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SpeedFire® Cone & Burner
by Tim McCreight
“Firing By Eye”
Judging temperature when metals are very hot is challenging because photographs cannot capture the light phenomenon accurately. Experience is your best teacher and we suggest investing a small amount of clay to master firing by eye. Make a small strip of clay about the size of a paper match and allow it to dry. Light the burner and set the test strip on the wire mesh screen. You will see a wisp of smoke and a flame similar to the flame of a candle as the binder burns away. This will last only a few seconds.
As it heats, the strip will shrink slightly and take on a pinkish color. This shifts to a yellow-orange color that literally radiates outward. This is not a color you could duplicate in paint or photograph because it has a glowing quality. This is the color you want to hold for 45 minutes (when firing One Fire Sterling PMC). Memorize this color and you will have mastered firing by eye. This applies to all silver clays fired with the SpeedFire™ & Burner.
But to complete your education, turn up the heat slightly and watch what happens. You will see the surface of the test strip appear wet, a change described as “sweating.” You will then see the edges of the strip soften and curl as the strip starts to melt. Now that you know what this looks like, you will be able to turn the heat down as soon as you see your artwork start to sweat. And aren’t you glad that you learned this on a test strip instead of a treasure you worked on a long time!
Additional firing notes:
In addition to all grades of fine silver clay, it has also proven to be an ideal firing method for the recently released Art Clay Copper allowing a hands free firing time of just 20 minutes without the cumbersome task of holding a torch on the copper clay piece for 5 or more minutes and can fire larger pieces at one time than can be done with a torch. Just pay close attention to firing color to prevent over firing.