Basic Dry Clay Working Tools
A completely different set of tools is used for working with metal clay when it's dry. Away goes the roller and the hand balm and out comes the dust brush and the files. You'll be sanding, filing, carving, drilling and even sawing dry metal clay to refine it, shape it and smooth it into the object that you envision.
The following list outlines a good core set of the tools you'll find essential when working with dry metal clay. There are options for some tools, so you can select your choice.
Rubber Bench Block
A rubber bench block is used as a platform to assemble and refine dry work. Pieces can be set on the edge of the block so that sanding, carving and refining tools can be used. The rubber has a bit of give to it and does not damage diamond or metal files if they are scraped across the surface accidentally. Rubber bench blocks come both round and square. Round blocks are very good when a curved piece is being worked on while a block with straight sides can help gauge a straight line when working.
Metal clay is very easily carved. It needs nothing more than a guiding hand and a sharp tool to chisel, chip or carve directly into the bone dry clay.
Micro Wood Carving Tools
Designed for wood carvers, these tools are sharp,
hard and the perfect size for carving metal clay. They make clean,
sharp cuts in all types of dry metal clay. The U and V shaped gouges are
the most useful for most artists. Sharpening is easy due to the
hardened steel cutting head. These handy carvers can also be used to
carve polymer clay and jewelers' wax for creating custom textures, molds
and models. The Dockyard micro carving tools offers a wooden sharpening
strop for keeping the cutters sharp.
Wax Carving Tools
Available in a set of basic shapes, these stainless steel tools are designed for carving in jewelers' wax. The edges are not nearly as sharp as micro carvers, so the cut is not as clean or smooth when used with metal clay.
Diamond Needle Files
A needle file is a very small file that is coated with thousands of tiny industrial diamonds. The file can be drawn or rubbed on the clay surface to carve away areas and used like a saw to carve straight lines. The handles tend to be about 1/16" in diameter, which is not very comfortable to hold, so installing in a pin vice makes them much easier to use. You can also dip the handle in Tool Magic for an instant easy grip handle.
Diamond Carving Bits
Diamond coated carving bits are designed to be used in a flexible shaft machine for working in metal. For metal clay "carving" install a bit in a pin vice to "carve" dry metal clay. A set of 20 different tips is a great bargain and offers tons of options for a variety of applications.
Linoleum Carving Tools
Used to carve linoleum blocks for printing. Be sure to check the cutting head of this type of tool before purchasing. The cutting head tends to be very thin and soft, so they can get dinged easily and result in uneven cutting or chips. Be sure the head is sharp and free of nicks before using.
Drills are used to make holes in metal clay for connecting jump rings, setting stones or to make pilot holes to be drilled out after firing. While a cocktail straw can be used to make a hole in wet clay, the hole size is rather large for most applications and can look out of proportion. Using a drill in dry clay allows for precise, clean holes with no distortion in the clay.
Designed so the shaved off pieces are ejected as the drill turns, keeping the shaving from clogging the cutting edge like regular drills do. A variety of sizes is needed for holes of various sizes and applications. If you purchase twist drills, consider a full set. Twist drills are designed for metal, and the wide variety of sizes is very useful when making rivets.
Be sure that you purchase a metal drill and not a wood drill. Metal drills are designed to work with harder materials and have a different cut to allow for ejection of metal.
Diamond Coated Drills
This type of drill cuts at any angle. The slightest tipping of the hand can result in an uneven hole. Diamond drills are excellent for harder metals, such as bronze.
Sanding tools, called "abrasives" have surfaces that are graded by roughness. The "grit" of the material is determined by how rough or aggressive it is. A heavier grit will wear away more material faster. Some sanding tools are graded by name, such as fine, medium or coarse. Others are graded by number, such as 1000, 6000, and 8000, where the larger the number, the finer the grit.
3M Sponge Sanding Pads
Available in fine grits from Medium to Ultra Fine, sponge sanding pads come in 5-1/2" x 8" sheets and can be cut to any size, wrapped around objects or fingers for curved and controlled sanding. the sponge core make these pads a favorite with metal clay artists. They don't get bent and make refining any shape fast and efficient.
Both diamond and cut-4 needle files make good sanding tools and can get into tight areas. Cut-4 needle files have safety edges that do not have cutting teeth. Diamond needle files cut on all sides so care must be taken when cleaning up bails and similar applications.
Wet/dry sandpapers can be used to shape and sand dry clay, can be wrapped around dowels, metal shapes and paint sticks to create sanding sticks. Always use a wet/dry sandpaper rather than a standard sandpaper because the grit on standard sandpaper will come off as you use it and contaminate your clay.
Salon boards should be good quality to ensure that the grit does not come off while they are being used. Thin emery boards should be avoided. Choose the larger salon boards that have a bit of sponge on them. These are much easier to use and the grit usually stays put.
Sometimes water is applied to dry clay to bond dry pieces together, to clean up a crack or a pit that was not visible when the clay was wet, or to water-polish. Water-polishing is when dry clay is painted with water and then stroked with the brush until the clay begins to soften enough that fingerprints and small cracks are brushed out. Paint brushes are also used dry to brush away the dust created while sanding.
Flat Red Sable Brush
Used to brush away dust and particles while working. A 1/2 inch or 1 inch wide brush works best. The soft, natural bristles do not scratch the surface of the clay.
Flat Lacquer Brush
Used to make a cleaning brush for sanding tools. Start with a 1/4" or 1/2" wide flat brush and trim the bristles to about 1/8" long. This makes the bristles very stiff and is used to brush out clay dust from sponge sanding pads, needle files, sandpaper and other sanding tools. The metal clay powder can be recovered and used to make paste or worked into an existing ball of metal clay.
Tweezers are used to handle tiny dry clay components for assembly and zillions of other tasks. A jewelry artist cannot have too many pairs of pliers. Have an assortment of stainless steel utility tweezers on hand as well as a nice pair of serrated diamond tweezers for handling small stones.
Any type of tray with sides on it can be used as a sanding tray except cardboard or wood. Since the clay is dry, even aluminum can be used. One of the best tools for this job is the Tidy Tray. Tidy Trays come in a small and large size. The large size is especially useful because sanding tools, files and the dust can be left in the tray and moved out of the way when you do not need it. Use a separate tray for each type of clay you work with.
Basic Dry Clay Working Tools Products