How To Pierce Holes In Polymer Clay Beads

Holes in Polymer Clay BeaVideo #384: Tips to help you end up with nice straight and clean bead holes.

Topics Covered In This Video:

  • Let warm, freshly rolled beads rest to firm up.
  • If necessary, chill beads in fridge or pop into a bowl of ice water to harden up.
  • After resting, do a quick re-roll to remove any flat spots that may have appeared after sitting on a flat surface to cool.
  • Wear gloves or coat fingertips in cornstarch to avoid putting fingerprints on your beads.
  • Use a light touch when handling beads, to avoid distortion.
  • Choose the straightest, cleanest and sharpest bead pins you have. Discard bent ones.
  • Sand any rusted or dirty bead pins with 400g sandpaper and wipe down with rubbing alcohol.
  • Twist bead pin while piercing the bead hole rather than pushing and causing distortion of your bead.
  • Coating bead pin with water or cornstarch can help ease the pin into the clay.
  • Check to make sure the bead pin is entering the bead as straight and as centered as possible.
  • After completing the bead hole, give pin a gentle tug to center the clay that might have started protruding from the exit hole.
  • Smooth out any fingerprints using cornstarch or water, and bake bead on bead rack.

Question of the Day:

Do you have any tips you would like to share on making straight holes in polymer clay beads? Or do you have other bead hole challenges that you’d like to ask about?

I look forward to hearing from you.

By the way, if you have a polymer clay question or challenge you’d like me to address in an upcoming video vlog, do post it in the comments below. I’d love to help you find quicker and easier ways to bring up the professionalism in your polymer clay art.

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Looking forward to hearing from you!

Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor
  1. Sue F, 16 May, 2013

    All good info, Cindy! :)

    I have a few tips that hopefully will be of some use…

    Firstly, with radially symmetrical beads (e.g. rounds, ellipses, etc.), I like to rotate the bead onto the piercing pin, rather than twisting the pin into the bead. That helps me ensure I’m piercing straight through the centre of the bead (i.e. along the axis of rotation) and not going off to one side, because if I were going off line the bead would appear to move to one side or the other of the piercing pin as I rotate the bead.

    Secondly, I’ve found it useful to place my index finger lightly on the side of the bead opposite to where I’m starting piercing from, with the centre of my index fingertip “pad” where I want the hole to come out. For some reason, it’s much easier for me to pierce accurately towards my fingertip than it is for me to pierce accurately when there’s either no “target” to “aim” at, or when aiming at a target that I don’t have any intrinsic positional awareness of. (When combining this with the previous tip, I use my thumb and middle finger to gently rotate the bead onto the piercing pin, keeping my index finger opposite where the pin enters the bead and in line with the axis of rotation.)

    I use a slightly different method to Cindy’s for evening up the holes on both sides: instead of tugging the bead piercing pin back a bit after piercing all the way through the bead, I pierce in one direction until I can just feel the very tip of the piercing pin on my index finger, which as noted above I place where I want the hole to come out. Then I turn the bead around and pierce in from that barely-punctured spot, with the pin coming out where I originally started piercing from.

    I’ve personally stopped using bead baking racks like the one shown in the video, where the bead is suspended in mid air on a pin, because I’ve had some beads develop cracks when baked that way. Instead, I lay them on a bed of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda), which for me at least prevents any such cracking from occurring.

    And lastly, more than half the time these days I dodge most of the piercing problems entirely by curing my beads unpierced, and then drilling holes in them afterwards. That totally avoids the distortion issue, both in the shape of the bead and around the holes. It also means I can drill differently if I want to when I actually go to use the bead, e.g. only drilling half way in, or drilling towards one edge if I want the bead to hang down from the stringing material instead of being centred on it (this is nice for lentils and similar shapes when used in necklaces). Sometimes I use a twist drill and drill by hand, but I also use a Dremel and drill press if I want really precise alignment (see Desiree McCrorey’s photos and notes on a nifty drilling setup; I have something similar which I use with all sorts of bead shapes). [2013-10-02 broken link:]

  2. Tantesherry, 16 May, 2013

    Sometimes just looking at my piercing pins is not enough for me to tell if they are truly straight — so I roll them on top of my glass work surface one at a time to see if they roll true

  3. Jocelyn C, 16 May, 2013

    Hah, no matter how closely I try to look, I cannot catch a good full view of that beautiful green chain necklace and gorgeous center pendant. Any chance we could get a close up look at it?

    Don’t know how you do it, but, another video chock full of tips. Followed by more tips by Ms. Sue. Life is good.

