Free Tutorial: How to Make Metal Clay Rings
I love to teach jewelry making and to help support others in their jewelry-making adventures, whether just starting out or in transition from one medium to another. I love sharing what I’ve learned and developed, so much so, I feel selfish in my endeavors! Recently, I taught a metal clay workshop. In preparing for this event, I did some browsing to see what might be new and exciting in the land of tools and supplies. This effort brought a whole lot of new resources into my studio, which I’m happy to share with you.
Metal Clay Ring Making
Step 1: Determine the ring size you want your final ring to be. Then, take the metal clay shrinkage factor into consideration and increase this number by as little as 1-1/2 ring sizes to as much as 2-1/2 ring sizes.
The amount you increase varies based on the type of ring—wide or thin band—and how thick or thin the layer of clay is. Over the years, I have found, even with a well-predicted increase in size and samples I bring to class, the right size is still elusive during a workshop.
So. How to do a better job so students learn the process and leave happy with a ring on their finger? Read on…
Rings on Her Finger
There are a few products on the market that help limit the shrinkage metal clay rings go through during the firing process. There are devices–ring sizing pucks, ring sizing pellets, ring cores–placed inside the ring at the start of the kiln cycle. The clay shrinks but only until it reaches the device. A new advancement is, being able to make your own “ring sizing pellets” so you can have as many as you like in any size. Brilliant and perfect when teaching! Not to mention more economical—when teaching or working in production style.
Step 2: Follow manufacturer’s directions to create a pellet suited to your finished ring size.
Unmold the pellets once they are set.
Another brilliant concept revealed—the mold includes the ring size so you always know which pellet to choose for your project.
The Improvements Keep Coming
Another advancement I was so excited to see–single size ring mandrels and ring mandrel rests. I’ve always used a tapered ring mandrel and we’ve always made this tool work, but it only brings in another variable when creating a ring; the top of the ring is slightly smaller than the lower portion of the ring. The ring mandrel rest, ring mandrels, and non-stick paper (used as a release material) are all ideal for ring making and teaching.
But wait! There’s more! Enter the silicone mandrel!
This mandrel can be used on its own or with a ring mandrel stand. The beauty is you no longer need to add a non-stick form. This eliminates the fussiness of cutting and taping and saves time! Also, how many times have I used a non-stick form, burnished the tape well only to have that very area on the ring be an issue? MANY!
Step 3: Place the silicone ring mandrel onto the ring mandrel stand so it’s at the ready.
Let the Ring Making Commence
Step 4: Roll the clay out to your desired thickness. This slab is rolled to a 6-card thickness then to a 5-card over a texture mat.
For a wrap ring, I always hope to have the width work out just as it’s rolled, so the edge is raw; you can trim the edge to suit your preference. NOTE: When creating a deep texture, make sure the thickness of the clay is at least 3-cards thick in the deepest recess.
Step 5: Wrap the clay around the mandrel and position the ends so they overlap as you’d like. Once you’re happy with the way things look, gently fold back the top layer and apply a bit of water to the clay surface, on both layers (the top of the bottom layer and the bottom or underside of the top layer). Bring the two layers together and apply gentle pressure.
Allow the clay to dry. Once the ring is dry, it will remove from the silicone mandrel easily. Allow to dry further if the underside is still damp.
Step 6: Refine the ring to achieve the best finish possible. You can place the ring back onto the mandrel so it’s supported during filing and sanding.
If you want to embellish the ring with syringe-type clay, for example, you can also do this while the ring is on the mandrel.
Step 7: Prepare the ring for firing. Place the prepared and dried ring pellet inside the ring. Fire the ring and pellet to the manufacturer’s maximum recommended temperature and length of time for greatest durability and strength.
Once cooled, use your preferred finishing method such as a brass brush or JoolTool; add a patina if you like.
One thing I love about the jewelry-making industry is the continued advancement of tools and materials we have available to us as designers. I’m also still madly in love with metal clay! If you’re over the moon, too, read Create Your Own Domed, Textured Metal clay Ring for another free ring project.
Wishing you a successful ring-making exploration,
Editor, Beadwork magazine and Editorial Content Director, Jewelry