What is Polymer Clay?
Polymer Clay is a type of oven bake modeling clay. All brands of polymer clay are manmade materials composed of the same basic building materials: gels, fillers, plasticizers, coloring agents, and resins.
Polymer clay is subject to change with prolonged exposure to temperature of 90 °F or higher. But even at cooler temperatures, polymer clay will naturally "advance," or change over time. Advancing makes the clay stiffer, as ingredients shift toward their original wet or dry states. Polymer clay will last for years if stored at cool temperatures and away from direct sunlight. I store all my unused clay in either sealed plastic containers or sandwich baggies. Other artists have wrapped completed clay canes with saran wrap or parchment paper, keeping in mind many papers will leach the plasticizers out of the clay.
COMMONLY USED POLYMER CLAY TERMINOLOGY:
Conditioning: act of restoring the clay to a state close to its original factory-mixed condition
Packing: filling areas in and around canes
Reduction: making the diameter of a cane smaller
Finishing Pen Tubes:
APPLICATION: There are two basic methods in applying unbaked clay to the pen tubes, either in cane slices or sheet designs. Cane slices can be thinly sliced and layered over a base coat of polymer clay or thickly cut and placed directly onto to the tube. Sheet designs in either thickness are usually measured for the rolled out dimensions of the tube (length x circumference) and decorated in patterns as desired. The only recommendation we have for the sheet design method is to not overlap the clay layers. Some sheet designs have topical patterns or textures such as faux leather.
How to Make a Flower / Rose Polymer Clay Pen: NEW VIDEO
- To determine thickness of polymer clay slices, the main difference depends on how you plan to finish the pen. We describe how to apply either translucent layered thin slices or single thick slice designs below.
- As mentioned in the canemaking tutorial, backfilling the flower design will allow the petal formation to remain intact. If you lose the desired petal formation, the reduced cane or individual slices can be manipulated afterwards by pressing a long bamboo skewer along the sides to create petal indentations on the flower pattern.
- For thin slices, apply a thin base coat of polymer clay to the pen tube. Make the base coat lower than the bushing requirements. Avoid trapping any air between the clay and tube or air bubbles will form when baking. For thick slices, apply until the tube blank is filled to meet or exceed the bushing height as desired. Some artists like to cure their pen tubes with glue prior to applying the clay in either method. If you do not cure your tubes with glue, you should at least rough them up with sandpaper before applying the raw clay cane.
- To complete the thin sliced pen blank, add thin slices of your chosen cane to the base color, gently rolling flat in between layers. Depending on the type of pen tube you have chosen, it will take 18-30 small thin slices of cane to fill to the pen bushings. Avoid using too much pressure when rolling or it can distort the details of the clay design. Make the final clay thickness to be meet the bushing requirements and enough necessary for your chosen profile design and sanding impact. As stated before, the thick slice pen blanks either meet or exceed the pen bushings depending on how you plan to finish the pen. Trim the ends without exposing the ends of the pen tube.
IMPORTANT POLYMER CLAY PEN MAKING TIPS:
- The number of polymer clay slices varies according to the size of the blank, the number of other clay elements you want to use, and bushing height of the pen kit desired.
- Thin sliced designs do not allow for margin of error and cannot be corrected with finishing. They must be measured correctly to meet the bushing height or it will remove the thin clay designs during heavy sanding or turning.
- Thin slices must be cut paper thin to bake clear enough to see through to the next layer of clay beneath on the pen tube.
- Raw clay is very absorbent and will collect any dirt or other clay particles from your work surface or hands, so it is important to keep things clean as possible.
HOW TO FINISH A POLYMER CLAY PEN BLANK:
Our ready-to-use pen blanks are designed to not require any turning to complete a pen, but polymer clay pen blanks look better after light sanding and buffing, especially the translucent borders.
If you want a high gloss finish (this method is best done on a lathe):
- Wet Sand – Abranet or comparable brand (usually 320-600 grit)
- Apply Mercury Thin CA glue (alternatives - Ren Wax, Hut Clear Coat, Craft Coat, Varathane Floor Finish, various water-based clay glazes )
- Micromesh (standard 1,500 – 12,000 grit pads)
For a natural matte finish, you can buff:
- By hand, with a rough cloth, such as blue jeans material
- By drill / Dremel using a buffing pad
- By buffing wheel
TURNING POLYMER CLAY:
The thick sliced pen blanks can be turned to meet the bushing requirements of your chosen pen kit. Turning polymer clay requires sharp carbide tipped tools with light cuts and sanding. It turns most like acrylic or softer woods and can be finished with CA or your favorite topcoat product. Please feel free to contact us with any other questions!
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