When Baking Beads, It’s OK to Sometimes Break Rules

Round BeadHow Long Do You Bake Your Beads? How’s that Working For You?

Rules are sometimes meant to be broken. And when it comes to baking polymer clay beads, this is no exception!

I have been reading about polymer clay artists that bake their polymer clay beads for twice as long as it says on the package. They say this makes a much stronger bead.

Being kind of impatient, I had never really given this idea a try. I just baked the beads for as long as the manufacturer suggested, and then took them out when they were done. But I’ve been having a few problems with some of my beads breaking and cracking. So I thought I would give the extended bake time a try. And guess what? It works!!

Instead of baking my polymer clay beads for the recommended 30 minutes, I baked them for 1 hour. Please note that it is very important to still bake your beads at the right temperature for the clay, or it will burn. So don’t break that rule!

My polymer clay beads came out rock hard. You could tell they were harder even on the round beads. And because they were harder, they sanded easier and buffed to a much smoother finish!

Holy cow!!! Why did I wait so long to try this? Sometimes it doesn’t pay to be impatient.

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Comments

  1. Phew! Still poking around in your blog a bit but yes, I am one of the people who bakes for extended periods of time because it does make a better finished piece.

    Given that most (i would say everyone I’ve ever used) ovens have temperatures that vary even during the 30 minutes of baking time, you are not guaranteed to get to the right temp for long enough in just the amount of time on the package.

    So I regularly bake for double the time. Some of my larger pendants or small sculptures have spend more than two hours in the oven by the time they are finished.

  2. Okay, this may sound like a nit-picky question, but with the economy, current gas prices, and being an unemployed recent graduate, I have to ask. Is it more cost-efficient to bake clay in the oven or in a little toaster oven. I’m guessing it is more efficient to bake it in the toaster (craft) oven, but I worry about how safe it is to let it run for an hour at a time. Any thoughts? Since my first toaster oven went up in flames the first time I tried to bake clay in it, I am very concerned about safety and efficiency.

  3. Kimberlee, I just answered your similar question on the "how-to-make-a-bead-baking-rack" post. Having your toaster oven burn up would be a terrible thing! So I am recommending you take extreme caution when putting anything into your oven.

    Paper or polymer clay does not burn at the proper temperature of 265F degrees. Therefore either your oven was hotter than that, something was wrong with the toaster oven itself or the paper you used touched the element or the sides of the oven.

    Always use a oven thermometer to make sure the temp is correct and that it isn’t ‘spiking’. You have to check when closing your oven because in my toaster oven the element hangs down from the top and if your paper is sticking up it could hit it.

    As far as being more efficient, the toaster oven it much more efficient because it is a much smaller place to heat up.

  4. Have you tried the convection/toaster ovens? I found one at our local ‘Big Lots’ for $20 and am wondering whether I should run out and scoff it up?

  5. I am always at a loss to figure out what temp I should use when I blend clay types (ie. Fimo with Sculpy or Premo etc.) Would going with the lowest common temp but extended time work for this as well do you think?
    Eileen

  6. I do something I have never seen mentioned anywhere – I first boil my beads for 15 minutes. Then I remove them and give them a toweling off to remove any deposits, then bake them at the recommended temp for the recommended time. Seems to make them really hard, easier to buff to a shine, and there is no risk of a shiny or flat spot.

  7. Thank you for mentioning your technique Kelly! I have heard of people boiling their clay in Europe. Haven’t tried it yet myself though. I would like to test the technique and make some videos on it. I’ve heard it keeps white clay really bright! Thank you so much for your comment!

  8. First time I’ve used polymer clay. I’m trying to make a 2″ button with clay, approx 1/4″ thick. After baking it’s still flexible, did I do something wrong or using the wrong type of clay? I used Fimo Effects clay. I’ve baked it 3 times for 30 minutes each time around 230-250 degrees and still flexible. I used a pasta machine to condition it. Please help. :)

  9. Andree – That is a fairly wide bead and you may find it stays a little bit flexible at that size. To make sure it is properly baked though, I would bake for 1 hr at 265 degrees. I know you’ve baked it for more than that already, but since it was not it one shot, it may not have melded together properly yet. Most ovens don’t stay at consistent heat for the allotted 30 minutes, so I always bake it twice as long, just to make sure!

  10. I received a comment from Cindy at my blog who advised it was probably the heat of the oven being too high, rather than the length of time I cooked the clay that caused my blackened stinky disaster. I will update my polymer clay post to include this new information. Please have a look at this on Cindy’s blog for more information. Her whole website has a wealth of information on polymer clay.

  11. I just love this site and am going to be just full of questions today. I wonder if boiling the beads for 30 minutes may remove the baby oil we that can be used to remove finger prints!!!
    For safety reasons I only bake with my toaster oven if I am going to be right in my craft room the whole time. I save up my beads and cure them a bunch at a time.

