Archive of ‘Tips’ category

Varnish Polymer Clay Beads Fast

Speed up varnishing your polymer clay beads

Speed up varnishing your polymer clay beads

Who wants to spend time varnishing beads when you could be having fun playing with polymer clay? Not me.
Here’s how I speed up the process. I stick half a toothpick securely in the bead hole, then plant the toothpick on a hunk of scrap clay. That frees my left hand and allows me to get at all parts of the bead. That’s it.

Make Peace With Your Bead Roller

Amaco Tri-Bead Roller

Amaco Tri-Bead Roller

Maybe you’ve thought about buying the Amaco Tri-Bead Roller. Then again, maybe like me you have one gathering dust on a shelf.

It’s a nifty tool for making beads of uniform size. It has three channels for round, oval, and bicone beads. The reason these things gather dust on a shelf is that it’s tricky to measure clay so you get consistently good results.

Well, I recently decided to make peace with my bead roller. That meant spending time figuring out just how much clay to use. It involved quite a bit of trial and error. What works for me is to sheet clay on the #2 setting (next to thickest) on my Makins clay machine, then cutting out pieces with a 5/8″ square cutter.

Then I roll each piece into a ball, place it in the bead roller channel, put the top on the bead roller, and glide it back and forth five or six times.

As you experiment with various thicknesses of clay and/or various cutters, you’ll find that using too much clay will result in a bead that looks chewed, and too little will produce flat spots on the bead.

If you don’t have a pasta machine, use craft stick guides to roll a uniformly thick sheet of polymer clay.

Five-Minute Polymer Clay Mica Shift

Polymer clay mica shift eggs

Polymer clay mica shift eggs


This pendant was made with scraps of Premo 18K Gold polymer clay.








How do you achieve organic looking mica shift in polymer clay in five minutes? With little scraps of metallic or pearl clay that you squish together, flatten, and roll out.
The gold egg and pendant were made with clay left over from projects I can’t remember. In general the metallic clays work in mica shift straight from the package (after conditioning, of course).
Pearl clays need a boost. Adding translucent clay as much as 1:1 enhances the dark/light contrast. (Thank you, Zan.)

Here are the simple steps:

Chop clay into irregular sized pieces.

Chop clay into irregular pieces about the size of dried split peas.

Squish the pieces together, flatten the mound, & roll it out.

Squish the pieces together, flatten the mound, & roll it out.

See more on the mica shift technique in two previous posts: “Polymer Clay Mica Shift Tamed” and “Polymer Clay Mica Shift Magic for Beginners.”

Enhance Your Jewelry With a Hand-crafted Clasp

Accent a necklace or bracelet with an eye-catching beaded toggle clasp.

Finish a necklace or bracelet with an eye-catching beaded toggle clasp.

Why add a ho-hum conventional clasp to your polymer clay jewelry when you can accent the piece with a besutiful hand-crafted clasp? I like to make clasps that complement the piece.

The beaded toggle clasp goes nicely with any piece you’ve accented with small beads. Carry out the look of the necklace or bracelet by using those same beads in the clasp. Then prepare to get compliments.
Here’s the source of the free tutorial by M. Fleming.

I created the Dove Hook & Eye Clasp for my Tree of Life pendants. The pendant tutorial is available on my Etsy site.

Check out my free tutorial for the dove hook and eye clasp.

Check out my free tutorial for the dove hook and eye clasp.

Here’s the link to my free tutorial for the Dove Hook & Eye Clasp.

The Tree of Life Pendant tutorial is available on my Etsy site.

The Tree of Life Pendant tutorial is available on my Etsy site.

Simplify Cutting a Polymer Clay Square

Cutting clay with blade on graph paper

Using a perfectly straight polymer clay blade is one way to get a straight cut.

Use a ruler and graph paper to cut a square from polymer clay.

Use a ruler and graph paper to cut a square from polymer clay.

Have you ever struggled to cut a polymer clay square or rectangle? One that has nice straight sides and perfect corners? In search of a solution, I used to make a paper pattern that I placed on top of the clay, but that presented two problems: 1) I couldn’t see the clay area I was cutting, and 2) the paper wanted to jump when I made the cut.

For a time, I used plastic guides like quilters use. The problem was that I’d have to lift the clay at some point to place it on a curing tile, and that was hard to do without distorting it.

I started using graph paper as guides a long time ago. You can print them free from the web site. You can specify the size of the squares and weight of the lines.

If I’m cutting a large square, I mark the measurements on the graph paper. For smaller squares, I can readily see the guidelines.

There are two ways to cut:
1. Use a perfectly straight polymer clay blade and look straight down to align the blade with the guidelines. You may need to stand. Grip the blade close to the clay’s edges, and pull away from the edges to put tension on the blade. This will keep it from warping when you make the cut.

2. Align a metal ruler with the guidelines. Be sure to place the ruler on the clay you plan to discard. You don’t want to leave a ruler mark on your clay square. Hold the ruler firmly in place and cut along it with a craft knife.

You can leave the polymer clay square on the paper and move both to a ceramic tile for curing.

