of the flower. Carefully drape each oval over the large drinking straw to create a gentle arch [2]. Place the straw across the warmer and allow the ovals to dry. after a few minutes the ovals can be removed from the straw and placed on the warmer to finish drying without losing their shape. to make the leaves, roll out more clay to 3 cards (.75 mm) thick. Cut out seven 1/2” (12 mm) teardrop shapes. Carefully drape three of the teardrops over the straw at an angle to create curling leaf shapes [3]. set them aside on the warmer to dry. overlap the rounded ends of two of the remaining teardrops with the points of the leaves facing outward as shown [4] and attach them with paste or syringe. repeat with the remaining two teardrops. Dry all the pieces well.

Step 2

Refine the edges and assemble the flower. sand all the dry clay pieces, smoothing the edges and any surface imperfections with 1200-grit sandpaper or an extra-fine sanding sponge. turn over the dome so the opening faces up, like a bowl. Use a damp paintbrush to lightly moisten the inside surface and edges of the bowl and the back of one of the petals. attach the moistened petal to the edge of the “bowl” with syringe [5] so that it drapes over the edge. attach four more petals around the edge of the bowl, spacing them evenly, and allow this first layer of petals to dry completely. lightly moisten the center area of the bowl, the attached petals and the back of a loose petal. Use syringe clay to attach the new petal, centering it between (and overlapping) two petals in the first layer [6]. add the rest of the petals in the same manner, slightly overlapping them in the center of the flower. allow the flower to dry.

Step 3

Add the details to the flower and leaves. lightly lubricate the palm of one hand. Pinch off a very small piece of moist clay, place it in the lubricated palm and use your index finger to roll it into a little ball [7]. repeat to make additional small balls that will be added to the center of the flower. Three balls were used in this example, but more can be used if desired. allow the balls to dry fully, and then attach them to the moistened center of the flower with small dots of syringe clay [8]. Use a damp paintbrush to clean up any excess syringe and allow to dry. Carefully use a micro file (or dental carver or escapement file) to carve line details into the petals of the flower [9] and to create veining on the leaves. sand the bottom of the flower assembly flat on the 600-grit sandpaper [10].

Step 4

Fire and burnish the flower and leaves. Place the flower and leaves on a bed of vermiculite in a firing pan [11]. fire at full ramp to 1550°f ( 843°C) and hold for 30 minutes. leave to cool to room temperature or remove from the kiln and quench in water. Burnish the metal in all the areas that will come in contact with the bracelet band, either by hand using a metal or agate burnisher or by tumbling them for 30 to 60 minutes. The pieces will not solder properly if the clay is not burnished well. Make sure that all of the pieces are completely dry be- fore they are soldered.

Step 5

Make the sterling silver bracelet band. Mark the ends of the sterling silver strip with the desired shape for the ends of the bracelet. Cut the ends of the sheet metal with the jeweler’s saw and a 2/0 saw blade to create rounded ends or any other shape you want [12]. support the work on a bench pin while sawing. alternatively the ends can be cut and shaped with metal shears and rounded with a hand file. file and sand the ends smooth with hand file and 600- grit sandpaper. texture the band as desired with the chasing hammer while supporting the piece on the steel bench block [13]. texture the entire surface of the sheet metal on one side only. The bracelet may start to curve while hammering.

Gently flatten the metal again if the curve gets in the way of the hammer strikes. round the bracelet on a bracelet mandrel (or baseball bat), using a nylon mallet to gradually conform the metal strip to the mandrel [14]. if using an oval mandrel, adjust the bracelet to fit your wrist better; if using a round mandrel, remove the bracelet from the mandrel and shape the bracelet by hand to get more of an oval shape and then fit the bracelet to the wrist.

Step 6

Solder the leaves to the bracelet ends. Place the bracelet on the charcoal block, supporting it with the third hand, so the brace- let opening is facing upward [15]; this will help create a more level surface for soldering the leaf pairs to the ends. Place a small dab of paste solder onto the back of one leaf pair [16] and smear it across the back of the leaves. Paste solder has the flux and solder mixed together. if using wire or sheet solder, you will need to apply flux to the bracelet and components first to help the solder flow. Place the leaf pair where you would like it to sit on the bracelet end, with the solder sandwiched between the leaf pair and the bracelet band [17]. heat the bracelet band thoroughly [18], and then focus the heat onto the end of the bracelet with the leaves, soldering them to the bracelet band. Pick up the third hand with the bracelet still in the tweezers and quench both the bracelet and the tweezers portion of the third hand in water. (The tweezers may get quite warm and you will need them again). Then use copper tongs to place the bracelet into the pickle pot. Wait 5 to 10 minutes for any oxidation to be removed from the silver. remove the cleaned bracelet from the pickle pot with the copper tongs and rinse to remove the pickle residue. dry well before repeating this step on the other end of the bracelet with the other leaf pair [19].

Step 7

Solder the flower to the bracelet. secure the bracelet in the third hand, this time with the center focal area of the bracelet held level at the top for soldering. Place paste solder onto the flat spot on the back of the flower [20]. Place the flower onto the band [21] and begin to heat the band only, getting it hot before warm- ing the flower. Continue to heat both parts until the solder flows, then immediately remove and turn off the torch. Quench the bracelet in water and use copper tongs to place it in the pickle pot. after pickling, rinse and dry the bracelet, then secure it in the third hand as before. Place the curved leaves around the flower to decide on their placement. solder each leaf in place individually, as the leaves may slide around if you try to solder them on both sides of the flower at once. add paste solder onto the back of one leaf and place it in the desired position. heat in the same manner as before until the solder flows. Cool, pickle and dry and then repeat the process for the remaining leaves [22].

Step 8

STEP 8: Polish and finish the bracelet. Brush the bracelet with a brass brush or burnish in a tumbler for 30 to 40 minutes. Use liver of sulfur or another antiquing/patination agent to accentuate the carvings in the metal, and then use a polishing cloth to remove patina from the high points to highlight the design. Enjoy your beautiful bracelet.

About the Author

Candace Steppes is an instructor and artist of metalsmithing and certified in Art Clay Silver. She is inspired to combine the two methods together any chance she gets. Candace finds that the joy of using hammers, saws and files joined with the intricate magic of metal clays makes the adventure never-ending.

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