Friday, August 10, 2012

Test of Goldie Bronze ™

This is a really long post, but I hope that it may be useful for someone :). A few months ago I had an opportunity to try for the first time Waldo Iłowiecki's new bronze clay - Goldie Bronze ™. While working with it I made a ton of notes and photos, so I decided to write something more about it here.
Goldie Bronze ™ comes in two types of powder - soft and hard. It contains approximately 90% copper and 10% tin. I tested the first one so far. Soon I'll test hard type also.

When you open a container the clay looks like this. I was quite surprised when I saw this white powder not entirely mixed with brown powder, but now I know this totally doesn't matter. You just have to jumble it up a bit.






Similar like in the case of Hadar's clays, you have to add water to the powder to get workable clay. Many people stress that you should use distilled water, but I'm fortunate enough to have tap water which works great with all types of clays. You can see in the photo that I added far too much water - the clay doesn't look too pretty at this stage ;). You can already see that the colour of Goldie Bronze ™ is quite light. It's like café au lait ;).







Waldo stressed in an instruction I get from him, that to get smooth consistency, the clay should be kneaded very well, and the best way is to roll it thinly and fold it over several times, then roll again, fold over etc. As you could see above, my clay was far too wet, so each time I rolled it I let it dry for a while. This way it lost surplus water quite quickly.










Generally I had no problems with getting smooth, nice and totally not sticky constistency. It was my first trial with clay in a powder form and I was afraid that making workable clay out of it would take ages and I would have a lot of problems. I was nicely surprised than it wasn't too painful :). At this stage I already noticed that this clay is totally different to the touch than other clays I've tried. It's a bit velvety, a bit like something made of silicone. This is actually very nice, because you REALLY don't need olive oil or any other hand conditioner to work with it.


Then I actually begun working. I decided to make  three pieces, each for different purpose:
- flat pendant with sculpted tree - I wanted to see if this clay is appropriate for very detailed, hand sculpted work I usually do.
- twig ring - I wanted to check how does this clay work when used to make thin, open work, carved pieces, what is its shrinkage rate in case of rings, how would zirconia fired in place react.
- 3 dimensional triquetra pendant (it's a box with an open back - it's not visible well in this photo) - I wanted to check if schrinkage is the same in all directions (it's, for me, the biggest problem with Metal Adventure's BRONZclay™), I wanted to check how does this clay work with molds (I used here a mold made from a pendant I made once in silver).
I also made three test pieces to destroy after firing - thin coil, flat circle (3 cards thick) and flattened ball (approximately 5 mm thick).

Goldie Bronze ™ is definitely very pliable, very soft, even a bit "loose" (that's why there are two versions - soft and hard which can be mixed together if needed). It's surely PERFECT for molds. Working with it was very pleasant, especially the fact that I didn't have to  use hand conditioner. This clay is so unsticky, that there were even a few moments I had an impression of it sliding on my fingertips and on my working surface - it can be a problem when you make for example very thin coils and you need some friction. But as you can see above it isn't something that can't be overcome when you know this clay better. It  is also a bit "sandy" - if you have very good sight you can see its sandstone-like structure, especially when it's dried. Look at this macro photo. Despite this it can be smoothened quite easily with sand-paper, abrasive pad etc. While working you can easily make paste out of a bit of clay, but you can also use  water alone - it joins elements together as well.

Goldie Bronze ™ needs to be fired in two stages. First to burn out the binder and the second one to actually sinter metal particles.
- First stage - place the pieces in a stainless steel firing container on a layer of activated carbon. Put it without a lid into a kiln and fire at full ramp to 350°C (662°F). Hold for 30 minutes.
- Second stage - remove the container from the kiln and fill it with a layer of coconut shell-based carbon to cover the pieces. Cover the container with a stainless steel lid and place it back into the kiln (just after taking it out - don't cool down the kiln, just continue with second stage immediately). Waldo recommends at this stage firing full ramp to 820°C (1508°F) and hold for 40 minutes. I slightly modified this stage* and usually fire 800°C for 20 minutes and 825°C for 40 minutes. You can calculate that total firing time is relatively short - with the original schedule it is under 2 ½ hours! As you can see I had no problems with this first firing - all pieces came out of the kiln undistorted, fully sintered and covered with beautiful kiln patinas (unfortunately these patinas aren't durable :(  and if not sealed, they turn orangey-yellow in a few weeks).

