Finishing and Machines – DIY Sanding Drum

Encouraged by the success of my DIY buffing wheel, I’ve now made a DIY sanding drum, with sanding attachments! Okay, it’s not exactly a drum proper, but it gets the sanding done. And that’s what matters, right?

At first, I tried to find stuff that could substitute as drums on drill bits, but without much success. I ended up using a tightly wound cloth as a first-attempt drum. However, I couldn’t really attach sandpaper to it very well. My brilliant sis, who has a lot of experience with glue and tape from her craftsy hobbies, reminded me of the velcro strips that we own. She has this great-quality double-sided tape, and she came up with a clever idea involving them. So I attached sandpaper to one velcro strip using double-sided tape, and fixed the companion velcro strip onto the cloth drum using a rubberband. I now have detachable sanding units! Thank you, Sis!

DIY Sanding Attachments for Polymer Clay

(Pictures in this post are of poor quality because I clicked them indoors in the evening; I might not find the time to click reasonably good pictures this weekend either, anyway.)

I was originally afraid that the gaps and overlaps in the velcro would inflict wounds on the clay surface while sanding, but found that these sanding units actually work great. I guess at the speed that the drum rotates, the surface inconsistencies of the drum don’t matter much?

I’d made a square cabochon from the earlier crackled effect veneer, and I used the DIY attachments to sand it. I guess I need to get used to this mechanized process, because I totally chipped away part of the edge while sanding! No worries though, I’ll just bead-weave around the cab to hide the entire border. ๐Ÿ™‚ I buffed it to high gloss, though not as glossy as I made the cab that I used to test my buffing wheel.

Glossy Crackled Effect Polymer Clay Cabochon

So now, not only do I not have to strain my arm during sanding, but the sandpaper also doesn’t disintegrate as quickly, probably because most of the friction is uniform and in the middle of the strip, resulting in less pulling and tearing of the abrasive coating.

Now that I know that both DIYs — sander and buffer — produce great results, I might just improve them by (a) using something sturdier than plastic for the bit, and (b) buying a lighter power tool so the finishing becomes even more easier on my arms. (Or maybe just a stand and a motor for the drill I own right now.)

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Crackled Effect Cabochon (or DIY Buffing Wheel Results Part 2)

The gloss! Woah, the incredible gloss! I can almost see my reflection in here. ๐Ÿ˜› You can’t tell (or maybe you can), but I’m dancing a little jig right now. My DIY buffing wheel is definitely a superstar, isn’t it?

Buffed Crackled Effect Polymer Clay Cabochon

Crackled Effect Polymer Clay Cabochon

One of the items I’d made from the crackled effect veneer is this hollow cabochon, with the main purpose of testing my buffing wheel on it. I hadn’t been able to fully smooth out the crackled pattern on the veneer without it getting enlarged, and I’d added a layer of translucent clay over the cab, so that sanding and buffing would work on a non-bumpy surface. In hindsight, that was a good move, since sanding directly on the pattern would scrape away the clay in the pattern and possibly change it. That would be interesting too, just not this time. ๐Ÿ™‚

Post-bake, the translucent layer had a lot of ‘bubbles’, though they seemed to mostly disappear sometime during the sanding / buffing. They’re still visible, though. This is apparently called plaquing, and is a different topic altogether that I’ll need to figure out.

Buffed Crackled Effect Polymer Clay CabochonI buffed for only slightly less than 10 minutes this time. If I want to go lower, it’ll be at the cost of increased sanding time. I don’t think I’ll go any lower though, because I’m happy with this buffing duration. I’ll not want a super-high gloss on all my projects, so I’ll probably buff for around 5 min most of the time.

To ease the sanding itself, I’d like to own more grits of sandpaper. The ones I have — (240,) 400, 1000 and 2000 — are too far apart, gunk up a lot during the sanding and require constant cleaning, and get discarded too quickly. I’ll keep looking for intermediate grits.

DIY sanding tools

So with my buffing wheel DIY turning out super-successful, my next project is to make a DIY sanding drum, obviously! That would make the finishing process more mechanized, and I hope easier. It’s gonna be a tad more difficult to make than the buffing wheel though — it’s not like I can bind the sandpaper with thread, plus it’ll have to last through the wet sanding.

Please wish me luck to figure out this next DIY! ๐Ÿ™‚

Crackled Effect

There are many methods to achieve a crackled effect on clay. This time, I used one of those veneers that I said started to tear when I tried to peel it off the enclosing plastic sheet.

