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? πŸ™‚

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 πŸ˜‰ 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. 😦

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. πŸ˜› ) 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.

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Embossing Experiments

It’s been ages since my sis has been using embossing in her cardmaking, and I only recently decided to try it out on clay.

For this trial, I placed a stencil over my clay and sprinkled embossing powder over the stencil. The basic premise — applying some heat melts the powder, and when it cools, it turns into a solid, embossed layer. While baking, I placed the pieces over a glass bulb to dome them a bit, to see how the embossing powder holds while melting. I didn’t realize my foil tent ended up touching the glass bulb’s top, removing some powder from two of my layers! Good thing these are test pieces, huh? πŸ˜‰

Embossing experiments#1: Apply embossing powder, wave a heat gun over it until it sets. Bake the piece later. (I didn’t realize this much powder was too much powder, hehe…) This pre-embossing seems superfluous, since the baking would emboss it anyway. However, I wanted to see if it affects the pattern when it melts again, and makes it look different from the other pieces. It doesn’t, which is good. (So re-baking an embossed piece is a go!)

#2: Apply embossing powder, bake the piece. Heat from the oven sets the clay. There was still too much embossing powder there, but barring that fact, it turned out fairly okay.

#3: Same as #2, but before removing the stencil, use a roller to further set the powder in the clay. Again, I don’t know if I started getting better, or if the rolling really helped define the amount and shape of the powdered parts so they end up containing just enough powder. Some individual powder grains must still have dispersed over the surface, though — they are seen as tiny dots over the surface. I need to figure out how they got there.

#4: Apply embossing powder post-bake, after heating the clay a bit with a heat gun. (Or maybe immediately after the bake while the clay is still hot.) Then use a heat gun to set it. I kinda knew this wouldn’t really fly — the powder just blew away from the force of the heat gun blast. πŸ˜€ A better way to do this would be to use sticky ink over the clay surface to ‘hold on’ to the embossing powder, like my sis does for her cards.

Soon after I tested this out, I came across a recent video by Ludmila Bakulina, where she’s demonstrated one way of using embossing powders on clay! (I totally love her videos and have learned a lot from her.) She’s used the powder in the recesses of a textured clay sheet, and it’s easier to just use sticky tape to remove those unwanted particles dispersed over the surface. That’s not the case in my stencil-based method, so it looks like tinkering with method #3 and improving it is the way forward for me. Maybe I’ll use a brush to further minimize the amount of powder on the surface before I remove the stencil.

Being able to use embossing with my clay opens up so many possibilities! I’m looking at our stencil stash with renewed interest now. πŸ˜‰

Chenille Bracelet with Beaded Bead

Chenille Bracelet with Beaded Bead

Chenille Bracelet with Beaded Bead

I used tubular Chenille stitch for this bracelet. (Sara Spoltore has a detailed video tutorial for this stitch.) The finished pattern in mine looks different from hers because of the bead types that I used — a small change in size or type makes for quite a change, doesn’t it? πŸ™‚ The beads that I used here are Preciosa 11/0 gold seed beads, and Japanese 11/0 haematite seed beads. (Wish I knew what type of Japanese beads these are — I bought them before I was into beading, and it just says ‘Japanese 11/0’ on the label.)

I’d started this bracelet intending for it to be an open one, though I admit I hadn’t thought of the finishing. Then, I discovered that the rope was turning out stretchy and elastic, and I decided to make the bracelet a closed one. I’d like to think I’ve improved at joining two ends of a rope as seamlessly as I possibly can, and I’m pleased with the join in this project. (I just try to maintain the look of the pattern in the join too, as best as I can.) However, I did end up twisting the rope by 1 stitch while joining, so the pattern lines form not circles but a mΓΆebius! No harm done, though. πŸ˜‰

Also, I now add at least two overhand knots when I weave in tails, so I can sleep peacefully knowing that the piece is secure. πŸ™‚

Because of the design change from open to closed, the bracelet started to look kinda plain, and I thought I’d make a focal beaded bead around it. I’d just finished watching the Interlace Beaded Bead video by Bronzepony Beaded Jewelry, so I used that here, using the same haematite 11/0’s from my bracelet, and some small pearl beads that seemed to fit the pattern. I finished the edges of the bead with the gold 11/0’s.

I love how this bracelet turned out, and I totally love slipping it on and off my wrist! πŸ˜€ How about you — do you change your design often after you start working on a project?

Attempt at Mokume Gane

Now that I have a good amount of clay at my disposal, I tried my hand at some Mokume Gane.

I layered multiple sheets of different clay colors, and used a texture plate for my first try at pressing down on the ‘block’, and quite a few presses with a blade. When I tried slicing a few layers, I realized the impression wasn’t deep enough. For my second attempt, I used a stamp instead of the texture plate. And this time, I loved the patterns!

Mokume Gane attempt

I still need to work on my slicing, though. My slices turn out tiny — I probably move the blade upwards as I slice. And when I compensated for that, I ended up gouging out a huge section! (Ugh… πŸ˜€ ) I’m hoping I’ll be able to slice away nice, thin, large layers as I practice more.

Of course, I’ll still use the tiny slices — and the gouged out part — from this attempt as veneers for some jewelry.

Until my next post, then!

Wire Weave Bangle

Time for a wire weaving project!

