Polymer Clay Tools | How To Make Pretty Handles for Your Drill Bits

Polymer Clay Drill Bit Handles

This Tutorial is Especially Helpful for Those Who Don’t Like Using Power Tools:

Polymer clay is such a versatile medium! As you already know, it’s used extensively to make creative focal beads for handmade jewelry projects. But have you ever thought about using it to sculpt custom handles for polymer clay tools? Pretty molded drill bit handles for example.

Polymer clay, even after baking, is a relatively soft material. Because of this, you don’t really need a power tool to drill holes through your beads. Twisting a drill bit by hand works just fine. And it’s a safer way to go too… especially if you are not comfortable around power tools spinning at high speeds.

But in order to drill bead holes by hand, your bits will need a handle that’s easy to hold onto and maneuver.

So let’s get started. The first step is to get yourself a set of cheap drill bits from the dollar store. Since polymer clay is so soft, there’s no need to buy expensive ones that are designed for putting holes into metal or other hard materials.

You will want to put a small bend in the shaft of each of your drill bits. This is to keep them from spinning after they are embedded and baked into the polymer clay handles.

You can bend bits by clamping the shaft into a vise, and then tapping the end of the bit with a wooden or rubber mallet. Using a regular hammer will work too. But be sure to hold a piece of soft wood against the bit before tapping with the regular hammer. This will protect the cutting surface of the bit from getting dinged.

Wear safety goggles and go slowly with the bending, since too much pressure can break the bit.

Once you have bent your bits, you can now mold some conditioned clay around the shaft of each of them to create your custom handles. It’s best to form a flat paddle shape. This will make it easier to turn when you are drilling with the tool, than if the handle was round. Also make sure the drilling section of the bit comes out straight from the handle and not at a funny angle.

Once your polymer clay handle is firmly molded around the bit, it can be decorated with pretty cane slices if you like. And the last step is to bake both the handle and the bit together, in your oven.

You can make custom handles for all kinds of other polymer clay tools too… such as needles, small files and homemade texture tools. These homemade tools will become very useful assets in your polymer clay tool collection.

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If you are the type of person that learns more effectively by watching tutorials on video instead of by reading, have a look at my Polymer Clay Bead Making for Beginners Course. It includes 39 tutorial videos, one of which demonstrates how to make custom polymer clay tools like I described in the article above.

Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor


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Comments

  1. Thank you Lynn! It is nice when you know for certain the colors will go together and you have the recipes to mix them correctly like in yesterdays color palette.

    BTW they would make great colors for a polymer clay cane that you could use to cover the handles of drill bits like the ones in this post.

  2. Hi Cindy,

    Can you please help me. I saw somewhere at your site a tool, a round thing you make letters with. Now I can´t find it and I want to buy one. Can you tell me where?

    Best Regards,
    Kiki

  3. Hi Kiki,

    I believe the tool you are referring to is the Alphadisc Lettering Tool. I wrote and posted a video about it back in June, 2008. You can get to that article by clicking on the link by my name above.

    ————————————————————————

    And a Bit of a Public Service Message…

    Since I publish polymer clay articles daily, this blog is becoming quite a large resource for polymer clay tips, pictures and discussions.

    I figured I would take this opportunity to remind everyone about the little search box that sits at the top left of every page at this blog. It can help you find stuff quickly. Stuff that you may have seen before and want to go back to. Or you can use the search box to discover new things.

    Simply pick a keyword or two, and type them into the search box. Then click on the ‘Search’ button. A list of related articles titles will then be displayed which you can click through to and read.

    For example, by typing in the word “lettering” into the search box, the article about the Alphadisc Lettering Tool is displayed at the very top of the list.

    There are other ways to find stuff here at the blog as well. I would be very curious to hear from others about your useful navigation tips and suggestions.

    Actually if there are things that you don’t like about this site, you can share those comments too. I will do my best to correct problems that may be identified.

  4. Pasta Machine Handle Replacement

    Hi Cindy, My pasta machine handle became very gummy and thin in areas due to raw clay residue being on the plastic handle. Plus slipping out of the machine and landing on the floor on a over and over did not help. I located replacement handles on E-bay and other internet places but really felt the whole thing did not need to be replaced.

    I recovered the original handle by scraping off the raw clay and gooey soft plastic with my tissue blade and wiping with rubbing alcohol. Scratched up the cleaned plastic handle surface a bit with a pointy tool and covered it with a thin layer of Liquid Sculpy (could also use a craft glue.)

    I used scrap clay to cover it in 2 stages to be sure it was going to turn and function properly; ran scrap clay through my pasta machine on the thickest setting. I then wrapped the 3/4 of plastic handle with the scrap PC sheet; completely covered one and and continued down to the other end to just to where the handle began to get smaller where the plastic meets the opening where the metal bar goes in – it is almost a 90 degree angle; about 1 inch of the original plastic was not covered. Took a knitting needle tool and put long indentations in the raw clay along the covered handle for a better grip (these were in the original handle).

    I baked the handle in a bed of cornstarch for one hour on 275 degrees ensuring it could spin freely before baking. After cooling I put liquid sculpy on the rest of the uncovered plastic handle and butted the raw scrap clay up against the baked clay making sure the opening around the metal bar was big enough for the bar to spin but not too big that it would wobble.

    Added some cane slices to make it pretty and then baked again in a bed of cornstarch at 275 degrees for 1 hour. Came out great, it is a little thicker than the original handle which actually works well. ~Anna

  5. Anna what a Gem you are to share such a detailed and cool idea!!

    The plastic part on my handle fell off earlier this week. The metal clip that holds the plastic knob onto the metal rod came off. Just figured out how to pop the end out of the plastic handle so I can put the clip back on so the handle doesn’t fall off. When I get it put back together I may just cover it with clay. It looks great!

