I have recently tried Five Star brand light bronze clay for the first time. I want to post a description of it’s good and bad points, so you can decide if using it is for you.
I have no commercial interest in any company that produces or sells Five Star metal clay. However, I will say that I bought mine from http://www.clayrevolution.com/clay.html. The delivery was fast, and the package contained exactly what I ordered.
Five Star makes a variety of clays. I chose to start with light bronze because it has a sintering temperature substantially lower than most bronze clays (the directions say 1400 degrees F).
Five Star light bronze clay is remarkably easy to work with. Most bronze clays are somewhat grainy, and require a bit of working before you can texture them. Five Star light bronze did not. It was almost as smooth as silver clay, and required no working prior to texturing. Also, Five Star light bronze clay has a remarkable working time. I did no quantitative measures. However, I can say that I worked it a long time, and noticed none of the stiffening that one often sees with metal clays.
I chose to start simple — a pair of earrings with a commercial texture. The greenware version of the earrings, which were given a slight doming by drying on a curved surface, looked like this:
Five Star light bronze requires two firings, a five minute one at 1,000 degrees F and an hour one at 1,400 degrees F. This complicates things somewhat. First of all, very few of us have a kiln that fires at exactly the temperature we set it at. That means that some trial and error is required to determine the firing times and temperatures that make things work. I’m only going to report the successful version here. However, multiple less successful versions were discarded along the way. That is a warning that probably applies to any bronze clay you have not used before.
The first firing burns out the organic matrix, and must be done on a steel mesh. After this stage, the pieces are extremely fragile. That shouldn’t frighten you. It just means that you need to be very careful in transferring the pieces between first and second firing, because they will break if you drop them.
After first firing, the earrings looked like this:
The second firing requires activated charcoal. After firing, but before tumbling, the pieces looked like this:
As mentioned, there were several failures before I found a temperature that would work for my kiln. I tested the fired earrings by dapping them very, very slightly. If they bent without breaking, they were properly sintered.
Finally, after tumbling, I attached ear wires. I made the choice to not patina the earrings, because I wanted to show you what the light bronze looks like.
As you can see, it comes out with a very nice color that could be used in a variety of settings.
So what is the verdict? If you are not worried about firing your metal clay twice (and you shouldn’t be, it isn’t difficult), Five Star light bronze clay is easy to work with and gives you extremely attractive results.