Saturday, April 23, 2016

Metal Etching Using Flexible Texture Mats from Best Flexible Molds

Recently I received a question from a metal artist, Debbie Bobby of Bronze Bullet Design,  about using our mats as artwork for etching sheet metal. Graciously, after doing a number of experiments, she has written out how she used our mats in this process.  

Metal etching using Flexible Texture Mats from BestFlexible Molds.

If you’re a clay artist using flexible texture mats and wondering what else you can do with them, or if you’re into etching metal, but looking for cool new textures and wondering if these flexible mats will work for you, the answer to both questions is a resounding YES!

I love making patterned bead caps, charms for earrings, pendants, and other findings to integrate into my jewelry pieces. I frequently use copper, but occasionally sterling or fine silver, bronze, nu gold, and brass, too. 

Gingko leaves earring dangles and bead caps.
There are a number of ways to transfer a pattern onto sheet metal. You can etch, use rolling mills with texture plates, or good old elbow grease with a hammer, just to name a few. If you choose to etch, you can use rubber stamps, texture mats, or even freehand a pattern or image onto your metal using a “resist”. All that means is using some sort of ink or other material to mask portions of your piece. The sections that are masked with your “resist” will be the high points on your piece. The areas not masked with your resist will be etched – literally, eaten away by the etchant method you choose – creating interesting textures and patterns.

There are many ways to etch metal, each with their own distinct results. The two I commonly use are electric etching using a saturated salt water solution and current, or using Ferric chloride etchant. Ferric chloride is the faster of the two solutions and the one I’ve used for the experiment I’m about to cover.

I was in search of some new designs for some bead caps I wanted to make, and as I frequently do, I searched Etsy. I’d seen most of the patterns before, but I came across some flexible texture mats designed specifically for clay products on the Best Flexible Molds shop. A few really caught my eye. But I wanted to etch copper. Would it work? I sent Penni Jo, the shop owner, a note asking if she knew. She quickly replied that she really didn’t know, but added she was now curious and asked if I would be willing to experiment and share the results. I agreed and within a day or two, four sample mats arrived.

When I opened the package, I felt pretty comfortable that these would work out. I set out to do some testing using all four of the samples mats I received. I was delighted with the results! Here’s how the testing went:

First just a little disclaimer – There are a ton of excellent and very detailed, step by step tutorials on etching with Ferric chloride, so rather than reinvent the wheel, I recommend the one I learned with on the Rings & Things website.

What I’ll cover here are the specifics around my experience and results using PenniJo’s flexible texture mats, generously provided! 

Step 1 – Clean, buff and dry. Get your copper squeaky clean. 
I use a commercial copper cleaner called Penny Brite® and a Scotchbrite® sponge, but you can also just sand it with a fine grit sanding block followed, by some alcohol. You want the water to sheet off – no beading up! Dry it thoroughly using paper towels. Once it’s washed, handle with gloves to avoid the transfer of any oils from your fingers.

Step 2 – Apply a resist to the pattern on your flexible texture mat.
I used a StazOn® Ink pad, pressing multiple times to get good coverage. Because the mat is so flexible, I placed the copper on top of it, then placed a large wooden block on top of the back side of the copper to apply even pressure.

Berber texture resist results:

This is the first texture I used and apparently, I didn’t press too well! Coverage is pretty uneven on the left side. This is easy to fix, just using a Sharpie as you’ll see later.

Faux Tooled Leather resist results:

Once again, not enough ink or insufficient pressure, but corrected later.

Center Cut Log resist results:

My goof here for not capturing the ink applied to the texture mat, but you can see, I’m getting more practiced at both the amount of resist and pressure to ensure a good transfer. This looks pretty good.

Ginko Leaf resist results:

Getting consistently good transfer of the resist achieving a high degree of coverage.

On the Berber and Tooled patterns, remember that I was missing ink in quite a few places? Just using a medium tip Sharpie, I filled in those missing areas.

Step 3 – Etching.

SAFETY IS A MUST!!! Ferric chloride is a chemical and needs to be used and disposed of properly. It is toxic and harmful to the environment, so it needs to be disposed of according to your local laws. I drop it off to my city’s hazardous material department for proper disposal

Act responsibly. Always thoroughly read about and understand any chemicals you are working with to ensure your personal safety and no harm to the environment. You can easily find the MSDS sheets on the internet.

