Buffing Polymer Clay Beads with a Dremel Multipro Rotary Tool

Buffing Polymer Clay With a Dremel Tool

Vid #65: Are you still polishing polymer clay by hand? Kick it up a notch and learn how to use the Dremel power tool:

 

There is nothing like using a power rotary machine to really bring a shine to your beads. Although polishing can be done by hand, the process of buffing polymer clay is just that much easier and quicker when you use a rotary Dremel.

With any rotary tool such as the dremel multi pro, safety is very important. Loose clothes and hair can be tangled quickly so make sure they are out of the way before you buff your beads.

Buffing is done only after your beads are well sanded. Just like painting a wall without filling the holes will make the flaws show even more… polishing a bead that hasn’t been properly sanded first, will accentuate nasty fingerprints and scratches. So be sure to sand first.

Also you will find that each brand of clay will polish to varying levels of shine. For example Premo and Fimo will get a high shine, whereas Sculpey III never gets past a matte finish no matter how much you buff.

Even if you are going to coat a bead with a final shiny finish such as Future Floor Finish or Varathane, always sand and buff your beads before doing so. This will remove any flaws; give the bead or pendant a nice feel; and make the gloss slide smoothly onto the surface.

Many polymer clay artists will use their dremel to buff in between coats of Future to give it an extra super duper shine. With enough care, you can make your beads and pendants look like glass if you follow these instructions.

For another article about using the Dremel Multipro, click on this link… Buffing Polymer Clay Beads. A Dremel rotary tool will definitely help take your beads from Ho-Hum to Wow-Wee!

Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor


 

 

 

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The full version of the “Dremel Buffing preview video shown above, is available for purchase at my Polymer Clay Bead Making Videos Library in the Volume-004 Back Issue Package.

In this “Buffing with a Dremel Tool” video tutorial I show, demonstrate and discuss:

  • How to use the dremel rotary tool to polish and buff your polymer clay beads.
  • Using different rotary speed settings for different projects.
  • Tips to prevent the buffing wheel from grinding instead of polishing.
  • Holding beads on a piercing wire while using the Dremel Tool.
  • How different polymer clay brands end up with different levels of shine.
  • The special properties of translucent clay.

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Comments

  1. Hi Cindy

    I have found that I can use my tumbler to sand and buff my polymer clay beads. To buff my beads with the tumbler I have cut up a shammy that I found in the automotive section of Canadian Tire. I put the beads in the tumbler with the cut up shammy and tumble over night. In the morning I have shinny beads!

    I still hand sand and use my rotary tool for larger pendants and focal beads as they don’t tumble as well.

    Vanessa

  2. Thank you Vaneesa for the cool tip!

    I tend to use my rock tumbler to sand the small beads that would be to much of a pain to sand individually.

    On the larger beads and pendants I hand sand, like you because I feel it does a better job than the tumbler.

    I like the shammy trick though. I’ve never tried that, it sound like it works well!

    For those of you who have not used a rock tumbler for polishing beads before, you can’t use regular rock polishing substrate. I will be discussing this topic down the road, but I still don’t feel I have the perfect method of doing this yet. So stay tuned!

    Cindy Lietz’s last post..Polymer Clay Contest – Win a Bead Jewelry Making Course

  3. I have one of those and a big buffing wheel too. How do you keep from going to deep and marring the surface. Maybe that’s on the video I should buy, Huh? ;D

  4. Dear Cindy,

    The Dremel tool has made such a difference!!! I am so grateful to have learned about it from you. I have carpel tunnel, and was wondering how I would manage to sand and buff all of my work without straining my wrists. I have been using my Dremel for about a week now, and thanks to you and this magnificent tool, I am buffing away with no problems at all!

    I also am so happy to have learned about Future Finish from you. I just started using it, and it makes my pieces look like glass, they are so shiny, and really brings out the color in all my work! And I am so happy that it dries so quickly, and is so easy to use! It is also quite inexpensive for all that you get.

    Thanks so much!

