Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Joy of Metal Clay: Pearl Grey Steel - Trial # 1

As I mentioned several Sunday's ago, I tired creating with pearl gray steel clay. Sadly the pieces I made broke in transit....I finally decided to fire them to see whether I managed to at least sinter the clay properly.

Here is what I did:
I started with Pearl Grey Steel (Pearl Grey Steel Reference) mixed with Quick Fire Copper.
I placed it in a steel pan with carbon and fired it with a full ramp to 1000F then held it for one hour then ramped it 750/hour to 1800F and held it for one hour.

Sadly, I had failure (or partial failure, partial success). Several pieces did appear to fire correctly but I found that the pieces on the edges of my box did not sinter properly and I was able to break them in half...Oh how frustrating. Upon further inspection I realized that the pieces were breaking in the area of the copper clay....I was able to separate the copper from the steel and discovered that the steel had sintered but the copper had not.

Sorry I don't have any pictures....(The camera is MIA - I have two boys who have developed a love for photography)

I am planning to order more steel clay and fire again, next time I won't get ahead of myself and combine the clays. I will admit there are some things I that may have caused the problems:


  1. I used a steel pan to fire the pieces in as opposed to Hadar's recommended Fiber Blanket Box (directions to build this are here). The reason why this could have caused a problem is that the Fiber Blanket Box, likely acts as an insulator and may keep the pieces just a little bit warmer and affecting the overall temperature (???).
  2. Another problem may have been my carbon as I hadn't fired with Carbon in a while and perhaps this was a bad batch.
  3. Finally the problem could have been the type of copper (obviously the copper that didn't properly). I do wonder whether the copper was not Quick Fire (there is a traditional type as well). The pieces were made at a friends house so I don't have the containers but I wonder if this was the problem.


Sadly, I have found no matter what type of base metal clay used the ability to get consistent results in firing to be frustrating and there are often few clear cut answers.

Overall, I am optimistic that the steel actually sintered properly the problem was with the copper. I will be ordering more steel and perhaps some white bronze and I will update you on what I find. (Plus I will add pictures)

As I have mentioned in the past Hadar's Blog is a wealth of information for base metal clays. Check it out, it is inspiring.

Heather

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