Polymer Clay Instructions – 5 Tips to Make Your Bead Life Easier

Beads on Piercing Wire

Want Better Beads that Look More Professional? Then Don’t Ignore these Simple Basics:

Little things can sometimes make all the difference in the world! Today’s post provides you with 5 polymer clay bead making tips to always keep in mind:

1) Wash your hands before working with clay. Even when your hands look clean, there still may be bits of oil, dirt and lint embedded in the little cracks and crevices of your skin. Clay seems to grab onto anything. Just roll a ball of white clay in your hands without washing first. You’ll be able to see all kinds of flecks and things in the clay.

2) Wipe down your tools and work surface with rubbing alcohol or baby wipes before you make anything with your clay. You can use the baby wipes to clean off clay from your hands as well, in between colors.

3) Use a high grit (600 grit or higher) sandpaper to sand your bead piercing wires regularly. Gunk, like old clay, varnish and rust, builds up and needs to be removed in order for the pins to slide nicely into the bead when your making bead holes.

4) Rub cornstarch on your bead piercing pins to help the pin go in the raw clay and avoid distorting the bead.

5) Clean your oven regularly. Dirty ovens will definitely discolor your beads. In another article, I wrote about how to use bleach to clean beads that have been already been baked in a dirty oven. Here is the link: Dirty Polymer Clay Ovens

Are you consistently doing all of the 5 suggestions above? What other tricks and tips do you practice that make your polymer clay bead life easier? Please do share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor

  1. Anna Sabina, 06 June, 2009

    I soak my bead piercing wires in alcohol because I sometimes use them to hold beads while I apply Future. this really is not a good thing to do because the do get gummed up with Future. Thanks for the tip about using sandpaper.

    I use a knife sharpener on my cutting blades.

  2. Kim C., 06 June, 2009

    Hi Cindy,

    Great tip about the sandpaper. I really need to do this with my bead piercing wires.

  3. Jamie, 06 June, 2009

    I use a piece of scrap clay to roll over my work surface and to roll between my hands before I work with my actual project. I find that this removes all the loose hairs and debris from my work area and also pulls most of those little “no see ums” from my hands before I start working with my “good” clay. If it becomes too dirty I use it to “stuff” a project which also conserves my good clay, and I get another piece out of my bin of scraps. Only thing I would suggest is to avoid the darker colors for this use. Especially reds. XOXO Jamie

  4. Jocelyn, 07 June, 2009

    Based on Anna’s comment, do you think you could do a tut on how to sharpen blades? Have the stone but would really like to see some one demonstrate the angles and techniques to get the blade as sharp as possible. Due to the MS, I cannot use the chef knife sharpener tool, but could do the stone sharpening.

  5. Anna Sabina, 07 June, 2009

    I must confess, my husband sharpens the blades using the knife sharpener. But, I have snuck in there and done it a few times. we do not use and electric sharpener-that would be frightening due to difficulty holding onto the tissue blade. Wonder if there is a way to sharpen with Wet/Dry sand paper? Could use a Dremel or grinder if you could get it to go really slow.

  6. Sue, 08 June, 2009

    If I have flat pieces that I want to hand-sand, I leave them stuck to the tile they were baked on while I sand the exposed surface*. That saves the ends of my fingertips, which otherwise would get thoroughly sanded too from holding the flat pieces while sanding them.

    * The front, for how I like to work.

  7. Elizabeth-S, 08 June, 2009

    Dear Cindy,

    Let me preface this story by thanking you for your commitment to those of us who are passionate about polymer clay. I feel that I have been given a gift with this site and that already my skills have improved significantly with availability of the videos, recipes, blogs etc.

    I had an experience this past week that I would like to share. My husband and I went on a cruise that included several days at sea. Thinking that this would be a perfect opportunity to practice new pc skills I packed accordingly. Yes, I even took my pasta machine (which resulted in confiscation of the suitcase it was in until I could satisfy the ship’s security team that it was perfectly reasonable to bring a pasta machine on a cruise). You can imagine that conversation.

    Fortunately, I had stopped short of toting my oven although I had seriously considered it. Imagine that conversation!

    Anyway, part of my plan was to make a bunch of faux pebble beads but lo and behold, I forgot to pack my grater. The solution? My newly purchased “pedi-egg” (no I hadn’t yet used it on my feet). The grater intended for removing callouses is super sharp and so grates the clay easily and the container part holds the shavings without mess. An added bonus is that replacement graters can be purchased as necessary. One recommendation to those who may try this would be to empty the shavings from the container frequently. If it gets too full the clay gets pressed together and lumps. Anyway, I’m certain that I am not the first to think of this but it proved to be the answer to my dilemma.

    Cindy, again my thanks for sharing your skills and experience.

