In this article, I will show you how to make a metal clay hinged bracelet with wire bezel-set glass clay cabochons that you can buy or make yourself using Paula’s project. In a previous post I showed you how to make a polymer clay version.
Note: Project assumes some previous soldering experience. If you are new to soldering, you may want to pick up a copy of Joe Silvera’s book, Soldering Made Simple: Easy techniques for the kitchen-table jeweler (Kalmbach Books, 2010) before trying this project.
Author and How-To Photos: Jeannette Froese LeBlanc
Edited by: Margaret Schindel and Joy Funnell
Beauty Photo: Lisa Barth
Illustrations: Roxan Waluk
Experience Level: Intermediate-to-advanced
Project Materials and Supplies
40g low-fire fine silver metal clay
5 glass cabochons*
Silver metal clay oil paste (Art Clay™ Silver Oil Paste or homemade PMC3™ oil paste)
16” (40.5 cm) fine silver bezel wire
4” (10.2 cm) sterling silver tubing (.100 O.D. x .12 wall, .076”ID) Rio Grande Item# 100953
Approximately 12” (30.5 cm) solid copper wire (not plated or coloured)
2” (5 cm) medium or hard solder wire**
Three 6 mm sterling silver jump rings (24 ga.)
5” (12.7 cm) half-hard sterling silver wire (14 ga.)
2-3” (6-7.6 cm) of a light sterling silver chain
* My cabochons are 1.25” (3.2 cm) to 2” (5.8cm) wide from glass clay. You may elect to use cabs that are the same size so that your bracelet sections are the same size. I like that each section of my bracelet was a different size.
Tools, Supplies and Equipment:
Basic Metal Clay Set-Up (see page image and click to enlarge)
Ruler or measuring tape
Texture with a very low relief (such as a tear-away texture)
Fine-point permanent marker
Flush cutters or French shears
Butane torch* with a hot, adjustable flame and large fuel capacity (e.g., Jumbo Max torch) or jeweller’s torch
Jeweller’s saw frame and size 2/0 blade
Citric acid pickle in an electric pickle pot (or a very small electric slow-cooker)
Copper tongs (for the pickle pot)
Soldering board (e.g., Solderite™ brand)
Silver soldering flux and dedicated flux brush
Titanium soldering pick
Steel bench block
Flat micro file
LOS Patina Set-Up (see page image and click to enlarge) (optional)
**Be sure your torch can melt your solder; most micro torches are not hot enough to melt medium solder. If you have a jeweller’s torch, use hard solder for the best joint. Easy or extra-easy solder is not recommended for this project.
Determine the size of the finished bracelet segments. Measure your wrist with a tape measure, and then add 2” (5 cm) to that measurement to determine the total length of your bracelet. Cut a wide strip of paper that length and mark off .59”( to allow for the hinges. Line up the cabs along the center of the remainder of the paper strip, spacing them apart evenly the way you want them to be on the finished bracelet and allowing at least 7/16” (1.1 cm) around each cabochon (and 7/8” (2.2 cm) between the cabs). Pencil in the square frames around the cabs to help you envision what the links will look like, and add or remove cabs and readjust the frames as desired. I gave my squares a gentle curve on the top and bottom sides. Then measure one side of one of a square frame to determine the desired finished size of each segment. Enlarge the square based on the shrinkage of the clay formula you are using (multiply by 1.1 for Art Clay™ Silver 650/1200 or by 1.18 for PMC3™).
Make the backs of the bracelet segments. Each segment will consist of two textured layers joined with textured sides out. To make the backs of the segments, roll a clay slab to a thickness of 2 cards (.5 mm/.02”) and texture it with a very low-relief texture, such as a tear-away texture. Use the template to cut out one square for each cabochon.
Determine the size of the holes for the cabs/bezels. To determine how large to cut the holes in the fronts of the segments, measure a cab on a circle template, then multiply that diameter by the enlargement factor for the clay you’re using (1.1 for Art Clay™ Silver 650/1200 or 1.18 for PMC3™). Choose an opening in the circle template that is closest to the enlarged diameter measurement. In this picture you get an idea of the size of the opening before firing! I put the glass cab on the dry (but not fired) bracelet section to illustrate the size of the circle cut out .
