Sunday, November 18, 2012

Wire Bails with Metal Clay

I have been creating a series of smaller circle pendants, some domed and some flat.  They are delicate forms and I was determined to integrate the bail into their design, as opposed to simply drilling a hole and inserting a jump ring.  Their small size and domed form made both a coil or hidden bail difficult.  I then thought this would be a great time to explore incorporating fine silver wire into my fine silver metal clay.  I had worked with embedding fine silver wire into the clay, but not attaching it to the surface and thought this was the opportune time.

I planned out my design in string, taking into account the loop the chain would pass through and the area that would need to adhere flat to the back of the pendent.  I then used the string to measure and cut this short length of 18g round fine silver wire (fig. 1 below).  Once cut, I tightly spiraled one end and openly looped the other in a sort of fancy looking "S" shape (fig. 2 below).  To further transform the wire, I decided to hammer it flat.  I placed my "S" shape on a metal surface and hammered it flat in just a few hits leaving a wider version of the "S" (fig. 3 below).  Finally,   I needed to twist the bail so that the spiral would lay flat on the back of the form and the open loop would allow the chain to pass through.  I grabbed both ends of the "S" with flat nosed pliers.  Holding firm with the pliers clamped onto the tight spiral, I gently twisted the open loop about 45 degrees (fig. 4 below).  Keep in mind that the pliers should be smooth, if they have any sort of grip or "teeth" they will mark up your wire.  It can be cumbersome to wrap the wire in something to protect it, so I find that some duct tape wrapped around the teeth on the pliers is enough of a cushion to prevent this and can be removed/replaced as needed.

To attach the bail to the piece, I began by wetting the spot where I wanted it to adhere.  I then painted paste on the back of the wire and firmly pushed it down.  When the paste escaped through the spiral, I released and allowed it to set up for just a few minutes (below right image).  I then took a damp brush and smoothed out the paste, knowing it would be very difficult to sand this fragile area before firing.  The spiral serves as more than just decorative since it provides open spaces for the paste to cling to and fill in, strengthening the connection.  The back of the final fired form is above.  Visit my jewelry site to see other views and versions.


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