Two Inventive Metal Clay Tips and a Lentil Bead Tutorial

I love it whenever I can share tips or tutorials from Eleanore Macnish, one of the jewelry designers whose work I most adore. She has such a playful style, and she does everything–metal clay, lampwork glass, metalwork, everything! She brought us our Tip of the Year a couple of years ago, and now she's back with not one but two great tips for working with metal clay, plus a neat little tutorial on forming a metal clay lentil bead using a glass bead press. It's so easy!

Metal Clay Lentil Bead Using a Glass Bead Press
by Eleanore Macnish


metal clay of your choice
lentil-shaped bead-making glass press
olive oil
5" of straight 14-gauge wire
craft knife
cylindrical diamond bit or sanding stick
fine-grit sandpaper
drill bit or bur bit



1.       Lightly oil both sides of your press. (Editor's note: The oil will also help lubricate your hands and anything else that will come into contact with the metal clay, to prevent sticking.)

2.       Estimate how much clay you think you will need and roll it into a ball.
3.       Press the ball between both pieces of the glass press, remove the top of the press, and cut away excess clay. (Editor's note: This gives you just the right amount of clay for your bead, once the wire is inserted and you re-press it.)
4.       Remove the clay from the press and roll it into a smooth ball. Pierce the center of the metal clay ball with the wire.
5.       Align the wire in the press's mandrel grooves, press the ball, and remove the top. 
6.       With the craft knife, remove any little bits of excess clay, and allow the clay to dry for 30 minutes. After 10 minutes, wiggle the bead to make sure it is fairly loose on the wire. After 30 minutes, remove the bead from the wire and allow it to dry for 24 hours.

7.       Using the cylindrical diamond bit, clean up the ends of the dried clay bead by rotating the bit in the hole. Clean up the seam lines with sandpaper. Gently enlarge the hole by twisting the bur or drill bit in the hole.

8.       To apply texture: Make shallow dots by twisting a bur or drill bit on the surface of the bead.

9.       Fire the metal clay bead according to the firing instructions for the type of clay that you use. Finish as you wish.

  thimble brush for metal clay work

Thimble Brush for Metal Clay

When I am carving and filing metal clay, I just hate having to put my tool down to pick up a brush to remove excess dust so that I can see what I'm doing! This simple thimble brush solves the problem! 

First, saw the handle off a small paint brush. Then knead together equal amounts of silicone molding putty component and knead together until properly mixed (follow manufacturer's instructions). Wrap the putty around your finger, insert the brush on the end, and manipulate putty around the end of the bristles where they meet with the metal. Let the silicone putty cure on your finger (approximately 5 minutes).

make a thimble brush for working metal clay

After your thimble has cured, check the tightness. If it is a little loose, knead together a small amount of putty and apply to the interior edge of thimble and allow it to cure completely.

Metal Clay Storage Container

One of the down sides of making jewelry with metal clay is how quickly it dries out while you're working with it. Create a moist storage container by hot gluing a small piece of dry sponge to the interior top of a small container with a tight-fitting lid. Allow the glue to dry thoroughly. Then wet the sponge with water and check to make sure it will not touch the clay when it's on the container. If the sponge is too large when wet, trim the sponge with scissors.

make a metal clay moisture container

*Note: I do not know how long this will keep clay moist, but I have used it with success for up to a week before transferring the clay to a larger lump and storing long term. (Editor's note: The humidity or dryness of the area where you live will likely affect how long this container can keep your metal clay moist; check the sponge regularly until you are able to get a better understanding of how long it will last so that you don't risk losing any of your precious metal clay!) —Eleanore

Put your two new metal clay tips to use in the 25+ metal clay jewelry-making projects you'll find in our Easy Metal Clay special issue digital magazine–it's on sale now along with dozens of other digital magazines for only $1.99!

You can also expand your metal clay jewelry-making knowledge with other favorite metal clay resources, Magical Metal Clay Jewelry and Metal Clay for Jewelry Makers by Sue Heaser and Metal Clay: The Complete Guide by Jackie Truty. If you already know how to work with metal clay, get inspired with our 10 Metal Clay Jewelry Projects eBook from Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine.

About the artist:
Eleanore Macnish is a metalsmith, lampwork glass artist, and mixed-media jewelry designer. You can learn more about Ellie and see more of her work on her website at

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