Polymer Clay Mica Shift Tamed

Mica shift items 6722Whether you’re new to polymer clay or have been around the block, here’s a great tip for simplifying traditional polymer clay mica shift technique. I’m talking about the technique that involves stamping a sheet of clay and shaving off the raised surfaces.

The orthodox approach is to adhere the stamped clay securely to a ceramic tile and draw a slightly bowed flexible blade across the surface. The trick is to do it without gouging the clay and without depositing little clay particles in the “wells” as you go. Both of these mishaps can ruin the finished look.

Try this easy approach to traditional polymer clay mica shift.

Try this easy approach to traditional polymer clay mica shift.

This tip comes from Cindy Lietz, the PolymerClayTutor. Just stick your stamped clay on a full 2-liter plastic bottle. The bottle’s curvature makes it easy to shave just a portion at a time, and gravity pretty much takes care of the pesky particles unless your clay is very sticky. I have just one minor quibble with Cindy’s video: she shows stamping clay by rolling the acrylic roller back and forth over the clay. For a really crisp impression I prefer to roll over the clay just once as clay likes to move when it’s rolled. If I feel the impression isn’t deep enough, I’ll press straight down with my fingertips.

Thanks to Cindy, I’m on a mica shift binge.

Why Finish Polymer Clay With Micro-Mesh?

Notice the bracelet's gold tile reflects light much like the coins do.

Sanded & buffed, the gold tile reflects light much like the coins do.

I own varnishes that include Studio by Sculpey Glossy Glaze, Delta Ceramcoat Glossy, Varathane, and of course Pledge With Future Floor Wax. For a natural finish, I own wet/dry sandpaper from 320 to 2000 grit. And my buffing supplies include denim, a carpet square, and pieces of fleece from old jammies.

When I want a natural high-gloss finish, my favorite method begins with sandpaper, moves on to the Micro-Mesh Polishing Kit by Revell and finally to a Dremel tool with buffing pads that are made especially for polymer clay..I should mention there’s an investment of time that becomes significant if you’re working with a bunch of beads.

At a little over $25, Micro-Mesh isn’t cheap. My set is the introductory wood kit which contains nine 3″ x 4″ sheets of sandpaper ranging from 1500 to 12000 grit.

I always wet sand–don’t want to inhale polymer clay dust–and add a drop of dish detergent to the water to keep the sandpaper from getting clogged. I start with ordinary wet/dry sandpaper. How long I sand and the grit I start with depend on how smooth the surface of my clay is. For the bracelet pictured here, I started with my coarsest paper–320 grit–because the process of shaving the clay for the mica shift effect left the surface slightly rough, It might take a couple of minutes, then I move on to 400 and 600 grit paper.

Micro-Mesh is one way to achieve a high-gloss finish on polymer clay.

Micro-Mesh is one way to achieve a high-gloss finish on polymer clay.

At this point the polishing begins with 1500-grit Micro-Mesh. I sand for about a minute, then move to 1800 grit, and continue all the way without skipping any grits to 12000. With the higher grits, I might spend only 15 to 20 seconds on each.

Then I finish the piece with the Dremel buffing pads.

I could achieve the same results with ordinary wet/dry sandpaper. One thing that appealed to me about Micro-Mesh was that it’s said to be very durable. I’d like it better if I could replace the one or two pieces of paper that get the most use, namely the 1500 and 1800 grit, instead of replacing the whole set.

And I have to confess that the other thing that appealed to me was, oh,boy, another product to feed my polymer clay addiction.




Hooked by a Fish

Zan's Fish 1248If you took a class and made a fish with this much personality, wouldn’t you be hooked on sculpting? That’s pretty much what happened to Zan Caperton. She credits Ellen Kelsey, an instructor at the 2013 All Dolls Are Art Conference (ADAA) held in Austin, Texas.

Zan's Fish Profile 1249

The fish (alas, it has no name) started as a glass ornament core covered with a 1:1 blend of Sculpey UltraLight and Premo white polymer clay . Scales were made with texture tools which Ellen created. Zan says working with heavily textured white clay and applying alcohol inks with Aqua-flo brushes made the process of painting and blending color very forgiving.
Not surprisingly she got hooked on Royal Langnickel Aqua-flo brushes, which she bought at Hobby Lobby. Aqua flo brush pack They are designed for use with water colors but work beautifully with alcohol inks. The cartridge is filled with 91% isopropyl alcohol and the brush is dipped in alcohol ink.

Zan went back to ADAA for Ellen’s dragon sculpting class in 2014–more on that in a future post.

Polymer Clay Mica Shift Magic for Beginners

Polymer clay mica shift made easy

Polymer clay mica shift made easy

“Wow, how’d you do that?” Don’t you love those words? Well, even a beginner can bask in glory with this simplified approach to polymer clay mica shift. Mica shift is a magical technique that produces a 3D illusion with a silky smooth surface.