    Sincerely, Cindy Erickson

  5. This is probably a dumb question, but do you tumble dry with the shammy pieces or add water like regular tumbling?

  6. It’s not a dumb question Karen! I tumble dry actually. You obviously know a little about tumbling. (For those of you who don’t, I will talk more about using a rock tumbler in a future Q+A post so stay tuned!)

  7. Thanks Cindy! I will give it a try. I am new to polymer clay, but I am enjoying it immensely! (Thanks to your video help!)
    I also make silver fused rings, hense the tumbler.

    Karen

  8. I can’t wait to raid my hubbie’s tool box – again! :-) Thanks for all these great videos, Cindy! I would like to know more about using the tumbler, please. Thank you, and have a great day!

  9. Thanks for the video, Cindy! I have a Dremel, used it once or twice in the past and ended up carving grooves in my beads. I should do better now, and I’ll get or make another wheel.

  10. I am going to try buffing with the Dremel. I have one & most of the time just lays in the box. So thanks so much for the tip. I have one question, does the little tumblers work well that you can buy in Hobby Lobby?

  11. Thanks for the video, Cindy. I am wondering if a cheap kids tumbler would work for small beads too. I see that there are some really expensive ones out there, and then there are some more inexpensive ones that are about $25.00 each. What do you think…and would the cut up shammy work in one of the less expensive ones?

    Thanks, Cindy E.

  12. Great video on the Dremel buffing. Interesting the different effect on the different clays. I did not know that about the Sculpty. Thanks!

  13. Cindy, as always I enjoy your short and concise video tutorials on working with clay. I also use a Dremmel and instead of holding the hand tool, I have a small vise I can attach to my work table so it holds the tool in place. To keep it from scratching the tool, simply glue felt or some craft foam sheets to the inside surface of the vice that do the gripping. You can use spray adhesive for this. This way you can use both hands to hold those hard to hold beads. Keep those videos coming. Seeing how you do things is very helpful. -Lani

  14. Sorry for the double post, but I wanted to know from Vanessa what she uses in her tumbler for the sanding and if she uses anything else with the shamies (such as another material) or just that alone? Cut up shamies don’t seem to take up as much room is why I ask.

    ps: I love the individual quilting squares we all get when we post. :)

    Lani

  15. Ok, so what is a rock tumbler? I had visions of beads going round & round my tumble dryer[only joking] Great tip on which hand to hold the dremel in.

  16. Hi Cindy : )

    I stole my husband’s Dremmel tool years ago and ended up buying one of my own with variable speeds and tons of attachments to go with it! I don’t know what I would do without it!! I’m a multimedia artist and find a use for it in just about everything I do!(except in painting of course…lol) Thank you for the videos.

    Yes the swirly beads are addictive…lol I was a good girl and voted already. I happen to be an advanced polymer clay artist. Not an expert, but I can hold my own : ) I finally ordered a supply of Studio Sculpey out of curiosity,(I am a Premo user), and found it to have a suede feel to it. Definitely different. I made a few canes and it did well. The only problem I found was when I was slicing the cane that it isn’t as stiff after resting. In the future I will try putting it in the freezer for around 20 minutes before slicing so it won’t lose it’s shape. Although it doesn’t shine much after sanding and buffing like Premo does, after applying a gloss glaze it is beautiful!

    I’ve carried on long enough! Hope you are having a great weekend Cindy!

    Mary in NY

  17. @Karen: Thank you for your comments! Silver fusing seems like such a cool thing to learn… Maybe one day I will find the time!

    @Marsha: You’re welcome!! I will definitely have some videos on tumbling in the future.

    @Bev: I hope the info in the video helps with your problem! Let me know if you have any further questions, in regards to buffing. Thank you for your comments!

    @Raye: Dremels should be allowed to come ‘out to play’! :-) Hope you find you are using it more often now! In regards to the tumblers, some people have had success with the kiddie ones, though I have never used one. I am trying to learn more about tumbling so I can pass the info on to everyone.

    @Cindy E.: Like I just mentioned in Raye’s response, they can work but I can’t tell you too much about that without learning a little more. So stay tuned. Love your comments, as always!

    @denby: Yeah I used to buff the Sculpey III beads forever trying to get them to shine more! Then I read that they only buff to a matte finish and was relieved I wasn’t going crazy!!