    Sincerely, Elizabeth, aka Crafty Lady

  8. Cindy Lietz, 08 June, 2009

    @Anna: Excellent tip! Rubbing alcohol will soften that Future right up and make it easy to remove!

    @Kim: Thanks! You’ll find it makes a big difference!

    @Jamie: Good ideas! Another great use for scrap clay! Love all the ideas you send our way! You are fabulous!!

    @Jocelyn: That’s a good idea! I’ll put it on the list!

    @Anna: There are people who sharpen their blades on sandpaper. I would keep it wet and start at a pretty high grit like 800 or 1200 so as not to damage the blade. Maybe even tape the sandpaper down (before getting wet) so that you could hold the blade at the right angle.

    @Sue: Great idea! That will save those fingers!!

    @Elizabeth (aka Crafty Lady): I just love this story!! Taking your pasta machine on a cruise! That is fabulous!! The PedEgg idea is great too! Especially since it has the little holder to catch the shavings! Thank you, thank you, for sharing this with us!

  9. Anna Sabina, 08 June, 2009

    Elizabeth, OMG that is so funny about the Pasta machine on the cruise. I bet that will included in their stories of strange things people have brought on cruises. Can only imagine the conversation if you had brought the Toaster Oven too !!.

  10. Edie, 09 June, 2009

    I have a question about handling/storing your beads or pieces between making them and curing them. Because of our energy management program ( we use an on peak/off peak plan that saves us bunches of money) I try to only bake when I have a full oven of beads or pendants. This often means I make things and they wait for 5-7 days before baking. If I store the flat things between paper on the tiles or the beads in the cornstarch (in the way I will bake them), I notice that the plasticizers leach. Will that affect their strength when they cure? How do other people handle this so they don’t get flat spots, dust, etc between making and baking?


  11. Elizabeth, 09 June, 2009


    Glad I gave you a smile. To add even more drama to this experience, I sorta hadn’t told my husband beforehand that I had packed the pasta machine. It was only when we learned that the suitcase had been confiscated and we had to go and provide ad explanation for its contents that I was forced to confess my folly. After many many years of marriage he just shakes his head in resignation at my antics. Imagine his added surprise when he returned from a swim to find me grating clay with my pedi-egg. He just shook his head again and said he didn’t want to know even when I assured him that there was a logical explanation for this activity. Have a great day! Elizabeth

  12. Sue, 10 June, 2009

    Hi Edie,

    I don’t know for certain because I haven’t kept things for that long between making and baking, but have you tried resting the unbaked items on polyester batting while they’re waiting? That’s often suggested as a way to avoid flat spots while baking so I presume it would work for temporary unbaked item storage too, and it shouldn’t absorb the plasticisers like paper or cornflour (cornstarch) would.

    Item strength would be reduced if the plasticisers leach, but whether that’s a practical problem would depend on how strong your clay brand was to begin with, how much leaching took place, and what you were making. If you have some scrap clay you could test this, for example:
    – make 3 identical pieces with the scrap clay
    – pop one into cornflour/cornstarch
    – place one on paper on a tile
    – place one directly on a tile (it’s only a strength test, after all)
    – wait your normal 5-7 days
    – bake all 3 test pieces
    – compare their relative strength: for example, try bending flat test pieces to see if/when they break (flat pieces are easiest to strength-test; count how many bends it takes to break them); for beads, thread two strands of wire through the hole and form into two separate loops or handles that you can pull in opposite directions to see if you can break the bead.


  13. edie, 10 June, 2009

    Sue, those are great ideas – *especially* the way to test the beads! I had thought about something along those lines (as well as making a test sample immediately before baking so I could compare all four- but I never thought about how to do the beads. Excellent tips! Thanks!

    (I just won a vibra-tumbler on ebay – now I *have* to make beads!LOL!)


  14. Cindy Lietz, 15 June, 2009

    Thank you everyone for the great comments!

    @Edie: Just to add to Sue’s wonderful answer, You can rest your flat pieces between sheets of parchment (baking) paper without any plasticizers leaching out. You can also lay parchment over your bead rack to keep beads hanging on wires from getting any dust on them between bakings.

  15. Bonnie D, 24 June, 2011

    Edie — I frequently “save” my unbaked beads for a few days before baking. I put them on the piercing pins (I bought an extra set of pins just for this reason) and then poke the pins into a piece of styrofoam and store. I bought three of the 8″ foam circles and use them for holding the beads before baking, after baking (once cooled) and while I put multiple layers of varnish on the beads. Then I leave them on the pins for 12-24 hrs. more before I heat set my beads. I’ve tried the batting and the paper ideas, but this works best for me!

  16. Jocelyn, 25 June, 2011

    @Bonnie D: Thanks Bonnie, you converted me. What a great idea to speed up the process.

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