Tools for Polymer Clay Bead Making You Can Personalize

Tools For Polymer Clay

Vid #011: How To Make Custom Handles for Your Polymer Clay Drill Bits:

The best way to enlarge holes in your beads is by using common metal drill bits. But using a power drill with these bits can be dangerous since you have to hold the beads in your fingers during the drilling process. So I play it safe and just spin the bits by hand.

Now I guess you could use a clunky vise-grip tool or locking pliers to grab onto the end of the individual bits. Or… you could make your own custom bit handles out of polymer clay like I do.

All you have to do is mold the clay around the end of the bit, personalize with some decorative cane slices if you like, and then bake to harden as you would with any other bead or pendant.

However, molding the clay around a straight bit shank usually does not form a very good bond and the bit is likely to come loose from the handle fairly quickly.

There’s 2 ways to solve the problem of the bit coming loose:

  1. Use Bond 527 glue to re-secure it back into the polymer clay handle. Or better yet…
  2. Before you even form the clay handle around the bit, put a slight bend in the bit shank. This bent shank idea does a great job of keeping the bit secured inside of the handle. (NOTE: you will need a bench mounted vice for bending bits. But don’t bend too far because they will break).

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The full version of the “Customized Drilling Tools” preview video shown above, is included in my Polymer Clay Bead Making Fundamentals Course [SEE Video #11 of 39]. In it I go through the step by step process of actually making customized drill bit handles for your growing collection of polymer clay tools.

  1. Cindy Lietz, 01 May, 2008

    Since polymer clay is very soft, you definitely won’t need high quality drill bits. Most dollar stores sell cheap bit sets for around a buck and they work just fine.

    Cindy Lietz’s last blog post..How To Store Polymer Clay Canes Using Plastic Wrap

  2. Sue, 27 July, 2008

    Aha, tools fashioned from polymer clay to work with polymer clay! I really like this idea, not just because I need to improve my boring skills (though my students would tell you I have great “boring” skills), but because of all the other applications I can think of…
    I’m thinking any metal item could be modified, and in fact anything that can handle the heat of baking the clay. Handles for crochet hook? Modified spoon, fork and knife handles? Not only do these have decorative potential, but also handy for customizing items for folks with disabilities who need “help” grasping certain shapes.
    My first go with this idea will be drill bits – maybe I can fix some of my wonky holes!

    Thanks Cindy!


  3. Cindy Lietz, 29 July, 2008

    Cute ‘boring’ pun Sue!

    Excellent idea for customizing handles for people with disabilities or mobility issues. What a wonderful, cheap and easy way to adapt tools!

    With all the arthritis in my family and the trouble I have myself with my wrists, I can identify with the value of having tools that would be easier to hold and more beautiful to look at.

    I can see this idea used on other everyday items as well, such as hair brushes, mascara wands, toothbrushes (if they can handle the heat) as well as the cutlery you mentioned. My mind is spinning with the potential of this!

    Cindy Lietz’s last blog post..Slicing Fimo Nail Art Canes | Sculpey Polymer Clay Cake Toppers

  4. BJ Weems, 11 February, 2009

    Is it possible to purchase the lessons on DVD? We have Internet access through Hughes Net — but we only have a limited amount of download per 24 hours — not enough for me to watch videos for any extended time and also allow time for my husband’s time on the Internet. BJ Weems

  5. Cindy Lietz, 11 February, 2009

    Hello BJ – Thanks for your question. Several others here at the blog have also asked about getting my tutorial videos on DVD. Each time the topic comes up, I try to encourage more feedback so I can gage the overall level of interest. Currently I’m still waiting for more people to speak up before going to the expense of setting things up for DVD distribution.

    If you like, you can type “DVD” into the keyword search box at the top of this page. This will provide you with a list of articles and comment links where the DVD topic has been discussed before. Feel free to leave your comments at these other articles to see if more people will join into the conversations. I would love to be able to make it work.

  6. Sarah Young, 04 April, 2010

    Hi. I really like this article. Another inexpensive way of getting things done. I was actually planning on buying a pin vise but thank God I found this article. :) Anyways, my drill bit is a bit hard and wont bend. what could I do to put a handle?

  7. Phaedrakat, 05 April, 2010

    @Sarah Young: Hi Sarah, did you try putting the bit in a vise and hitting gently with a hammer to bend it? What about asking a big strong man to do it? :-) I’m just guessing, (never tried it,) but maybe using a torch to anneal the metal would soften it enough to bend? Otherwise, you can try roughing up the lower edges of your bit a little by gouging with a file or something, so the clay has something to grip. Make sure the handle covers enough of the bit, at least up to the first few “twists”. If it does come loose later, you can use a good multi-purpose glue to fix it. The one shown in the preview video above works well for both metal and polymer clay. You could also buy some cheaper drill bits — the dollar store kind bends easier… Good luck making your cool, personalized tools!

  8. Sarah Young, 11 April, 2010

    Thanks phaedrakat :) I tried gluing it with a multi-purpose glue and it worked. :) well up to now it does. :) don’t know in the long run. :))

  9. Eileen, 28 May, 2010

    Recently, I saw polymer clay used on a steel crochet hook to increase the size of the grip. I plan on trying this myself but, though I’m fairly crafty, I have never used clay. will the clay adhere the hook or will I need a glue of some sort? Thanks.

  10. Phaedrakat, 29 May, 2010

    @Eileen: Hi Eileen, polymer clay won’t form a permanent bond with metal, so after baking, you’ll have to add some glue. Bake the clay with the hook inside, though, so the hole stays perfect and in the right place. After baking, remove the hook, add glue, and put it back in. There are lots of articles and comments to read here at the blog to help you with your project. Use the search box at the top left of each page and type in things like “conditioning clay” “how to bake clay” etc. for information. Be sure to read the comments under the articles, too, since there’s often even more info there than in the original article.

    If you haven’t chosen a clay yet, you might want to go with Premo Sculpey. It’s available at most arts/craft stores, and an all-around great clay. Cindy’s favorite! Strong, but not difficult to condition. If you decide you want to work with polymer clay for other things, like beads or cool buttons for your crocheted creations, you should check out Cindy’s Polymer Clay Basics Course. It teaches the fundamentals, from choosing a clay to baking to sanding and buffing, and everything in-between. It’s a great way to learn to “do it right.” The link to the course is at the top of the page.

    Good luck with your project! Just leave a comment if you have other questions, and someone will be happy to help. Enjoy working with your clay (be careful, it’s addicting!) ~Kat Riverside, CA ;~D

  11. Eileen, 31 May, 2010

    Thanks for the info Kat. Plan to do it today.

  12. Jocelyn, 11 July, 2010

    LOL! Just had to rebirth this thread! Seems like, thanks to Cindy’s inspiration, just about everything I touch these days is made of polymer clay.

    Over the last few years I’ve redone my bathroom fixtures (poly clay cleans with a steamer beautifully), all my kitchen drawer pulls and door knobs, every pull cord imaginable, the light switches, the electrical outlets, the fridge door handle, made every magnet type available, gone on to cover clips and magnetic clips (clipboard style), pushpins, wall art holders, display stands, whew…..and more. As long as food, ollie ollie in free!

    Something satisfying about covering your inside front door knob with clay and still having it work, lol.

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