Thursday, March 14, 2013

Simpler Hinges in PMC Sterling

Making tiny hinged book charms gives me a way to explore PMC Sterling through less elaborate construction than boxes or box pendants.
Although book charms are tiny, (fired they are less than an inch tall), like any other hinge they require meticulous engineering.
Because I am investing less time (and material) I am willing to take more chances and therefore I’m likely to learn more about the clay in a shorter period.

PMC Sterling is still a relatively new material and I continue to explore it in that spirit.  Its working qualities are quite remarkable.  It carves beautifully.  It handles beautifully and has a longer open working time than any other silver clay.  With the exception of firing, everything about it is easier.
Two-stage firing will always be a drawback simply because it’s an extra step, takes extra time and is dirty work because it involves carbon.  I still feel strongly that PMC Sterling’s benefits outweigh its drawbacks. Although various artists are experimenting with single stage firing I have had great success with the two-stage so I’ll stick to what works for me.

Because they require precision, hinges are a good way to explore possible distortion during firing.  PMC Plus and 3 do sometimes distort during firing.  However, since they’re fine silver and more malleable, it’s relatively easy to correct the distortion with nylon jawed pliers or wooden dowels and a rawhide mallet.  The down side of this malleability is that hinges made from fine silver are more easily pushed around, crushed, jammed up, etc.

Hinges made with PMC Sterling are more challenging to realign once they are fired because the material is so much harder.  However, once they are realigned they are much stronger and will withstand wear and tear better than fine silver hinges.

The fact that the knuckles are in line after firing, or not so out of line that they can’t be nudged into line, suggests that all the variables are behaving as I would expect. They are kiln temperature, firing schedule, carbon (type, age, amount used), type of container, and the number of pieces fired together. 
Note: I do not fire hinged pieces assembled. I put the top and bottom (or the front and back) next to each other in the kiln.  An assembled hinge, like an assembled box, will fuse together unless it’s dusted with a fine powder that won’t burn off in the kiln.  This could be shaved or scraped off kiln shelf material, or graphite; I’m experimenting with other possibilities now.  

These are three book charms from a series I'm working on.  Each one is slightly different.

I texture and cut the parts from fresh clay, cutting any windows out when the clay has set up.  I roll the hinge stock on small knitting needles (1.5 and 2mm) using a technique I’ve developed for making small diameter textured hinges.  I find it easier for making this scale hinge than drilling or extruding hinge stock.

I measure then cut the knuckles with a jeweler’s saw and a tube cutting jig.   The “fence” on the jig let’s you cut the same length again and again and cutting with a saw insures that you don’t crush the tiny hinge tube.  It’s not essential to have these tools but they do make the process easier.

I assemble the book charm, attaching the knuckles with very thick slip or lump clay.

After two stage firing I tried various hinge pin solutions.  The one below has mica sandwiching a leaf skeleton riveted to its front cover.

This one has keum-boo, patina, a decorative hinge pin and some dangles. 

These little hinged books are very satisfying to make and I have plans for many more.


  1. Thanks Celie, you are generous to share your experiments, I am sure they will benefit many others, as well as myself.

  2. Thanks a lot Celie, and just a word ... superbe ! sabiarossa

  3. Great post! Thank you for inspiration. I have to finally open my package of PMC Sterling.

  4. Hi Celie, These little treasures are wonderful. Thank you for your comments on new firing options. Best wishes, Betsy

  5. LOVE! Great solutions as usual. Love the designs as well. The hinge pins are brilliant!

  6. Thanks for your comments, folks! Glad you like the little books. More to come..

  7. They are so beautiful! You make it very tempting to try metal clay :)

  8. Are you finding issues with carbon age with regards to firing Sterling? I have just been willy nilly using the same batch without issue but maybe I am on a bad path and don't realize it. Thanks also for advice on how to fire these hinges (versus the fine silver ones). I've been making mine in fine silver for years...I literally just took a batch of hinged pendants out of the kiln last night and thought I should REALLY be making these out of sterling for the strength. Love the hinge pin ideas...something else I need to explore as I always do the classic "ball up both ends" - ha ha! Thanks Celie! Hugs, Christine Norton

  9. Hi Christine, I think it's important to sift your carbon, or pour it in front of a window fan (what I do) to rid it of ash. But other than that it seems to last and last.
    I think you'll love making your hinges in PMC Sterling! Let me know.
    Glad you like the hinge pin idea. It was born of necessity; I couldn't ball the second end because of combustibles used in the piece.
    You're very welcome!

  10. Thank you for generously sharing your wisdom, experience and talent!

  11. Thank you for generously sharing your wisdom, experience and talent!

  12. I must try a hinge project. Thank you for sharing.

  13. Celie, Thank You for sharing. It is appreciated very much.

  14. Wonderful post!!! Genuinely loved this kind of post. Although I want much more information on like precious subject matter.
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