Then I polished half of one of my test pieces - you can see here the colour of polished Goldie Bronze ™. It's very nice - bright gold. Lighter than colour of BRONZclay™ which is rich, deep gold (I love it also :) ). Goldie Bronze ™ is a bit more silver-ish and tarnishes a bit slower (yay!). Fired pieces are surprisingly lightweight (at first I thought that maybe something went wrong during this first firing, but this is simply a feature of this clay). This is great, when making earrings - you can make quite big forms and they still will be wearable. And another great thing - Goldie Bronze ™ has very low shrinkage rate - my pieces shrank less than 6%! From wonderful test by Pat Waddington I know that Goldie Bronze ™ can shrink much more (12%) when fired significantly longer and hotter (second phase with 2 hours hold), but with lower shrinkage it's still VERY strong (just look below).



After this I worked a bit with my test pieces. As you can see in the photo I bent my thin coil into a little ring - without any breakage. Actually I was quite surprised. Then I tried to wad my flat circle, but I wasn't able to do it - I'm not strong enough.  Finally my partner waded it using some tools. Again no breakage. Then I cut in half this flattened ball, to check if it's fully sintered inside - everything was ok (some darker spots are visible due to rough cutting surface). It seems that the clay is very strong yet quite elastic.







I felt quite encouraged by all these results so I decided to make something more complicated what would be really hard test for this clay. I made delicate, open work bangle with tiny flowers.  I was quite happy with how it looked like so I was really hoping for easy firing. After the first stage the clay is supposed to turn black, but I saw the bangle's bottom part was still quite light. I thought I should flip it over and repeat stage one. Well - it was the worst idea ever. While flipping, the bangle accidentally hit the wall of my firing container and the piece broke into a few pieces... So - NEVER move your pieces at this stage - let them be. Now I know that lighter colour after the first stage of firing is not a problem at all. I tried to take the bangle out of the container and repair it with fresh clay, but this was SO stressful! If I touched anything too hard it broke. Goldie Bronze ™ in this "black clay" form after the first stage of firing is EXTREMELY brittle - you can easily make a black powder out of it between your fingertips, so really be careful and don't touch it if you don't have to.

After repairing the bangle I fired it again (I repeated both stages of firing), and it developed one big crack (actually it was quite surprising that only one, after being broke into so many pieces...), but the rest of the bangle sintered properly and places of repair were not visible.











I repaired this crack with fresh clay and fired it again. Due to this "sandy" structure, I mentioned earlier, it is very easy to join fired elements with fresh clay - it "penetrates" fired surface and sticks to it very well. You definitely don't need oil paste or something like this - fresh clay and water based paste is enough. These joinings are very strong - I tested it later.
So generally - thanks to this accident I had a chance to check repairing of Goldie Bronze ™ after both stages of firing. In both stages it is totally possible to repair your piece with fresh clay or paste, but after the first stage (when the binder is burnt out, but metal particles are not sintered yet) it is simply more difficult due to brittleness of the clay.



This is how the bangle finally looked like. I decided to polish it only partially. It already found its new owner :). It came out quite interesting and very, very strong.














Here you can see a few more pieces I made with Goldie Bronze ™. A few "twig" rings with zirconias. They shrank about one European size.














A bangle where I joined this bronze with Art Clay Silver (I fired the bronze part firstly and then added silver vines).
















And some more twig rings (I love making them ;) ). I tested here different types of finishing. You can find some of the techniques I used here in my tutorials in my Etsy shop.
Generally I really like this clay. It's very easy to work with (easy repairing after firing is simply wonderful thing) and it is quite different than other bronze clays. Definitely interesting experience. To be honest I totally switched to this bronze clay since I tried it. It has it's cons, but it's the best I've tried so far. I know. This sounds like advertising ;D.

* You ask why I modified the second stage of firing. I made this change firstly because I made also a few very big pieces (I haven't shown them anywhere yet - surprise is coming ;) ) and I wanted to be sure that the heat would reach inside the pieces (that's why I made this additional 800°C preparation for 20 min) and then I fired for recommended 40 minutes, in 825°C not in 820°C simply because the firing range of Goldie is quite wide and with 5°C more I'm just on the safe side. The original schedule also works very well. Goldie Bronze ™ creator - Waldo Iłowiecki - uses the original schedule to fire his big, sturdy bracelets and everything is ok. I'm just overly cautious and want to be really sure that everything will be properly sintered.
By the way -
check great test of this bronze by Sabine Alienor Singery. There is version for English and French speakers :).

63 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for sharing all the valuable information on Goldie Bronze™. Your work is spectacular, just beautiful! Love the delicacy and organic themes.

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  2. Thanks Anna! This is fantastic news! I can't wait to try this stuff and see how it works with sterling sliver metal clay! I like that it burns out faster too!

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  3. Maria, Wanaree - thank you very much :)
    Janet - this might be very interesting. I've haven't tried PMC sterling yet. Do you want to try firing both these clays together? They both have two stages of firing, but as I see PMC sterling has higher temperature of firing in first phase. The second phase is more or less the same. I've heard a lot about silver preventing bronze from sintering and vice versa though. But maybe it's different in case of this bronze and PMC sterling. I only tried to combine fine silver (Art Clay) with Goldie Bronze, but Goldie Bronze part was fired earlier.