    I recently baked beads covered in cornstarch and rinsed them off in the kitchen sink. Later in the day I was cleaning and turned on the garbage disposal and there was just a loud pinging noise that did not go away. When I reached down in there I found one of my beads that must have swam way.. There was not a nick on it. Now THAT is strong.

  12. Anna, in my experience the baby oil just soaks into the clay when it’s baked and doesn’t really need to be removed.

    That is so cool to hear that your bead was that tough! All because of the proper baking. Well done!

  13. I do the same thing, twice as long in the oven but at the recommended temperature, also let the pieces set over night and they will be even harder. Sometimes a piece will come out of the oven and not feel quite as hard as you want but letting it sit overnight it will be much harder. Toaster ovens rule!

  14. Thanks Cindy for passing this tip along! (There sure are a lot of us Cindy’s in the crafting industry, aren’t there?) Nice to meet you and thank you for your comment!

  15. Word of caution when baking FLAT objects (i.e. pendants and flat earrings). I use Premo! for my jewelry and am diligent about my oven thermometer. When I bake items that are about 1/8″ thick (about a 2-3 on my Atlas) going beyond SIX minutes (at the manufacturer’s recommended temperature of 275 F) is completely fatal to my pieces! The instructions say 30 minutes for each 1/4″ – which would dictate a 15 minute baking time for an 1/8″ piece. Going beyond 6 minutes burns the back and starts to smoke. Only my thinner items remain quite flexible, but still can be sanded to a decent shine.

    Should I try a lower temperature?

  16. Mary Beth six minutes is not long enough to properly cure your pieces. I suspect if they are scorching in that short of a period of time, that your oven is spiking in temperature and going much higher than the 275F your thermometer says.

    Or if you’re baking on a metal pan it could be conducting the heat and making it much hotter especially next to your pieces.

    If you click the link by my name it will take you to an article about baking flat pieces in a ceramic tile sandwich.

    I have baked thin flat pieces for more than an hour without any problems at 265F in a tile sandwich. Try that and see if it works for you. If not come back and ask more questions.

  17. Hi Cindy,
    My second experience is a much better one. My beads are not perfect yet (will they really ever be? no matter) but they baked to nice and hard in the baking rack, 1 hr at 265′. My
    flat pendant pieces baked in the ceramic style sandwich may not be quite hard enough. So I’m trying to figure out how hard is hard enough? I am using the Amaco craft oven and it is difficult to become friends. I never baby-sat an oven before but did that yesterday. One scorched bear is enough. What I found is that with the ceramic tile sandwich it took a half hour to get the oven back up to 265′ after opening the door and inserting the sandwich. I started my timing of one hour from that time. Yes, I sat there 98% of the time. They didn’t scorch so I wasn’t quite as mindful with the beads.
    I used a different oven thermometer and it registered just like the oven. So your previous thoughts on my first experience that the thermometer might have been faulty was right on.

    I would not recommend the Amaco oven as there isn’t enough room to get things out safely for a newbie at least. It is lightweight and moves as I open the door. It needs more than clay, more like lead to keep it in place. The shelf also grates when sliding it in and out. Is it just me trying to get used to this oven or has someone else had this experience?

    The time and temperature you suggest really works when the equipment is right. Thanks for your help Cindy. I am still practicing and looking forward to my next venture.

  18. That is good news Joyce about the next batches working well! Sorry to hear the Amaco craft oven is a pain. I just have a regular toaster oven for toast and it works well. Maybe someone else will let us know about their experiences with that oven. It would be good to know if it is a pain for others as well.

  19. Hi Cindy, What a very helpful thread! I had heard about boiling being helpful for keeping white and translucent clays true-to-colour. I’m going to try these methods as soon as I can get hold of the right containers.
    I will bake for half an hour next time, or an hour for my bangle bracelet (1/4″ thick). Can’t wait to try it! You are so helpful, Cindy. Thank you!

  20. I’m glad to hear the information has been helpful Sue! When baking any sized piece I like to bake for 1 hour or more just to make sure it’s cured. Really makes a difference in the hardness and durability of your beads.

  21. Hi! Stumbled onto your site when surfing about pasta machine motors. Wow, what a find! I’ve been into PC off and on for quite a few years and I’m currently on a bender, if you know what I mean. This particular topic had me thinking about my situation.
    I bought a toaster oven many years ago and tried to use it to bake PC. My problem was I could never get the temperature to stabilize enough to get consistent results and ended up with lots of failures (weak pieces, burnt, fuming…) so, I still own it but I haven’t used it in years, for anything.
    I currently bake my PC stuff in an enameled covered roasting pan in my kitchen oven. I realized that I never removed the pizza stone I keep in there and this may be why I’ve had such consistent results. You see, I keep the stone in there to keep the oven temp from fluctuating wildly whenever the door is opened. This works very well for baking food. I would like to try using a stoneware tile or something similar in my toaster oven (something that would fit in the bottom of the oven) to achieve the same effect. Any thoughts?
    I would love some feedback. Thanks!

