One of the things I like best about using Precious Metal Clay is that it gives me the ability to make fine silver beads without soldering. I make a lot of the same design beads, though I strive to vary the combinations with other beads so that my necklaces are one of a kind or limited editions.
I’m always looking for ways to speed up bead production, especially for hollow formed lentil-shaped beads. All over my studio I have a variety of items I use to drape the clay discs, creating the convex shape I want, as they dry. I use upside down plastic watercolor palette trays. I also use my own silicone domes. These both work very well, though I usually need to leave the clay halves in place for hours waiting for them to dry enough to hold their curve so I can I transfer them to a cup warmer for the final drying process. I can speed up the initial drying process with a hair dryer, but I always end up blowing stuff around on my bench and creating a mess. I know, I know. A food dehydrator would be very helpful, but I just don’t want to spend the money and I have a tiny studio. Where would I put it? The silicone domes and the watercolor palettes take up enough room already.
Two nights ago I had an Aha! moment. What if I took some 24 gauge silver discs and dapped them to use for the domed draping surfaces? I could use a spatula to transfer them to and from the cup warmer, and the metal domes would transfer heat to the clay, drying the bead halves ever so quickly. They would also be stackable, taking up much less storage space when not in use! (Lucky for me that I already had a steel dapping block, and some silver discs lying around from my pre metal clay days.)
The combination of metal domes and cup warmer dried the clay in minutes.
Beads ready to fire: