After feeling a bit "burned" by base metal clays a few months ago, I went ahead and tried a new brand on the recommendation of jewelry artist Evelyn Pelati. I went with FastFire BRONZclay by Metal Adventure and was happy with the results for a variety of reasons. Here are a few...
To begin with the obvious, it fires fast. It takes an hour to ramp and an hour to fire. It is a one phase fire, so set the kiln and forget it. I was looking for a base metal clay to use with multiple classes, so I do not always have the luxury of being able to run a multi-phase firing during my teaching schedule. This allows me to not have to return to run a firing on my own time.
There is the other obvious of the price, with bronze clays being around 30 cents a gram and silver clays being more than $2 a gram, it is the most economical, especially for introducing it to a large class.
The firing directions are clear and easy, particularly if this is your first attempt at base metal clays. The descriptions of what you will find out of the kiln and what that means for your firing temperatures are also clear. I was able to figure out my firing schedule after just two test fires, though I have had to make adjustments based on running a whole class worth of pieces at a time.
I have also been able to successfully fire in a ceramic firing vessel. Since I am flip-flopping between silver and bronze, depending on the class, I am running multiple firings a day. When you fire in a steel pan there is a black flake sort of fire scale that needs to be vacuumed from the kiln after your firings. With a ceramic vessel, there is no evidence of the base metal firing.
Last, the workability of the clay has been great. It has a silky flexibility that makes it great for draping and forgiving for students just learning to work with it. When it dries, it is easy to reconstitute and continue working.
These were a couple of quick test pieces where the clay was rolled into scratch foam designs and run through the firing. The bronze has a warm gold hue and nice weight once fully sintered.