I first dried out the sheet by placing it (tears and all) between two sheets of blank ordinary paper. To speed up the process, I placed some heavy objects over the setup to apply constant pressure on the sheet. I had to change the paper sheets a couple of times until the clay was dry enough to my satisfaction.

I then placed this on a sheet of white backing clay, and ran my roller over it to ensure it stays put. Then it was pasta machine time. I ran the sheet through my pasta machine a few times, reducing the thickness setting in every successive run. I also rotated the sheet 90 degrees for each run, so the cracks are more spread out instead of running in a single direction.

I used the veneer to make items for trying and testing a few things.ย I forgot to click a picture of the steps or of the veneer itself — I was eager to get the baking done in the limited time I had. However, here’s a low-quality picture of the items post-bake, still lying in my foil-laced tray.

Items from Crackled Veneer

I’ve made some pieces with a topmost layer of translucent clay so I can try out glossy buffing with my DIY buffing wheel. (Hope I get to it soon, and more importantly, hope it works.) The others, I’ll either leave as is or apply a liquid clay glaze, depending on what I make from them.

I love this crackling process, as well as the result! My success here has emboldened me enough to consider trying to crackle gold foil / leaf on clay — I’m so looking forward to that! I need to pre-plan how I’m gonna use it, though; I definitely do not want to let it dry out and eventually tear / crumble.

Kumihimo’s Back!

I haven’t had an opportunity to test my buffing wheel further, but I did get some time to work on Kumihimo. I haven’t tried Kumihimo ever since I bought uniform Preciosa beads, so it was exciting to work on. And do uniform beads in bead-work make all the difference, or what! (Just look at my previous Kumihimo projects with non-uniform beads…)

I haven’t played with Kumihimo much to understand it and design my own patterns. And that’s something that I’m looking forward to doing, now that I have uniform beads in my stash! (I’m more a fan of Kumihimo beading than Kumihimo braids, but I was inspired by the patterns in Deidhre’s braids when I came across her blog.) So well, since I haven’t figured out Kumihimo yet, I made a bracelet based on the Elegant beaded kumihimo bracelet byย Christina of CSLdesigns — she makes awesome pieces and teaches so well!

Kumihimo Bracelet

Kumihimo Bracelet

To fit the size of the larger beads I have, I used a smaller number of seed beads than Christina did. (I used a red-brown combination, not a single color.) I also went about it the way I do — top-right to bottom right, bottom-left to top-left, one quarter turn anticlockwise. And of course, I made the bead-stringing modifications that her video suggested for my Kumihimo method. Hmm, however, the bracelet doesn’t look anything like hers. And as usual, I like it regardless! ๐Ÿ˜‰

In keeping with my recent focus on finishing my clay pieces well, I put in more effort than usual into finishing this bracelet too. When I finished the weaving, I burned the nylon cords together over a flame to seal the end. (It turned out neater than I expected, yay!) To cover the ends, I used our latest purchase of narrower bead caps since they suited the bracelet better. I also made tinier double eye loops instead of larger single ones, and connected them with a small, thick jump ring. It took a while to make the double loops, but it was worth it — I love the finishing.

I’ll look for (or make) a nice little charm to attach to the jump ring, but the bracelet works for me even otherwise. It slides on and off without having to undo or reattach anything, so that’s a huge plus when I’m in a hurry! ๐Ÿ™‚

DIY Buffing Wheel Results

I used the little slices from my earlier mokume gane attempt to make a veneer, and sat down for a session of testing my buffing wheel with pieces made from the veneer.

Attempt #1

I made a hollow earring pair. Then I buffed and I buffed and I buffed for what seemed like ages, and… there’s only the tiniest bit of sheen. What the…?! It’s supposed to buff up more quickly than that! I’ve even used the same tee shirt that I use for hand buffing, so the only change is the addition of the tool. Could it be the clay piece that’s the problem?

Buffing difference

So I hand-buffed the other earring, and there’s zero sheen on it. The only other time this happened to me was when I tried to buff a Sculpey III piece and discovered that it likes to stay matte regardless of how long you buff. Don’t tell me I used Sculpey III for the colors in my mokume gane! (I know for a fact that the white is Premo.)

Attempt #2

I do really want to use the mokume gane slices before they dry up and become difficult to use — I had old veneers tear on me on more than one occasion when I tried to work with them. So I sparingly added the mokume gane slices over more Premo white than earlier, and tried buffing again. This time, I made three similar cabs to use up the mokume gane sheet. These are not hollow, though — they have a Sculpey Original base. I baked, sanded and buffed them, and the sheen is much better on these!

Buffing - sheen with more Premo!

