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Thursday, April 16, 2009

More Adventures in Bronze Clay, as well as Pet Oxygen Masks and Tapping

I know some of you come to my blog for info on my experiences with bronze clay (as in, we can learn from Laura’s mistakes… ha ha ha!), so I’ll try to remember to put these updates at the top so you don’t have to scroll around looking for it. Mom, you’ll probably do the opposite… skip the stuff about jewelry to read about the kid updates.


At my last visit at Hadar’s I learned a little bit about “finishing”. Once I came home, I realized how little there is (or how hard it is to find) on the internet regarding this subject. Well, for non-precious metal clay, anyway. Maybe stuff like this is supposed to be simple or intuitive or something. Shrug.

Hadar showed me a few different techniques and I didn’t take notes this time so I’ve probably forgotten some of what I was told.

Also, there are choices to factor in. And some of these choices also depend on your piece. For example, if you have a flat piece (or are doing the flat back of a piece), you want to sand it down to smoothness then polish it. But I also had to do some grinding because (for example) a piece that is made of copper and bronze will most likely have the copper at a slightly higher level than the bronze when it comes out of the firing because copper shrinks less than bronze.

Remember these pieces at the bottom? They are copper inlay on bronze.

At Hadar’s, I took one of these pieces, did some grinding off of the copper so that the top of the “charm” was one level (argh! What did I use to grind? ! I think it was some kind of … I know, don’t laugh… grinding stone attachment for the dremel).

Caveat: Please remember that I have never used a dremel before (except in Joe Silvera’s class where it was all set up for us and it was just polishing). I am not yet familiar with the names of the pieces or their purposes. I’ll explain it as best as I can as I go… and learn.

After “grinding” (which is not always necessary… just if you need to make two levels into one), you can dremel sand with a drum (blah! Don’t know what it’s called). It looked something like #5 in this photo.

After that coarse sanding, you want to go to sanding with finer and finer grit paper. Here’s where I first used a “slotted mandrel” with a dremel. I forgot to take a photo of mine… sorry… next time.

You take a long strip of your 120 grit sandpaper, slip one end into the slotted mandrel, wind the rest around tightly and then tape it down with scotch tape.

Things I learned in THIS process:
1) It’s better to purchase more than one slotted mandrel (D’oh!) so that you don’t have to remove each strip of sandpaper from it to go on to the next finer grade.
2) It’s better NOT to use the really thin, barely holds scotch tape because this stuff breaks way too easily.
3) I guess I need to learn if you have to wind the sandpaper a certain direction to be in correlation to which way the dremel bit spins (still haven’t figured that one out yet).
4) Wear goggles (or at least glasses). Things really do fly off into any direction.
5) Hold onto your piece with a death grip, because your piece can also fly off into any direction.

Anyway, there’s also a fiber wheel bit (looks like #6 in the dremel bits photo).

And I’m not sure I know when exactly to use it. I think it’s if you want to buff/shine the top layer of a textured bronze piece. Shrug. See, this is the part that confuses me. I forgot the order and/or the exact outcome of each dremel bit.

I mean, besides the grinding drums (which come in all shapes and sizes), there are sanding drums, slotted mandrel for sand paper, fiber wheels, steel brush wheels (I’m thinking these are for getting into smaller places), polishing wheels (that you add polishing compound to), and oh well a whole heck of things. I definitely need more time in the “how to finish” area of learning.

I tried a patina that I thought would darken the recesses of my bronze, but instead it turned them green-blue. I’m sure that’s fine at times… it just wasn’t what I wanted at that time.

Anyway, more things that I learned is when Hadar said do most of the finishing work BEFORE firing, I think I really know what she means now.

This is one of my copper bronze pieces that has been ground (or is that “grinded”?) and sanded, but not yet buffed or polished.

This is the backside to one of the pieces.

Yikes! All those pits! That, I assume, comes mostly from not taking care of my piece as and after it was drying. After it’s dry, I need to wet my finger and rub it over the back, smoothing down the bumps. I can also take some extra clay on a rubber brush and smooth it into any pits I find.

I just really need to pay more attention to this because see how it REALLY shows once your piece is fired!?

This now is the only piece (from that copper/bronze bracelet to be) that is pretty much complete. It’s what I worked on at my last visit to Hadar’s studio.

