Monday, August 25, 2014

Making an Inexpensive Bench Polishing Machine

For years I've been using the same setup for polishing my jewelry and metal items. I used a simple 6" bench grinder bought from a local hardware store for less than $60. It has two grinders on each side.

With it unplugged, remove the safety shields and grinding stone from the right side of the machine leaving only the machine's shaft sticking out from the motor. Then, attach a right handed, tapered steel spindle bought at a jewelry supply store. The spindle's cost is less than $14. Spindles come in different sizes according to the shaft size (1/4" 5/16", 3/8", 1/2" and 5/8"). The spindle slips onto (over) the shaft, you then tighten the hex nut down against the shaft's flat surface.

On a 6" machine 3" or 4" buffs can be used. When attached to a right hand spindle, the buffs twist onto the end of the shaft by rotating them away from you. As stated in my last blog, I label each buff, matching it to the polish, and store inside a plastic locking bag.

Placing the machine in front of an open window with a box fan helps to remove any dust caused from buffing. Make sure to attach the machine to a solid surface so it cannot move while in use.

Until next time, have fun claying around!

by Janet Alexander 
Technical Adviser

Monday, August 18, 2014

Profiles in Artistry - Noortje Meijerink

I first met Noortje Meijerink at the 2004 PMC Conference in Albuquerque where she was giving a presentation on combining metal clay and porcelain. Her work and aesthetic are wonderful and I feel so lucky to own a small bowl and beautiful bi-cone bead from this artist.

Noortje creates her ceramic pieces first, then adds fine silver details to the fired bisque ware. The result is breathtaking. I hope you enjoy learning more about her work.

CS - I know you've been a dedicated ceramist for over 30 years, but how long have you been working with metal clay?
NM - Since 2003

CS - What skills, interests, or achievements did you bring to your designs from previous, unrelated work?
NM - As a teenager and young adult, I was trained as a clinical chemical analyst, and have taught medical subjects in the past. I've been throwing clay since 1980. Clay is always clay. The techniques you use are basically the same. Compared to porcelain, working with metal clay is like miniature working, you use a lump of 50 grams instead of 10,000 grams (10 kg)! I add metal clay to my porcelain designs. With the bronze clay I can also work in three dimensions, hand building the birds and throwing singing bowls on the wheel.

"I design birds on my pots, vases, plates and jewelry and give them silver wings to fly with."     
CS - How did you discover and/or develop your signature style or technique?
NM - Developing your own style means not compromising. Developing your own style is making only pieces you love, pieces that make you happy making them. Besides that you have to be critical with what you make and then practice, practice, and practice some more.

SkrithurDancer. The birds as an object are the
ultimate challenge working large with metal clay.
The legs on the taller bird are 60cm (23.6")!  
CS -How has your work or skill set evolved since you began working with metal clay?
NM - Metal clay taught me to be more precise, to give notice to small details. It also urged me to look beyond my own discipline and learn new skills. The interaction between the metal and the clay world gave a lot of new possibilities.

CS - Do you teach?
NM - Yes, and I love it. It gives me a lot of energy and forces me to stay alert. At the moment, besides my studio work, I teach ceramics classes twice a week and am on the board of a ceramics magazine.

CS - Do you consider yourself primarily a teacher or a maker/seller?
NM -Maker/Creator.

CS - How do you feel about teaching others your signature technique?
NM - No problem. I know how much effort it took me to get where I am now. If someone can copy me immediately after class, s/he is real good. So good that s/he will probably be bored to death soon and start his/her own way. As my boys say: "Mum, what you are doing is a devotion".
Cirkel. "Birds in all their freedom,
gracefully gliding through the sky or
proudly strutting on the ground. To
capture those motions is my challenge."

CS - How would you like your future with metal clay to evolve?
NM - I am 3D printing bronze clay now. I hope to find a design that shows the added value of 3D printing relative to casting. Printing metal clay is not the problem - firing is.

CS - Why did you choose metal clay as a jewelry making material?
NM - My primary material is porcelain, but I particularly appreciate the added value of silver clay to ceramic jewelry.

CS - What would you like new users of metal clay to know?
NM - Consider metal clay as a clay. Working with clay means working more intuitively, let the clay do it's work. And above all, work more in three dimensions!

Noortje's artistic voice is so strong and clear, and I'm looking forward to hearing her speak more about working in a 3D format at the 2015 Metal Clay Mojo Retreat.

Posted by Lora Hart
Artistic Advisor

Monday, August 11, 2014

Why Can't I Polish Fired Metal Clay with Rouge?

I was teaching a new student, who has several years of experience working with metal clay, and was shocked to hear her tell me that she was taught she should never use polishing compounds and a buffing wheel on fired metal clay.

Well, that's news to me! I've been doing it for years and it works fine. I can't think of a single reason someone would teach this.

Once metal clay is sintered and is now metal, it's fine to polish it like any non-ferrous metal. I like to sand the metal with 400 and then 600 grit wet/dry sand paper and then start polishing with bobbing compound on a stiff wheel. Bobbing is a courser grit compound and removes sandpaper lines. I then wash the piece with Awesome Orange, found at Dollar Tree, removing any compound left on the metal. Next, dry completely and then polish with a rouge, a fine grit polishing compound. I've found that Awesome Orange easily cleans the compound off the metal.

Any rouges work nicely on silver. Keep one buffing wheel for each type of polish, never contaminate the wheels with the other polish. Always dry the metal before polishing or you may end up with clumped polish on the buff.
I write the name of the polish on the side of the wheel and store each one in a separate plastic bag.

If I have stones in the piece I use Zam. It doesn't embed into soft stones like turquoise. Fabulustre gives a very nice shine in fine and sterling silver metals. Black rouge gives the metal a deeper lustre. Red rouge, creates a lighter lustre.

Here is a PMC3 ring I enameled and then polished with Fabulustre.

Until next time, have fun claying around!

by Janet Alexander 
Technical Adviser