  22. You bring up an excellent point Clarissa! I actually leave a ceramic tile in my toaster oven for the same reasons. It regulates the temp and I bake on it.

    I also bake between two ceramic tiles (I call it a tile sandwich) whenever I am baking flat pendants or beads. It protects the piece from scorching and the tiles keep the heat even. (Click the link by my name for more info.)

    A good sized tile for a toaster oven is a 6″ x 8″ rectangle or whatever fits best in your particular one. Make sure is is smooth with no texture or it will transfer to your pieces.

    There are pizza stones for toaster ovens but a tile is probably much cheaper.

  23. Clarissa, I’m new to PC and just discovered Cindy’s fantastic site myself, so I’m hardly in a position to give advice, BUT I had exactly the same problems with my toaster oven. My first bangle bracelet burnt to a crisp on one side due to an undiscovered hot spot and wild variations in the oven temp! Check out glassattic under the topic “Heat Sink.” There you will find information about using ceramic tiles to stabilize the temperature of toaster ovens, along the lines that you are thinking. I followed the advice I found there and have had much more consistent results on the few pieces I’ve baked since. My oven thermometer now stays much closer to 275°F. Since my DH is chronically afraid of fires, I also baked my last piece for an hour on a bed of baking soda. It came out perfect. Hope this helps. I’m sure Cindy will give you the expert’s view as well.

  24. Thanks for the reply!
    More questions: When curing, do you put the raw PC directly on the preheated tile? I would think it would be better to place the cool tile in with the raw PC and just put extra baking time.

  25. Clarissa, Cindy has a great blog post on the subject of baking times. I’m sure she will give you the link. I haven’t had enough experience to advise you. One thing, though, don’t put your item on the tile without a piece of typing paper in between. Items baked directly on a tile will have ugly shiny spots on the bottom which you don’t want. HTH.

  26. Sue is right Clarrisa, regular white paper or card stock on the tile will help avoid shiny spots on your beads! (Thanks for helping btw Sue! I appreciate that.)

    The link to the article Sue was talking about is right there beside my name. Hope it helps. Feel free to ask questions or type a subject into the search box at the top of this blog, if you need more help.

  27. I’ve been using a ceramic tile for quite some time now to bake my PC items on. I dont mind the ‘ugly shiney back’ or anything, but I have a hard time getting my clay pieces off the tile! Is there something I can put down on the tile to make it not sick?

  28. Great question Heather! Put a plain piece of office paper underneath your polymer clay pieces. Not only will they not stick to the tile, the backs won’t be ugly and shiny anymore!

  29. I checked out glassattic.com re: heat sinks, but I couldn’t find information about where to place the “sink” in relation to the heating element? Would putting it under the base heating element work or should I put it on its own shelf? Would one be more effective than the other?

    Thanks!
    Mary Beth

  30. Hi Mary Beth,
    I’m sure Cindy will correct me if I’m not doing it right but, yes, I put my tiles right under the base heating element in the bottom of my toaster oven. There’s just room for two 4″ square tiles side-by-side. BTW, you are using an oven thermometer, right? It’s essential to have a thermometer you can put right into the toaster oven so that you can check the temperature frequently. It’s the only way you’ll get an accurate reading on how hot your oven actually is. Hope this helps.
    Sue

  31. Excellent advice Sue! Thank you so much!

    Mary Beth, if your oven’s bottom element is too low to put a tile underneath it (like my toaster oven is), then a tile on the wire rack will work nicely too. I set my bead rack on top of the tile and tent the top with a folded piece of paper (making sure the paper isn’t close to the element).

    However you use the tiles, they do help with evening out the temp in your oven and avoiding temp spikes.

    If you don’t already have it, the polymer clay bead making course for beginners would help you a great deal. Click the link by my name for more info.

    Hope that helps!

  32. Cindy:
    I took the advice of one of your writers and baked my clay objects at normal temps for an hour and they came out much harder, not too rubbery. I hate using the extra electricity, but it’s worth it. They sand good and tumble good in a vibe tumbler with course and medium media.
    Thanks for the tip.
    Dean Andrews

      • @Kayak Sue: The extended time works for all polymer clays, as long as you do not go over the max temperature for that clay. Baking Sculpey III at 265 for an hour should work fine, just make sure that you use an oven thermometer to monitor the temperature (ovens can be off by quite a bit.) Baking on a ceramic tile helps quite a bit, also. Even better — keep an extra tile in the oven at all times. It helps “steady” the temperature, keeping the oven from having to reheat as often and “spiking” the temps!

        To prevent scorching, there are several things you can do. Tenting w/paper or foil, covering with cornstarch, baking in a ceramic tile sandwich — these are just a few. Use the search box at the top left side of this page and type in words like “scorch” “burn” “baking” etc. to get articles that cover this topic. Here’s an article to start with called Baking your Clay Beads Properly.

