My love/hate relationship with copper clay continues

Another two weeks gone by, another three beads completed. I could get used to this pace! But, sadly, I’m not sure that I can get used to copper clay. It’s fun, but the more I use it the more I learn about its downsides.

As soon as you open a package of metal clay it starts drying out. No matter how well you tape it back up again, you can’t get the same seal as before it was opened. For my silver clay, I tape the inner and outer packages up since there is no seal on the outer package. That works fairly well but requires some effort to get to the clay each time. Because I wanted to keep experimenting with the copper clay, I hadn’t taped up the inner package, I had just been relying on the seal on the outer package, which obviously was a bit of a mistake. The copper clay dried out way more quickly than I expected. More my fault than the clay’s fault, but it still meant that I had to use water to get it pliable again. And then it got lumpy. It’s like the water only hydrated parts of the clay, so I had runny bits and lumpy bits and no matter how much I squished the clay it would not blend into a nice pliable mass. The increased moisture did allow me to shape it a bit more easily than last time, but it wasn’t the ideal situation.

One thing I’m having trouble getting over is the copper smell. Maybe it is because I’ve had to wet the clay more, but the smell lingers on my hands long after I’m done working the clay, no matter how many times I wash with soap and water. At least the copper beads lend themselves to simple designs so they come together quickly and I don’t need to spend too much time with the clay in my hands. But, it’s still a harsh smell to get used to. And although I don’t need to use liver of sulfur on the copper clay, I do have to use a pickling solution made with vinegar to get the fire scale off, so there are quite a few smells that I have to deal with!

I had a little bit better luck with the fire scale this time. I ordered a steel brush to help scrub it off and also tried quenching the beads in water rather than letting them air dry. Quenching worked well to get most of the fire scale off, but the bit that remained was more stubborn than last time. The steel brush worked, but only when it was wet and I’m worried about the steel rusting and the wooden handle rotting if I need to wet it constantly while using it. Outside of the steel brush, I managed to pick some of the fire scale off with my burnishers, but that was also only somewhat successful. I’m hoping that maybe more wears off as I wear the beads.

The real kicker for me was a few days after I finished these beads, I started a silver bead. And I loved it. I loved working with the clay, I loved the detail that I could add. I loved that what was in my head came out in my hands. It made me realize that I don’t get that sense of love from the copper clay. I like it. But I don’t love it. And I’m not sure if I ever will. I probably have at least half the package to still use up, so I have a few more shots to see if I change my mind.

At least I had quite a bit of fun with the Dremel this time around.



    1. Thank you Susan. I do love the colour of it (although it also tarnishes very easily :D)

      It’s been a bit of a disappointing run with the copper, unfortunately. I really don’t know if it’s just this brand, or if it’s all copper clay that would have some of these issues. I know that fire scale is a problem with all copper, but it’s really the consistency issues that I found so disappointing since it makes for a very lumpy item! I tried making a larger piece a few days ago and then sanding it down with the Dremel and that gave a smoother surface. So, that would solve some of the consistency issues, although it solves them by wasting materials. And, I accidentally broke part off and it’s much harder to paste two pieces back together like you can with silver clay since the copper clay doesn’t really ever turn into a paste. But, I am determined to keep trying!

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