Polishing Papers For Sanding Polymer Clay Beads

Polishing Papers Polymer Clay TutorVideo #346: A low tech sanding and polishing solution that will get the job done!

Topics Covered In This Video:

  • Basic differences between an un-sanded and a sanded piece of polymer clay. To see a more detailed video on the big differences of sanding vs not sanding, watch this video: Sanding and Buffing Your Polymer Clay Is Worth It
  • Sanding polymer clay by hand – Low Tech Method.
  • Quick overview of Wet/Dry Sandpaper and the grits available.
  • Introduction to polishing cloths purchased at Fire Mountain Gems, the size and costs.
  • Tips for knowing which grit is which.
  • Sanding set-up and supplies.
  • How to sand, using the polishing cloths in grits from 400g, 600g, 1200g, 4000g, 6000g, 8000g.
  • Getting a nice sheen by hand buffing with felt.

Question of the Day:

Have you ever used polishing cloths to sand your polymer clay? If you have, what do you think of them? And is there another type of sandpaper that you like to use, that is if you do sand your polymer clay?

I’d love to hear your answers below.

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. Melodie F, 11 February, 2013

    Great video my friend! Thanks Melodie

  2. Tantesherry, 11 February, 2013

    I still use w/d auto sandpaper

    But I’d Love to know how long the papers from FMG last

    I realize you just got them But I’m here with you guys for the long haul

    So maybe when they wear out you’d pop back in and let us know how well the papers from FMG lasted compared to w/d auto sandpaper

    thanks bunches – sherry

  3. Patt W, 11 February, 2013

    All the difference form amateur to professional. Sand away…..

  4. Sue F, 11 February, 2013

    Here’s a handy conversion chart for some of the different abrasive numbering systems/grits.

    I haven’t tried the polishing papers from Fire Mountain Gems yet, although I’ve been aware of them for some time.

    I usually do rough hand sanding (when required) with wet and dry sandpaper from the hardware store, used wet with a few drops of dishwashing liquid in the water as Cindy described, starting from P240 and working through to P600 or P800. Those are FEPA/EURO grit numbers, which are what I see most often in Australia; it’s a slightly different numbering system to the P-less one that Cindy refers to.

    For finer and finishing hand sanding I use Micro Mesh sanding sheets (bought in 150mm x 300mm sheets and cut into 150mm x 100mm thirds for use) — not the more common Micro Mesh sanding pads, which I don’t like! ;D — also used wet with a few drops of dishwashing liquid in the water, from 1500 through to 12000 in Micro Mesh’s own numbering system. Depending on what I’m sanding, I lay them flat, wrap them around a thick soft sponge, fold them to give edges or corners, etc. The 12000 gives a near-shiny satin finish even without buffing.

    I don’t have a sink in my studio but there’s a bathroom next to it, so I usually do my hand sanding there. It has great lighting, and it doesn’t matter if I’m not particularly neat and splash water around. :D

    Feature beads, special items, and experiments that I just “have to see now” get hand sanded.

    Small fiddly beads, bulk/filler/background beads and similar are more likely to get tumble sanded when I’ve got a pile of them, using a vibratory tumbler, a splash of water, and a large quantity of small super-smooth pebbles picked out by hand one extremely boring day. Since I use a firm clay I rarely have fingerprints or baking fibrefill marks that need to be sanded out, so these beads generally go straight into the tumbler without any preliminary hand sanding. I check them after the tumble sanding is complete and spot-sand any blemishes that the tumbling didn’t remove, using the abrasives described above, but I don’t have to do that very often.

    I’ve seen people recommending plasterer’s grids (used dry) for really rough hand sanding when you want to remove a lot of material in a hurry. I got a pack of those recently but haven’t tried them yet.

  5. Maria C, 11 February, 2013

    Wow Sue, just took a glance at your studio! I am amazed by the organization. I’d love to find out what you have in the boxes – are there rows of finished things, half-done items, raw canes? Another interesting thing: you don’t have any labels that I can see. I guess having clear boxes is enough to see what’s where?

  6. Sue F, 12 February, 2013

    Hi Maria,

    The short answer to the “are there” question is “Yes”. ;D

    It’s not ALL polymer clay related… it’s a bit of an “everything” studio, including the stages at which things are at. I could do a bit of a descriptive studio overview/tour, but that might be a bit much of a thread hijack.

    There’s no high-level labelling because it’s not really needed. It’s actually pretty easy to see inside the clear containers when you’re in the room, and things are organised into zones which also helps. Usually a zone is a block of shelves in a bookcase, although sometimes it’s been more efficient or logical for a zone to be wider, e.g. a shelf and a half organised horizontally to span two bookcases, rather than a shelf an a half vertically within the one bookcase. I’ve tried to make the progression of zones logical, at least for the way my brain works, although I need to finish the last bit of shelving (in the corner you can’t see) to make it all work out.

