Monday, March 28, 2011

Epoxy Clay Tutorial



Ooooo - we are excited about this!

You are familiar, I think, with 2-part epoxy glue. It is an glue that comes in two separate containers, a resin and a hardener. You mix equal quantities together, apply to what ever you need to glue, and wait for it to cure - to harden.

Well - now we'd like to introduce you to 2-part epoxy clay. It comes in two parts - a resin and a hardener - only, instead of a liquid - it is a soft putty or clay. You take equal parts of the clay and the hardener, knead them together until thoroughly mixed, and then apply to what ever you want to bond together, and wait for it to cure.

Where it differs from straight glue or adhesive is that it is moldable. Where it differs from say, polymer clay, is that it cures without being baked, and it is inherently adhesive. It is opaque, comes in a variety of colours (which can also be blended together), and has a decently long "open" or "working" time. Stephanie, Jen and I have all been experimenting (playing!) with this for a few weeks now.

It's going to go live on the site on Wednesday night (update is at midnight) - but I thought I'd show you some of the stuff I've made, and do a little tutorial on how to use it!

(We will be carrying two different brands, one is Crystal Clay, the other is Apoxie Clay. Both are excellent - with only subtle differences. Whichever you prefer appears to be a matter of "imprinting" - see Konrad Lorenz's work on animal behaviour. ;-) )

Epoxy Clay Tutorial


First - assemble the items that you will need first.


  • clay (obviously)
  • and whatever you want to decorate and whatever you are going to decorate it with.
  • In this case, we are making a pendant with a honking big rhinestone, surrounded by little rhinestones. We have a bezel pendant, and the stones. And we also have some metallic powder, for extra glitz.

  • disposable work surface (I wrapped a tray in plastic wrap. It's just easier than cleaning up.)
  • toothpicks- for manipulating the clay
  • disposable gloves (multiple pairs - you'll need to peel off the gloves and re-glove part way through.)
  • q-tips - er, sorry, cotton swabs
  • a small container of water
  • paper towel
  • tweezers, fine - for manipulating stones
  • stone positioner - blob of bee's wax on the end of a bamboo skewer - essential for picking up small rhinestones.
  • some sort of craft knife for cutting, scraping, etc, will be handy. I used a paring knife, but, and I stress this - this is not a food prep knife and it will not go back to the kitchen. I have a special paring knife for crafty stuff. Generally - I use it at the torch. ;-)
  • if available, a small scale - wrapped in plastic or in plastic bag, or with a piece of plastic on top


1. Put your gloves on and take equal parts of the two parts of the clay, part A and part B. One part will be a dull grey colour - the other part will be your "colour" - the final colour of the finished clay. I scoop some out with the knife. Be sure to clean the knife between scooping out part A and part B - you don't want to contaminate one with the other. Much to my surprise - until this clay cures - hardens - it can be cleaned up with water, so use your pot of water and some paper towel to wipe the knife clean.

You need equal quantities of parts A and B - within reason. You can make two balls and eyeball them for size.

If you'd like to be a little more accurate - you can do it by weight.



I take a small scale, put plastic wrap over it - so I won't get sticky clay on the scale, and weigh the two pieces.

When you have two pieces more or less the same size,

You can start kneading them together. You can roll them together into a sausage, fold, re-roll ...
or you can flatten and tear and stack, and repeat, or both. The clay is very soft and easy to manipulate - you don't need to warm it up, like polymer clay.

Continue mixing for about 2 minutes, until the clay is an even colour - no marbling.
Remove the messy gloves you are wearing, and put on clean ones. This allows you to pick up and manipulate tools, the bezel finding, etc, with out making it too messy. Now press the clay into the bezel finding, pushing it down all the way, smoothing it, etc.
You may find some spills over the outside of the rim of the bezel. Scrape off any excess with a toothpick - no danger of scratching the metal that way.

You may have to take some off if there is too much - the knife is good for that. If you did not mix enough - you have plenty of time to mix some more, and then pry out the first batch, knead them together, and do it again. The working time is at least an hour - depending on which type of clay you used.

You can also use the cotton swab dipped in the water to smooth the surface and remove lines and rough spots. (I find I get lines from wrinkles in the glove.)

Next - press your main stone into the clay. It will displace the clay and it will bulge up. This is where I'm going to be setting the smaller stones. I swabbed it with water again to make it smooth and checked that I didn't have big bulges over the sides.


The stone should be pushed far enough into the clay, that the clay come up past the widest point of the stone, (the girdle) and onto the narrower part again, making sure that the stone is secure.



