Mystery of the Cracking Flat Beads | Polymer Clay Bracelet Project

Cracked Polymer Clay Flat Beads

“I looked through my PC books and did not find this type of tile bead in any of them.” ~Bette-L

I received an email the other day from Bette Lorman who had a few questions about some flat beads she made for a polymer clay tile bracelet that ended up breaking. The photo above is what she sent to me and my responses to her questions are posted below:

I made some flat tile beads and drilled 2 holes in the edge of each side, then put them together with large jump rings. They looked great, but alas, my daughter wore them to bed and the jump rings broke the clay around the holes. So much for a beautiful bracelet. I have come to the conclusion that PC is not strong enough for this kind of bead. I am using Premo! clay. How thick should the PC tile be for vertical holes to not break?

The thickness you make a bead like this depends on a number of things, including: 1) The brand of clay; (2) How well the clay is conditioned; (3) If the clay is baked properly; and (4) Where you put the holes. If you use Premo; Condition it adequately by running through your pasta machine multiple times; Bake for at least an hour at 265F; And drill the holes further from the edges than where yours are placed;  Then the thickness you are using should actually be fine.

Would it be better to coat the bead with resin instead of varnish?

A thick coat of resin would give additional strength and a glass like finish. It would be more durable than a varnish would be.

What other suggestions do you have for this type of bead or should I just stick to horizontal holes through the length of the bead instead?

You could go a little thicker on the tiles and add eyelets if breakage continues to be a problem. But first make sure to do the other things I suggested above, such as proper conditioning, baking and hole placement.

What about if eyelets were used to reinforce the vertical hole?

Eyelets can be an excellent way to re-enforce the holes. Push the eyelets into the beads at least a 1/4″ from the edges and bake in place. They won’t bond with the clay so you will need to pop them back out after baking, remove the clay stuck in the center of the eyelet and glue the eyelet back into the bead with Krazy Glue or Weldbond. You can click on following link to see an example of how a placed an eyelet in a polymer clay butterfly pendant about the same thickness as your tile beads.

Do you ever embed the “eye” of a hook and eye closure for sewing into the clay to use as a loop for a jump ring?

Embedding a loop in the clay, is also a good idea if you want to avoid drilling holes. Depending on the style of the loop, you may have to glue the eye pin into the bead after baking… in the same was as described for the eyelets.

Thanks for any help you can give me. I looked through my PC books and did not find this type of tile bead in any of them. The only beads with holes drilled and a jump ring used were for earrings. I guess this is an omission that I never would have thought of as being important. Are there any other things that “you just can’t do that with PC” would apply to?

I personally believe you can do pretty much anything with polymer clay. It’s just a matter of figuring out ways to make it work :-)

Thanks for such a great blog. You are my best resource for my questions. I frequently look up things from older posts to see if you have already answered my question. What an angel you are for doing all this work so the rest of us won’t have to? ~Bette Lorman

You are very welcome! If there is anything else I can answer for you, just ask in the comments section below.

So does anyone else have any tips or tricks to pass along to Bette regarding her ’tile’ bead bracelet project? Additional ideas are always appreciated.

Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor


  1. Anna Sabina, 17 September, 2009

    I think you covered it with great information i think the holes look way to close to the edge of the tile.

  2. Joyce, 17 September, 2009

    Bette, I love your bracelet and am sorry to see that it was not strong enough for your daughter’s use. But, she loved it so much that it had to go to bed with her! My granddaughters do much the same and I always hold my breath for morning. With Cindy’s sage advice I’m sure you will be able to do another that will be lasting.Thanks for sharing, Bette.

    And Thank You, Cindy for all the information here. There is so much to learn and what fun, except for the disappointments but they are all learning tools. Love this blog.

  3. Freda, 17 September, 2009

    I’ve had the same thing happen with small earrings where I got the hole too close to the edge.

  4. Melinda, 17 September, 2009

    I’ve had the clay breakdown around the holes of some of my beads and the problem always was that they were not cured enough. Sometimes I bake things twice just to be sure.
    Thank you Bette for your questions and sharing your problem and thank you Cindy for caring enough to answer.

  5. Edie, 17 September, 2009

    I have been successful at using a Cropadile to place eyelets in pendants up to about 1/4 inch thick after baking. That is, I hadn’t planned to use an eyelet and thus hadn’t made a hole before baking, but the cropadile was able to pierce the pendant and set the eyelet without difficulty.

    edie

  6. Dawn, 17 September, 2009

    Bette, I love those tile beads. Beautiful.

    Great advice and tips Cindy! Thanks!

  7. aims, 17 September, 2009

    This is great information to have! Thanks Bette for all your questions and Cindy for all the great answers.

    I was quite intrigued with Edie’s mention of a Crop a Dile. I have never heard of this tool so I went in search and found a video on Youtube showing how to use it and what it can actually punch through.

    The question of where to place your holes after you have made the bead but before baking has arisen many times in my mind lately – especially since I am spending a lot of time practicing Cindy’s instructions and with no plan in mind of making anything. Having the ability to make a hole anywhere afterward is quite appealing.

