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Texture clay components with laser precision

Get consistent results and precise textures on metal and metal clay with personalized patterns.

A laser-cut cardstock pattern is an easy way to create low-relief patterns in both metal and metal clay. With a little practice in your medium of choice, you can get a perfect pattern every time. If you’re using metal clay, you can even make different-size components in the same pattern by using metal clays with different shrinkage rates. You can also make a complementary bail if you wish to make a pendant out of your textured components. 

Using the pattern on metal requires a rolling mill, and the pattern can only be used once, but the pattern transfer is exact. With metal clay, the same pattern can be used many times, but you must account for the shrinkage rate of your brand of metal clay to get the effect you want. 

SUPPLIES

  • Metal clay
    • with 30% shrinkage rate: 25 g
    • with 20% shrinkage rate: 15 g
    • with 10% shrinkage rate: 10 g
  • Metal sheet: 24-gauge (0.5 mm), amount determined by pattern
  • Wire: 20-gauge (0.8 mm), round, 5 in. (12.7 cm)
  • Toolboxes
  • Laser-cut cardstock patterns
  • Domed forms, medium and small
  • Jeweler’s saw with 4/0 blade
  • Rolling mill
  • Wire cutter
  • Roundnose pliers
INSTRUCTIONS 
Texture clay beads with laser precision Step 1
Apply natural hand balm or olive oil to your work surface and an acrylic roller. Roll 25 g of clay with a 30% shrinkage rate to five playing cards (1.25 mm) thick.
Texture clay beads with laser precision Step 2
Lightly oil a laser-cut cardstock pattern. Place the pattern face-down on the metal clay, then roll firmly with the roller over the pattern to transfer the texture to the metal clay.
Texture clay beads with laser precision Step 3
Hold the pattern down on the end closest to you. Grasp the other end of the pattern and gently pull it toward you to release the pattern from the clay.
Texture clay beads with laser precision Step 4
Use a circle cutter slightly larger than your pattern to cut evenly around your pattern. Use a small circle cutter to cut five evenly spaced semicircles from the edges of the clay, leaving a bit of clay between each of the semicircles.
Texture clay beads with laser precision Step 5
Carefully lift the clay from your work surface and place it on a domed form (a standard lightbulb works well for this). Use a shaped cutter or a craft knife to trim any excess clay and refine the clay into a star shape. Allow the clay star shape to dry completely (see the Metal Clay Dryness chart).
Texture clay beads with laser precision Step 6
Repeat to make two additional star shapes, one of them using a metal clay with a 20% shrinkage rate, and the other using a metal clay with a 10% shrinkage rate. 
Texture clay beads with laser precision Step 7
Use either the same pattern or a complementary pattern to create three smaller star shapes, one from each of the three clays. Lay the small star shapes on small domes (marbles or table-tennis balls work well), and trim any excess clay. Allow them to dry completely.
Texture clay beads with laser precision Step 8
Use a round diamond file and ultra-fine sanding pads to file and sand the dried shapes until the star points are rounded and level with each other.

For the rest of the project instructions, including ideas for using laser-cut textures with base metal and a rolling mill, download the free PDF!


Texture clay beads with laser precision Lasercut patterns
Create your own laser-cut pattern
You can purchase premade cardstock patterns from some metal-clay-supply stores, but you can also make your own designs into patterns for an added level of personalization. 

Select a copyright-free photograph, line drawing, or other art with a high contrast. If it is not already a digital image, scan the image. Convert the image to black and white with photo-editing software. Send the design electronically to a company that will process the design through a machine that cuts the pattern out of a special type of cardstock, and then mail you the completed pattern. You can do a quick search for “laser cutting service” to find a company that suits you. Some have no minimum orders, making it especially nice for individual artists. Most will charge a one-time fee to set up your pattern on their equipment, so if you want multiples, be sure to order them at the same time. Different companies will deal with different materials — papers (cardstock) and plastics (varying thicknesses) are of most use for jewelry-making purposes.

There are also companies that can cut your pattern into metal sheet. A metal pattern will be more durable than cardstock, but will also be more expensive. Calculate how often you would use a single pattern before making the investment.

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