        It has links to additional baking articles, as well. Don’t forget to read the comments, as they often have even more tips that are not in the article.

  33. What great timing to bring back this subject! I just had a few very unfortunate scorching experiences with my old toaster oven and purchased the Amaco craft one. What I love about this thing is that the temperature can’t be set above 300 degrees, and the directions say it take 20 minutes for it to heat up to the temperature you desire. Several problems with it though. It’s too small for some projects (scorched the top of a Christmas ball because it stuck up). The timer/on mechanism makes a ticking sound which drives my kids crazy :). Finally it only runs for a max time of 30 minutes before it turns itself off (no continuous on mechanism like most toaster ovens) so you have to monitor the time and turn it immediately back on when it “dings” to extend the baking time. I wish the manufacturer could make a larger size one and add a continuous on feature. Anyone else have experience with this oven, I wonder?

  34. I’ve been working with polymer clay for years now. Though I’ve never made beads. I work with super sculpey and paint with acrylics.

    I also searched for years for ways to bake my sculptures harder. I generally make high details figurines and pendants. The problem came in with thinner bits. I also found that baking according to the manufacturer times was too short. I tried doubling the time for a while and it worked nicely.

    A few years back I read about “ramp baking” and that works much better, though it takes a little longer. I get pieces like stone. Though I’ve modified it slightly.

    I start off at 212 for 20 minutes. Then 230 for 20 minutes. 248 for 20 minutes and finally, 266 for 30 minutes.

    That’s the basic process but I found an added step between makes the clay much harder. After each step take the piece out and submerge it in cold water.

    I’ve found that this way they’re fully baked and really hard and they never scorch

  35. Can someone talk more about submerging in cold water after baking…what exactly does that do? I have tried this and it obviously hardens the pieces right away, but once they come back to room temp they are flexible again.

    • @shawn: Thanks Shawn for your comment. It is nice to see a sculptor in here! Your ramped baking technique sounds interesting. I have read where people have done something similar (minus the ice baths) for getting greater translucency and less moons in their translucent clay, but I hadn’t heard of people doing it like you do for strength. Will have to try that out some time. Thanks for addressing Heather’s flexibility question. As you see it is getting pretty hectic around here and it is always nice to have a fellow clayer to help with answering questions. Thanks!

      @Heather Graef: Shawn is right, clay that is thin will always be flexible. It is not like acrylic or other plastics like Shrink plastic, that is quite hard even when thin. The other thing that the ice water does is help with translucency and with cracks. It has something to do with the rapid cooling of the entire beads. I always plunge my beads into very cold water right out of the oven, with great success. It is worth the effort!

  36. No matter what you do with polymer clay it will always remain flexible. That’s one of the benefits of it.

    I’d originally read about dunking in ice water in an article related about how to improve the translucency of certain clays. I started doing that to simply speed up the cooling process because I was too impatient to wait.

    I make high detail pendants and figurines and many times they have bits that are more prone to breakage. I found that baking it in steps helps get it really well baked without scorching or burning which actually makes it more brittle.
    Over here we use electric ovens and they take a few minutes to heat to the next step. So I’d take the piece out, flash cool it and bake it at the next step.

    The result is that the piece is still flexible and can be drilled/sanded/buffed but it handles impact much better now.

    • @shawn: Thanks for the reply. I have been wondering (and this might be a silly question)… if a piece is under-baked, can it be re-baked at a later date? Thanks Cindy, I have not used translucent clay yet, but will be trying it out sometime soon, and will be dunking!

  37. Entirely my pleasure. This is a very good forum you have going here. It’s always good to see the exchange of information in polymer. I love reading these articles and the comments. Someone will always have an idea I never though of and that I can incorporate.

    I found the ramp baking technique purely by chance.
    I should mention the method i mentioned is for Sculpey so actual temperatures and times would vary according to make. Though i can’t see it making a huge difference.

    I’ve found that you can never over bake a piece, only the temperature can be too high or low.

    I think that sculpting gives a slightly different perspective than with beading.

    I think the flexibility comes down to the plasticizers in polymer clay. I find that it’s actually less effort since you don’t have to let the things sit there and cool. Since I paint my pieces waiting can be a pain.

  38. Not a silly question at all. I wondered the same thing myself.
    According to Sculpey and what I’ve read you can theoretically just keep baking a piece as long as it’s not too hot. It’s not really going to get more baked but you can be sure it’s properly baked.

    And according to what I’ve read one of the advantages of polymer clay is that it can be baked repeatedly. I’ve done bigger pieces where gravity becomes an issue while baking but I don’t want to use an armature. So I bake a section and add onto that. As long as you don’t go too hot it will just happily bake with the rest. Though you really have to use a liquid clay to bond the joints correctly.
    So just because you take it out and let it cool, that doesn’t mean it’s finished baking.

