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Metal Clay Hot Pot

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Metal Clay Hot Pot

Metal Clay Hot Pot

Tammy Powley
When working with metal clay, one of the issues you have to deal with is how to fire it after you have formed your pieces and let them dry. The firing is one part of the process that held many hobbyist back for a good while from trying metal clay because at one time you needed a kiln to do this. However, now with the availability of low-fire metal clays, you no longer need a kiln as long as your pieces are not bigger than a silver dollar. Low-fire metal clays, such as PMC3 and Art Clay 650, fire at lower temperatures, so you can use a simple butane torch to fire small pieces (20 grams or less). Another option, however, is something called a hot pot.

The hot pot is a product made especially for firing PMC3, so the manufacturer (for obvious reasons) does not recommend it for Art Clay. It costs about 40 dollars and is available at Metal Clay Supply. Along with the pot, you need to purchase the fuel, which is gelled ethanol and averages about a dollar per use.

Before I bought my pot, I asked around on the forum about what other jewelry makers thought about it. I had used one in a metal clay class I took, but it was the instructor's, so I just used it during class, not at home. My query brought back some mixed reactions. Some people said they liked it, and some people said they didn't. Some of the complaints against the pot was the cost of the fuel and the fact that it can eventually crack (it's ceramic), and thus this can limit the number of times you can use the pot. I will say that the instructions I received when I purchased mine said that sometimes cracks will eventually show up in the pot, but as long as they don't split it open, it is still okay to use.

So, I went ahead and figured for 40 dollars, it was worth checking out. For the longest time, I kept using my torch, but I finally started to try out the pot, and I have to say that I like it a lot. First of all, it is very convenient. I normally make a number of clay piece at once and allow them to dry naturally, so it may be a day or so before I get around to firing them. With the torch, I'd have to sit and do one at a time (my brain couldn't handle paying attention to more than one), and considering it can take up to five minutes to torch fire each piece, if I hand multiple pieces, this meant a fairly good chunk of time. However, with the pot, it takes me just a few minutes to set it up, and I can fire more than one piece at a time in the pot (as long as they are small), and then I can just leave it and let it do its thing, which takes about 15 minutes.

Now, there are some safety issues to consider: The fuel is supposedly not toxic according to the label, but it's pretty darn stinky, so you want to do this outside. And, of course, have a safe place to set it while it fires. I set mine on my front porch, and I can keep an eye one it by taking a peek out the window or door. Also, duh!, this baby gets hot, so don't touch it until it has cooled down or unless you have heat-resistant gloves.

I now use my little pot regularly. It's great to be able to come home from work, set my pot out, and do other things while it is firing. I also think, though the fuel is a cost, considering the convenience and simplicity involved, for me at least, it's worth it. Now, one additional reminder, this is only recommended for PMC3. So, if you use any other type of metal clay, you will need to figure out a different way to fire. But, for someone who wants to try the low-fire clays for the first time and may not have time to use a torch or feel comfortable with one, the hot pot is the way to go.

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