    So – how to decide where to put the hole before and if not how to do it afterward. My question is – how many make your bead and bake it without any holes and then put them in afterward. Is that a preferable option if you don’t have any plans for the bead beforehand?

  8. Laurel, 17 September, 2009

    I have had the same problems a couple of times with breakage and I wondered how much the clay conditioning had to do with it. My first batch of clay was Sculpey III so it was soft and you don’t have to do much conditioning to make it workable. I think I need to condition most of my clay more. I just get so impatient. :) I had never heard of the Crop A Dile either. I usually make my holes before I cure/bake the beads but it is nice to know about this punch thing for making holes in tiles.

  9. Bette, 18 September, 2009

    Thank you everyone for your kind comments and helpful hints. A special thanks to Cindy for taking the time to answer my questions.

    I did see something recently in Polymer Cafe, June 2009 issue (I was looking for something else) that may be useful too. The artist, Iris Mishly, embeds wire mesh in her flat beads to strengthen and also to let her use curled shapes. She called it mosquito jewelry.

    If I have not already put holes into the beads before baking, I use my dremel with a rechargable battery and a very small drill bit to make holes. The dremel goes very slow, 5000 rpm, so it does a nice job of drilling PC. Using a very high rpm just melts the PC. I put a slight dimple in the clay first with a needle tool so the drill bit won’t slip.

    The Crop A Dile looks very interesting.

    I knew the holes were close to the edge of my beads and I feared they were too close to the edge. That’s why I gave it to my daughter for a test run. She did her job well!

  10. Arlene Harrison, 25 September, 2009

    Regarding Laurel’s question about conditioning clay… a good way to figure out how much conditioning is actually needed is to take equal amounts of two different colors and see how much kneeding/rolling is needed to completely merge the colors. Sounds drastic, but it does add to the stength of your finished product when the clay is conditioned correctly. I can’t tell you how many things I’ve made that did not hold up because (a)I was using too soft a clay [I’m a Premo fan these days] and (b) because it was soft, I didn’t think it needed to be conditioned as much. The conditioning is not to soften the clay as much as it is to re-mix the molecules that have gotten separated between manufacture, shipping, sale and your studio!
    .

  11. Ifama Jackson, 28 September, 2009

    Now what am I gonna do with all this Sculpey III? Any advice.

  12. Cindy Lietz, 02 October, 2009

    Thank you everyone for the great comments! Sorry it has taken awhile to comment here myself.

    The Cropadile looks awesome and someday maybe I’ll splurge and get one. Would be a handy thing to have around for other projects too.

    Ifama, as far as what to do with the Sculpey III, you can mix it with some of your other clays to give it more strength. Just mix 1/4 Sculpey III with 3/4 Premo, Fimo or Kato and you should be able to use that stuff up.

  13. Shelly Neal, 18 October, 2009

    There is also another brand of clay called “Cernit” that is stronger and may be useful for this.

  14. Cindy Lietz, 29 October, 2009

    You are right Shelly! I have yet to try Cernit but I hear it is quite a strong clay. Thanks for commenting!

  15. Cindy Lietz, 29 March, 2010

    NEW PHOTOS ADDED:

    Polymer Clay Projects

    Hello to Everyone,

    Some new Spotlight project pictures that relate to the topic of this page (Cracking Polymer Clay Beads), have just been added in another post. They were submitted by Ritzs. The link by my name will take you to where you can see them, along with a bit of a write up about some issues Ritzs was having with cracks forming in her beads made from Kato PolyClay.

  16. Marion K, 20 May, 2011

    ive bought flowermolds and like most of them very much. My problem however is that i have no idea how to kae them into beads. they are flat when they come out of the mold and often are not thick enough to poke a hole in them. I thought i’d make a flower necklace but how?? How do i go about this. do i need to bake the flower first and after that put modpodge on and stick a flat round piece of clay with holes to the back of the baked flower and bake it again? And suppose ive varnished the flower can it still be rebaked?

  17. Cindy Lietz, 22 May, 2011

    @Marion K: Marion I think the best thing for you to do right now is get really familiar with the Beginner’s Course you purchased. Watch (and do) every step in the course several times and you will have an excellent foundation for your polymer clay bead making skills. Then move on to the tutorials. Trying one at a time until you’ve got that technique down pat.

    You’ll find if you do this, most of your questions will be answered as you go through the process. I wouldn’t worry about making flower beads in molds right now. Save that for later. Just start at the beginning and go from there. It will save a lot of mishaps and frustration for you along the way. :-)

  18. Cassie B, 25 September, 2018

    I just baked my first bangle. It seems like it will break easily. Can I do anything at this point to harden it. What else should I know about making bangles so they are less breakable?

  19. Cindy Lietz, 25 September, 2018

    Hi Cassie, are you thinking it will break because it seems brittle or just bendy? Polymer clay that is properly cured is actually flexible and not hard, especially when it is thin. I have several videos on properly baking polymer clay and the right brands to use that are strong and won’t break. Use the search box at the top of the page to find all the videos on baking. Good luck!

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