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  4. Hey Anna was this the soft one? do you know what the difference is?

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  5. Yes, this is the soft one. I haven't tried the hard one yet, but I know it's simply more stiff, better for construction pieces like boxes etc. I have a package of this hard one also, but I didn't have time to try it. Joy Funnell tried both versions - she mixes them to get the consistency she likes the most.

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  6. Thank you for sharing your tests, Anna! Interesting potential with the different stiffnesses

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  7. Great post! Thanks for testing all this - and your pieces are beautiful!

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  8. Michelle, Sara - I'm very glad you find this post to be interesting :).

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  9. Thank you so much for sharing your testing experiences with us, Anna! This is extremely helpful. How did you fire the bracelet after you wrapped the fired bronze with Art Clay Silver? Did the bronze oxidize during the silver firing? Thanks again for sharing all this wonderful information!

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  10. Margaret - I torch fired silver part. Yes, it oxidized, but not that much that it could affect metal strength. Actually this way I didn't have problems with oxidizing bronze in LOS (it doesn't react to LOS too well - just like BRONZclay - LOS oxidation tends to come off). The bronze part was nicely oxidized with flame (and this oxidation is durable), then I used LOS to oxidize silver. I removed oxidiation from raised areas with abrasive pad, polished the whole thing, and that's it.

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  11. Beautiful work! Thank you for sharing your experience with us. I'm very anxious to try Goldie Bronze. And to look at your website: I want to see more of your gorgeous work! Best Wishes!

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  12. Stunning works! I loved your twig jewelry!

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  13. WONDERFUL post! I love the photos w/ the informaton I'm so visual it's scary. I can't wait to try this.. I have received mine and am ready to create!

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    1. Thank you Cindy! :) I hope you'll have a lot of fun with this clay. It is really surprisingly good.

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  14. Thank you for that post. Lots of useful information. What kind of zirconia did you use? The same as for AC?

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    1. Thanks :). Yes, the same kind. I also had this problem you described on MCE, but I managed to clean them.

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  15. Great information! But now I want a twig ring. Are they available for purchase (any metal)? You can message me at anne2819@yahoo.com . Thanks!

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    1. Hi Anne :)
      A few of these twig rings will be soon available in Emma Baird's gallery in Edinburgh. One of these rings (in steel) is also still available in my Etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/listing/79413455/flowery-twigs-in-steel
      I'll soon make some new bronze twig rings, because I have a few custom order on them.

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  16. Anne thanks so much for the information one question did you fire your gem stones or did you set later?

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  17. Oi så mye fint det var her!!! dyktig du er!

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  18. Hello Anna - Your flowerstorm necklace is lovely. What material did you use for the bezel cup, and how did you attach it to the rest of the necklace. I'm assuming you can't solder silver to the goldi bronze clay?

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    1. Hi Heidi :)
      Thank you! Bezel cup is made of silver and is attached to the rest of the necklace with tiny jump rings. There is no soldering bronze to silver here, just cold connection (silver is soldered to silver in some places though).

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  19. Hi nigel here can i ask do you line the inside of your rings with any type of varnish to stop the bronze from making your finger go green?
    I love your work and the twig rings are fantastic Nx

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    1. Hi Nigel :) In this case I don't use any varnish. I don't know why, but this bronze seems no to green my finger (I made a test of wearing it constantly for a few days, without taking off and after three days, including sleeping with it etc., there was only a pale shade of green on my finger). So I decided that maybe it isn't necessary. It may be like this due to higher tin content than in other bronzes (?), I don't know.

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  20. Thank you Anna for this post. It has helped with repair issues that I had and under firing. I love your work! Keep giving info to us!

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  21. Can you/have you post a tutorial for the twig rings? I'd love to know how to make them!

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    1. Hello :)
      I don't plan writing a tutorial on these twig rings right now. But it's probable I'll teach face to face how to make them - in Edinburgh or maybe in other places.

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  22. beautiful work and thank you so much for sharing your knowledge.

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  23. Great info, thanks. Love your pieces.

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  24. Anna,
    If I want to use a texture plate (Dynasty stamp or otherwise), what kind of resist do you recommend for preventing the clay from sticking?
    Kathy

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    1. Katherine - I have Dynasty stamps I got with Metal Clay Today premier subscription and it seems you don't need anything to prevent sticking. At least in case of Goldie Bronze. The same when I use it with some silicone molds I made. When I'm afraid that some sticking may occur (for example in case of silver) I simply use olive oil.

