Choosing the right polymer clay finish for your beads can be puzzling:
The other day I received a question from a subscriber (Sandra Taylor) about polymer clay finishes. There’s a lot of confusing information out there regarding finishes for polymer clay beads, and Sandra is not the first to bring up this topic with me. So I figured today would be a good day to talk about it.
Here is Sandra’s question:
There’s one thing that puzzles me. I made some beads and got some of that Sculpey glaze and what I’m learning that the stuff does peel or turn yellow after a while. Eek!
From reading, I gather that I have to use something called Varathane or Future floor polish — not easy to find. I guess one can’t use just any kind of varnish because it will react with the clay. Do you have any suggestions?
To first address your issue with the Sculpey glaze peeling up. This is a common problem and was most likely caused by excess oils from your hands getting on your beads causing the glaze to not stick properly. You can solve this problem by sanding (highly recommended) and/or cleaning the bead first with rubbing alcohol before coating with the glaze.
For beads that have already peeled, you can bake them for 10 min or so and see if that works. Personally I don’t like the Sculpey glaze because it is too globby and leaves a plasticy look to the beads. Plus, I think it is too expensive for what you get.
As far as other finishes that were not originally designed for use with polymer clay… you do need to be careful. Many of them are not compatible with the clay. Some even can fool you into thinking they work by appearing to dry up nicely, but then becoming sticky 6 months later. Really bad news if you have sold those beads or gifted them. People just aren’t impressed with sticky jewelry!
Sandra… You are right about Varathane and Future Floor Finish being good products to use. They have both been tested over time on polymer clay and in my opinion are much nicer to work with, not to mention way cheaper than the products out there made for polymer clay.
Make sure you get Varathane Diamond Polyurethane Interior (Water Based). Stay away from the oil based Diamond Floor Finish. The varathane is thick and needs to be put on with a fine brush. It is UV protected and won’t yellow. It dries to quite a hard finish and comes in gloss, semi-gloss and matte. You can find this in the paint section of most home improvement stores. Or get it here on Amazon: Rust-Oleum Varathane Interior Elite Diamond Finish
For the Future Floor finish you can go to my previous post on Finishing Beads with Future Floor Polish to see what the bottle looks like and get a little tip on using it. Future is very thin and easy to use. I found it in one of the grocery stores local to me (Safeway) without much difficulty. Or you can get it at Amazon here: Future Floor Finish
But to tell you the truth, I am finding the more I work with polymer clay, the less I like to put finishes on my beads. I have found that if I bake the beads for an extended period, they sand and polish up to such a nice shine, that a finish is often unnecessary. Highly buffed beads with no polymer clay finish on them are actually more water resistant, and you don’t have to worry about globbing that can occur when finishes are poorly applied.
So Sandra and everyone else having problems with your polymer clay finishing techniques, I hope this helped. If you need further assistance, feel free to post your questions below in the comments section.