Make sure your resist is dry. For the Ferric Chloride process I used, you need to “float” your etch piece on top of the ferric chloride solution. 

I secured two of mine using double-sided carpet tape and two using the Rings & Things approach. Both methods have pros and cons –experiment to see what works best for you.

Step 4 – Place your pieces, design side down, into your etchant. 
 Gently agitate your container by jiggling it on the table every 10 minutes or so. Pull your pieces out once you achieve the desired etch and clean them well, referring to #8 in the Rings & Things tutorial.

After cleaning, here are my results. I have to say, I’m very happy with the level of detail and depth of etch I achieved using Penni Jo’s flexible texture mats.

I’m providing a side by side view of the resist and the resulting etch after 60 minutes in the ferric chloride bath.

Tx04 Nubby Berber texture Mat used

Tx01 Faux Tooled Leather texture mat used
Tx08 Center Cut texture mat used

Tx10 Gingko Leaves Texture mat used

Step 5 is simply to shape and/or finish your etched material for your particular application. 
 I’ll be making a variety of jewelry components with these including bead caps, pendants and earring charms. Here are a couple of examples:

Bead caps made using the Faux Tooled Leather texture mat with a liver of sulfur patina.

Bead caps made using the Center Cut Oak texture mat with a various patina treatments (like Furubi®, fuming, and flame patina).

I'm really very pleased with the results using these flexible mats. I think they are definitely on par with stamps and mats designed specifically for metal etching.

Have fun!

Debbie Bobby
Owner/maker, Bronze Bullet Design

A note from Penni Jo
Thank you so very much Debbie! The work you've done with these mats is amazing. The items you've created are beautiful and super functional. Joe and I are very  pleased with the beautiful metal pieces that she has created. 
Because our mats are hand poured, they might not be perfectly flat like commercially made mats or stamps. But it's my thought that if the material pressing the mats to the metal is rather flexible also, then more of the design could be imprinted on first try.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Tiny Polymer Clay Bowl with Gold Fish

Tiny Coiled Bowl with Gold Fish

List of Materials Used:
•Small, oven safe bowl.  The bowl used in this tutorial is a glass bowl from Dollar Tree. They were 4 for a dollar. Size of Bowl: diameter 3 1/2" (88mm) - height 1 9/16" (40mm)
•Strong Polymer clay in your choice of colors - about 3 to 4 ounces depending on size of bowl. •• For this bowl I used polymer clay scraps from white and translucent to a blue-gray to turquoise and a tiny bit of Peacock. All the scrap colors were in the turquoise family and were conditioned separately before beginning the project. 
•Polymer clay safe work surface. NOTE: be very careful with polymer clay as it can damage fine furniture and painted surfaces. A good choice is a ceramic tile, wax paper, aluminum foil, metal cooking sheet etc.  
•Pasta Machine dedicated to polymer clay, Brayer or Acrylic Rolling rod
•Knitting needle or Penni Jo’s Clay Tools•Blade
•Tiny fish mold - I used PJ030 Fun with Dolphins mold but any tiny fish mold would work.
•Mica Powder to color gold fish. I used Copper.
•Your favorite clay tools
•Optional: •Extruder to make ropes of clay, •Chalks •Rubber gloves,  •Paper towels    •Glitter  •Mold 

Basic Polymer Clay Bowl Instructions:
This design was created on the of the bowl.
1.  Collect about 3 to 4 ounces of scrap clay colors that will go together well. Condition each color well before the next step. (see color page)

2.  Chop up all of the colors using a rigid blade. Mix the colors and chop again until the pieces are about 1/3 to ¼ inch bits.

3.  Roll the chopped clay bits into a ball and compress it with your hand.

4.  Using a roller press the ball flat, turning it several times. When the ball is flat enough to go through a pasta machine, put it through, only one time, on the second thickest setting to make a multi-color slab of clay. (Five to Six playing cards thick)

5.  Cut a number of slices from the slab, about 1/8 to ¼ inch deep as shown

6. Roll several pieces of rope, some longer and some shorter. The longer ones will make  larger coils, the shorter ones will be used to make smaller coils to fit around the larger ones.

