Top Tips for handfiring Silver Clay
When you are new to Silver Clay, hand firing any item with a butane torch can seem a bit daunting. In fact it’s what some of my students worry about the most. The fact is it does take a wee bit of practise to get proficient at firing, but when you do – it’s such a satisfying job!
- Practise before you start. Try with some small offcuts of dried silver clay. Keep going until the silver melts and goes into a ball. This will give you a visual indication of what colour to look out for when your clay is approaching a dangerously high temperature. Don’t worry – the little balls you make can be used for projects later on.
- Fire your Silver Clay for the minimum time – at least! Make sure you time your firing correctly. If you are hand firing – ALWAYS start the timer from the time that the piece has turned the lovely orange peachy glow and fire for a MINIMUM of 2 minutes. Longer is always better.
- Make sure you cover the whole piece when firing. Make sure your movement is wide enough and thorough enough to ensure that your whole piece is at the optimum temperature for the whole firing.
- Control your torch. You can control the heat of your torch and the type of flame it produces. The hotter a flame is the sharper and bluer it looks. The cooler flame is yellow and soft. A perfect temperature for firing metal clay is somewhere in between the very hot, sharp blue flame and the soft, cooler yellow flame. There is an air inlet on the side of your torch which controls the flow of air mixing with the butane. If it’s closed you will get a cooler, softer yellow flame and if it’s fully open, your flame will be hot and sharp. Vary this inlet until you have something in between.
- Protect your firing surface. When I hand-fire I always place the firing block on 2 old kiln shelves and a granite block which I picked up from my local supermarket. It is important to make sure you protect the surface underneath where you’re firing because it can become very hot and singe your worktop. House bricks are a good alternative to granite blocks!
- Ventilation. When you fire, make sure it’s in a well-ventilated area. Open a window if you are firing in a living space just until the fumes burn away. Whilst the fumes from burning silver clay are not reported to be toxic, it’s best not to breathe anything like that in.
- Silver clay can be fired multiple times. This is great news if you need to repair your piece or if you want to add additional embellishments, bails or stones. Just make sure that you leave your piece that fresh white colour when it’s first fired. This allows for a ‘tooth’ for fresh clay to grip onto.
And if you need a visual – take a look at my HANDFIRING SILVER CLAY video right here.
Hope that’s demystified firing! If you have any comments or questions, then let me know!
Til next time