5 Tricks That Make Working With Precious Metal Clay So Much Easier

rolling precious metal clay

When you think of jewelry making, it’s likely your mind jumps straight to beading or wirework. But there’s one tool that’s so versatile, there’s no way you want to miss out on it being in your jewelry toolbox: precious metal clay.

Precious metal clay, or PMC, is made from recycled metals that are ground and mixed with a binder to make a clay. It’s a go-to for jewelry makers because it’s so easy to shape, texturize and stamp. And when it’s fired, PMC solidifies and turns into a gorgeous copper, gold, silver or other kind of metal. (You can get it in a ton of different varieties.)

All of this means that PMC is super easy to work with. But there are some things you want to keep in mind when adding it to your jewelry-making repertoire.

1. Always Seal PMC Between Uses

bag of pmc

Precious metal clay can be pretty pricey, and it’s prone to drying out quickly. So not only do you want to work fast with it, but when you’re done, you should always keep your leftover clay well sealed. Placing the PMC inside at least two plastic bags helps prevent it from drying out. But if it’s still a bit hard when you come back to it, use a few dabs of water to soften it up.

2. Avoid Plastic When Rolling

glass tube

While nothing dire will happen if you use a rolling pin or plastic roller to work PMC, doing so may make the clay stick to the surface. Instead, try rolling with a glass object, like a test tube.

3. Use a Plastic Slat to Gauge Thickness

plastic rolling guides

Many jewelry makers use a deck of cards to determine the thickness of their PMC, but these slats make that job so much easier. Why? They won’t expand if they get wet (like playing cards do), and remain flat through years of use.

4. Use a Toaster Oven to Dry

Using a kiln all but guarantees your precious metal clay will come out perfectly, but unless you’re a diehard jewelry maker, it’s unlikely you have one of those lying around. Instead, grab your good ole’ toaster oven and set it to 350 F. Place your final piece on a pan and bake for 20 minutes. That’s it! Using this method is better than letting your clay air dry, as that can allow the PMC to curl and bend. It’s also faster than torching your piece, and allows for a little more consistency in the overall finished result.

5. Save the Dust

pmc dust

We’re all about using as much of a material as possible, so be sure to place a tray underneath your PMC when sanding — it’ll catch all of the metal dust, which you can mix with water to make metal paste for future projects!

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11 Responses to “5 Tricks That Make Working With Precious Metal Clay So Much Easier”

  1. SUSAN

    #4: Drying PMC in a toaster oven is fine but as Vanessa Weber said, the heat will not be sufficient to sinter the clay. Why hasn’t that “trick” been been removed from the list of PMC “Tricks”?

    • Mel thomas

      They are not saying that the toaster oven will fire your piece, only that it will help the clay dry much faster than air drying. You will still have to fire your piece afterwards.

  2. Stefanie Dittmann

    I came across your post. Could you please tell me, where these green Mats with thickness gauge can be bought from? I couldn‘t find them on my search through the internet …
    Thanks a lot!

  3. Mary

    Using a toaster! I wanted to make a ring but have been delaying due to getting my hands on a kiln first. 350 is hot enough?

    • Vanessa Weber

      No, a toaster won’t work.. Most clays need to be fired hotter – like 1650 for 2 hours. You can use a butane torch to fire some. You can sometimes find other artists and pay them to fire your piece. Check out Metal Clay Now on Facebook, Pinterest and online. Also go to http://www.AMCAW.org for more information.

  4. tracie

    When working with PMC, after you fire the piece can you solder findings to it with a propane/oxygen torch?

    • Vanessa Weber

      Yes, you can solder but you need to use more solder as metal clay is quite porous. You may not need to as you can join metal clay pieces after they have been fired. Holly Gage has a great explanation of how this is done.

      • SUSAN

        Burnish the area that will be soldered to compress the silver to decrease the amount of solder needed. Be sure to simmer the item in baking soda water after pickling to neutralize the acid. Good luck!

    • Vanessa Weber

      Join Metal Clay Now on Facebook or Pinterest or join AMCAW.org and ask this question there. You will directed to many classes.