    Ramp baking is nothing more than under-baking and then re-baking at incrementally higher temps. In fact, under-baking and then re-baking can also help to prevent scorching.

    So the short version of my rather long and windy reply is that yes, you can under-bake and re-bake later.

    • @shawn: That’s really great to hear because I know after reading some of the tips from Cindy and others that baking for up to an hour can strengthen the pieces, so I will be putting some of mine back in to top them off. Thanks so much for your posts Shawn.

  39. My pleasure.
    I’ve also found that if you paint with acrylic after, putting them back in the oven for about 30 minutes at 220 makes the paint harder too. I use spray on lacquer to seal my pieces and baking also helps seal it. Though that might work differently for other sealing methods.

    About a week ago I made a piece that had watch gears on. Because I work in Super Sculpey which is raw, once it’s baked I have to paint into little spots between gears. So I tried painting the clay first.
    It went through the whole ramp process and there were no problems with the paint. Though I did let it dry overnight.

    I’m also always learning so I’m glad to help where I can. When it comes to claying it all comes down to trial and error. Every technique you will read about can be changed to suit you better.

    Throw all your scrap clay that you will never use into a ziplock bag and keep it in the fridge. I’ve often needed to do tests and scarp is great for that.

  40. @Alena Great to see someone else who’s used the technique and that it’s worked for you.

    I also read in one of the earlier comments about using a tile in your oven. Tiles are excellent for in 2 instances. Keep one in the fridge and when you want to work then wipe off the condensation and work on that. It helps keep the clay from softening too much while you work with it and deforming. Especially if you’re doing detail work. I find that if it is still getting soft I just put the whole lot into the fridge for a while.
    The second instance, as you mentioned is to put a tile into the oven with the piece. If it’s a pendant I just suspend it on a wire hook I made that stands on the tile. Otherwise I just put it on a piece of baking paper on the tile.

    And I also read about boiling. I’ll definitely give that a try. Sounds like a really good plan.

    • @shawn: Great tips Shawn! The only thing about boiling is that water boils at 212 F and clay cures at 265F-275F. So although boiling will harden the piece, it is not completely cured to the core. Those uncured particles inside will eventually ‘eat away’ at the cured stuff and the clay will begin to fall apart. Trouble is that this can take quite a long time so people are fooled by the thought that it worked.

      Hi Alena. It’s great to have you here too :-)

  41. I wonder though if boiling for a few minutes before baking would make a difference. I’ll run a test piece soon and report back what I find.

  42. My boyfriend got me something I’ve been wanting for a while now… an old toaster oven from the street – with a sign on it saying “WORKS OK”. How romantic! No more using my old fashioned gas-converted-to-propane stove from the 50’s. Now its a “modern” toaster oven that’s got to be at least 20 years old… and guess what? It really WORKS OK!

      • @carolyn: I used my oven thermometer, and tested the toaster oven for an hour before baking anything. I placed two tiles on the bottom between the heating elements, and it still ran hot, so I set the temp lower and kept an eye on it every 15 minutes or so to check temp, adjusting if required.

        I baked a bunch of small flat pieces sandwiched between tiles and sheets of paper for one hour (they came out great). Since the tiles hold heat, the oven temp was more regular with all the extra tiles inside.

        BTW, some of my taller (1″) items on the top shelf did scorch a little, Next time I’ll try the bottom shelf and tent them.

        Thanks to Cindy and everyone for all the tips at this link for using a toaster oven for baking polymer clay.

  43. Definitely. Those toaster ovens are notorious for spiking.

    I’ve found that if you just bake a whole lot of pieces at the same time it doesn’t work out too pricey.
    Then again i can only speak for an electric oven.

  44. Most definitely a good way to go. Temperature settings with a toaster oven are pure trial and error. And just because it was running right today it doesn’t mean it will next week. But you’ll soon work into a system with that as you do with anything else.

    The taller items will generally scorch unless they’re tented. I always put my pieces on the bottom shelf regardless. Though because the toaster oven is smaller you won’t get that much distance so tenting is a good fail safe.

    I have had great results with baking soda. I just make a foil bowl and put in some baking soda, put in the piece and then cover that with more soda. Very nice baking without any burning or scorching.
    Though I do find that you will get a fine almost dimpled finish on pieces. And it would get pretty expensive for every piece.

    The other day I had a couple of ideas and they worked nicely. First off I always use baking paper under my pieces because they reduce shine and flat spotting.
    For my flatter pieces I got myself a big glass pizza dish to put them on. For the bigger pieces I got a deep Pyrex bowl. I went for a square, flat bottomed one. I put a tile or piece of paper over that and it works wonderfully.

    Just make sure to only use those for polymer and never for food.

  45. @Heather Graef: Congrat’s on the cool, romantic gift! That’s quite a find. I’m so glad that it really does “work ok!” :D

    @Shawn/Heather: You mentioned using baking soday, and you can use corn starch the same way. It’s reuseable, so you can fill a bowl with it and bake all of your pieces in the same bowl of cornstarch (at separate times.) Cindy has an article that mentions all of the great ways to Use Cornstarch with Polymer Clay.