Start setting the stones - using the blob of wax on the stick to position them (the Crystal Clay kit comes with one of these. Otherwise, you can make your own, or use the same one that is available for picking up hot fix rhinestones.) Touch the sticky wax to the top of the stone, move it to where you want it to be, press down gently and lift away - the stone should stick to the stickier clay. If it wants to hang onto the wax blob, twist/spin gently, about a 1/4 turn to separate the stone from the wax, and next time, pick up with less pressure.
Position the stones, and then press them in securely. You can use the other end of the stone position, the back end of the tweezers, whatever is handy.
If you want the clay to look metallic - put the pendant into a small container, and dump the metallic powder (MetalFX) over it. Smooth it down with a finger, and then leave the whole thing to cure. (The powder will brush off the stones after. The excess powder can be poured back into the container and reused.)
Leave it to harden - about 24 hours. Don't mess with it - just leave it alone.
Once it has cured, you can brush away the excess metallic powder - I usually wash it gently in the sink.

So - now you know what to do with those really big rhinestones that you've been itching to use, but just can't quite face 400 hours of beading a bezel for. ;-)

Tips

When removing the gloves, pull up from the wrist over the fingers, half folding the gloves inside out - then pull off all the way and discard. This keeps the messy part inside.


Discard the gloves when they get messy. You don't want to be putting fingerprints all over the back of the jewelry item while you are making it. Just gives you more to clean up.

I often remove the glove from my dominant hand once I start placing the stones, but leave one on the other hand, so I can still manipulate the clay if I need to.

Gloves are available from your local drugstore by the box of 100 and come in sizes (but not left and right). If you have a latex allergy, there are synthetic gloves available, and also Nitril gloves, which are more expensive, but sturdier.

These epoxy clays are supposed to be safe enough to eat - but I prefer to not get the uncured clay on my hands while working with it!

Think about what else you could embed in the clay. How about a wire design? Or beads? Maybe some cogs and gears, or tiny found objects? Maybe an orphan earring can become the foundation of a new pendant? Cabochons. How about lampwork beads that annoyingly cracked in half?

The clay can be smoothed with water - but resist the urge to just wash the water over the stones as well - if you do - you'll get a film of the clay on the stones and it will dull them. The stones may have a little wax residue from the positioner - you can clean that up once the whole thing has cured.

This fun ring is vintage and new stones.
This enormous pendant cross - reminiscent of a medieval relic - demonstrates that the clay is strong enough to be used without a backing. I made this directly on a sheet of plastic, and pulled the plastic off the back. The hanging loop is a loop of wire, embedded in the clay. Pearl beads and crystal rhinestones and gold ball chain accent the huge acrylic gems. I textured the clay after the metallic powder had been added.

On the left - Vintage inspired ruby ring - made with vintage rhinestones, and on the right, a more modern design - showing the natural black colour of the clay.

This showy pendant by Stephanie Dixon also has a more up-to-date look.
Oodles - simply OOODLES of posibilities! I already have more ideas coming!

And - look for classes by Stephanie Dixon on using the clay and projects to come on our inspirationFX!

10 comments:

GailDB said...

Wow, this looks like oodles of fun - as you said... can't wait to try it. Thanks for the nicely detailed tutorial DJ!

Carol S. said...

What a wonderful tutorial, and such a great product. I thought I was finished shopping for this month, but just might have to place another order from BeadFX! The idea of making clay projects without heat is giving me the courage to try something new. Thanks so much.

schlichting said...

This is great! I have played a bit with Ferido, same idea, but I also just saw yeseterday at Firemountain Gems that there is a resin clay out now in clear and white, you add your own colours however you want. Now THAT is very exciting!!!

softouches said...

Wow, this is wonderful and such fun!

The BeadFX Buyer said...

I checked out the FMG website and I don't think their clear Vitrium is anything like the Apoxie and Crystal Clay products that we are carrying. The major give-aways are that it is a one-part clay and also, it talks about 10-15% shrinkage, whereas our product does not shrink at all.

Shrinkage would make it impossible to embed chatons or other items because they would just pop out as the clay dried.

Dee said...

This looks amazing, what colour mica powder did you use on the ring?

dragonjools said...

I used an "old gold" looking powder - that I had hanging around (no label) - but it's what got us into having the idea to carry the MetalFX. We'll be getting more in - hopefully we can duplicate it.

Our "Palomino Gold" is brighter, but the closest we have at the moment.

You can mix them together too. Maybe mix the Copper Lust with the Palomino?

Dee said...

Thanks,
I have a few more questions:
Does the clay adhere to smooth surfaces, such as leather or a metal pipe? For example if I wanted to build up a clay "bezel" on the leather/pipe and set a stone in it?
How durable/strong is it?
My friend and I are making steampunk costumes and I was wondering if the clay would be suitable for securing two peices of pipe together to correct an imperfect fit (one pipe would still "screw" into the other, the clay would be used to fill the gap inbetween the two pipes)?
Thank you.

dragonjools said...

Roughing up the contact area a little is probably wise if it's really slippery smooth, (file, sandpaper) - but the clay is inherently adhesive.

I used it to repair a cracked water line in my coffee maker - and it's holding fine!

robin dudley-howes said...

Thanks for the tips and great tutorial. Really nice projects!
robin