How to Make Beads | Basic Tool Kit for Working with Polymer Clay

Polymer Clay Starter Tools

Making Beads With Fimo or Sculpey Requires Very Little To Get Started:

One of the most common polymer clay beginner questions is:

“I don’t want to buy a lot of unnecessary stuff. What is the minimum amount of tools I’ll need to get started with polymer clay?”

Well, here is a “bare bones” list of tools and supplies you’ll need for clay bead making:

  • Clay – Cheapest is not always the best. Premo Sculpey or Fimo Classic are great polymer clays to start with. Get a few in the primary colors, plus black, white and translucent. Avoid Sculpey III because it is the lowest quality and will probably leave you frustrated.
  • Oven or Toaster Oven – Polymer clay must be baked in the oven to be cured.
  • Oven Thermometer – Very important. Most ovens have a range in temperature and their dials are rarely right. Burning clay can release toxic fumes and should be avoided at all times. Test your oven with a thermometer first to make sure there are no hot spots.
  • Smooth Glass or Tile Work Surface – I use a glass cutting board. It won’t scratch and won’t leave textures or marks on clay. Clay doesn’t stick to it and it is easy to clean.
  • Ceramic Tile for Baking On – Ceramic tile with a smooth surface is perfect for baking pendants and beads on. It’s insulating qualities help with evening out the oven’s temperature and it won’t leave shiny spots on your clay. Avoid using metal which conducts the heat causing hot spots and burning as well as leaving shiny spots on your clay.
  • Clay Blade – These are way better for cutting clay and canes than a regular knife. They have straight edges, are thin and cut the clay and canes cleanly.
  • Acrylic Rod – You will find these in the clay section of your craft store. There are wide, smooth, heavy and roll out the clay quite nicely. Because they are made of acrylic they won’t bond with clay and they clean up easily.

The above list of polymer clay tools and supplies is very basic. As you get more involved with polymer clay bead making, there are several other things that you will want to purchase too. One step at a time, though.

BY THE WAY… all the above information and much more, about basic polymer clay tools, is covered in Video #7 of my 39 Part Polymer Clay Basics Course. If you would like to see a sneak preview clip for this course video, here is the link:
Starter Tools for Basic Polymer Clay Projects

Or if you want to go straight to the the course order page, here is that link: Polymer Clay Bead Making Fundamentals



Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor

  1. Cindy Lietz, 24 November, 2008

    In the article above I talked about what you should have in a “bare bones” basic tool kit. The very next piece of equipment you should get is a pasta machine. Sure you may be able to get by without one. But once you start using a pasta machine, you will wonder how you ever got by without it.

  2. Iris Mishly, 26 November, 2008

    that’s a great post! i was just asked by a clayer from jordan (neighbour ;) ) about “how to start claying” she asked me because she has to order everything online, nothing she can find in her country, so i have her the list, similar to yours, if you ask me, polymer clay is not that expensive hobby (at first anyway), our list is much shorter then other art mediums i know :)
    Thanks again, Iris.

  3. Cindy Lietz, 26 November, 2008

    You’re right Iris… glass bead making or even precious metal clay is a lot more expensive to get into than polymer clay bead making. And the results can be just as professional and beautiful. It is one of the reasons it is so great for beginners and advanced artists!

    Thank you for your comments. It is wonderful to hear from you again Iris!

  4. Tommye Sigerfoo, 24 April, 2009

    Hi Cindy! I am enjoying being a member of your site and learning the world of PC. I have a question regarding using toaster ovens when baking pc. I bought a cheap toaster oven today and put a few small pieces in to bake. I set the temp. at 275 for 30 min. well,within 5 min. the pieces and the parchment started smoking and set off the alarm. The beads looked like roasted marshmallows by the time I got them out. Everything was scorched. What did I do wrong? Can you help me in finding a better solution to baking? I don’t want to use my big oven all the time. Thanks in advance! Tommye

  5. Cindy Lietz, 25 April, 2009

    Great question Tommye! Your pieces were getting burnt because the temperature was too high.

    Toaster ovens are excellent to use for beads because they are small and can be dedicated to clay use. But sometimes their temperature dials are way off. Use an oven thermometer to find out where the dial should be set to get 265F-275F.

    Click the link by my name for an article about toaster ovens. Also you can type the word ‘baking’ into the search box and click search for more info on baking.

