Bronze!

I haven’t updated in a while. That’s because I have been learning to use Fastfire Bronz (that’s how the company spells it) clay. I am sharing what I have learned.

First of all, firing is not trivial. The instructions say to fire for two hours. My experience is that, with two hours of firing, some pieces sinter and some do not. I tried three hours and everything sintered. Great! The second issue is temperature. This is very kiln specific, and what works for me might not work for you. I found that, at 1200 degrees F, some pieces sinter and some don’t. At 1250, three dimensional pieces come out with a rough surface. So far, everything I have fired as 1225 has sintered nicely. The third issue is the amount of coconut charcoal in which the pieces are fired. I find that three-quarters of an inch depth below the pieces and about an inch above work best. I understand that other people have had other experiences. Finally, the clay is easy to work when it is new. The longer it has been out of the original package, the more likely thin pieces are to tear. This can be improved, but not fixed, by putting a drop of lubrication (I use Hattie’s) on the cutting tool.

I have also experimented with both tumbling and hand finishing. Both produce nice finishes. However, as you will see below, hand finishing makes the work much shinier. Is shininess worth the extra work? That’s your decision to make as the artist.

Now for what I have produced.

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These earrings are essentially the same as the ones I made in gold at the end of 2015. They are relatively simple, and help to show how bronze turns out. If you notice the odd white fiber, it is because I have a white cat 😉 In all pictures (except the rings), the coin is for scale.

IMG_0585These earrings show the type of detail you can get in bronze.  These turned out to be quite popular. Displaying them resulted in almost immediate commissions for a similar pair of earrings and for a pendant with the same design.

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Here is the pendant mentioned above. It is quite shiny because I decided to hand polish it instead of using a tumbler. Polishing it with 400, 800, 1000 grit sandpaper (in that order) gave it a really nice surface. The horse in the pendant was patinaed prior to finishing; the horses in the earrings were not. This will help you decide if you do or do not want to patina your work. Silver pretty much demands it — with bronze, it is more of an artistic decision.

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This foliate mask shows that bronze takes details quite nicely.

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A pair of earrings, similar to the horse, but with a feline design. Are these stalking cats domestic cats or panthers? I’m not sure. You can interpret it as you wish. These, too, were hand polished with multiple grits of sandpaper.

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A pair of bronze rings. The red stone is synthetic ruby and the green is malachite. In both cases, the bezel wire was set into the metal clay and fired. Then, the stones were added later.

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A bronze Mjolnir pendant I made for myself.

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