I made a wire-weave bangle last week, with a pearl bead duo forming the focal element.

Wire weave bangle

Wire weave bangle

Or it could be a wire-weave tiara, if you ask my favorite model, Penguin. πŸ˜‰

Wire weave tiara?

For this bangle, I used three 16-gauge base wires and a 24-gauge weaving wire, both in a gold color. (Yup, I still use the thick wires that I ordered a long time ago.) I cut the base wires just a tiny bit longer than the intended circumference of the finished bracelet, because I wanted to add some small focal element in the end to actually finish it.

I kept my weaving wire uncut, since I’m still not good at estimating the length of wire I might need. I’d thought of measuring the wire as I unwind more and more of it, but somewhere along the way, I lost track. (This is what happens if you watch movies while working on projects! πŸ™‚ )

I left a margin of about 2-3cm (1″) when I started to weave. The pattern is an uncomplicated one — loop twice around bottom two base wires, loop twice around top two, repeat. The weaving itself was fun, since I also had the aforementioned movie-watching to accompany it. When I reached the end, I left the same margin as the beginning. At each end, I curled the middle base wire into loops, and bent its companion wires around it. That was the difficult part — since these are 16-gauge wires, it’s pretty difficult to make minute adjustments with them, and it was impossible to not nick the wires.

I then gradually curved the entire strip into an open bangle. To close it, I strung two pearl beads onto a length of wire, added eye loops at both ends of the wire and attached it to the loops of the bracelet.

I’m pretty happy with this bangle. πŸ™‚ My next bangle will have a new weave, of course, but I’ll also make at least one more of this one, maybe with a different color of weaving wire, since both my sis and my mom like it!

Beaded Earrings for a Set

I made companion earrings to wear with my beaded pendant — the image-transfer one. While I was looking up stitches to use, I ran into a tutorial by Bronzepony Beaded Jewelry for exactly the design I had in mind! That’s the second time this month I’m running into ready-to-use recipes for stuff that I want to make. (The first one was for my latest knitting project.)

Beaded earrings using CRAW

Beaded earrings using CRAW

For these earrings, I used the size-8 green beads and smaller size-15 brown beads that I’d used for the pendant. I made 12 units of Cubic Right Angle Weave (CRAW) with the larger beads, and embellished them with the smaller beads — one small bead between two large ones on the inner curves of the cubes, and two small beads in a similar fashion on the outer curves.

CRAW was not difficult to understand at all — not all difficult. I mean, it’s way too easy to imagine constructing a cube — first a floor, then walls, then ceiling. The execution of the first unit, though, was a different matter. Invariably, while I pulled the thread through the beads, I would lose my grip on the tiny setup that I created thus far, and then, it would be extremely difficult to bring the orientation back to where I was, and figure out which bead to go into next. I would just turn and turn the connected beads in my hand, all the while scratching my head. I tried to use the stop bead as reference, but it didn’t work for me. I even tried Jill Wiseman’s ‘taco’ style of construction, but with similar confusions.

After a couple of failed starts, I solved the problem by threading my stop bead into position at the center of the reinforced first square. That helped provide a ‘proper’ reference point for me. It was smooth sailing from then on.

When I was done constructing the drops, I threaded a couple of faux pearl beads into head pins, and attached each pearl-duo to a piece. I made eye loops at the top, and added ear wires to complete the earrings.

Image Transfers and Hollow Bead Weaving

I squeezed in my second PCA-inspired project for the month just before this very hectic month ended. And I’m thrilled to bits with it!

Beaded Pendant with Image-transferred Hollow PolyClay Bead

Beaded Pendant with Image-transferred Hollow PolyClay Bead

The course by Syndee Holt is all about image transfers, monoprinting, and coloring using alcohol pens. The image transfers were pretty frustrating in the beginning — they’d turn out patchy and indistinct. I spent quite some time and effort on repeated variations of my attempts, only to have to wipe away the transfer each time. Of course, there’d still be some residue, which would pollute my clay, tsk! Eventually, I ended up looking around for what others have done about it, and I finally, finally achieved a beautifully solid print. I just love it! (I want to go try one more right now, as I’m typing here. I can see the beginnings of an addiction forming! πŸ˜› )

I’m not buying alcohol pens right now, but I did try some monoprinting. Not very successful there. It could be that my local products are different, and the techniques demonstrated don’t work without modifications to work with these products.

Well, so I just had a image-transferred sheet of clay with me, and nothing to beautify it, so I carefully made my very first hollow bead from the sheet. Of course, I don’t have a cutter of this shape — it’s a composite shape that I made using two different cutters. I made the bead hollow by puffing out the cut shape, and slowly, carefully adhering it to a base. It’s a bit cumbersome, but it’s also more conducive to forming different shapes from a limited quantity of cutters and stencils. This particular bead’s a bit rough around the edges, but that was okay since I was going to do some nice bead weaving around it. πŸ™‚

The bead weaving is completely Peyote stitch. I used the uniform beads that I bought recently (sizes 8 and 15), and some limited stock of uniform beads (size 11) that I’ve been preserving for the time when I can actually work with them like this. I’m not sure what I’ll do when my size 11 beads run out; hopefully, my local stores will start carrying uniform size 11 beads too. <Fingers crossed>

So, think you wanna try any of the techniques I’ve mentioned?