Make the fronts of the segments. Roll out and texture more clay as you did for the backs. Flip the cutting template to the other side and cut out the front segments. Find the center of each front segment and use it to center the selected opening of the template, then cut out the center hole with a needle tool. Dry the front segments.
Match and attach the front and back segments. Check that you have the correct front and back segments  and brush the plain side of the front segment with water. Place it on top of the plain side of the back piece and press them together gently but firmly, maintaining pressure until they are joined securely. Repeat with the remaining pairs and allow the joints to dry thoroughly. Once all segment pieces are dry, sand the edges even on sand paper .
Make the wire bezels. Wrap fine silver bezel wire around a glass cab and use a fine-tip permanent marking pen to mark where the wire overlaps . The bezel should fit snugly but not tightly. Cut the end of the wire with flush cutters or French shears. File the ends to ensure they are perfectly straight, 90-degree cuts. Position the wire so that these ends meet perfectly flush with no gaps. Close the seam with silver metal clay oil paste and set the bezel aside to dry. Repeat this process to make bezels for the remaining cabs. When the oil paste has dried, the bezel wires are ready to be fired.
Fire the bracelet segments. Fire the bracelet segments and bezel wires at your preferred firing schedule for silver. This is the first of two firings so you could fire for a shorter time. For your second firing I I recommend using the longest/hottest firing schedule since this type of bracelet is subject to a lot of wear and tear. Allow to cool.
Shape the bezels and attach them to the bracelet segments. File the bezel seams smooth . If necessary, round the bezel by forming it around a rounded wooden tool handle . Place a bezel on the front of each bracelet segment. Ideally the bezels should fit just inside the openings, but if they sit on top of the bracelet sections you can fill it with a shallow decorative syringe border after you attach the bezels. Trace around the inside of each bezel with the fine-tipped marker, then remove them and place them next to their respective bracelet segments. Use a toothpick to apply a line of oil paste on the traced guideline and press the bezel carefully onto the oil paste. Repeat with the remaining bezels and segments. Check for any gaps and fill in with additional oil paste, if necessary. Allow the oil paste to dry and then re-fire, in the kiln . After the segments have cooled, burnish them a few at a time in a tumbler for about 30 minutes.
File grooves in the sides of the segments. Find and mark the center points on the left and right sides of each bracelet segment. Decide how long you want to make your hinges and mark off that length. If your sides are not flat, use a straight needle file and file them. Then use a triangular needle file to file a groove along the sides where the hinges will go, then switch to a round needle file and file a concave groove that matches the profile of the silver tubing. Filing a groove where the hinge tubes will be soldered increases the areas of surface contact between the pieces to be joined for a stronger attachment.
Cut the hinge knuckles. You will need to cut three sections of silver tubing (hinge knuckles) for each hinge and clasp. (I made all my hinge knuckles 5 mm long, so the total hinge length was 15 mm.) With the fine-tipped permanent marker and a ruler, mark the length of the first knuckle on the tubing. Secure the tube-cutting jig to your bench in a bench vise and align the stop on the tube-cutting jig with the mark you made. Cut the tubing segments with a jeweller’s saw , being careful to make each cut at a perfect right angle to the tubing. File or sand the ends of each knuckle very lightly to knock off any burs, then slide all the hinge tubes onto the copper wire . Mix and heat the pickle solution in the electric pickle pot according to the package directions and then pickle the hinge tubes and the bracelet segments briefly and rinse.
