Making Metal Clay Rings
Making a ring from metal clay may seem a little intimidating
at first, but it's actually very easy. We have listed the essential tools
you'll need and give you ring building fundamentals to get you started.
Basic Ring Forming Tools
Finger gauge – to measure
a finger for ring size
Ring Mandrel – to form a
Ring Sizer Pellets – to
control the size of a ring
Freezer Paper – to keep a
formed ring from shrink-locking to the mandrel during drying
Invisible Tape – to make a
tube from freezer paper
A finger gauge is used to determine ring size. There are
several different types: ring-style finger gauges, paper gauges and strip
Ring-style gauge - a set of
plastic or metal rings. There is one ring in each size that can be tried on
until the proper size is found. Ring-style gauges are available in plastic and
metal. The plastic gauges tend to have sizes on only whole and half sizes but
are most economical. Metal gauges often have quarter and three-quarter sizes.
The most expensive metal ring gauges come in wide and thin bands.
Strip gauge - works like a
cable tie. A plastic strip is cinched onto the finger and reveals the size at a
plastic stop. The plastic strip will measure in whole, half, quarter and
A ring mandrel is used to form a ring on. Mandrels may be
individual rods or a single mandrel that is either stepped or tapered. A ring
can be formed to the most common sizes with any of the mandrel types. Here is a
detailed description of the main types of mandrels that can be used for ring
Silicone Ring Mandrels
Our Non-stick silicone ring mandrels are the perfect tool for making rings or cylinders in metal clay. When mounted on our mandrel stand, these silicone ring mandrels are the perfect device for easily forming metal clay into any round object. No longer is wax paper or other non-stick lubricants necessary between the mandrel and your creation. Great for forming wet clay and also for refining or augmenting clay in the greenware state. Removes easily from the non-stick silicone mandrel, when ready to fire. Add 2 sizes for a standard band and 3 sizes for a wide band.
The Multi Mandrel is lightweight
and was designed for creating wax ring models, but it's absolutely
great for making metal clay rings. The set of 6 ring size mandrels are
5" long. There are two sizes on each mandrel. The smallest mandrel has
size 4 on one end and 5 on the other; the largest has sizes 14 and 15. The
mandrel is fitted into a stud on the mandrel stand. The stand can be placed so
the mandrel is horizontal or vertical. The mandrels can be rotated on the stud,
giving you access to every possible angle. The mandrels are available in whole
and half sizes, and in aluminum or wood. A wood storage rack to store the
mandrels is also available. The double-ended mandrels offer lots of ring-making
real estate with no tapers to throw off your sizing. Multiple projects can be
created simultaneously. The only drawback to this system is that you cannot use
the mandrels to round or size a ring. We recommend the aluminum version over
wood because the wood can expand with humidity and can be damaged much more
easily than aluminum.
Tapered Ring Mandrel
Tapered ring mandrels are made of
steel so the metalworker can form metal with mallets and hammers. There are
mandrels with sizes engraved into the steel, and there are mandrels with no
markings at all. A finger gauge can be used to mark the right size on an
unmarked mandrel. Any tapered mandrel will affect the accuracy of the ring size
on wide rings. A wide ring formed on a tapered mandrel will have a difference
of 1 to 1-1/2 ring sizes from one side of the band to the other which can
result in a ring that is too tight or doesn't fit at all. To overcome this
problem, be sure to center the middle of the ring at your desired size on the
mandrel for a good fit. We also recommend that you make a wide ring one size
larger to account for the width. A wide ring will always feel tighter than one
with a narrow band of the same size. Some mandrels have a hole in the end to
allow them to bit fitted on a stand, and there are also mandrel rests to hold
the stand. This version is not recommended for use with metal clay.
Another type of tapered mandrel is
made of wood. A wooden tapered mandrel is made for polishing rings. We do not
recommend using this type of mandrel because a ring polishing mandrel is much
shorter than a steel mandrel, which means the taper is more extreme. This
mandrel is very handy for polishing or stone setting, drying and drilling.
