Friday, February 25, 2011

Merry go round - Five favourite tools

It's the last Friday of the month, so join us on our merry go round for a quick spin.  Our merry go round is where a group of 11 artists/craftwomen link together around the world and tell you a little about their art and craft, through blogging on the same topic. We have three new members this month: Jen, Samantha, and Bethany, so I hope you'll check all the links at the bottom of this post and see what their favourite tools are for their art.

This month's topic is a blog list of our 5 favorite tools! I decided to focus on my favorite tools for metal clay.  Here are the five - in the order of when I use them in my creations, plus links to where you can buy them:

 I have a few different shaped clay shapers and in fact have just ordered another couple as after a while they do wear down a little and get more flimsy. Anyhow, I use the clay shapers for squidging clay into little gaps.  I'm sure the manufacturers don't use the word 'squidge' in their description - but it is a wonderful tool for that.  For example, if I've attached two pieces of clay together and it's dried but there is a little gap - out comes the clay shaper, grabs a bit of clay and squidges it in the gap! Perfect! It also smoothes out clay, and is great for adding little bits of clay to a piece.

The needle tool is a perfect tool for lots of things.  Like the clay shaper, it can be used to squidge clay into very tight spots - but I think I use it more often for making eyes and other little accents on my pieces.  It is a sharp point, and makes a nice little eye - for example on my bluebirds.  Also, when making hinges, you can put the little tubes on the needle point tool to dry.... when joining two pieces, you can rough up the surface to get a better join by marking with the needle tool.... when bits of clay get stuck in cutters, you can poke them out with this tool so it's great for clean up too! In fact, I find it on my finishing bench quite a lot too... A versatile little thing!

I love the 3M sanding pads - which come in different grits - although I tend to use the superfine most of all. As they are pads, you can bend them as you sand, and they just conform to the shape of the piece and follow the contours perfectly. When I'm making sculptural pieces - which is most of the time - I don't want to file with something rigid and flat  like a file, because then you tend to get flat surfaces on your piece. Instead, I want soft curves to my birds, animals and figures - so these pads are just the best. I tend to use them on dry clay but you can also use them on fired silver too.

This is an attachment that you use in your rotary tool to finish your pieces after firing.  I am not a person who likes shiny silver and so I tend to use this on just about all my pieces.  Basically, after you have sanded your fired piece of silver, a quick brush over the piece with this in your rotary tool gives it a lovely matt finish.   Some love shiny, I love matt!

 So this is a very un-metal clay tool!  Basically its a roll of sticky tape that is marked off as a ruler in inches and centimetres.  You pull off a length of 30 cm, and stick it wherever you like. I have a length stuck on my worktops, on my laptop, inside the drawer on my desk...and various places. Then when I need to measure something, I don't have to hunt around for a ruler.  The one of my desk drawer and laptop are perfect when I list items on websites because I can measure their dimensions easily...and also can check chain lengths etc when I'm mailing things out.  Such a simple product but as it's stuck down, you never lose it!

A couple of other tools that I couldn't live without are my kiln, of course, for firing my metal clay, and my rotary tool for numerous finishing/sanding tasks that it does. Both are used hard  and I had to give them a mention in case they took offense at being omitted and decided to stop working in protest - but they seem more like "power tools" so would go at the top of my top 5 power tool list instead! 

I hope you check out what the other in the merry go round have for their top 5 tools by clicking on the links or blog hop below.   We all live in different places around the world, so time differences may impact when we all get our blog post up.

Samantha at Vintage is for lovers -
Jen at Painted Fish Studio -
Bethany at Dirksen Dabbles -
Laura at Blue Terracotta -
Monika at Red2White -
Mitsy at ArtMind -
Kim at Vilt a la Kim -
Sara at Crafts of Texture -
Mariana at Florcita -
Agathe at Le Bar du Vent -

Ruth at Birdland Creations -

Or else you can click on the blog hop below.  If you are a merry go round participant, please add your link if it's not already included. You can then copy the code and put it on your blog post too.


florcita said...

My god when will be the time that I finnally try metal clay! A few days ago, Mitsy and I spent time in my studio working with porcelain. I couldn't find metal clay at the supplier where we went, but I think Im going to try harder.
Love that sticky metre thing!

Sara's Texture Crafts said...

I love that ruler tape idea... that would be a great idea for measuring yarns and threads etc... Hmmm must investigate!

Laura said...

I also like the handy tape idea! And I love how you sand and brush your surfaces to get just the right finish. How different is metal clay to working with porcelain?

Anonymous said...

I have only read about metal clay, clay - metal - silver finish - I still find it like magic. I too like mat finish and your sticky measuring tape, what an idea, must look around for a few meeters. I wish it was waterproof :)

ArtMind said...

I need some 3M sanding pads I think! LOL I dislike sanding but these make it sound really easy and actually fun.
Whenever I go to IKEA, I always add a few paper measure tapes to my cart and they hang in my studio. So I also never have to search for them - they are just an armlength away. But perhaps I need to tape one onto my table as I love the idea! :)

Vintage is for Lovers said...

I have never had the pleasure of metal clay! It sounds and looks amazing. I loved seeing all of the tools that I remember from when I use to make ceramics. It has been awhile . . . xo Samantha

Sue McNenly said...

Hey you. This is a great blog post idea...must do it as well. Should I change the name of my blog to 'Ideas I've copied from Ruth':)

I also live by the needle tool and sanding pads, and to a lesser extent my clay shaper.

meherio68 said...

I wanted to include sanding paper, but I couldn't remember the word!

Anonymous said...

great to see the tools you use every day. The tools are so not know by me, accept for teh sadning paper and a messurement tape. Buta stick on I haven´t heard of before...

painted fish studio said...

i know nothing about metal clay, and i am now intrigued about your process and look forward to learning more about you and your work! and ruler tape?! i had no idea it existed, but now i wish it had been my invention!

Ruth said...

Yes Mariana! It feels quite similar to cold porcelain. You should give a go. You and Mitsy would have a fun day! I buy mine online as its cheaper that way - so maybe you can find it that way.

The sticky tape measure is so useful! And on a roll, you get loads of rulers lengths (30cm) so you could stick it all over the house!!! Hope you find some....or maybe I'll start an export business sending it to Europe for you all!

Ruth said...

Laura - I've worked with real porcelain but metal clay feels quite like the cold air dry porcelain. Similar sort of consistency but a little softer. It also dries very quickly so you get used to working fast.

Monika - it does still seem like magic! A bit of clay, put it in a kiln for 2 hours - and then you've got silver! The tape is sort of wet proof - ie I can wash it and it gets quite wet at times and holds up reasonably well!

Ruth said...

Mitsy - I think you'll like the pads with your oh-so-soft contours on your work. Hope you can find them where you are.

Samantha - thanks for the comments. Metal clay is reasonably new - invented by the Japanese using reclaimed silver. It's a great product to work in and if you've done ceramics - that really helps. You just have to work quickly as it dries very fast.

Ruth said...

Jen, Kim, Sue and Agathe. Thanks for your comments. Looks like I should have invented the sticky tape measure. Maybe I would have marketed it better as it's such a great product and no one else I know uses it!!