    It’s got some tips for baking with cornstarch, as well as some other great ideas. She has another article on the subject, too, called Baking on a Bed of Cornstarch.

    There are additional tips, tricks and info in the comments below the articles, including things like baking soda—so check those out, as well… Have fun!

    ~Kat  Riverside, CA, USA   —Where are you from?

  46. Excellent idea and thanks for the article links.
    I’ll be trying that for sure. And that would really eliminate the texturing.

    Thanks

  47. Shawn, just wanted to give thanks to you for your information on baking, since you bring a different perspective creating sculptures and fine detail work. Do you use armatures? How do you decide what type and when?

    So long as you keep your temps from spiking, I don’t think you can bake the stuff too much. Bleaching lightens the darkening that occurs with transparent clay, and I notice more hardness and a sharper glow or shine to items baked again.

  48. Just glad I can help some people. I only use armatures if the piece is large enough. Though I’ve found if you align everything right then you can get away without one. Or I’ll just bake in sections and add on. Whatever is going to work best at the time.

    If it’s a figurine then I’ll use toothpicks in the neck, arm and leg joint just to add stability. Sometime thicker gauge wire. Though that just comes down to what I get hold of.

    Other than that I’ll just make an armature by twisting wire into the skeleton and then wrapping in foil. Though armatures take alot of planning. If you’re off somewhere you’ll see it in the finished piece.

    • @shawn: I, too am happy to have some tips on sculpting. Since the focus here is on beads, there’s not a lot of talk about sculptures. But some people like to dabble, so this extra info is helpful to them. I haven’t tried making figures yet, but I’m still glad you can feel free to add your tips. It makes this wonderful site an even-better resource for clayers (if that’s possible!) ;D *wink, wink* —I guess you can tell I’m a super-fan!… ~Kat

  49. Hey anytime. I find that the more you learn about polymer, the more you want to do and sometimes we just can’t figure out how. These kinds of resources where you have a mix of opinions really broadens your knowledge.
    I’ve never actually tried pure beading so there are techniques I’ve never tried. You guys have all given me some great tips here that I wouldn’t have tried.
    And yes, sculpting is a whole other set of skills.

    Another problem is that we get so involved with what we make all the time we never really think outside to trying other things.

    Since you guys focus mainly on beads but some of you may want to expand a little, there is a really good way to mix between standard beads and sculpting. If you’ve never tried making focal beads you really should. In general focal beads are bigger or differently shaped beads. I saw some work by a lady named Christi Friesen. She makes some of the best pieces I’ve ever seen and her books are amazing. These are focal beads that are basically little sculptures that act as beads.
    I learnt so much from them. Honestly so many of her techniques I use everytime. No sales pitch here but if you want to expand your technique base and learn to make some unique pieces then that’s really a way to go. The focal beads are spectacular. The idea that you can sculpt fish, birds and dragons at such small scales is amazing.

    And perhaps you can make full pendants to add to bead pieces. You’ll see what your options really are once you see that.

    I have a few of her books but my favourite is the one about polymer clay and mixed media. I’d never though of adding sem-precious stones or watch gears but take a look and see the final result.

    Take a look at her gallery (cforiginals.net) and especially look at the jewelery and focal beads. Oh yes, the section of downloadable projects is great to get a couple of sample projects to try out.

    • @shawn: Yes, Christi is fun and has some great ideas in her books … I have several … they still don’t hold a candle to Cindy’s videos. I guess it is the difference between the written and the visual. I’ll go for the visual any time. Wish I could attend conferences and workshops. Can’t do that so Cindy’s tutorials are the absolute best way for me to go. No one does them better!

  50. I will agree that Christi’s books aren’t as instructional but I suppose I like the idea that they are more of a free flow concept and it allows you to use it as a guideline and make it your own. For me though it was just nice to pick up snippets of information that I could adapt. And I’d never seen the things she made so it unlocked a whole new set of ideas for me.

    But yes I will definitely agree that a video would trump a written page any day. Especially if it’s a good video.

    I really must sit and go through some of the videos. Just another thing on my very long to do list.

    I think what it all boils down to is the more resources as we can get hold of and as much inspiration as we can find.

  51. Very true. You never know what will spark your creativity until you see it. So exposing yourself to as much as possible IS key. Cindy’s videos are the best place to start, expecially for “visual” people. I’m often inspired by what I read here, too—in all of these wonderful blog postings…

  52. Well, I burned my beads for the first time. Didn’t keep an eye on the thermometer. They were fuschia and I used a texture sheet and African Bronze Guilder’s paste. First time I really played with various techniques. So, I’ll be making a new batch tomorrow. And watching the thermometer like a hawk. Thank you Cindy and fellow clayers for all the good advice. Now, I’ve just got to follow that advice!