    @Lani: Excellent advice!! Since filming that video I have also started using a vice to hold my Dremel. What a difference! Way easier to have control over the bead. I love your idea of protecting your tool from getting scratched with the foam! I will be filming this soon and will try to remember to add your tip so everyone can benefit!

    @Andrea: A rock tumbler is a small rubber barrel you put beads and a sanding/polishing substrate (sandpaper, shammies etc.) and it rolls around and around on a little rollers on a machine. It is a great way to save time sanding and I will teach about it more in the future.

    @Mary: Thank you so much for being here and offering your comments and information! I will be ordering some Studio by Sculpey to give it a try as well. It sounds cool!

  18. what an informative video! its all very well reading about using a tool to buff, but its only when you see how to hold the tool etc it all becomes clear:)
    Thanks you Cindy!

  19. I don’t want to exhaust the subject but I do want some additional info on the tumbler use.

    1. What grade medium is used for sanding?
    2. Has anyone ever used fine sand? baking soda? salt? other_____?
    3. What works on beads with sharp corners without knocking them off?

    I have friends that use polymer too and I ask them this question and report back what I find. -Lani

  20. @Rachel: Thank you! I know what you mean… a video makes a huge difference doesn’t it?!

    @Lani: What most clayers use is cut up pieces of sandpaper and not the regular grits used in rock/metal polishing. I will be doing some tutorials on this subject in the future, because a lot of people want to know how to use a tumbler. Stay tuned for that! Nothing sands as well as hand sanding however, so keep doing that. I’d love to hear what your friends says, so do report back.

  21. This is a great video as always. I have a Black and Decker mini works. Which I think I will be able to use to buff. I think it is way smaller than a Dremmel, so I guess I will need to look at them too. The buffer that is with the drill is very tiny compared to yours, like a little pom pom. I have had this for many years, so I will give it a try and see what happens.
    I voted today, I couldn’t remember if I did before or not.
    Thanks,
    Marianne

  22. Thank you for showing that video as I had no idea on how to handle that. I have that tool and have never used the buffing wheel. Now I have a reason to use it.
    Thanks again.
    Pat Olive

  23. @Marianne: That sounds cool! Let me know how this tool works for you. Don’t worry, the computer will only let you vote once, so if it let you vote today, you hadn’t voted the other day!

    @Pat: It does help seeing something being used doesn’t it?! Takes all the mystery out of it. I hope you start using your Dremel lots now. It is way easier to get a nice shine than doing it y hand!

  24. I am so pleased I found your site; I bought the archived section 4 as my first purchase as I had looked all over the net for practical help on using the dremel. I loved your videos – a great big thanks.

    I have 2 questions: firstly, when I use the dremel it takes a lot of material away and although my pieces end up with a shine, they also have an uneven, almost ‘gouged’ surface. Is this because I am using Fimo; not baking it hard enough; or just plain messing up? How long does it normally take you to shine a pendant? (Sorry – that lot represented my first question!)

    Secondly – do you know of a UK substitute for Future Finish? I’m coming to Canada in July (used to live in Toronto!) and will get some but am hoping you might have an idea of what I can use in the meantime.

    Again – thanks for the great tutorials – can’t wait to decide what to purchase next!

    Rgards… …Lore

  25. Lore, what kind of buffing wheel are you using? Sounds like you may be using one that is too hard. Either that or you are pressing too hard, because you shouldn’t be gouging your beads at all during the buffing process.

    There was some chat in a post awhile ago about the name of Future Floor Finish being called Johnson’s Klear in the UK. Click the link by my name to read the comment about that.

  26. Thanks for the swift reply, Cindy. I will try to get the Klear and update the site with my ‘success’!

    As to the buffing wheel – I’m using the same one you show in your video. I had an older one (been sitting around since 2004!) and bought a new one in case that was the problem. I’ve tried to be really gentle. Also – following up on some of your other threads, I have just put a bunch of stuff back in the oven for a further 45 mins at the correct temperature. I’ll get the dremel out again tomorrow and see if that has made a difference.

