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

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™‚

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.

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? ๐Ÿ˜‰

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. ๐Ÿ˜€ 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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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? ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 mรถebius! No harm done, though. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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! ๐Ÿ˜€ 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… ๐Ÿ˜€ ) 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!