My Favorite Tools for Precious Metal Clay: Needle Files

by lakeerieartists

It is kind of funny, but the tool I use the most when working with Precious Metal Clay is one of the cheapest tools that I own, my set of needle files.

It is kind of funny, but the tools I use the most when working with Precious Metal Clay is one of the cheapest tools that I own, my set of needle files. I paid $7 for a set of 6 needle files 5 years ago, and they have served me well helping me create my PMC designs. They help me fine tune my designs and finish each piece with precision.

The Smallest Detail Can Be the Most Important

Needle files

I did break down and buy a second set of needle files about a year ago when I started teaching Precious Metal Clay classes and needed more of them, but I still use my original set just about every day. Needle files are tiny versions of regular metal files. They come in varying shapes including straight files, round files, circular files, triangular files, and flat files. Needle files can get in and out of very small places which makes them uniquely suited for working with jewelry and Precious Metal Clay.

The two most used needle files in my set are the round file which I use to clean out holes for hanging pieces, and the graduated file which I used to green finish my PMC components.

Needle Files

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Choosing Needle Files for Working With PMC

If you are going to use your needle files with your green unfired Precious Metal Clay, then you should not spend too much on the files.  The unfired PMC breaks down into a clay like powder when filed that will get inside the grooves of your needle files, and make them dirty.

However if you your needle files are for working on fired Precious Metal Clay, then it is a good idea to spend more on your files so that you will get a better quality file that will work smoother, and more consistently on your PMC piece.  Unfired PMC dust can be reconsitituted into workable PMC, but once the piece is fired, you need to be more careful not to damage it while you are working on the piece.

Needle Files with Handles

Some needle file sets come with a handle that you can move from file to file, and others have wooden handles on each file. You can also buy needle files that do not have wooden handles, and just have a small metal handle.

Having a handle on your file is really just a matter of preference and what feels comfortable in your hand, but personally, I prefer to have no handle or a removeable handle, so that I have more flexibility getting the needle file in and out of the small spaces that I need to finish.

Needle files are also very helpful in carving out designs into dry, green unfired PMC.  You can make the carving with a needle tool, and then flesh it out with a needle file.

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Start with a Smaller Set of Needle Files

When choosing a set or sets of needle files for your Precious Metal Clay studio, start out small with a set of 5 or 6 needle files that are about $10 or less.  Then once you have a better idea of which files you use the most, you can buy a better set or individual files that are a better quality, unless you are perfectly happy with the needle files that you already have.

Although PMC itself is expensive, the tools you use to work with Precious Metal Clay, do not have to be.

Updated: 02/07/2015, lakeerieartists
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katiem2 on 01/26/2012

Tools make the details beautiful. My daughters love making miniatures out of clay for my youngest daughters miniature doll house. They amaze me with the things they make from clay. Very nice page, great thing to think about and share.

lakeerieartists on 01/25/2012

@Jimmie They would work, as long as your daughter uses a light hand. I would use them on polymer both on dry green clay, and afterward on baked clay. You can also use emery boards, or sandpaper of various grits.

Jimmie on 01/25/2012

Wondering if these would work for regular polymer clay such as Sculpey. My daughter is getting quite good at making figures with it. She loves tools, of course.

BrendaReeves on 01/25/2012

This is so interesting. I never heard of metal clay until now. I guess this is another of the zillion hobbies I'll have to take a stab at.

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