Mark and solder the hinge knuckles on the first segment. With a fine-tip marker, measure and mark the center points of the two grooved edges of the first bracelet segment. Center a stack of hinge knuckles against the groove in the left-side of the bracelet segment, use a fine-tip permanent marker to mark the ends of all three knuckles. Do the same thing on the right side of the bracelet segment. Coat the bracelet segment (front, back and sides), the three hinge knuckles with silver soldering flux. Lift the bracelet segment with tweezers and move it to the center of a soldering board that has been placed on a heatproof or insulated surface. Put the three fluxed knuckles into the center grooves on the sides of the bracelet segments, aligning the knuckles between their respective marks. With the flush cutters or French shears, cut three very small (~ 1 mm) pieces of sterling silver wire solder and put them to one side on the soldering block. Heat the entire bracelet segment evenly with your torch, moving the flame over the silver in a circular motion . As you heat the metal, watch the colour of the flux: When it changes from cloudy white to transparent clear, the piece is hot enough to add the solder. Carefully examine the placement of each hinge knuckle and, if necessary, use the solder pick to nudge it flush against the groove . Focus the heat on one hinge, then heat up one piece of solder and pick it up with the tip of the solder pick. Heat the entire piece again briefly, then focus the heat on the hinge area as you gently transfer the solder from the tip of the solder pick to the seam between the hinge knuckle and the groove , taking care not to nudge the knuckle out of alignment accidentally. The instant the solder flows; remove the flame from the hinge. Heat up the second piece of solder, pick it up with the tip of the solder pick, reheat the entire piece briefly, transfer the solder carefully to the seam between the bracelet segment and the second knuckle, and remove the flame immediately as soon as the solder flows. Repeat to attach the third knuckle. Then use the insulated locking tweezers to quench it carefully in a bowl of cool water. Pickle the piece for a few minutes to remove the flux and rinse off the pickle solution.
Mark and solder the remaining hinge knuckles and the jump ring. Use the completed bracelet segment as a template to mark the placement of the knuckles on the remaining segments . (Note: The glass cabs were placed in the bezels to be sure I was keeping my bracelet sections in order and right side up. Do not put the cabs into the bezel settings until all soldering and cleaning is completed.) Solder the knuckles to each of the remaining bracelet segments, as per instructions above. Solder one of the jump rings closed and then solder it onto back of the top corner of one of the end segments so that 1/3 of the jump ring extends above the top edge .
Make a tapered, friction-fit hinge pin and attach a chain for the catch. Cut a piece of sterling silver wire ½” longer than the closed hinge. Make a loop at one end (like an eye pin). Taper the pin stem gradually with a file until the entire length of the stem fits through all three hinge knuckles snugly and stays in place until you pull it out. Cut a piece of the sterling silver chain the same length as the tapered hinge pin and attach a jump ring to each end. Connect one end of the chain to the soldered jump ring and the other end to the loop of the hinge pin .
Add the fixed hinge pins. Add 1 mm to the total length of each hinge and cut one piece of sterling silver wire to that length for each of the remaining hinges. Hold each wire securely in a pair of chain-nose pliers and file a groove in one end with a flat micro file to flare the first 0.5 mm . Align the hinge knuckles on two adjacent bracelet segments and push the wire (now a hinge pin) through all three knuckles so that the flared end is flush up the top of the hinge and the other end protrudes 0.5 mm from the end of the other knuckle. File a small groove on the other end of the pin to flare it. Finish riveting the hinge pin by standing it on end on a steel bench block and tapping the head of the pin with a small hammer, such as a goldsmith’s hammer, to flare it out more. Flip the hinge over and tap and flare the other end of the pin. If necessary, flip and flare the ends of the hinges once more so that the knuckles have the minimum possible amount of “wiggle room.” Attach the remaining bracelet segments together with hinge pins. Important: The wires for the fixed hinge pins should fit very snugly inside the knuckles.
Set the glass cabs. Wait! Before you add the class cabs, add an optional patina and polish. And now it’s finally time to add the pièce de résistance – your beautiful glass cabs! Place each cab inside its bezel setting. Imagine that each cab is the face of a clock, so that the top of each bracelet segment is 12 o’clock and the bottom is 6 o’clock, etc. Use a bezel pusher to press the bezel wire against the cab gently but firmly , first at 12 o’clock and then at 6 o’clock, and then at 9 o’clock and then 3 o’clock. Don’t press too hard or you will push the cab off-center! Continue in this manner, pressing at pairs of opposite positions with each pair at right angles to the previous pair, until the entire bezel wire is pressed smooth against the cab and the cab is held securely and centered in the bezel. (Tip: Don’t try to press the bezel in adjacent rather than opposing spots or you will create wrinkles and/or stretch the bezel wire.) After the bezel has been pressed in evenly all the way around the centered cab, press a bezel roller all the way around the edge of the bezel in a rocking motion to smooth it firmly against the cab. Congratulations! Your new bracelet is complete and ready to be admired!