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. πŸ™‚ 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.

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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.

Soutache Earrings

A PCA-inspired project that I truly loved researching and working on — Polymer Clay Soutache earrings!

Before I registered for PCA, I had no idea what soutache is. I might actually have pinned soutache jewelry onto my macramΓ© board, for all I know. But after some wandering around the Internet with a purpose, I ended up loving soutache! I think it creates beautiful and elegant pieces. Maybe at some point in my life, I’ll create jewelry using actual soutache. But until then, there’s Jana Murinova’s course on PCA for imitating the technique using polymer clay. πŸ™‚

Imitation Soutache Earrings with Polymer Clay

Imitation Soutache Earrings with Polymer Clay

I chose a color palette that I normally don’t choose, because they were in my old clay stash. I’ve been trying to finish off this stash so I can use more of the new clay that I bought recently. However, the hard-to-condition clay wasn’t really suited for this project — it kept breaking while I worked with it, and I had to attach it again so the breaks aren’t visible, and try to continue where I left off. I did manage to make both earrings resemble each other and look good, but all my eyes can notice are the numerous points where the clay is smooshed due to reattaching. In hindsight, I could’ve just abandoned this after a point, and started with some new clay, but obviously, I didn’t. Anyway, with some good, ‘conditionable’ clay, I’m pretty sure the pieces would end up neater and just gorgeous!

I used faux half pearl beads (those flat-backed, hemispherical ones) as focal pieces and embellishments for my earrings, and would you know, the bubblegum colorway of the clay started to look more elegant! πŸ™‚ Also, the seed beads, I feel, certainly add to the daintiness. When I started the bake, I just never gave a thought to whether the pearl beads might be affected, and surely enough, they were. They’d melted slightly, but more importantly, their sheeny finish was no more — it’s like they’d aged 15 years. I ended up painting these beads with some metallic pearl white acrylic, because they wouldn’t come off the earrings with gentle pries. (So now I know I’m good at setting components in clay. πŸ˜› )Β  In the future, I really must remember to take them off before baking, and reattach them later with some E6000.

Well, that’s that, and I can’t wait to wear these!

Do you like the look of soutache jewelry? If you’re like me and hadn’t heard of this technique till now, go ahead and look up some pictures — you might end up loving it!

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˜‰

Shadowbox Shrine

Oops, I almost forgot to make something from my PCA course this month. And when I did start work on a project, I accidentally cracked my version #1 when it came out of the oven. I could almost feel this month pass by without a PCA project, but I managed to make a version #2. And I’m delighted with it!

Shadowbox Shrine

Shadowbox Shrine

This mixed media project by Darlene Madden is a shadowbox shrine, and I think it really highlights textures and layers. Darlene uses various media in her project, whereas I used mostly chalks and Perfect Pearls. None of the pictures I clicked do any justice to the splendid shine that comes from the Perfect Pearls. 😦

I sculpted the key by hand, and for its wings, I used a template to cut out a heart shape, cut it vertically into two halves, and cut slits in them to form the ‘feathers’. I die-cut the lace ornament on top-left from paper, and applied metallic paints over it. I like the bling and weirdness it adds to an otherwise serious piece! πŸ™‚

I also love the mystery that the shadow adds to the object in the center — it would be rather boring otherwise. I think I like shadowboxes. How about you — are you a fan of them?

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!

Opposite Earrings

Another PCA-inspired project this time — an earring pair with the stripes in one running in a direction opposite to the other.

Opposite embellished earrings

The course that inspired me is Embellished veneer cabochons by Debbie Crothers. Debbie teaches how to make cabochons by applying multiple veneers, created using various techniques, onto a surface. A key component in her veneers — silkscreens — is still elusive in my local market, so I decided to work without silkscreens. I made some new veneers, and also reused leftover ones from other projects. I also made some stud earrings to attach the dangles to. I love the studs too. πŸ™‚

I finally used some techniques that I’d been wanting to for a while —

I applied gold foil onto my clay. I rubbed the foil backing with my fingers, and the transfer was decent. Maybe it’ll be better with some quick waves of a heat gun? I’ll need to try that out sometime.

I also used liquid clay on the surface for some glossy shine! I have to consciously stop myself from abusing this technique. πŸ™‚

I had some plans to fill up the zigzagging line in the middle, but in the end, I decided to scrap them. I’m pretty happy with this pair.