“Warpaint” Carved Bronze Pendant
Create one-of-a-kind designs with this simple technique.
I have used my favorite canvas to demonstrate on - a 2" circle of clay. You can easily transfer this technique to other projects.
- Condition the bronze clay when you remove it from the package. I find that holding it in my hands for a couple minutes to warm it makes it easier to condition. Instead of kneading the clay, lay it on your Teflon sheet and roll it with your clay roller. Fold over and roll again. Repeat until the clay is smooth throughout. I’m not sure of the scientific reason why rolling works better than kneading, but it does.
- Roll out your clay to a thickness of two slats (six cards). The clay is usually pretty soft by this time, so I lay a piece of clay that is larger than the surface I have chosen in the dapping block and carefully ease the clay into the concave surface, smoothing gently. For this project, I used a 2“cutter and the largest circle in the dapping block (one of my favorite re-purposed tools!)
- Cut out the circle and pull off the excess clay. Let the clay dry in the block.
- Make the bail by rolling a small piece of clay to a thickness of one slat (three cards). Cut out a triangle of the desired size with a triangle pattern cutter and cut a center hole with a smaller triangle cutter. Let Dry.
- When the circle is dry, smooth the surface with a 4 sided, 4 grit sander/buffer. Start with coarsest grit and work your way to the finest.
- Next, draw your design on the clay with a pencil. If you change your mind, you can easily buff it off and start over. (Note: We used a different design for our demonstration pictures.)
- Spray a very fine mist of water over the surface and let it set just a bit. The surface needs to be softened so that you can carve into it easily but not wet or “muddy”.
- I prefer the Small Wire Stylus (WS-X) for most of my carving. Any tool that makes the right mark is good, so experiment a little.
- When you have finished with your carving, buff the surface again, making it as smooth as possible. A 2” by 2” Ultra Polish Pad makes a good final buffer.
- Burnish the top of the pattern as much as possible with your agate polisher. It will look almost like fired clay when it is ready to fire. It is good to support the underside of the piece while burnishing, so that you will not break it.
- When you are finished with the burnishing, attach the bail to the back side of the pendant with a little Bronze Syringe clay. Wet each point to be joined as well as the back of the pendant with a little water. Apply dots of clay from your syringe and press the bale in place. Be sure to check the front of your piece to make sure you are placing the bail at the top.
- Let the piece dry completely and fire.
- Set your kiln to fire at 932 degrees for 10 minutes. When your kiln has reached approximately 900 degrees, set the piece on a firing screen and place it in the center of your kiln, supported by 3 posts. Close the door and let the temperature rise to 932 degrees. Fire for ten minutes. This step burns the binders off.
- Remove the piece of screen that is holding the bronze from the kiln and place on a heat proof surface to cool.
- Reset your kiln to fire at 1562 degrees for 90 minutes.
- Place the cooled bronze into the fiber firing container on a bed of coconut carbon that is an inch thick. Be careful, the piece is fragile at this point as all the binder has been burned out of the clay. Cover the clay with another one half to three fourths of an inch of coconut carbon. I leave the lid off for the firing. Just before your kiln has reached 1562 degrees, put the fiber container into the center of the kiln, towards the back, where the heat is more even. Let the temperature rise to 1562 degrees and fire for 90 minutes. The recommended firing time is one hour for smaller pieces, but since this piece is fairly thick, I extended the firing time to ninety minutes. When the firing is complete, remove the container from the kiln as soon as possible and quench the piece in cool water.
- Brush your pendant with a wire brush and tumble with a little Shine Brite added to the water. You can also add a little Picklean for a nice shiny finish.
- In order to highlight the pattern, I dipped it in a Liver of Sulfur solution* until the desired color had been reached, rinsed it in water, and dried it. A final polish with the 2” x 2” micro polish pad highlights the design beautifully.