    BTW to keep the metal rod from falling out of your machine, you can use a piece of tape or a small piece of rubber glove on the part that goes into the machine. You kind of have to push hard to get it back in, but at least it won’t keep falling on the floor!

    I heard of one clayer whose handle kept falling off and hitting her dog’s head, every time he passed under her machine. Ouch!

    Thanks again for sending in your idea! I bet everyone is going to love it!

  6. OMG, poor brain injured dog !!!!! She should have strapped a pillow onto the poor dogs head !!!!
    I will try that with the glove. I tried raw clay and that works for a while.
    Looks like my my suggestion came just in time.
    I hope others will give this a try and we can have an array of cool handles.

  7. Hi Cindy

    I’ve been following your blog for a while now. I haven’t made much with polymer clay, but I have learned a lot and have had fun playing.

    I’m a crocheter mostly. I have carpal tunnel and use a sponge to make the hook fatter so I can continue to crochet. A few weeks ago I broke my favorite hook (just snapped right off near the top of the sponge.

    I couldn’t find that size locally. I had to order online. (I ordered 2 this time). In order to continue crocheting, I used polymer clay to put my crochet hook back together. It was just a quick fix and it’s really ugly, but it may be something I expand into in the future.

    Thanks to you and your blog, I was able to continue to crochet while waiting for my new hooks to arrive.

    Crocheting keeps my hands busy and keeps me calm a lot, as well as passing the time. I’m a flight attendant, so I have lots of down time on planes, in airports, and in hotel rooms.
    .

  8. Joyce first of all, excellent comment! This is the perfect place to put it.

    I am sure there are plenty of other people who crochet at this blog who would appreciate your idea for ‘fixing’ your crochet hook with polymer clay.

    There are many people who like to make decorative handles for crochet hooks with polymer clay canes. You could probably make them especially for people with limited mobility. Might be a good business.

    I had carpal tunnel for years and wore braces 24/7 until I had surgery on both hands, so I feel your pain. Anything that makes it easier to continue doing what you love, is a good thing indeed!

  9. I cannot find any drill bits that do not break when I try to bend them – can you suggest a web source? Or should I just try to insert them without bending them and glue them in? Thanks

  10. Awww that sounds like a pain Connie! Just insert the bits in the clay without bending and then glue them in to secure. You may have to re-glue them over time but I have some done that way that held for a long time before I needed to glue them again.

  11. Thanks, Cindy – I know you are busy!

    My husband took pity on my long face and decided to help me. He got out his propane tank and torch and vise and inserted the drill bits in the vise (working side down) and applied the flame to the shaft until it glowed red and then bent the shaft with pliers. It worked!

    He did all this work on the driveway,outside, far away from the house.

    So now I have me drilling bits and I am happy. I thought you would like to know about yet another way to do things!

    Connie

  12. I love this idea to make handles for drill bits! I have a little pin vise I’ve been using, but it is a pain to change bits. I would much rather reach for another *pretty bit tool* instead! This will be a good project for some very old clay that I “over softened”. It had gotten brittle, so I used some mineral oil to make it soft and usable. I oversoftened and overhandled it, which encouraged tons of air bubbles, too. I have now perfected my way of fixing my older clays. But I still have some funky clay around that will make perfect tool covers with pretty canes on top. I am ready…

    Thanks again for another great idea.

  13. @Phaedrakat – It’s great to see that you are taking the time to read these archived articles, and leave comments.

    One of my big goals here at the blog is to have everyone in the community be able to pipe up when someone needs help. Reading and bookmarking these archived articles and comments is really helpful, so that you can point others to them if you feel the information would be helpful for them too.

    The link by my name points to a conversation I had with another member (Carolyn-F), on how to add useful permalinks to your comments, when you are wanting to reference something.

  14. Just found the perfect tools for enlarging holes after baking: pearl reamers. I had a set, with broken handles. I had tried a regular set of bead reamers and ended up breaking off the top of my lentil bead. So sad – I’m still trying to salvage it. I used Bake and Bond to glue it back together. Now some creative wire wrapping may do it. Anyway, I made new finger handles for my pearl reamers. Then I used them to enlarge some baked bead holes. They work GREAT! I’d highly recommend them to anyone who wants to make bigger holes after baking. They are different in that the tines are square so they are very gentle and get the job done without doing damage.

    • I’ve never tried using bead reamers with polymer clay, I went straight to drill bits. Lucky I did, because it looks like they are really problematic. (Note: Carolyn’s comment above, and today’s post, “Amaco Bead Roller Bracelets“.)

      Be sure to follow the directions, and start with a small drill bit. Then gradually increase the size until your bead hole is as big as you need. Have fun!

  15. Hi there,

    I was just wondering if it is possible to use The Water based Varathane on my polymer clay covered Crochet hooks. I am trying to find something that is not sticky and will not harm anyone when using them with their hands on a regular bases. Some of the products I have used, have peeled off and have still become sticky after a couple of days. If you could help me figure this out. That would be amazing.

    Thank you again for all you do, and all your wonderful tutorials. They have really helped me out alot. You are a great inspiration. :)

    • @Laurie M: Hi Laurie, sorry to take so long to get to your question. It is getting quite busy around here! Your best bet is to use no finish at all and do a nice job at sanding your polymer covered crochet hooks. With a proper job sanding and buffing you can get a lovely glass like shine. I have tons of sanding and finishing information on this blog. Just type in ‘sanding’ into the search box at the top of the page for a list of past articles and tutorials that will help your with your issue.

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