I’m… um.. not exactly sure what the green stuff is, but I can probably get it out of there (now that I see it). But what’s more troubling are the pits. Ugh!

This is the back of that same piece (or a similar one)…

You can see where I’ve taken a few swipes with the sanding and where I’ve not touched it at all.

This, now, is a piece I made at my second visit to Hadar’s then did the firing and finishing here on my own.

This is a technique Hadar recently perfected and posted to her blog.

I don’t yet have my Baldwin’s patina so I can’t make that really stark contrast between the copper and the bronze but I’m still pretty happy with it so far. I think I’m being a little better with the smoothness. I don’t see quite as many pits in this one. Oh, I realize it’s FAR from anything really good, but I’m happy with my progress.

Here’s another picture of it (and you can see Monica’s fired and unpolished pieces in the background).

There seems to be an extra tiny hole in each of Mon’s pieces (we’ll show you those another day). Our guess, for now, is that there was an air bubble trapped between the two metals.

I had to kill some more time (and clay) during my last session so I thought I’d make two simple charms that could be used as earring components.

In this photo, one piece is shined up and the other is left as is from the kiln. Just for the photo, I mean... I will eventually polish the other.

Alright. That’s it for now. I have a couple pieces that are done now and I think I’ll attach them to some brass chain so I can begin wearing some of my creations, humble though they may be.


Man, I blew it! I wanted to take a photo of Gabe's bridge (that was the project) this morning before he took it to school and I forgot. Wwwwwwwwwwaaaa! Poor guy got home from practice last night at 10:30pm then stayed up until 5am finishing the bridge. He was SOOOO tired this morning.

And I was even sorrier (madder at myself) once I found out that each bridge had to be obliterated during the “contest”. They placed increasing weight on each group’s bridge until it collapsed. Gabe’s group help 47-something pounds before it went. They came in eighth, I think he said. The winning group was seniors (Gabe’s a junior) and two from that group are going to MIT next year. Heh. Not a bad bunch to lose to.


The other day I was looking at random photos of cats being rescued by firefighters. A read a few of the articles accompanying the photos and discovered a few things I'd previously been unaware of.

One, there are actual pet oxygen masks that work infinitely better on cats and dogs (and other small pets) than the baby or adult oxygen masks that are standard equipment at fire stations.

Two, these pet oxygen masks are not part of the standard equipment at all fire stations.

Three, a set of three different sizes of pet oxygen masks with accompanying instructional videos are not that expensive ($60-$95).

So I called my local fire station and asked if they were equipped with them. They said no, but that they had wanted to get some. I told them I would order a set and have it sent to them.

If a few people in each neighbor hood could do this or pool their funds and do this for their local fire fighters, so many more cats and dogs would have a chance of surviving a fire they might encounter.

If you're interested, here are two places that sell the kits:


Have you heard of this? It's hard for me to explain, but the video on the site does a really great job. Here is one blurb: "Tapping is a powerful acupressure technique that eliminates negativity." The people I've heard who've had success with tapping include those suffering from panic attacks, migraines, and stress.


The other day our computer went kafluey. In order to “fix” it, I ended up installing the latest version of IE. Blah! Now things look weird. I mean, even on my own website (SRAJD) I can’t see any pictures on the sponsor page. ARGH! Now I have to think about using a different software to create that page or it’s only a matter of time before I hear this complaint from others. Hmph!

And… I do a couple people’s websites, aside from my own, and I’m running into an issue that’s REALLY pissing me off (pardon). When I correct or update a page, I still see the old version. Yes, this is after I’ve cleaned my cache, etc. This makes it very hard to work on the page… know what I mean? Double argh!


How is it that over the last few years I’ve purchased about 10 texture punches and can’t find one single one in my apartment? Where the heck did I put them? Wow, this is really annoying.


Gaffer Girls!... for the nice comment on my earrings. BTW, one of the things I love most about your blog is how wonderfully colorful it is.

Renee, don’t worry. The powder probably won’t happen again. It was our own fault. This is what bronze clay looks like when it’s not sintered. I’m using a different (very different) firing schedule now and things are going along swimmingly (well, for firing anyway… ha ha ha!).



  1. love the leafy patina. wish patina were more predictable...guess i should have paid more attention in chem. thanks, too, for the referral to Hadar's inlay technique. cool stuff.

  2. What a richly informative blog post that was Laura and wow I love love that first leafy bronze link you showed...gorgeous!!