Wednesday, November 12, 2014

PMC Flex - This stuff’s made for bezels!

Sometimes things…align. Just as I’m getting back into setting stones using PMC (Precious Metal Clay), Mitsubishi releases a new clay that is PERFECT for making bezels. I’m referring to PMC Flex. I couldn’t have wished for a more appropriate product. This is kind of a technical blog post, hope my PMC peeps dig it. (Please leave a comment if you do!)
I still use the same technique that I came up with a decade ago and that was first published in Lapidary Journal in ‘05. I then refined things and came up with some variations for Tim McCreight’s book PMC Technic in ’07. If you don’t have the book, the digital version was just released for sale through the Apple Ibooks Store, Amazon (for Kindle) and plays on almost any phone, tablet or computer.

The “Kahn Bezel” (as some have called it) is made up of scanning a cab, printing it 118% larger and using that template to make your back sheet. I still use PMC Plus for this (cause why not, it works great for this purpose and is less expensive than the newer clays).

Originally I used PMC Paper for the bezel because it was available, uniformly thin and created a great bezel wall. Then I moved to using PMC Plus or PMC3 because of the length limitation of the PMC Paper and because I wanted to create textured bezel walls. Rolling those clays super thin was difficult but even more difficult was handling them when dry.
This little Flipagram illustrates me making a bezel from start to finish. 

First I would roll out a snake of clay at 2 cards and then drop down to 3 pieces of paper on each side and roll onto my texture. Then I would cut bezel strips and I let them dry. (They need to dry so they don’t get hurt while working with them and so they stand up without flopping over.) Then I would re-wet the one side so it would become soft and flexible and bend it around the back sheet and mark where to cut it. I would sand beveled ends on the strip and in that time, it would dry and become rigid again and potentially break. I would wet it on the inside again and bend it around the back sheet, this time adhering it to the back sheet as I bent it around.

PMC Flex allows me to avoid some steps. I can simply let it dry and then it is super bendy and flexible - no cracking! It’s amazing that something so thin can be so pliable and worry free! 
So now, once it’s dry I can take my strip and bend it around, mark it, cut it, sand the ends, bend it around again and attach it to my back sheet, saving those re-wetting steps and saving me from holding my breath! What a treat!

Once fired, it is rigid and acts just like any bezel wall, I use a bezel roller followed by a steel burnisher to set my stone.

PMC Flex is so flexible that it is challenging to sand but for the purpose of making a bezel it is perfect. I’m loving setting stones again. I have 3 new turquoise pendants in my Etsy shop and more  on the way! 


Sue McNenly said...

Isn't it grand when something like this comes about:) I know you need to sand your bevels, but after your entire bezel is set, you can simply heat it on a cup warmer or in a dehydrator, and the flex becomes rigid. Then it's super easy to file and sand.

Jenkahnjewelry said...

Yes Sue! Thanks, I found that to be true too. It's fine to sand the bezel wall but I found with bigger/thicker pieces heating them first and then sanding was the way to go.

Nisamoon said...

Great info! Thanks for sharing :)

Unknown said...

Loved your article and the information. Ive been so afraid to set bezels, but I am going to forge ahead and give it a try. I have just received my first package of flex clay.

Chawna Cota said...

This answers all of my questions and is really well written. Thanks, Jen! I can't wait for my Flex to get here and try it out!

@Adelheid16 said...

Thank you a gazillion times over for sharing this information, Jennifer!
Lost my jewelry studio after a move of house, but now I'll be able to set my porcelain carvings in bezels again, using
your technique.

Your art is gorgeous.
Thank you again!

Unknown said...

Do these have to be fired in a kiln or can I use a torch?
They are beautiful!
Thank you.

Unknown said...

Great information and instructions!
I am new to PMC clay and I am dying to set stones into my work...however, I only have a torch.....can't justify investing in a kiln just yet! SO, I echo Sherry's question. ^

Thanks in advance!

Jenkahnjewelry said...

Sherry and Mimi,

I don't think you can use a torch. There's a lot of precision involved here and you want the piece to shrink the most it can shrink so that the stone will fit in after firing. A torch might cause uneven shrinkage or not cause the piece to shrink to its fullest potential as opposed to a longer, stable and controlled firing in a kiln.

Jenkahnjewelry said...

Also, the bezel wall is so thin and very easy to melt with a torch.

Unknown said...

Hi Jen,
Thanks for your prompt response!
I started a PMC class last week and my instructor is dead set against torches....but, for now, it's all I have. Guess I need to start small and work my way up!
:) (patience isn't my "strong suit")

Angie said...

Check with local art schools and/or stores. I've discovered my local bead store has a kiln and will fire for me for $5 a session. Now I can't wait to get my mitts on some PMC Flex! Thank you so much for this article!

Sherry Burley said...

Thanks so much for the fast response! Great idea Angie. I will check around to see what I can find.

Kim R said...

This is great! Thanks! I would love to watch your flipagram, is it still available?

Laura R said...

Hi Jennifer! I know you wrote this a while back, but I'm hoping you are still taking questions. If I use a texture for the bevel wall, how do I attach the ends without the texture at the seam getting ruined and still be a strong enough join? Thanks!

Jenkahnjewelry said...

Laura R. Hey! You let it dry and then the texture is set. I sand a beveled edge on each end of the bezel wall so that when I attach them with water they meet up nearly seemlessly.

Laura R said...

Thanks for your help!

Laharrison1269 said...

Thank you for sharing this instructional! I truly appreciate it. I just made my first stone set bezel and am addicted now. How thin is your bezel with the texture - 2 cards thick? I want to try that textured one next.

Anonymous said...

She has that info in the article. "First I would roll out a snake of clay at 2 cards and then drop down to 3 pieces of paper on each side and roll onto my texture."