7.  To make the coils: Roll a slice from the slab into a rope about 1/8 inch thick.

  A.  Begin the coil by curling one end to begin the coil with a tiny curled end. 

  B.  Lay the tiny curl on a surface and, while keeping the coil flay, very gently pull the loose end of the coil around the coil until reaching the end of the rope. 

  C.  By keeping your finger very gently on the coil while wrapping it you will prevent the coil from forming a cone.

D.  Tuck the end up against the coil to finish it.

E. Make a bunch of coils of various sizes.

8.  To pick up a coil, do not use your fingers as the coil can distort upon lifting. Instead, use a scraper or other blade to lift it from the work surface.

9. Beginning with the larger coils press them into (or outside) the bowl.

10.  Cover the inside (or outside) of the bowl with ropes beginning with the largest ones to smaller ones.

11.  Do not overlap the coils but put them next to each other so that they just touch. Don't worry about the little spaces between the coils at this time.

12.  As you place the coils and they begin to touch each other, you can strengthen the contact by adding tiny bits of Bake 'n Bond® or Poly Paste® on a pointy stick or Peej Pick.

13.  Using smaller and smaller coils, fill between the larger coils taking care not to overlap the larger coils. Press gently to your baking form.

14. Fill tiny areas using small slices of rope or tiny balls of clay. Secure with Bake ‘n Bond as needed. Images: top- bowl with coils being added, bottom- bowl ready to bake.

15.  Optional finishing: I molded 5 tiny fish using translucent clay and the PJ030 Fun with Dolphins mold. The fish were molded then dusted with Perfect Pearls® bronze powder. The excess powder was dusted from the fish and then the fish were lifted into place in the bowl of coils. Several dots of Bake 'n Bond® or Poly Paste® were added to hold the tiny fish in place.

16.  Bake following the manufacturer's instructions. The polymer clay bowl can be removed when cool.  Shown below is the bowl in sunlight. It is 3 1/4" (81mm) in diameter.

Finishing. If you have secured the coils where they come together, nothing more should be needed.

Enjoy this tiny treasure. It can hold your favorite earrings, your rings while you lotion your hands, etc. At the office or at work you could hold paper clips, a staple puller, finger covers, a glue stick, thumb tacks, an eraser, etc.

If you want to reinforce some areas or add to the bowl, put the bowl back into the glass bowl in which it was created to support it during successive bakings.

The tiny fish were molded in translucent clay using the PJ030 Fun With Dolphins Mold, available on our website Best Flexible Molds.   I've discovered that, when using most mica powders, they go onto translucent clay beautifully and keep a rich color.

Thanks for stopping by!
Penni Jo Couch 
Designer & sculptor of

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Using Resin in our Best Flexible Molds

"Can I use resin in your molds?" This is a question we are so often asked. The answer is "Yes, But".

After a lot of research, below is the info about using resin in our molds. 

Because Best Flexible Molds are made of Urethane Rubber a highly  flexible, tough, long lasting rubber, they are often confused with Silicone rubber. Urethane molds have a long library life, are tough, and flexible.

Our molds are designed to be push molds for polymer clay. Other materials that can be used easily in our molds are: Plaster of Paris, Melt and Pour soap, Paper Clay, UTEE, Eraser Clay and Metal Clays.

Mold Cleaning: If clay builds up in the openings of our molds, they can be washed by hand in warm, soapy dish water or even in the dishwasher if the dry cycle is set “Heat Off”.
When dry, the molds can be refreshed with a light mist of Armor-All.

 After speaking with a tech at the company where our rubber is manufactured, he told me that -- 

Yes, our molds can be used with resin with the following requirements. They MUST be properly released.

The openings in the mold must be released with paste wax (flat

yellow can in photo, bottom left) and it needs to be the kind of paste wax that is used for floors, NOT the kind that is used for cars. The reason for this is that car wax has water in it.

The brand of release agent recommended by the manufacturer of our rubber is Johnson's Paste Floor wax. There is no water in this wax.

Always remember --- When it comes to resin and urethane molds, water is not your friend!!

