Monday, March 23, 2015

Working with Metal Clay with Failed Binder!

As an instructor I demonstrate how to create different jewelry with metal clay. Sometimes I choose not to sinter the clay because it’s not something I want to keep. I place my dry clay into a container keeping it from dirt and dust until I want to hydrate the clay.

I have found that this helps me keep my costs down while teaching, but I have also found that rehydrating clay over and over causes the binder to stop working. The clay becomes crumbly and won’t hold its shape. If there are any bends in the clay, it cracks and falls apart. It eventually won't even hold to itself and is nothing but a crumbled mess.

Many new metal clay artists have had this problem due to rehydrating clay over and over. They are learning how to use the clay and it dries out during the learning process.

I have discovered mixing ½ rehydrated clay to ½ new clay fixes this problem. If the binder is really failing, you will need change the mixture, using less old clay and more new clay. Adding too much old clay to new clay will cause the whole mixture to fail.

Sometimes when I see the binder start failing, I use the clay up on small flat pieces with lots of texture. I have also dried the clay and then cut it into small bits for use as texture on a creation. Of course, you can also make it into paste.

In my next blog, I'll experiment with different processes that I have been told work for rejuvenating failed binder in metal clay.

Until next time, have fun claying around!

by Janet Alexander 
                                                                                                                                                                                              Technical Advise


Lora Hart said...

I've been wondering about trying corn starch, methyl cellulose, or some other kind of binder. Have you asked Bill Struve what he uses in his MA clays? I was thinking of doing that too. I've had this problem for years, mostly with PMC 3, which is why I don't use it much. Thanks for exploring this.

ivyivy said...

I've added cornstarch with some success, but have not run any scientific trials of it. My thought is that it probably weakens the clay a bit by adding more non-metal components to the mix, but helps the texture somewhat. It's good to add, mix, and give it some time to absorb and then go back to the clay.

Roxanne Coffelt said...

I have some PMC3 that got black mold twice now (because I got impatient and over-hydrated it!) I'm thinking it's at this stage.

Janet Alexander said...

Lora, I asked Bill Struve to comment if he has any ideas on this subject. I also have another blog coming out on April 6th testing the different applications I have heard about.

So, everyone stay tuned!

Bill Struvbe said...

The binder used in Metal Adventures' clay is made for archival museum work and I have never heard of the problem of binder breakdown. Sorry not to be of help in this problem. I don't know what binder is used in PMC3.

Janet Alexander said...

Roxanne, It is common to have some mold on the clay when it is kept wet for a while. Here is my blog on it.

Janet Alexander said...

Thank you Bill Struvbe!

Shelly said...

I am new to metal clay and have been trying to torch fire Prometheus bronze and copper clays. Sometimes the clay would sinter and sometimes it would crumble and I could not figure out why until I read your blog. Thank you for making sense of my dilemma! After working with the clay for a while it gets to the point where no matter how much I condition it with water and or oil it still cracks and wrinkles and will not become homogenous. Pieces made of clay when it gets like this only produces problem pieces. Now I know why, but what to do about it? Maybe work with smaller packets of clay so I get through all of it faster before it the binder goes kaput!

Janet Alexander said...

Yes, Shelly work with less clay at a time. Keep the clay wrapped up until you need it. If you are mixing your clay, then don't mix more than you need for the project.