    One note, if you use Kato Polyclay, Donna Kato recommends not to use cornstarch on the clay. Not sure what you could use to substitute, bicarbonate of soda is kind of gritty, but, it might work to cause the same effect of blocking prints.

  4. Sue F, 16 May, 2013

    A tip I got from one of Christine Dumont’s fantastic courses is to use a fine mica powder such as PearlEx instead of cornstarch… that’s Kato-safe, and it can give a great effect on textured beads too when it stays in the depressions but gets sanded off the raised areas.

  5. Cindy Lietz, 21 May, 2013

    That’s a neat idea Sue… thanks for passing it along!

  6. Cindy Lietz, 21 May, 2013

    Hi Jocelyn, that ‘green’ necklace you’re referring to is the one I showed in the Polymer Curb Chain Tutorial. It has the real magnesite beads on one side, the turquoise colored polymer curb chain on the other and a real abalone shell pendant.

    If you want a better look at it again, here is the video: Lay Flat Curb Chain

  7. Jocelyn C, 21 May, 2013

    Went looking in FB, but, didn’t spot it that day. Dang, have one of those tractor like chair seats and nearly fell out of it trying to crane to get a good look at the centerpiece.

    Now on the video, I see it’s three pieces, that gorgeous curbed chain necklace, a backpiece pendant, then an overlay red piece. It looks wonderful worn, and that technique is a good one to revisit. So many possibilities.

    Would make some wonderful manly bracelets for Father’s Day, especially if you used the faux burl technique, lol, but, you’d sure have to move it to be done in time.

  8. Terri Banerian, 16 May, 2013

    I use a t-pin to pierce a hole in my beads. Its makes the right size hole for stringing my beads. Also I let the beads rest before piercing. I do like your idea of putting them in cold water also.

  9. Dixie Ann, 16 May, 2013

    I pretty much follow Sue’s directions when piercing round beads. All other items I drill after baking since I find it easier and more precise aligning the hole. I never thought to put them in ice water before piercing so thanks so much for the great tips Cindy.

  10. Peggy Barnes, 17 May, 2013

    I always let mine set overnight before piercing but I use a needle tool. I’m not sure where I got this one it has been so long ago. This needle tool is longer than most and the hole is large enough if I use buna cord or ribbon. I like the idea my needle tool is more sturdy than the piercing pins I put them on while baking.
    Never thought of using ice water, so will try that next time. I also drill some of mine after baking. Not sure what makes the difference I just sometimes do it that way.

    Cindy this makes me think of the possibility of trying the corn cob pieces that they sell for buffing with a rock tumbler. I was wondering if you have ever tried it as your final step in the tumbler. I am seriously thinking of trying it with the next batch of beads I make. I have 2 drums with my tumbler. When done with the river rock I use the second one that is lines in felt and I have several small pieces of blue jean material I throw in with the beads for my final tumble. I think it makes a small difference. That could be just my mind telling me what I want to hear. So do you have any thoughts on the corn cob pieces or would you consider testing it sometime. If I get to it before anyone else will let you know what I think. Not sure when I will be working on beads again.

    Thanks for more wonderful tips and great filming Cindy and Doug. You are both very much appreciated.

    Try to have a little fun even if it is just to take a 30 minute walk in a park together the whole family. Remember how hard that was at times when the kids were older but it seemed like that is when we needed to do something like that the most. So hope you get to enjoy some kind of great family time this beautiful May weekend.

    Sending lots of Uuuuugggs!

  11. judy summer, 17 May, 2013

    i used to do alot of metal jewelry finishing in my vibratory tumbler..more efficient and less impact . i do not make beads, but am interested in finishing……just curious..have been experimenting.

  12. Cindy Lietz, 22 May, 2013

    Sorry Peggy for not getting to your question sooner. Although I have heard of corncobs being used as a substrate, I am afraid I don’t even have the slightest idea whether they would work for polymer clay. That is something that would have to be tested. Corn cobs (at least the ones in my kitchen) seem like such a soft product. Wouldn’t it fall apart in the tumbler? Especially with water? Just wondering.

  13. Dixie Ann, 22 May, 2013

    Cindy and Peggy, ground up corn cobs are sold in bags to put in tumblers to clean out brass bullet casings. I used it in my vibratory tumbler and it didn’t really do a very good job on the casings. I still had to clean each one individually with brass cleaner. I think it is too soft of a compound to polish polymer clay beads and other PC items. The little river rocks worked pretty good until the plastic triangle media came along which I think does a superior job when using the 4 step procedure which includes the plastic pearl balls.

  14. Lesley Symons, 17 May, 2013

    Great tips as usual, Cindy! Like others have mentioned, I leave my round beads overnight to firm up – had never thought of icewater!!! Beads of any other shape get drilled after baking with a pin vice – slower than a Dremel, but I like the total controllability.