The reason? If there is water in the wax, the water will cause the resin to bond to the rubber mold and destroy the opening in the mold.

Here is a link to the product that they recommend.

More info: Using Johnson’s paste wax as a release we tested a two part 50/50 resin epoxy and polyester resin (a liquid resin where a larger amount is sold with a small bottle of activator.) See first photo, upper left of 50/50 resin epoxy.

At this time three kinds of resin have been tested. The molds were released using the paste wax listed above.

Magic Gloss, made by Lisa Pavelka.

This material comes in one bottle and is hardened by exposure to a UV lamp, black light or sunlight and does not require a release in our molds. Judi W. tested the Magic Gloss on a mold earlier this year. The resulting hummingbird looked like a jewel. No release was needed but continued use might cause problems if un-released.

Regular Polyester Resin: 

Available at many hobby stores like Hobby Lobby. This type resin is activated with a few drops of liquid catalyst. It normally comes in a large container with a small bottle attached. The small bottle is the activator. This type resin must have a release agent. The rubber manufacturer only recommends SC Johnson’s paste floor wax as a release agent.

Epoxy resins.
Salad oil release worked OK, but was messy

This kind of resin is a 50/50 mix of two materials and usually comes in a package of two equal sized bottles.

Urethanes and Resins MUST have a release agent. Always read the label and never use a wax with water in it as water will cause the resin and bond to and destroy the mold.

I hope this helps to clarify the use of resin in Urethane Molds like ours.
Thanks so much for stopping by.

Penni Jo Couch
Designer/ Sculptor 
White Pearl Resin Roses.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Tiny Marigolds by Allyson

Step 2
Allyson H. and I became clay friends several years ago when Joe and I used to go south "snow birding" to Mission Texas for the cold winter months.  The closest guild was in Corpus Christi, a three hour drive. Since Allyson lived just 15 minutes from our campground and was a clayer, she and I would take turns driving to the meetings and to classes I taught in Corpus Christi. As a happy result, we became friends as we shared our enthusiasm for our families and for polymer clay.

Allyson is incredibly talented and, when she learns a new technique, she creates a necklace, earrings and barrette for her lovely thick, long hair.

Step 4.
A few weeks ago she contacted me for a tutorial of a technique I demo at retreats, using some of my tools.  A short time later she sent me a single page of images, she'd created these darling marigolds and shared with me how she'd accomplished it.

Wow! I love these tiny flowers! and, with her permission, I'm sharing her technique with you all. Here we go!

Step 5.
Allyson's tiny Marigolds

Step 1. I made a Skinner blend with white and Yellow and a little orange. Then I made a Jellyroll.

Step 2.  Then I cut slices off of the jellyroll and laid them out in rows.

Step 6
Step 3. I cut centers out of one of the slices an made the other two slices smaller by increments.

Step 4. Then I put a dent in the sides of each section all around.

Step 5. I also "ruffled" the edges.

Step 6. I dented and ruffled all of the slices.

Step 7

Step 7. Here are all the dented and ruffled slices.

Step 8.

Step 8. Next I stacked the second slice on to of the first slice.

Step 9.

Step 9. Then I pushed the center into the hole in the first slice.

Step 10.

Step 10.  I repeated the process for the third slice.

Step 11.

Step 11. I added a little roll of white clay to the center and baked.

(I wish I'd gotten one of these inchies with tiny marigolds. Aren't they are just darling?)

Step 12

Step 12.  All done~!!

(Shown with a penny for scale.)

Step 13.

Step 13. I made a base for this barrette from clay. Then I put the flowers and leaves in the base and filled it with resin.

(Note that some of the marigolds are more orange than yellow. I made a number of differently colored marigolds.)
Zumba Belt

I purchased this Zumba belt and used the parts to make a bracelet, earrings and a necklace. 

Left, the Bracelet. Baked, tiny marigolds in dished metal disks then the disks were filled with resin.

Below: The necklace and earrings. I placed the flowers in the base and filled them with resin. 
Finished necklace & Earrings

I hope you all enjoy trying Allyson's tiny marigolds.

Thanks for stopping by.
Penni Jo Couch
Designer / Sculptor