Create Your Own Domed, Textured Metal Clay Ring

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.

champagne cocktail ring with Swarovski crystals by Tammy Honaman

PHOTO: JIM LAWSON; PROJECT PHOTOS: TAMARA HONAMAN

Making a Metal Clay Ring

Materials

20-25 grams fine silver metal clay
metal clay paste (purchased or premade)
olive oil
water
fine-mist spray bottle of water
10 Swarovski XILION disk pendants
10 5.5mm (OD) jump rings, 18 gauge
ring sizer
ring mandrel and rest
2 nonstick worksheets
scissors
tape
thickness guides (6 cards, 4 cards, 2 cards)
roller/brayer
clay blade
mold/form
texture plates
rubber-tipped clay tool
work surface
fine-pointed paint brush
Polishing papers in 400-8000 grit
sanding pads from medium to ultra-fine (80-1000 grit)
cocktail straw
acrylic rectangle
brass-wire brush
rubber block
kiln
vermiculite
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.

making a metal clay ring band

Roll out the clay for the band.

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.

cutting clay ring band

Cut the clay on an angle to set up for the lap joint.

5. Overlap the ends of the clay. While holding the clay blade on an angle, trim the clay, working through both layers.

use water to connect wet clay to wet clay

Water and pressure will join wet clay to wet clay.

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.

smooth wet metal clay with a silicone tip tool

Use a silicone tip tool to smooth the lap joint.

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
rolling out metal clay

Roll out a piece of clay for the top of the metal clay ring.

8. Pinch off about 10 grams of fresh clay and roll it out to a 4-card thickness.

adding texture to metal clay

Sandwich clay between two textures so you texture both sides of the clay at the same time.

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.

cut curved shape in clay

Curve the clay blade to cut a nice edge for the ring top.

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.

dome metal clay on mold

Top of the ring resting on a mold so it retains a curved shape after drying.

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.

Clean up both pieces of the ring so they’re ready to join.

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
joining dry clay to dry clay with water

Wake the clay up on the band with a little bit of water.

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.

joining dried clay pieces

Bringing the top of the ring and the ring band together.

15. Press the top onto the wet clay on the band.

smooth clay with a silicone tip tool

Use a silicone-tipped tool to smooth the clay used to join the top and band together.

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.

sanding sponge

Use sanding sponges to refine the join.

Once dry, refine the area so it is neat and clean.

Add the Loop
metal clay snake rope

Roll out a rope of clay.

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.

Cut a small section of the ring to create a loop.

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.

attach loop to ring top

Add loop to face of 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.

Ring is refined and ready for firing.

From Refining to Firing to Finishing

19. Refine all areas of the ring and ensure all the joins are clean, smooth, and seamless.

Rings buried in vermiculite, ready for firing in a kiln.

Rings buried in vermiculite, ready for firing in a kiln.

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.

metal clay ring fired ready to finish

Ring fresh from the kiln ready for burnishing.

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.
Tammy Honaman

Editorial Director, Interweave Bead and Jewelry


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