    There is detailed labelling, however. For instance, the containers in the top 3-4 shelves of the first two bookcases have beads grouped by colour: gemstone on one side, non-gemstone on the other. Since those beads move between boxes a fair bit as I acquire and use beads, split colours more finely, etc., there’s not much point labelling the containers themselves: you can tell more at a glance about a container by seeing its contents than you could by reading a label. But the different types of beads in each box are individually bagged and labelled with material, size, and (when I remember to do it) where I got them from, and how much they cost overall and per bead (except for things like seed beads, obviously!):

    Sometimes visual labelling is more helpful, for instance having coloured samples on the tops of bottles of alcohol inks and paints, jars of mica powder, etc., so I can pick the colours I want out without needing to rummage, lift and replace bottles, and so on:


  7. Maria C, 15 February, 2013

    Thank you Sue for such a thoughtful and complete answer! I eagerly await more photos of your studio on this blog in the future!

  8. Teresa D, 15 February, 2013

    great info, thx

  9. Jill V., 11 February, 2013

    I have tried the polishing papers but much prefer the micro mesh pads. I wish someone could figure out how micro mesh pads could be made to work with a rock tumbler. (That’s a hint for you, Cindy!) Now that would be bead heaven.

  10. Sue F, 11 February, 2013

    That *would* be nice, Jill! :)

    If I were going to try this, my first approach would be to look for some heavyish but cuttable rods, glue Micro Mesh sanding sheets all around them with a very strong waterproof adhesive, and then cut the sanding sheeted rods into tumbleable pieces.

    I’m not sure what I’d use for the rods. It would be nice if scrap clay would work but I have a feeling it wouldn’t be heavy enough (for a vibratory tumbler, anyway), so I’d probably look for possibilities at the hardware store. From past tumble-sanding and tumble-buffing experiments I’m pretty sure pieces of Micro Mesh sanding sheet on their own wouldn’t give a satisfactory result in my tumbler.

    I also don’t know what glue would be suitable and would have to research that.

    With my tumbler I need quite a lot of tumbling/sanding medium otherwise things don’t move around properly, so it’d take a bit of setup to try. And I’d probably need to prepare several grits, although I probably wouldn’t need them all if they were being used in a tumbler.

    I’ve been happy with the results I get from my hand-picked rocks so far (sands them to just about as fine as the finest wet and dry sanding paper I can get, which is not as good as Micro Mesh but better than most), but maybe I’ll try the above some time.

  11. Jill V., 12 February, 2013

    Sue F., what a thoughtful answer! I will research glue types as well. Thank you so much!

    When you say you use a lot of tumbling/sanding medium, do you mean you use that sandy medium that polishes rocks?

  12. Sue F, 12 February, 2013

    Hi Jill,

    Sorry, I guess I wasn’t very clear… one of those cases where *I* knew what I meant! :D

    Anyway, when I said that my tumbler needs quite a lot of tumbling/sanding medium, I meant that the tumbling action doesn’t take place properly unless the tumbler is at least half full, regardless of what I put in it (the tumbling medium) and regardless of what I’m trying to achieve. The “sanding” bit was just to clarify that in this case I was using the tumbler for sanding, so in this case the tumbling medium is a sanding medium, which for polymer clay in my case is 3kg+ worth of perfectly smooth oval 9mm river rocks.

    Note that I have a vibratory tumbler — mine’s a Hornady Case Tumbler, which is normally used for cleaning ammunition cases prior to reloading — and that polymer clay tumble-sanding processes seem to be somewhat different for vibratory tumblers versus rotary tumblers (e.g. Lortone rock tumblers and the like).

    Cindy did a tutorial a couple of years ago on using the Lortone (rotary) rock tumbler for sanding and polishing polymer clay.

    I’d already been using my Hornady vibratory tumbler for the same thing, but there were differences in what I’d found to be most effective with my vibratory tumbler compared to what Cindy used with her rotary tumbler (mostly to do with selection of rocks to perform the sanding while tumbling takes place, proportion of rocks versus beads, and amount of water). I wrote quite a bit on what I’d found in a comment on that post.

    My original info on sanding polymer clay with a vibratory tumbler and rocks came from Desiree McCrory.

    I hope that helps :)


  13. Jill V., 13 February, 2013

    Yes, that does help. You cleared up my confusion. I have a rock tumbler and have used it on beads with river rock as the sanding medium. I was just hoping that maybe there was a better medium that could really replace any and all sanding. (Hence my yearning for a combo of micro mesh and rock tumbler.) Thanks again for taking the time to steer me in the right directions.