  6. Tommye, 26 April, 2009

    Hi Cindy, I think I figured it out. I read all your info and tried again. I used a much lower setting and longer time. The piece came out fine. You were right about those knobs. They are very inaccurate!

    Thanks again! Tommye

  7. Tommye, 26 April, 2009

    Me again! I read your page about re-conditioning old clay. I came home yesterday with some Kato clay (due to its strength and flexability) which was marked down substantially. It was so hard and crumbly, I did your trick and put it in the food processor with some oil drops. It became easy to work with, so I made some test objects rolled out about 16th inch thick. After baking and cooling down, I tested them for strength. They were very brittle and broke easier than the Sculpey pieces. It also smelled like I was burning rubber tires. The other products don’t seem to smell that much. I wonder if it is because the clay was old and dried out? What do you think happened. I had always hear Kato was one of the strongest to use. Whoa! Tommye

  8. Cindy Lietz, 27 April, 2009

    Hi Tommye! Using the oil like you did should not have effected the strength. What temp did you bake the Kato at? It needs a higher temp to cure than Premo, Fimo or Sculpey.

    Also, I’ve got some Kato being shipped as we speak, so I will find out for myself, but I’ve heard that it does smell bad compared to the other clays.

    I’ve also heard that although it is quite crumbly since the reformulation, that the formula is being tweaked and and should be easier to condition soon.

    Kato Polyclay is apparently a very good clay to work with (once conditioned) and is supposed to be excellent for making canes. Many people swear by it so I am quite excited to soon be giving it a try!

  9. June Frederick, 09 February, 2010

    I don’t know if anyone has had this problem or not but I have had white and translucent clay that crumbles something terrible. I have tried warming, diluent, pasta machine. After awhile it still doesn’t work also some of the translucent is more white and sure doesn’t work the same. I’m pretty disgusted with it. Anything else I can do? I just spent $9.00 on some translucent and its worse than ever.

  10. Phaedrakat, 11 February, 2010

    @June: What kind of clay is this (brand) and how old is it? Do you think it could be partially cured? (Spent time in the heat, by a sunny window, hot car, etc.) I don’t know if you are new to clay or not. If you have Kato clay, that one can be difficult to condition, and it gets crumbly. Here is someone telling about their KatoClay Crumbling Problems.

    The posts following that one have lots of various tips for conditioning this type of clay. Sue gives a really detailed conditioning method here: How to Condition Kato Polyclay

    I hope this helps you, if not, please write back with additional info, such as clay type, clay age (new or old), could it be partly cured, etc. Also, let Cindy know your level of proficiency with clay. Are you new, or an old pro who has just run into some “troublesome” clay.

  11. June Frederick, 11 February, 2010

    The clay i use is fimo lg blocks bought thru joanne’s and the translucent i bought was kato lg block at hobby lobby these were brand new pkgs which is kept in my basement craft room which is a little cool not hot or cold i have used polymer clay for about 12 years a long time the only thing i think i can do is order some mix quick for fimo and possibly order translucent on line the last batch i got was good i like to buy local cause they have cents off coupons but i don’t know how long the clay lays in the store.

  12. Phaedrakat, 14 March, 2010

    @June Frederick: Hi June, I forgot to “subscribe” to this page so I never got an email that you’d posted back. Did you get the above problem solved? I know that Kato can be so difficult to condition, hopefully Sue F.’s conditioning tips helped you. The Fimo from JoAnn’s might have been kind of old – I know that the large blocks of clay at my JoAnn’s look like they’ve been around forever. Best bet for that clay is using Mix Quick or Sculpey Dilutent. (or Mineral Oil, baby oil, etc.) Hopefully, you’ve got it all working fine now!

  13. Mary, 14 March, 2010

    @Phaedrakat: thank you for more inadvertent Techno Tips for the Sadly Ignorant. I hadn’t realized it was necessary to “subscribe without commenting” in order to add the page to my list. Didn’t even know I had a list! Now I do. Did my frangi ever pop up? Mary

  14. Phaedrakat, 14 March, 2010

    Nope, not yet, Mary. Sorry! I wrote to you over at the “jade” page. You’re so funny!

  15. j frederick, 15 March, 2010

    yes i think i have it solved thanks for the help

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