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  25. Hi Anna, I have used Goldie Bronze several times, mostly for small pieces, and every time I think I overfire them. They come out gritty feeling and slightly black, not like the beautiful patinas that I see on yours. The only thing that confuses me is that I use the exact same fiting times as you. If you have any advice, id really appreciate it!

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    1. Hi Megan :)
      I would lower firing temperature by 5 degress and if this doesn't work then 10 degress. Each kiln is different and certain temperature in mine diesn't necessarily mean the same temperature in yours. You have to experiment to find this out.

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  26. I am concerned about using a stainless steel container in my kiln. Can I use a ceramic container instead? I want to avoid the flaking from the stainless steel container?
    Thanks,
    Donna

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    1. Hi, I've never used different container than steel one, but I don't see a reason why different container could cause problems. As far as I know people around the world use all kinds of containers for firing Goldie. You just have to find out which firing temperature is right for your kiln+your container, so always do tests before making something lovely and time consuming.

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  27. Wonderful information . Thanks very much.
    As I am having unresolved issues with fast fire Bronze clay and getting only 80%
    Of my pieces sintered after firing, I am open to trying Goldie

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    1. I hope you found it to be more reliable. I have 100% success rate with Goldie. While using my own kiln I never ever had any problems with sintering.

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  28. Hi Anna!
    I've been trying out Goldie Bronze, and LOVING it! The last piece I made came out with an absolutely stunning patina, and I saw that you said it wasn't durable. I was wondering if there was any way at all to seal it? Would Rennaissance Wax work? It's just so lovely I can't bring myself to polish it off.
    Thanks so much! Your work is so inspiring!
    Lyssa

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    1. Hi Lyssa, I'm sorry I am replying after so many months - I just came back to writing this blog.
      Honestly - I don't like sealing patinas, because it changes the look of metal, but I know that people really like Protecta clear. You can try this one.

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  29. AMAZING JEWELRY, GREAT BLOG, and SOOO HELPFUL!!!

    YOU ARE SOOOOO VERY TALENTED!
    Thank You

    Angela

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  30. I am so pleased that I found this blog. I have just bought some Goldie Bronze soft and can't wait to try it. I love bronze but my experience with Prometheus was a disaster. I am hoping for better results! Nothing as beautiful and intricate as yours YET. I will keep learning I hope.

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    1. I hope that you found this clay to be better. Sorry that I'm replying to your comment after so many month - I just came back to writing this blog :-).

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  31. Hi there, thanks for setting up this blog - most helpful. I have been working with relatively good success with bronzeCLAY brand art clay up until recently when the black residue became excessively hard to buff/polish off after firing (I mean like 30 mins spent on one item with the use of a rotary tool which would usually take 1-2mins max). Have you had any issues with this, or any recommendations on what to change?

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    1. Hi :-) I remember when I used to use the original formula of the BRONZclay I also had a problem with removing that black layer of oxides. It was really annoying and took a lot of time. I used to use scotch brite for this. Unfortunately I don't have any smart advice about this... With Goldie and other new bronze clays I simply don't have this problem.

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  32. Hi, I really adore your work. I'm making jewelry some time and I wanted to try metal clay, so I buy some Goldie. Unfortunately, I failed in firing stage. I used classic gas stove as the least expensive solution and it went wrong - no sign of metal, it just came apart like black hard dirt. Can I ask you whether you always use a kiln with Goldie or it's possible to fire it with torch?

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    1. Michaela, you should have read instructions before the firing. Goldie bronze or any other bronzes and other base metal clays can't be fired on a gas stove. Almost all of them require kiln and firing in activated carbon which reduces oxygen from the surroundings of metal, preventing it from oxidizing. Your piece totally oxidized, that's why you didn't get metal at the end. Read the blog post you just commented - there is a section about firing here.

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    2. so butane torch won't work too? (I read the instructions which is only for firing in kiln, but I tried it on stove because I have read about firing on stove from other sources, even some of the instruction videos and books refers to this way of firing... I just wanted ask someone who work with this particular brand of clay :)

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    3. I haven't heard about any bronze that can be really fired well with a torch. You can fire silver (fine silver) with a torch and some people fire copper with a torch.

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  33. Hi, it's been awhile since last post, I don't know if you'll see this. I'm very curious about the pieces themselves. They don't look to be from a mold. Do you actually sculpt each individual piece? That tells me you are an accomplished artist and it's not likely I could ever make an item this detailed and intricate. Were you taught sculpting in school or are you just a natural?
    They are all mind-blowingly amazing, there are no words.
    Thank you
    Stacey

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    1. P.S. IF THE BRONZE CLAY IS 90% COPPER, WHAT IS THE REASON THAT IT WON'T TORCH OR STOVE FIRE? WHAT ABOUT IN THE OVEN, IMMERSED IN CHARCOAL?

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