    Cheers for the input – I can already see you and the site will be indispensible in the coming months.

  27. I was thinking about this further Lore and it is also possible that your Dremel is going too fast. I usually use mine at about the 3 setting on the machine. Also make sure you’re using the side of the wheel and not the top. It will definitely gouge your bead if polish on the top surface of the wheel.

    I’m glad you found more threads on baking. You will find if you bake your pieces for an hour instead of the half hour, you’ll find they are way harder and buff up much nicer.

  28. Something that I tried yesterday was using one of those “micro fiber” cloths to buff it up. Just rubbing it gently seems to do the trick – before adding the floor wax, in between coats of wax, and afterwards on the finished product.

    I had several laying around as I use them to keep fingerprints cleaned off of all the black shiny surfaces at home (laptop, stove, refrigerator, etc.) and low and behold, it works.

  29. Definitely sounds like pressing to hard is the villain of gouging. You have to have the delicate touch.

    Another thing people will find is how the wheel grabs edges and throws the piece out of your hand. Pressing softly or even at the lowest speed won’t fix that – it’s just the nature of the beast.

    What I do on bottom edges is turn the piece sideway and go left-to-right, back-and-forth across the bottom stopping before I get to bottom edge, then turn the piece and repeat the process.

    I use a Ryobi tool to buff (same as a Dremmel) and I also use a phrase from one of Bob Ross’s painting classes – 3 hairs and some air – meaning very lightly, like you are drying of the top of a baby’s head after a bath.

    Hope that helps.
    .

  30. Excellent tips Doug! I hadn’t thought of using a microfiber cloth. I bet that works really well! And you’re right about keeping the pressure as light as possible when buffing. That is really the key to getting a nice shine. Thanks for sharing your ideas!

  31. Cindy, I finally decided to buff my beads, two things… one do you use a buffing compound with the buffer? and yes they sparkle and are very pretty ( some of them- it takes some getting used to knowing how much pressure and all) And yes I sent three of them flying acorss the room- did not think I would find them ever again. They went pinging all over before settling to the floor. But I enjoyed it and they shine like glass and you are right I do not need to use the glaze anymore. It certainly added a depth that I would not have gotten with the glaze.
    I seem to be in a chatty mood tonight so I will share a short story with all of you about how lucky we are to have Cindy as our teacher ( I know you already know that ) but… My sister- lives in D.C. we have many interests in common, she does mostly wire work, decided to take a clay class last weekend. She wanted to see what I was raving about when I told her about Cindy and the tutorials. And The class was on making Calla Lilies- which I had told her I was doing as one of our classes. She paid three times what we pay for three months of classes for a single afternoon! she went to the class, and was very disappointed with it as they did not learn how to make a skinner blend or anything that Cindy teaches and we tend to take for granted, they painted their clay to get color. So, Cindy I want you to know how grateful I am for all your teaching skills and how blessed we are thay you take your time to teach us and help make our creations great. And for holding my hand through my fears of using the buffer.

    • @Karonkay: Thank you so much for saying that Karon! I know exactly what you are talking about in regards to the type of polymer clay classes that are often available out there. It is one of the reasons I decided to create my classes online, in a very accessible format that allows anyone to create stunning projects very easily. Maybe your sister will join in on the fun with us? We would love to have her!

      Glad to hear you are enjoying the buffing process. I don’t use a buffing compound per se… but quite coincidently, the upcoming Friday tutorial for this week, will be about using your Dremel for buffing with polishing wax… so it is interesting that you should ask about this.

      There are a couple of new tricks in the video that will help to hold onto your beads when polishing them so that you can avoid having them fly around too much. Remember to wear glasses to protect your eyes though. It is much easier to make beads when you can see!

    • @Karonkay: Wow, isn’t Cindy a bargain, lol? I simply love, love, love the fact that we keep all these videos in our libraries and can simply pull them up to watch at any time! I could never remember all the steps to do some of these effects and styles without going back to look at the videos again. I truly am still so thrilled I found Cindy’s site and subscribed. Worth every penny and then some.