    • @Trudy M: Hi Trudy! Best of luck with your next set of beads. Don’t worry, most of us have burned clay at least once! I’ve seen some really cool pieces made using Gilder’s paste…can’t wait to try it myself sometime. (There are just so many new products to try with polymer clay!) In the projects I’ve seen, they used Gilder’s paste on clay that was already cured — the paste never went into the oven (it was air-dryed.) When your clay burned, did it have wet paste on it? I’m just wondering, as I’ve no experience with the stuff yet… Anyway, please let us know how your project turns out…can’t wait to hear (and hopefully see in Cindy’s Facebook gallery!) ~Kat ;~D

  53. Does baking the beads longer create toxic fumes? Also, what is all this nonsense about baking beads in your oven making the oven unsafe for food? I saw something like this on a box for a tiny clay oven. Is it just a marketing tool? I’ve been making clay for 15 years and if it’s true, I should probably have cancer by now!

    • @sarah harkins: Well, Sarah I sure hope you don’t have cancer.

      Purists and the clay companies are adamant about not transfering the plastics in clay to any surface that will be used for food, thus most dictate using tools strictly for clay.

      The oven, which can be the source of build up and producer of fumes, is treated the same, keep one oven for clay, or bake items in an aluminum packet which can be opened outdoors, wipe down the oven thoroughly after each clay bake if using for food (I assume this means oven cleaner and scrubbing all surfaces and racks), etc.

      In addition, some sites caution against baking clay around small children, animals, birds or other folks with auto immune problems, etc.

      I’d hit the search facility in the upper left using baking saftey as the keyword and see what you get. I’d also go to the site of the manufactor of the clay you mostly use and download their pdf’s on safety and cautions.
      Googling the web for information wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

      It’s like stained glass, due to the lead compounds found in the solder. The cancer rate for this hobby jumped and it was discovered that those that smoked during the glass work inhaled and ingested more lead.

      For me, dedicated stupid toaster oven (yes it spikes, lol), under the kitchen exhaust fan (loud but on), objects not placed on metal, and all objects tented. I also keep the windows open, and have a few fans blowing out the windows.

      Back in the condo, I baked outside the sliding glass door on the deck because we had cats. To me, one of those tables or units that hold air conditioners in place outside is ideal. Just pop that oven out there and bake away.

      Hope this helps.

    • @sarah harkins: That is a great question. Premo Sculpey polymer clay is certified non-toxic for use in a regular oven, but it never hurts to err on the side of caution when working with any art material. There is some excellent discussion on this topic in another thread. Do give it a read, it is very informative. Click the link by my name to go straight to the safety conversation.

  54. I know your site is primarily for beads, but I have questions about the baking process. My wife does animal sculptures and has been using the Crayola soft clay, but was having problems with breakage during shipping. She wants to try the Premo clay and bake them for durability. But she’s not sure how long to bake. The thickness can vary widely between say, the body and the tail, or ears and legs. I know the foil “innards” would help, but not sure it would account for all variations in thickness. Any suggestions? thanks so much.

    • I know exactly where you’re coming from. I’m a polymer clay sculptor so I’ve dealt with this issue.
      The whole “bake for X amount of time per Y amount of thickness” thing gets pretty confusing when you’re working with irregularly shaped pieces.

      I would definitely recommend she move over to Premo. I use Sculpey products exclusively.

      It actually doesn’t matter how long you bake as long as it’s not too short. You can’t overbake Sculpey. I mean you can bake it too hot and it will burn but if the temperature is right you could bake forever if you wanted to. I often make pieces that need to be baked in sections. I’ll bake the basic figure. Then I’ll add other pieces and bake again. No problems so far.
      If you calculate the time for the thinnest parts then the thin sections will be done but the bulky parts won’t.

      So it’s temperature and not time that burns.

      There are some tricks I’ve discovered.
      I always bake on some baking paper on a ceramic tile. To keep the top of the piece from burning I tent a piece of paper over it. The paper won’t burn and it provides protection.
      You can also find a way to have another tile above the piece as well. But then you have to find something high enough that won’t burn to serve as separators.
      But the paper is usually enough.

      My final trick has come from research and years of experimenting. Ramp baking.
      Since I’ve used this technique I’ve had consistent results everytime. It takes longer but you have evenly baked pieces that are strong. Though I really wouldn’t bother using it if it were something like a bead. It’s kind of overkill. Ramp baking works best with sculptures.

      Pre-heat the oven to 100c/212f bake for 30 minutes then remove.
      Ramp the temperature up to 110c/230f for 20 minutes and remove.
      Ramp up to 120c/248f and bake for 20 minute then remove.
      And finally ramp up to 130c/266f for 30 minutes and you’re done.

      Always wait until the oven is at the next temperature before the next bake. I have done this without removing between steps and it doesn’t really make a difference. But I like to take it out between steps to check on the piece.
      I also have a basin of cold water ready and dunk the piece between pieces. It seems to add strength and if you’re using liquid clay it changes the way it looks.