    I had to laugh at myself … silly me … I was actually sitting here trying to crane my neck to get a better look at that LOVELY necklace! :-/

  15. Peggy Barnes, 30 May, 2013

    I wouldn’t put any water in with the corn cob material I think it is meant more for a final step that may help cut down time or maybe even take the place of buffing wheel. I am going to work on some beads in a couple of weeks if up to it so I will test it out and let you know what I think. Might end up being a big mess but this is something I really want to try. I will try to get my grandkids involved they love experimenting with my craft and jewelry items. Thanks

  16. Mike C, 12 September, 2013

    Your clay bead rack tray has colorful red fixtures in the end slots. What are they, their purpose and how do you make them?

    Thank you!

  17. Jocelyn C, 13 September, 2013

    Hi Mike! Cindy used a new silicone product called Sugru to make the bead wire holding areas more secure. Here is the blog post: Sugru Bead Rack Hack

    Hope it helps.

  18. Mike C, 13 September, 2013


    Thank you!

    I really enjoy Cindy’s videos. I was in a catastrophic accident and discovered polymer clay as a way to pass time. Now its become a passion. Please thank Cindy for me. Her videos inspire as well as educate.



  19. Cindy Lietz, 13 September, 2013

    You are welcome Mike… love it that polymer clay has become your passion…. music to my ears :-)

    …and thank you Jocelyn for helping with this.

  20. Jocelyn C, 14 September, 2013

    Mike, glad to have you participating. What do you like to create with it?

  21. Mike C, 14 September, 2013

    Hi Jocelyn,

    I fell 31′ on to concrete and I’m pretty messed up physically. I have 1 good hand and very limited use of my right (dominate) hand. I love polymer clay and the creations that are flowing out of me.

    I did research on the different clays and I’ve settled on Premo. I love the numerous color choices and the consistency before and after baking.

    I’ve heard Cindy mention eBay when she’s purchasing her clay. It seems like it is very expensive on eBay and Amazon, etc., $16-$18 for a 1lb. bar of Pemo? Yikes! I wait until it goes on sale at the online retailer I use and pay about $11.00 per 1lb. bar including shipping.

    Has Cindy ever thought of creating a strategic alliance with a retailer of clay for her followers? My guess is she gets free clay, tools, etc. but she could do her followers a big service by asking one (or several) retailers to offer a discount to her followers using a password when they purchase clay, tools, etc. Anyway, just an idea.

    Is there a larger bead rack because I tend to make larger pieces along with my smaller beads.

    Thank you so much for what you do, Cindy. I’ve learned so much and, put into practice, your teachings.

    Kind regards,


  22. Jocelyn C, 15 September, 2013

    Thanks for the reply Mike! Sorry to hear about your accident, but, you will find many folks here who are disabled and use polymer clay to challenge themselves, myself included.

    Bing’d and googled “homemade polymer clay bead racks” and clicked images and found a couple of ideas you might want to try.

    Aluminum flashing is easily bent, and with Cindy’s Sugru technique to secure the bead wires, it should be pretty easy to customize designs that would fit multi layers and sizes of beads and others objects and maximize your oven space.

    Donna Kato uses the aluminum deep loaf pans and customizes her bead placements on it, others use aluminum pie plates or brownie pans.

    I use both, but instead of putting the clay objects on wires, I bury them in layers of baking soda. Using this approach, you can get a lot of beads in a loaf pan for one baking.

    As an aggie kid, we raised chickens and rabbits, and used a lot of bendable wire mesh fencing. A trip to Home Depot or a farm supply outlet nearby would supply it. You could bend this mesh into oven appropriate shapes U shapes, and get tons of adjustable openings, just remember to tent it.

    Cindy’s blogs and comments here have a ton of suggestions and ideas, just pop topics like “bead racks” or “baking beads” into the search box in the upper left for lots of links.

    We also have lots of helpful folks here who will read this and add their own suggestions, so keep an eye out here for lots more feedback.

    All best, glad you are here!

  23. Cindy Lietz, 18 September, 2013

    Thank you Mike for sharing your story. You are very courageous and it is wonderful to hear that you have learn to cope with your challenges by working creatively with polymer clay.

    Thanks for your input on working with the manufacturers and /or retailers on possible discounts for our followers. Those types of alliances would be beneficial to everyone and if anyone knows someone who is interested in working with us, we would love to hear from them.

  24. Jocelyn C, 15 September, 2013

    Another idea, use wire mesh baskets and Sugru to customize the size of the bead rack, this one from Walmart is about the right size, and would allow you to insert beads on wires all over in the spaces.

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