Polymer Clay the Easy Way

Polymer clay is a wonderful medium for craft projects because you do not need a kiln to fire the clay. Polymer clay is the generic term for a family of man-made clays that are supple and pliable until baked, at which time the clay will become permanently hard.

With a low baking temperature of no higher than 265 degrees F the clay can be baked in a regular home oven or toaster oven.

Polymer clay is a polyvinyl chloride compound mixed with a plasticizer for flexibility and various fillers for texture and color. Common brands include Cernit, FIMO, FIMO Soft, Friendly Clay, Granitex, Premo, Sculpey, Super Sculpey and Sculpey III.

Each manufacturer has specific directions for the conditioning and baking of their brand so it’s important to read all package labeling and directions.

I recommend Sculpey III brand for craft projects because it’s “softer” even before you begin to knead and condition it for a project. Most polymer clays (no matter the manufacturer or brand) are compatible and will mix well.

Working the Possibilities

The possibilities are endless when working with polymer clay. You can sculpt, stamp, roll, mold and create just about anything the imagination can suggest.

However, if you’re working with children and beginners the best way to introduce this colorful medium is by using pre-made canes. The pre-made canes come in all different types of designs from Americana to floral and quilt patterns.

Canes were originally made to mimic Italian glassworking called millefiori, meaning thousands of flowers. The canes may be round or square, depending on the design, and around 3″ long. The canes must be conditioned and then a cane can be reduced (and in some cases enlarged).

To condition the cane, you must warm it. This can be done by holding the cane in your hand, under your arm, or placing it in warm water for a few minutes.

After it begins to warm (you’ll feel it soften), then you can begin to roll it in your hands. At this point you don’t really want to reduce it or make the can smaller. You are still in the conditioning process.

Roll and then rest the cane (in your hands or in the warm water). After about 7-10 minutes of conditioning the clay, it’s ready to reduce. This is done by rolling the cane with your hand against your work surface. Keep the cane even.

From the photo you can see the different values of reduction on the same cane design. To enlarge you will gently push the ends of the cane toward the center. Remember to enlarge and then rest the clay.

Now you are ready to cut the cane into beads or slices. This is best done with a very long, thin blade. Several styles of cutting blades are available in most craft stores or available on the Web.

For young children it is best to have an adult do any cutting. Older children should be closely supervised. Thin slices of cane can be used to cover a variety of surfaces, from wood to glass.

The low baking temperature makes it easy, but keep in mind that you shouldn’t use any surface that is highly flammable, and never leave baking clay unsupervised.

Project Bead

Materials

Pre-made polymer clay cane

Cutting blade

Toaster oven

Aluminum foil

Toothpicks

Cord, ribbon or yarn

Optional: assorted glass beads

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to temperature on packaging label. Never heat oven or toaster oven higher than 265 degrees.

2. Condition and reduce a pre-made cane.

3. Cut cane into 1/4″ slices.

4. Carefully insert toothpick into cane slices to create the bead hole for stringing.

5. Line baking sheet or pan with aluminum foil.

6. Place beads onto aluminum foil making sure beads don’t touch.

7. Bake for time listed on packaging label.

8. Allow beads to cool. Remove toothpicks.

9. String polymer clay beads (mixing with glass beads if desired) onto your selected jewelry cording, ribbon or yarn. Knot off.

10. Depending on how you reduce the cane you can get around 15-25 beads per cane.

Project Pen

Materials

Pre-made polymer clay cane

Cutting blade

Toaster oven

Aluminum foil

Bic Pen*

Sanding paper or Emory board

Instructions

1. *You must be able to remove the tip and ink tube of the pen you use. Inexpensive Bic pens work best. Remove the tip and ink tube from pen.

2. Preheat oven to temperature on packaging label. Never heat oven or toaster oven higher than 265 degrees.

3. Lightly sand outside plastic cartridge of the pen to give the surface “teeth” for the cane slices to grab and adhere to.

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