Tapered aluminum mandrels are
called ring sticks. A ring stick is a gauge meant for finding the size of a
ring. The ring is slipped onto the mandrel and the size is determined by the
markings on the ring stick.
A stand is available for aluminum
and steel tapered mandrels that raise them off the work surface by about
3", giving you plenty of room to work. If you don't want to invest in a
stand, a simple set of feet can be made from polymer clay.
Stepped Ring Mandrel
Stepped ring mandrels have about 1
inch of space for each ring size. Some stepped mandrels come already mounted on
a rotating stand, making them very handy for metal clay ring making, but a bit
heavier than the Multi-Mandrel system.
To make a sleeve, cut a strip of freezer
paper about 1" wide and 3" long. Wrap the paper, shiny side out,
around the mandrel. Trim the strip so one end just overlaps the other end and
use a small piece of tape (about 1/4 inch long) to hold it in place. Make sure the tape is on the paper only so the
sleeve can be slid off later. Test to be sure you haven't taped the paper to
A Ring Sizer is a special pellet or plug that is placed
inside the ring shank during firing to control the size. The pellet is made
from a special material that does not shrink or burn during firing. As the
metal clay sinters, it shrinks tightly around the pellet so the ring is the
exact diameter of the pellet after firing. After cooling, the ring is put into
water to dissolve the pellet. Rings cannot be formed directly on Ring Sizer
Pellets because they would not have any room to shrink and would tear.
Metal Clay Ring Sizers
Cool Tools Ring Sizers are pre-cast
pellets available in half and whole US ring sizes from 4 to 12. Match the ring
sizer pellet size to the ring size you wear. Our Metal Clay Ring Sizers have
the size molded into the end of the pellet so there is never a mix-up in sizes.
Ring Sizer Mold
The Cool Tools Ring Sizer Mold is a
cost-effective way for metal clay artists to cast their own Metal Clay Ring
Sizer Pellets as needed. The molds are available in whole, half and gang sizes.
A half sized mold creates one pellet of each half size from 4 to 12. A whole
size mold makes one pellet of each whole size from 4 to 12. A Gang mold make 9
pellets all the same size. You'll need investment or paper clay to cast the
Ring Sizer Pellets.
product that is used in casting metals.
Investment is mixed and poured into the Ring Sizer Mold to cast ring sizers.
Any type of silver, gold or platinum casting investment can be used; however
the mold works best with a crystobolite-based product. Crystobolite is a
silica-bearing product, so it must be used with a dust mask, or use a
Our Ultra-Smooth investment makes Ring Sizer Pellets that
are very smooth and strong, do not shrink, and can be de-molded in 25 minutes
after pouring. They can also be used immediately after de-molding even though
they are still slightly damp.
Silica-Free Investment is an alternative that does not
contain crystobolite. Ring Sizer Pellets made from Silica-Free Investment are
not as dense as traditional investment, and require 2 hours to set up before
they can be de-molded, and must be allowed to dry completely before use. When
casting with silica-free investment, a soapy-water release must be sprayed into
the mold to avoid sticking which is made simply by adding a few drops of soap
to plain water in a spray bottle.
What Metal Clay Works Best?
Sterling silver clays, such as EZ960®, should be your first choice in choosing a clay in which to create a ring, as it is much harder and more durable than fine silver clays. Sintered fine silver is soft and brittle, so it dings up
pretty quickly and it’s fairly easy to break when its thin. Any sterling silver metal clay is our recommendation for rings. Please follow the package instructions.
Recommended Firing Schedule for Silver Clay Rings:
EZ960: 1675°F / 912°C for 2 hours in a digitally controlled kiln provides maximum strength. If you are firing flat, and then bending the metal post firing, we recommend 1675°F for a full 4 hours to ensure complete sintering and absolute maximum strength. It is always a good idea to create a test strip before firing your project. We do not recommend torch firing EZ960.