  32. Just wanted to share that I gave my Mum a pendant and ear-ring set with the mica shift technique, buffed to a high shine then coated in floor polish. A high compliment (I thought) came back to me is that a doctor at her work (she’s an ER nurse) asked what kind of “stone” it was. I must have done a good job on it.

  33. What a coincidence, indeed! Cindy’s new video tute really is about using Finishing Wax such as Minwax or Renaissance Wax to add a nice sheen to beads. (The Dremel works nicely for this task, as well!) Another fabulous video by Cindy…

    Not only is this site worth every penny. It’s worth MORE than the pennies we spend! Luckily, Cindy’s not greedy…she makes membership ridiculously inexpensive, so that anyone can join. The only thing I’ve ever regretted was waiting to join (missed out on those tutes!) Of course, I went back and bought the videos I missed anyway (had to have ‘em — so good!) but at the library price. If I’d joined right away, I could’ve had them for the even cheaper membership price of $3.32 per month! OK, I’ll be quiet now… ;D

  34. I get pieces off my beads as well, trying to polish them at the 1st-lowest setting of my mini tool. Maybe because my hands are not very steady?

    And i tried bee-wax on them, but my beads-polished by hand now for ages, dont really get the shine i would like, no more than a satingloss. How long should i polish a bead by hand? I did 15 minutes per bead…..

    • @Marion K: Hi Marion, The final finish you will get with the waxing technique, depends on how smooth the surface is before you wax it.

      If you wax an unsanded bead, the best that you can expect is a nice satin sheen. If you have sanded your bead through several different grits and the surface is very smooth before you wax it, you can get a high gloss with the waxing process.

      It shouldn’t take as long as 15 min per bead to wax your beads. It should only take a few seconds and certainly no more than a minute or two. Hope that helps!

  35. Hi Cindy,

    Ive gritted with these little pads you used in your videos, 4 different ones. Than put beeswax on it and tried polishing with the minitool, but it took out bits of the beads. Buffing by hand gives a satin look but doesnt make it real shiny, but at least the bead stays nice and smooth. Is beeswax maybe not the right thing to use. I cant find the floorpolish you use anyware overhere. It doesnt make it easy when most of the products that are used by you are not available, hahaha.
    Thanks,
    Marion

    • @Marion K: Sounds like you are well on your way with learning about some polymer clay finishing techniques. Just a few tweaks here and there will get the results you desire.

      When buffing your beads with the Dremel, it is important to use a very low speed (setting 3 or less), press very lightly (think butterfly kisses) and to only use the outside edges of the wheel (not the top), otherwise you will take gouges out of your beads as you seem to have discovered.

      I don’t know which type of beeswax you are using, but that could be the problem with you not being able to get a really high shine. Since you are in the Netherlands, you may need to test a few different brands of paste wax, or see if you can get Renaissance Wax if you are having trouble finding the Minwax.

      If you do find a wax that works well for you, do make sure to come back and share it with everyone. I am sure there are others in your part of the world that would really appreciate that!

      Good luck!

  36. Can I use a regular drill for buffing? It certainly goes faster than me and some old denim but to get that really nice shine does it need to be “dremel speed”? I will go buy a dremel if need be to get my pieces looking the way they should but I already have a nice hand drill so I was just curious. Thanks!

    • Hi Karen, I really don’t know whether you can use a drill for buffing or not, since I haven’t tried it. I do remember there being some discussion on that topic on the blog way back, but am not sure where that is. Maybe if you did a search on ‘drill buffing’ you might find something?

      Has anyone else out there tried using a drill to buff their polymer clay beads?

  37. I thought I’d give an update for anyone else who has this question. I made Cindy’s version of the felt buffing wheel and attached it to my Black & Decker drill. I turned it on, gently held my piece close to it, and then I sat there….and sat there…and sat there…while it spinned. It most definitely did not look shiny. So then I picked up a 3 speed Black & Decker RTX rotary tool (same idea as the dremel but a little less expensive) at Menards and WHOA!!! About 8 seconds in I pulled it away and it was already shiny! It nearly knocked my socks off!!

    So in summary:
    Drill – not so good.
    Fast rotary tool – very very good. Knock-your-socks-off good.

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