Monday, April 7, 2014

Movable Parts

One of the basic tenets of metal clay production is that metal clay won't stick to metal clay without moisture. This is a very important aspect of construction to remember when you want to fabricate a box, layer decorative appliques, or connect a fixed bail. No moisture between the parts means that after firing the pieces may just fall apart. But, what if you turn this 'law' to your advantage? What if you wanted to make a moveable bail? If there is no moisture between the parts before firing, they'll swing freely and easily after they come out of the kiln!

There are lots of ways to make a kinetic bail. I thought of this one while teaching a class last week. I'm calling it the Riveted Bail. The 'rivets' are made entirely from clay, and the rivet heads can be any decorative element you can think of. I had some tiny parts made with a mold I'd taken of a decorative head pin, so I used those. The week before, I taught my students how to pre-set CZ's in a simple bezel and save them until needed. One of my students used her pre-sets for her rivet heads. You could also use the 3/8" Kemper Cutters to create 4 (or more) card thick teardrops, hearts, flowers, or disks. Here are the steps I used to make the bail.

Making the Rivets:
2mm CZ's and decorative head pin molds

1. Roll a thin, straight coil about 5 cards thick (or as thick as a toothpick). Let it dry.
2. Create two rivet heads with any of the ideas above (or one of your own!). Let them dry.
3. Sand both rivet heads to perfection and set aside.
4. Cut the coil into, approximately, 1/4" sections. Make sure the ends are perfectly flat and at a 90ยบ angle to the coil. The length of the rivet coil will depend on the size and thickness of your pendant!
5. Attach one rivet head to one side of the coil with thick slip. Set the other rivet head aside for now.

Making the Bail:

1. Cut a strip of clay 3 cards thick, about 1/4" wide and 1" to 1 1/4" long. Use a small tube or cocktail straw to put holes on each side, about 2mm away from the ends.
2. Immediately drape the strip over a cocktail straw to dry. The goal is to have a horseshoe or U shaped bail.
3. If desired, use files and/or sandpaper to create scallops or other decorative edges on the bail.

Putting it Together:
1. Use any method to make the pendant of your choice, use the same tube or cocktail straw to create a hole at the top and let it dry. Then sand and groom until it is perfect.
2. Check to see that the rivet coil will fit in the holes of the bail and pendant. If it doesn't slide through with ease, use a needle file or damp toothpick to enlarge the hole. It's easier to try and fit the rivet coil in each element separately first.
3. Slide the bail over the pendant and make sure the holes line up.
4. Gently slide the rivet through all the pieces and turn over. It might be easier to hold it in place with your finger at this point.
5. Attach the second rivet head to the back of the rivet coil with thick slip and let dry. Make sure that it can move and that there is no extra slip or moisture between the parts.

In order for the bail to swing freely, you need a little bit of room between the elements. The rivet coil should extend about 2mm's beyond the back of the bail before the second rivet head is attached. After firing, the construction may 'stick' a little, but just a tiny bit of elbow grease and pressure will click it apart.

If you want to make extra sure that the bail parts won't stick, scrape a kiln brick/pad to create a little dust, then apply it to the crevices with a small paintbrush. The dust acts as a microscopic resist/barrier and won't allow the individual elements to bond.

If you try this design, we'd love to see a photo! Please visit our FaceBook page and show us your work!

Posted by Lora Hart
Artistic Advisor


Anonymous said...

I love this idea! I've been using fine silver wire, balling up one end, and using that for the rivet, but then I had the problem of what to do with the back of the rivet! Thanks very much Lora, for your insight.
Kathy C.

Lora Hart said...

Glad this post helped your designs Kathy. If you're using fine silver wire, you can ball one end and put a clay rivet head on the other side. There are many ways to get the job done. :)

Anonymous said...

So darn clever Lora - I love it! I can't wait to try this - great idea for swing lockets.
Diane Parson