  14. Sue F, 14 February, 2013

    It sounds like Cindy has some neat suggestions coming up on exactly that kind of thing!

  15. Elaine Faulks, 12 February, 2013

    Hi Sue,
    what we need for our tumblers are micro-mesh rocks. So if anyone from the micro-mesh company is reading this we need 2lb bags of micro-mesh rocks in all the grits. I too took hours with the help of DH to sort out aquarium rocks (used white ones) they work great especially for small round beads that are so fiddly
    With more and more people wanting easier sanding/buffing solutions for their polymer clay pieces I am sure it will not be too long before joolTools or some other company will come up the things we need. Loved the pic of your studio, so organised, Hope to get my workshop/studio finished by the summer but till then can look at yours and Cindy’s and dream……………….cheers xx…………………………..

  16. Sue F, 12 February, 2013

    Micro Mesh rocks would be great, Elaine! LOL

    I don’t think we need the coarser grits though, since the smooth rocks seem to do as good a job as those, but if Micro Mesh rocks ever did become available I’d buy a whole stack in a heartbeat.

    While I’m wishing, I’d also like a waterproof Dremel. Or a T-Rex-sized electric toothbrush to make a “toothbrush sander” from! (Hmm… wonder if I could adapt a stick blender… gotta try that some time! :D)

  17. Cindy Lietz, 12 February, 2013

    Hi guys, just thought I’d pop in here and mention that I have been testing some different substrates meant for use in tumblers that I am very pleased with and will share in a video soon. They are tiny plastic triangles that come in coarse, medium and fine grits. I also finish off with a tumble of tiny porcelain balls that give the beads a soft sheen. Then a quick buff on the JoolTool and they are good to go. I’ll go into better detail later in a video, so stay tuned for that!

    There are so many ways to get the job done! Some take more work but are cheap as far as equipment goes… others are easier but cost a little more of an investment buying tools. I want to show you all that you have options. Choose whatever works best for you and your situation. :)

    OH BTW, thank you everyone for your feedback and the way you are helping one another with questions. The busier it gets around here, the more I appreciate your help. You’re the BEST!

  18. Sue F, 12 February, 2013

    Those other tumbling substrates sound very interesting, Cindy… it would be great to have something that matched or bettered the rocks but was a lot, lot quieter! LOL

    Is there any chance you could include Kato items in your testing of those substrates? Kato cures much harder than Premo: the difference is noticeable when hand sanding, and the one time I used a plastic substrate in my tumbler it didn’t have any effect. It wouldn’t have been the same thing (the particles were round), but it would be nice to know whether I should test this new option in my vibratory tumbler or not (I’d need to buy a heap make my tumbler work properly).

    The porcelain balls sound great though… Looking forward to the video! :)

  19. Jill V., 13 February, 2013

    @Sue F, I bought a battery operated scrubber that I never got around to experimenting with. It’s got a huge surface. I thought of hot gluing the large micro mesh pads on the scrubber’s removable velcro pads. I went as far as ordering several of the velcro pads, one for each grit, but never got any further.

  20. Sue F, 14 February, 2013

    That sounds like it should work well, Jill! I’ll have a look for something similar, and if I end up with a decent solution I’ll post the info here. Thanks! :)

  21. Maria C, 11 February, 2013

    So how do the micro mesh pads compare with the sanding papers : in terms of preference of use and the grits (ie, what # is their coarsest grit – 400?)

    Another thing: I made a pendant with very fine details on the edges that I’d like to sand – the pads dont fit and sandpaper is too flimsy. I know that there are micromesh sanding “swabs” . I have tried those and was very disappointed with how flimsy they are. Does anyone have any suggestions as to what I can try?

  22. Sue F, 11 February, 2013

    Hi Maria,

    The ability to sand fine details is one of the reasons I like the Micro Mesh sanding sheets and don’t like the sanding pads. The sanding sheets are cloth-backed and they’re very durable, but also thin and flexible enough to be sharply folded or repeatedly pushed from behind without damage.

    For example, depending on the type of fine detail, I might:

    * Make a sharp fold in the sanding sheet so that I effectively have a double sided thinnish sanding sheet with a sharp sanding edge.

    * Fold or wrap the sanding sheet around a small triangular, square, round, flat, etc. support (bead piercing pin, skewer, file, toothpick, etc.) to help sand edge indentations of those shapes.

    * Use the edge of an unfolded sheet, if I need something fine to slide into a straight or curved slit (slip the sheet in, move the it back and forth along the edge of the sheet to sand one surface of it, remove the sheet, flip it so the sanding surface faces the other side of the slit, and do the same on that side).

    * Fold a sharp pointy corner, for sanding inside small or pointy indentations.

