Monday, May 4, 2015

What is Methylcellulose and How Does it Affect Metal Clay?

Yummy fluffed substance!

In my posts on reviving failing metal clay, I had several people ask me to try Methylcellulose (or methyl cellulose). It's a chemical compound derived from the cellulose of vegetables. Like cellulose, it is not digestible. “A” type food gums are methylcellulose AKA modified vegetable gum.

In researching this substance I found that it has many uses: as a thickening component in foods, as fiber in laxatives, in the science field it's added to organisms for viewing under microscopes (it slows them down), artists use it for paper repair, bookbinding, and for general archival adhesive applications. Horror movie companies use it for making green slime and blood.

It has neutral pH, is nontoxic, and is listed on the MSDS sheet as hazardous due to its dust's flammable potential. It can cause skin, eye, and throat irritation. Last, but not least, it is dangerous as surfaces subjected to spills may become slippery! 

Methyl Cellulose can be found as a powder and as a liquid. Its powder dissolves only in cold liquid forming a clear viscous gel. If heated this gel turns solid and then returns to liquid after cooling.

With all that said, how does it affect failing metal clay? 

I decided to try the liquid form (1.5%) since most of my metal clay needs rehydrating. After rolling approximately 16 grams of crumbly metal clay as thin as possible, I added drop after drop of methyl cellulose, mixing it into the clay. I used a total of five drops. The clay became more homogenous. I wrapped it tightly in plastic and allowed it to sit for a couple of hours.

It still pulls apart showing fibers, but it is more pliable. It couldn't be used, however, if I needed it to bend into a ring.

I decided to test this clay mixture with glycerine and see if that helps. At first, it became smooth just as it did when adding petroleum jelly. After allowing it to sit for several hours, though, it is still fibrous.

Since this solution is only 1.5% methyl cellulose, I will try the powder form next. 

Until next time, have fun claying around!

by Janet Alexander 
Technical Adviser


JDins said...

Thanks, Janet!! I have learned a ton from your experiments, failures and successes! Keep them coming!

Janet Alexander said...

Just an update. I tried pure dry Methyl Cellulose mixed into the bad clay. It didn't restore the binder. I had several people who make their own clay advise me to add oil to it. I did this as well. The dry Methyl Cellulose didn't want to absorb into the clay so I added water and allowed it to sit overnight. Still no improvement. So, there you have it, oils, petroleum jelly, Methyl Cellulose (liquid and dry) do not work for restoring crumbling clay.

Lora Hart said...

Thanks for the update Janet. I'm sad that there seems to be no remedy for the spent binder. I have enough flat pieces to last me a lifetime.