Friday, November 26, 2010

Playing with PMC Pro...

Well, I think I'm hooked... I actually didn't want PMC Pro to work so well because I've never been a fan of the whole carbon business... but it does. This stuff is soooo tough! This ring has a band as thick as a nickel and it won't bend - I tried to twist it and it didn't budge.

Not that I think Pro will replace my other silver clays, but for some applications it's going to be great. Again, not a fan of the carbon, but for making tough rings or delicate parts, I can get around that...

This ring is only 3 cards thick - and with the shrinkage rate being greater than PMC3, the resulting ring is even thinner than you'd expect. C'mon, who would make a PMC ring only 3 cards thick? Not me - till now. I tried to squeeze and crush it and... nothing.

Since that went so well, I made another one like it with some really skinny snakes around the edges (they worked beautifully) - also 3 cards thick and it won't crush either. I've asked students to try to squeeze the rings and they were impressed with the strength too. All the rings were fired in carbon for 1 hour. They were constucted @ 3.5-4 sizes larger. I didn't put any ring plugs in them. I figured if they got too small I'd just stretch them. I did end up stretching the wider band, but that worked just fine. 

And I wondered about making hollow forms - how small and thin could I make them? These tiny lentils (yep, that's a dime) are for earrings. They are only 2 cards thick. They could have been domed more, but I got caught up in the excitement of making them and didn't look for a better dome... 

And now the question you've been waiting for (OK, I was), how well does it WATER ETCH? 

The answer is (after a couple of tries) great! The best result so far is with my favorite wax (Mayco wax resist - on the heart shown here).

I did try my new kistka on this clay because it has worked well on PMC+, but with Pro I had some blistering issues. I shelf fired the all the water etched pieces prior to carbon firing to burn off the wax. 

after carbon firing
after shelf firing
In firing the first piece done with the kistka, I got distracted when I programmed the kiln for the shelf firing and accidently set it for 1400F (firing temp) instead of the recommended shelf firing temp of 1000F (not shown here). I thought the resulting blistering was from shelf firing too hot. So I tried it again with another piece (above right), this time at 1000F - but still got the blistering. Then I decided to try the Mayco wax. This time, after the shelf firing there was no blistering. It did shelf fire for an hour - I intended to stop the kiln after 30 mins but got busy and it ran the whole hour. But I don't think that was the difference. Just to be sure, I'm going to do another piece with the the Mayco wax shelf fired for 30 mins, and one with the kistka wax shelf fired for 1 hour to see if that affects the blistering. All the water etched pieces were then carbon fired (after shelf firing) for an hour. I just wanted to be sure they were fully sintered.

My tests were mostly designed for learning about the strength of this new version of PMC. The shrinkage rate is shown at left with the fired piece and the cutter used to make it. The clay is good and sticky with long working time, though snakes were still subject to cracking if you weren't careful. It made the smoothest slip - letting it rest after mixing is important.

The bails on the water etched pendants are only 2 cards thick and very strong! This two-card bail can't be crushed (with my hands), nor did it snap when I put some pressure on the joint - which was not reinforced from the back.

So I'm impressed. I can see using it for ring bands and more delicate bails and findings. I have many more tests in mind, but so far, so good. I'd love to hear what others think if they've tried it.


  1. This all sounds great! Thanks for sharing your experiment results.

  2. Very cool! I have my 15g pack and need to break it out! maybe tomorrow. Thanks for "poking" me into action.

  3. Thanks for sharing all your tests.
    It was very interesting. I am still a little hesitant, but I love reading your experiences with the new clay.

  4. Thanks for sharing your experiences -- I have some to try, but I've hesitated to pull it out yet, despite some projects that would really benefit from it. Perhaps I'll get to it soon with your encouragement.

  5. Thanks! What a great article, I'm one of those non carbon lovers too and am a bit hesitant to try the pro, but you may have convinced me!

  6. Great information! I'd love to add a link to it from our website. (Now if only I knew how to do that code!) But instead of learning that code--I just want to open up a pack of clay and make a ring!!

  7. Wow. I love that. It's very rugged and industrial looking. I'm a guy, so no jewelry has ever really interested me, but this kinda thing is really cool.

    I'm glad I found your site. I can see alternatives to accessorizing myself with stuff that commercialized retail chains aren't trying to cram down my throat.