A bit of explanation: synthetic mica particles create the special effect found in pearl and metallic clays. You’ll see streaks in the clay when you first open a package. That’s because the mica particles lie every which way. A few passes of the clay through the pasta machine and the particles will align for a streak-free surface. This surface reflects light. Cut the clay, and you’ll see that the edge is a bit darker. That’s because it absorbs light Manipulating the clay to capture this quality is the magic of mica shift.

When I first thought about sharing this easy technique, I was making tiles for a bracelet. But it occurred to me that someone new to clay might not have acquired basic jewelry making skills (yet).  So here’s how to make a bookmark.

I’m using Premo Peacock Pearl & Premo Pearl, 1/8 package (1/4 oz.) each. (Metallic clays, such as Gold and Silver, can be used straight from the package without adding pearl. The exception is 18K Gold.) Combine the Peacock Pearl and Pearl clay and roll it with your acrylic roller to a thickness that will fit in your pasta machine without straining the rollers at the second-thickest setting. Sheet the clay, fold it and sheet it again with the folded edge entering the rollers. Continue folding and sheeting until the streaks disappear.

Sheet the clay on the pasta machine’s medium-thick setting. (On my Makins, that’s a 3.)

Make the bookmark base with clay cut about 1″ x 4″  (It will get bigger in the process.)

From the leftover piece of clay, cut very skinny strips, about the thickness of uncooked spaghetti. They don’t have to be uniform.

Twist each strip. Now you can start to see the difference between the clay’s surface and cut edge.

I’m placing a strip in a long serpentine line down the middle of the base. I’m not going all the way to the sides with it as I’ll be trimming the bookmark later. Then I add short, straight pieces.

After the design is added, press it with your hand or acrylic roller to adhere it to the base.

In the next few steps the idea is to gradually reduce the thickness of the clay and make the twisted strips one with the base. This process will cause the design to spread, so to ensure that it spreads evenly in all directions you’ll turn the clay before each of four passes on the pasta machine.

Without changing the setting on your pasta machine (mine is 3), sheet the clay.

Give the clay a one-quarter turn clockwise, step down the pasta machine one setting (mine is 4), and sheet the clay again.

Give the clay another one-quarter turn clockwise, step down the pasta machine one setting, and sheet the clay again.

Give the clay a final one-quarter turn clockwise, step down the pasta machine one setting, and sheet the clay again.

Trim the clay to bookmark size.

Place it on a paper-covered curing tile or on a piece of cardboard.

Cure it in a pre-heated oven according to directions on the clay package.

The bookmark looks great straight out of the oven. For greater depth, you can sand and buff it.

The bookmark looks great straight out of the oven. For greater depth, you can sand and buff it.








Cruise the Hardware Store

You make a trip to the hardware store. Maybe you need some ceramic tiles for curing surfaces, or some wet/dry sandpaper. Take your time. Cruise the aisles. You may find more very useful polymer clay supplies.

Dremel Tool and 4″ Drill Press Vise Truth to tell, I owned a dremel tool for a very long time before I learned to love it. Two things caused my change of heart: 1) I bought buffing pads from 2GoodClaymates. 2) I bought a 4″ drill press vise. Now I can get a gorgeous glossy finish on polymer clay by sanding and buffing, just like the gurus do.

Varathane Polyurethane Interior Finish OK, sometimes you want a glossy finish on a piece that doesn’t lend itself to sanding and buffing. Or you just hate sanding and buffing. In the polymer clay world, Varathane is the preferred varnish for its clarity and durability. It won’t yellow over time unlike Pledge with Future Shine floor wax, an old polymer clay world favorite. You may have to search a bit for the 8 oz. container as many stores tend to carry just the 32 oz. size.

Threaded metal rods When I want a texture of parallel lines on polymer clay, I use a threaded metal rod. I have several, ranging from small- to large-width threads. I can also make a convincing rope effect by rolling a metal rod at an angle over a skinny polymer clay snake.

Wet/dry sandpaper & sanding block Sanding polymer clay should be done with wet sandpaper so it doesn’t raise dust. You don’t want to be inhaling polymer clay dust. Always add a drop of dish soap to the water to keep your sandpaper from getting clogged. You can get by with sandpaper grits from 320 to 600, but for a glossy finish you’ll want to go all the way to 2000. Don’t skip grit sizes when you sand, e.g., start with 320, then 400, 600, 800, etc. The sanding block makes the job a bit easier.

ArmorAll I am a big fan of ArmorAll. Where other people use water as a release, I prefer ArmorAll. I spritz texture sheets with it and sometimes use it on my polymer clay blade to reduce drag. Also I apply it to finished pieces I’ve embellished with Perfect Pearls Pigment Powders to get rid of the gritty feel. Just don’t use ArmorAll on Fimo brand clay.

Ceramic tiles for work surface & curing My work surface is a 12″ x 12″ ceramic tile. I cure polymer clay on tiles that range from 4″ x 4″ to 12″ x 12″. I tape clean scrap paper to the tile to prevent shiny spots and freckles on the back of the piece I’m curing.

Storage shelves, drawers, pegboard, etc. Organization isn’t my strong suit. But having my supplies reasonably organized is so satisfying. See “Fish or Cut Bait.”




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