    * Put a stylus, skewer end, etc. behind the sanding sheet and use that to sand inside slightly larger or rounded indentations (pushing the sanding sheet into and moving it around those indentations).

    Even if you like the sanding pads normally, perhaps a few grades of the sanding sheets would be enough to deal with those fine details and other things where the pads aren’t suitable.

    Hope that helps,


  23. Maria C, 15 February, 2013

    Great advice! I will try out your suggestions.

  24. Elaine Faulks, 12 February, 2013

    Hi Maria
    How about using nail-art emery boards you can buy these in fine med and coarse, they do not last long when wet but are cheap enough to buy and can be cut to size for getting into tiny places. Or if you have the time use lollipop( the flat wooden sticks) or kiddies wooden play sticks. They are sold in the kiddie section in bags of about 100 for about $1 and put strong glue (Welbond) on your wet/dry paper. Lay a few sticks on the paper and leave to dry. Then cut round the shapes and do the same on the reverse side. I did this with the lathes from a piece of trellis and cut them to handy lengths. ideal to lay in a dish that they will exactly fit before covering in a little water (mainly for flat pieces) I used a non slip mat then put a heavy dish on this, freeing up your non dominant hand . So instead of having to use both hands you should be able to just use one hand to sand with. I have used both micro mesh pads but they come unstuck after a while. and sanding papers but didn’t really get on with them. Now, like Sue F i have bought the micro mesh sanding sheets that I can cut to the size that suits me…………cheers xx……….

  25. Maria C, 15 February, 2013

    Yes, I have and do use emery boards made for acrylic nails to sand my polymer pieces. (I wonder what the grit on them is? They definitely seem to be much coarser than 400 or even 320) I like your suggestion about the popsicle sticks and will give that a try.

  26. Louise S, 11 February, 2013

    I haven’t tried the polishing papers but I order from FMG all the time and those are going into my cart next! I love their leveling system and these papers look like a good tool in my PC arsenal.

  27. Hope Martin, 12 February, 2013

    So far the only things I’ve used are the auto wet/dry papers and more recently (at your recommendation) the micromesh pads. I’m able to get a much better shine from the micromesh than I was ever able to get from the wet/dry auto papers. But I didn’t notice it until I got to the buffing stage (with a dremel) when suddenly I had a very glassy finish on a piece of the faux jasper. Woot! {insert happy clayer dance}

    Oooh! Cooltools carries the polishing papers in a variety pack! Set of 6 (5.5″ x 8.5″) for about $11US.

    Thanks again Cindy and Doug!!!

  28. Jennifer S, 12 February, 2013

    Thank you so much. I love the craft felt idea. Jeans just never seemed to work for me. Maybe I am just impatient. Keep up the awesome work. So glad I decided to join as a paid member. Thank you.

  29. Jenean D, 14 February, 2013

    Thank u for the tutorial. I’ve been waiting a long time to see this demonstrated.

  30. Patt Word, 15 February, 2013

    Wow -talk about “in-put”. Thank you everyone for MORE info. Definitely going get those sanding cloths. Great for curvy and sharp places.

    Cindy- this tute sure opened a can of worms,Huh? So many sharing folks -aren’t polymer clay people the BEST !!!!!!!!!!!

    I have been a paid member since 2010 -and boy, have a learned a lot. Books are fine but POLYMER CLAY TUTOR videos are the way to go. BRING IT ON !!!!!!!!!!!

    Thank you everyone so much. Love this group !!!!!!

    BTW – I smooth most everything with baking soda or a bit of alcohol to make sure eveything is ULTRA smooth. Works for me. Hate sanding – but doesn’t everyone…….LOL

  31. JoAnne N, 17 February, 2013

    I bought polishing papers quite a while back with the intention of using it with some metal pieces I was making. After seeing this video I’m going to have to try them with my polymer clay!
    Thanks Cindy!

  32. Lavedia E, 14 March, 2014

    It like you read my mind!! I was talking to my friend about sanding some of her pieces today! Thanks for the video it helps! I will be getting some next week.

  33. Maree El-manquabadi, 05 April, 2022

    What is the difference between sandpaper and polishing papers for use on polymer clay?

  34. Cindy Lietz, 05 April, 2022

    Hi Maree, sandpaper and polishing papers are basically just two different types of abrasives. Both work with polymer clay. Sandpaper starts at lower grits than polishing papers (50g – 3000g), but doesn’t go quite as fine. Polishing papers usually go from (400g – 12000g) Polishing papers tend to be more flexible and tend to last long, if you don’t try and use too fine a grit, for removing lots of material. So depending on your needs you can use one or the other, or both.

  35. Maree El-manquabadi, 05 April, 2022

    Thanks Cindy, very helpful.
    Have a great day?

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