Playing with forms and shapes led to this metal clay ring design. It seemed no matter what shape came from my hands, it was destined to perch above my fingers. The design works alone, without the loop and beads. But when you can add more sparkle and color, why not make use of the loop and embellish to your heart’s content? Instructions to make your own version follow.
This tutorial was excerpted, in part, from Easy Metal Clay.
Making a Metal Clay Ring
20-25 grams fine silver metal clay
metal clay paste (purchased or premade)
fine-mist spray bottle of water
10 Swarovski XILION disk pendants
10 5.5mm (OD) jump rings, 18 gauge
ring mandrel and rest
2 nonstick worksheets
thickness guides (6 cards, 4 cards, 2 cards)
rubber-tipped clay tool
fine-pointed paint brush
Polishing papers in 400-8000 grit
sanding pads from medium to ultra-fine (80-1000 grit)
kiln-proof dish to hold vermiculite
flat-nose pliers (2)
OPTIONAL: rotary tumbler, tumbling media (stainless steel shot and burnishing compound), steel ring mandrel, rawhide mallet
Creating the Metal Clay Ring Band
1. Using the ring sizer, size the finger intended to wear the ring. Increase this size by 1-1/2 ring sizes to allow for shrinkage of the ring during firing. Place the appropriate size ring mandrel onto the mandrel rest.
With scissors, cut a strip of nonstick sheet and wrap it around the ring mandrel (over the appropriate size if using a traditional ring mandrel). Trim the sheet so the ends only slightly overlap. Tape the seam and burnish the tape so it stays in place, forming a tube.
2. Lightly oil your hands, roller, work surface, texture, and using caution, a clay blade. Open the package of clay and remove about 10 grams. Roll the clay into a log to help control the shape of the clay as it’s rolled out. Place the log between a 6-card-high thickness guide.
Using the roller, roll over the clay one or two times. Flip the clay over and roll again. Repeat until the clay is level with the guide and has a nice long rectangular shape.
3. Using the clay blade, trim the clay so the sides of your metal clay ring are straight and the band is the width you’d like.
4. Place the strip of clay onto the nonstick sheet on the ring mandrel.
5. Overlap the ends of the clay. While holding the clay blade on an angle, trim the clay, working through both layers.
6. Remove the excess clay. Bring the ends of the clay together, seaming them so the angled cuts meet and create a flush connection for your metal clay ring. Using a paint brush, apply water to the seam so the clay bonds together.
7. Smooth the seam so it is invisible. Let the ring dry on the mandrel for a short time. Once the ring can hold its shape, carefully remove the nonstick tube from the mandrel. Let the ring dry further. Once the ring seems completely dry, carefully remove the nonstick tube from inside the ring. Usually the ring needs a little more time to dry at this stage; if so, let the ring dry fully before moving on.
Creating the Textured Top
8. Pinch off about 10 grams of fresh clay and roll it out to a 4-card thickness.
9. Transfer the clay to the treated texture. Place the 2-card thickness guide on either side of the clay yet on top of the texture. Place another treated texture on top of the clay, face down. Roll across the surface.
10. Carefully transfer the clay, right-side up, onto a Teflon worksheet. Using the clay blade, cut out the shape for the top of your ring.
11. Transfer the shape to the mold face down on the outside of the mold. Allow to dry.
Forming the Ring Band
12 To create a flat edge on the band, place the ring onto a 320-grit sanding pad and move it along the surface in a figure-eight motion. Reverse the pattern. Repeat for the other side of the band.
13. Using a progression of the sanding pads and polishing papers, refine the surface of the ring until it is round and smooth on the inside and the outside. Repeat to refine the top of the ring.
Adding the Ring Top
14. Wet the area on the ring band where you will be adding the ring top. Pinch off about 2 grams of clay then press it onto the surface of the ring band so it covers about .75-inch (20mm).
This is the area where you will place the top of the ring, so the section of wet clay should equal the surface area the top will cover.
15. Press the top onto the wet clay on the band.
16. Apply water to help the bond between the layers of your metal clay ring. Use a paint brush or clay tool to smooth the wet clay so it both marries the layers together and appears neat. Set aside so the clay can dry.
Once dry, refine the area so it is neat and clean.
Add the Loop
17. Pinch off about 2 grams of clay. Roll into a thin log. Using the acrylic rectangle, roll the log on your work surface to create a thin rope of clay. Wrap the rope around the cocktail straw so it forms a neat coil, with the rings as perpendicular as you can make them (sometimes the wraps begin to slant on an angle). Rest the ends of the cocktail straw on surfaces that suspend the straw so the coil does not sit flat on your work surface; allow the clay to dry.
18. Once the coil of clay sets up, carefully remove it from the straw. Cut a few rings free from the coil. Trim off about 1/4 of one ring.
19. File the ends of the larger section of the coil. Add a bit of water to the center of the face of the ring. “Dip” the “feet” of the ring into some thick paste/slip. Apply water to help the bond between the layers. Use a paint brush or clay tool to smooth the wet clay so it both marries the layers together and appears neat. Set aside so the clay can dry.
From Refining to Firing to Finishing
19. Refine all areas of the ring and ensure all the joins are clean, smooth, and seamless.
20. Place vermiculite into a kiln-safe container, like a crucible. Place the ring into the bed of vermiculite so the curve of the ring top is supported and so the ring band is supported. Ramp the kiln at full speed to 1650-degrees F; hold for 2 hours then allow the kiln to cool to room temperature.
21. If the band is not round, place it onto a steel mandrel and tap gently with a rawhide mallet to reshape. Flip the ring over and tap the band again so you have equal movement from each direction.
22. Use a brass wire brush to burnish the surface of the ring. If desired, tumble the ring in the tumbler along with stainless steel shot and burnishing solution.
23. Using two pair of flat nose pliers, open a jump ring. Pass the open ring through the Swarovski XILION disk pendant and the loop of the up-eye; close the jump ring. Repeat, adding as many disk pendants as you would like.
Have fun expanding on the techniques outlined in this metal clay ring design.
Editorial Director, Interweave Bead and Jewelry