Miscellaneous

As for the hollow earrings from my first attempt, I applied a thin layer of Kato liquid clay and waved a heat gun over them for a quick sheen.

Hollow Mokume Gane Earrings

I also ended up making other (mostly stud) earrings from the remaining tiny mokume gane slices.

Miscellaneous Mokume Gane Earrings

I still have a thick sheet of the mokume gane block left, and I need to figure out soon how to use it up. In the worst case, I’ll make a Natasha bead from it.

What Next?

For my next buffing trial, I’ll make some ‘fully Premo’ pieces and try for a higher gloss, and I’m guessing the results would be better. ๐Ÿ™‚ If they do turn out better, I’ll want to buy a lighter tool since the drill I’m using is pretty heavy to hold over extended periods of time, even when it’s partially supported on a table top.

Finishing and Machines (and a DIY)

If there’s one thing that makes a project go from good to great, it’s the finishing. Not that all the processes preceding it are unimportant, but if one has worked really hard on everything but the finishing, don’t you think they’re limiting the potential of the project? ๐Ÿ™‚

Having said that, the processes involved in finishing polymer clay — sanding and buffing — are pretty taxing on the arms if you do them by hand. And if you’ve made multiple pieces, then phew, finishing them definitely requires multiple sessions, probably split over days. And as a result (for me, at least) — Mod Podge finishing starts looking more attractive ๐Ÿ˜‰ and I don’t really like that.

Mechanized tools!

So I decided to invest in mechanized tools. Earlier this year, I placed an order for a Poly-fast sanding tool, since sanding requires multiple passes with successively finer grits, and speeding up this process would result in quicker finishing. Unfortunately, the package had no tracking associated, and I ended up never getting it. Interacting with government agencies in India usually does not produce results, and this time was no exception — I have no idea where the package is. Talking to the Poly-fast team didn’t help much either — I don’t think either of us are at fault, but it still hurts to spend on stuff that you never receive. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

I do have a drill at home that is not used extensively, and I thought I’d try using it for my needs. DIY project on the horizon!

DIY Buffing Wheel

After some thought, I decided that if I had to choose one, then my buffing needs mechanization more than my sanding does. So far, my hand-buffing has only achieved mild sheens, not glossy shines. While some projects look better with a sheen, some look beautiful with a gloss. And while liquid clay + heat gun is a possible alternative (I used it for my Opposite earrings), it would still be thrilling to get glossier results just from buffing. Also, my local stores don’t carry Kato clear liquid clay that is required for the excellent gloss.

DIY Buffing Wheel

So I made a buffing wheel from Desiree’s how-to; I ended up using the technique that she shared from another artist. (The other artist is also named Anita, so that’s a bonus. ๐Ÿ˜› ) I used squares from the same old tee shirt that I use for hand-buffing.

Next — Tests

I only gave the mechanism a sample trial to check that the wheel doesn’t fly away or come apart while in use, and it seems to whirl away fine, even at high speeds. Fingers crossed that it gives me good gloss! I’ll jot down the results when I run some tests.

Twisted Herringbone Bud Bracelet

I came across this herringbone bracelet video by Jennifer Biedermann recently, and since I wanted to try out Herringbone stitch anyway, I just *had* to make this!

Twisted Herringbone Bud Bracelet

Twisted Herringbone Bud Bracelet

I don’t have 15/0 beads that would match any of the 11/0 beads that I thought were suitable for this project, so I scrapped the 15/0’s. Also, I decided to make the buds a bit organic, using the local ‘non-uniform’ beads available where I live. For the main body, I used Preciosa 11/0 metallic green beads. It says green on the label but they’re multi-hued, as the picture shows.

The flower buds in mine don’t line up, and I think that contributes to the organic nature of the buds. My only gripe here is that the twisty nature of the rounds obscures the ‘herringbone’ness of the stitch. ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s a tiny little minor gripe, though, because I’m pretty happy with this project.

I’d thought of finishing the project with a button and loop clasp, but had postponed looking for a suitable button. (I think you know where this is going.) Well, I didn’t find any round one that would work. I could finish differently, but I really, really wanted to try out a button and loop one. And I wanted to try it right then. So I picked the best matching bead (though it’s a faceted cylindrical bead) and decided to just go with it. I do like how the finishing turned out, though I can’t help imagining how it’d look with a round bead. I’ll probably make a clay bead the next time I can’t find a matching bead, and toughen up and accept the delay in the creation of the bracelet. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Do you prefer a particular kind of finishing for bracelets? Or does it depend on your project, or maybe your mood? ๐Ÿ™‚