Free Metal Clay Jewelry Project: Make a Lentil Pendant
Metal clay has been a part of our lives since the early 1990s. Time moves fast, so that makes this material no longer the new kid on the block and now, a late 20-something. I for one am thankful for the invention and the surge metal clay jewelry had in its infancy. I was fortunate to attend and speak at some of the early conferences, to be certified in both Art Clay and PMC, and to see so much change and growth with the medium – most for the good!
One technique I learned early on from Celie Fago was how to make a lentil bead. To form the curve in the clay, we dried the wet clay on a light bulb.
Lamp Base in the Studio?
True story: For creating lentils in my own studio, I went to the hardware store to get a porcelain lampholder base (affiliate link). Supporting a light bulb is so much easier with one of these fixtures versus trying to use the original light bulb packaging. When explaining to my husband that I was going to place the base on my table with a light bulb inserted, so I could dry metal clay in a curved shape, he looked concerned. Then asked if I really needed him to wire the socket to my table. Such a sweet man and always willing to help with my needs, even if it meant wiring something in the middle of a room! He was of course relieved when I explained the whole story and that the lampholder was just a sturdy support for metal clay jewelry making.
I still love to create lentils and I’m happy to share a take on the process, which incorporates some new tools but is still “old school” in how it’s done.
How to Make Metal Clay Jewelry: Lentil Pendant
Materials (we included affiliate links below for some of these items)
precious metal clay, fine silver
precious metal clay slip, silver
olive oil or similar conditioner for hands to prevent clay from sticking
artist-quality paint brush
stamping mat, rubber
playing cards, acrylic rolling slats, or rolling frames
circle template and fine-tipped needle tool or circle cutter
doming form or light bulb
polishing papers in range of grits, 400-1200 grits
fine brass wire brush
kiln and kiln furniture
fiber blanket or vermiculite
Optional: patina gel, rubber block, baking soda, dust mask
The Wet Work
1. Apply a release material to your hands, work surface, and roller. Roll the clay to a four-card thickness using playing cards stacked four cards high or with rolling slats.
2. Transfer the clay to a texture mat (affiliate link). Roll the clay to a three-card thickness.
3. Transfer the textured clay to a nonstick sheet. Use a circle cutter or circle template and fine-tipped tool to cut out the circle.
4. Use a paintbrush and a bit of water to clean the edge of the metal clay. The more you clean it up in this stage, the less you have to do later.
5. Transfer the cut clay to a doming form or light bulb so the clay dries with a curved surface.
The Dry Stage
6. Remove the clay from the drying form; then pair up similar circles.
7. While holding the domed circles together, refine the outside edge so the circles match up well.
Apply registration marks so the circles can be put back in the same position later.
8. Place one circle onto a polishing paper. Apply pressure and use a figure-eight motion to move the circle across the surface of the polishing paper. This will remove clay evenly from the inside edge of the circle.
The inside edge should be even all the way around, this will ensure a good bond when joining the two halves. Repeat for the second circle.
9. Using a paint brush and water, wet the inside edge and allow the water to absorb. Apply a bead of metal clay slip to the edge. Press the two halves together and hold for a few seconds before setting aside to dry completely.
Finishing Before Firing
10. Once dry again, carefully use a jeweler’s file to place a hole along the seam. This will be used for stringing your cable or chain through. Repeat to create the second hole.
11. Refine the entire shape of the lentil using the polishing papers, working through the progressive grits.
12. Place the finished lentil into a saucer filled with vermiculite or onto a bed of fiber blanket. Either of these materials will help cushion the curve of the pendant. Fire at 1650 degrees F for two hours.
Note: Given the size of the pendant I created, I don’t think gravity would cause the lentil to collapse. But I’d rather not test my theory, so support the pendant when firing.
Finishing After Firing
Once cooled, remove the lentil from the kiln and burnish. I use either a brass brush or a JoolTool to achieve the shine I’m looking for on metal clay jewelry. Patina using liver of sulfur, if you’d like.
Master Metal Clay Jewelry Making
Today, there are so many avenues you can pursue when working in metal clay. The metal clay jewelry courses and videos available on Interweave.com are filled with expert tips, techniques, and designs. Darlene Armstrong’s Getting Started Precious Metal Clay Series walks you through the basics of torch firing to creating designs with stones. Jackie Truty takes you through a range of new ideas in her Advanced Metal Clay Series, including mokumé gané and quilling. So many options to choose–have fun exploring!
Editor, Beadwork magazine and Group Editorial Director, Bead & Jewelry
Have fun finding your metal clay jewelry path and exploring something new through the guidance of these experts!