      Hope this helps.

  55. Hi all–

    Lots of great information from Cindy and commenters. Somebody mentioned using the toaster oven only if she’s remaining in the room–excellent advice that I want to reinforce for anybody new to this.
    All the materials we use are safe at the recommended curing temperatures, including the cardstock (because we all remember from the book title that paper burns at about Farenheit 451). BUT–and this is where the process goes pear-shaped–your toaster oven doesn’t maintain a nice, even temperature.
    It’s a little like firing clay with a flamethrower–on at full blast, off. On at full blast again…off. That’s why, when I covered a plastic switchplate with polymer (a switchplate that was supposed to be fine at clay-curing temperatures) and baked it in my toaster oven, I was very, very lucky to walk back into the room just as the flames started coming out the front of the oven. The only damage was the scorched enamel finish on the toaster oven. And the flaming project, of course.
    Now I’m a fan of the oval roasting pan method. It was about ten bucks at Target, and I added some tiles to the bottom…now I can wait to bake until I’ve made enough things to fill the pan (and the lid means no cat fur can drift onto the clay….eeww). I feel all green because I’m not turning the oven on to bake a dozen beads…and It’s also much easier to take out of the oven, since I’m a klutz and I’ve had to chase more than a couple of hot beads around the kitchen floor.

    • Excellent point. I tried using a toaster oven but honestly when it comes to large or complex pieces or even multi-bake pieces it’s not great. I just couldn’t nail down a consistent temperature. Even though I paint my pieces after and a scorched piece isn’t an issue it does make it more brittle. That can cause serious issues in joints and finer parts that don’t have armatures.

      I also agree with the pan idea. I’m also a huge klutz so I’m really prone to tilting the tile. Except in thew case of sculpture you end up with shattered pieces. Pretty heartbreaking if you’ve put in days of work.
      I do the same with the pan and tile in the bottom. The pan I use is pretty old and never had a lid so I cover with a tile if the piece isn’t too big. That way I’ve created an oven in the oven with a more consistant temperature. It pretty much eliminates scorching.

      I personally find that it’s just simpler to collect

      Another point I’d like to bring up.
      You won’t see it as easily on cardstock but it does the same thing. Paper will generally leach the plasticiser from polymer clay if you leave it on for too long in it’s raw state. It’s ok if you put it on and bake it soon after. I always place my pieces on baking paper and then on the tiles. Baking paper has a much higher flash point. So it’s better to either use baking paper or only use card close to baking. The paper basically starts looking almost like something oily was on it.

  56. Oh yes, forgot to mention a technique I learnt not too long ago.

    I sometimes needed to bake smaller sections partially so that I had a bit of structure to add onto without them deforming. I also can’t always wait for a few pieces to bake and firing up and entire oven for a tiny piece is just a waste. This works great as long as there isn’t any metal or foil inside.

    All I do is fill a microwave safe container with water and put the piece in there. Just don’t overfill or it might boil over. Then I just nuke it for a couple of minutes until it’s hard enought ot work with.

    The water seems to eliminate the issues that microwaving polymers usually causes. I’ve never had any issues after a final bake.
    I would never try a full bake using this or bake anything that might be considered a joint or supporting piece. But I’ve found a lot of use for it.

    I can’t think where that might come in handing with beads but I find that the more techniques I have the better.
    Just one warning. The microwave will super heat water so whatever you do, don’t take it out and pour cold water in. The result is not good. I usually bake it then leave it for a minute or 2.

  57. Hi…I have a HUGE bunch of polymer clay beads I made years ago. I had a lot of trouble with them being weak and breaking or cracking. I have since learned that it was probably due to both too low of heat and not baking them long enough. Would it still be effective after all these years to re bake them?

  58. I’ve personally never tried to re bake anything after that long a period.
    Looking at it purely from the standpoint of re baking an underbaked item then yes, it would make them harder if you do it at the right temp. Theoretically you’re just re baking an underbaked piece.
    I’d be very interested to know if the age would make any difference to that.

    On one hand I don’t see the age making a difference. On the other, there’s the more scientific part of my mind that wonders whether storage temperature and things like coating would make a difference. It all comes down to whether there is some sort of continuous chemical reaction taking place that might change the clay itself.

    But in reality I’m probably over-thinking and it really is simple. Personally I’d just try to re bake a piece and see if it does get harder. Either that or contact the manufacturer. They’re usually very helpful.
    But I’m sure one of the smart people here might have an answer.

    • Hi Leslee, I’m sorry I meant to respond here myself as well. Like Shawn suggested, i would go ahead and re-bake the pieces. I can’t see why there would be any problems with it being old. But you never know, with stuff like that. The best thing to do is try it and then watch any negative or positive effects down the road. Do let us know how it goes. We can all learn from what each other does. Thanks for your comment!

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