Have you ever wanted to create fine detail in a polymer clay piece but didn’t have the right tools? Toothpicks will work in a pinch, but they only come in one size and the wood can be quite rough. Tutorials and lessons often suggest using a “needle tool” for sculpting clay, creating faux embroidery, or making bead holes in unbaked polymer clay. But where do you find a needle tool?
Needle tools are often used with earthenware and metal clays and so you can usually find them in the sculpting section at a craft store. I think this metal-handled needle tool from Metal Clay Supply is quite nice. But it only comes in one size and I prefer to have needle tools in different sizes. Have you ever thought to make your own needle tools? Here’s how to make an entire set.
How to Make Your Own Needle Tools
- Yarn or Needlepoint needles
- Fine gauge craft wire (I used 26 gauge)
- Wire cutters
- Polymer clay, your choice of color (scrap clay would be awesome)
- Yarn needles and needlepoint needles have a blunt tip and a large eye. Other names for these are darning needles and tapestry needles. You can also use chenille needles, which have a large eye and a sharp tip. I bought these at WalMart for a couple of dollars per package.
- I’ve chosen to make needle tools in a range of sizes. Note that the needle on the far right has a sharp point.
- Cut a piece of craft wire and insert it into the eye of the needle. While holding the needle with the pliers, begin to wrap the wire loosely around the eye of the needle.
- Wrapping the eye like this keeps the needle from turning in the handle of the needle tool and gives it more stability. Don’t worry how neatly you wrap. Loose and sloppy is better as it gives more grip.
- Wrap the eyes of all your needles with wire. Note that I used a thicker craft wire for the largest needle.
- Take a lump of clay and form it around the eye end of the needle, shaping the clay as desired to form a handle. You might want a short thick handle or a long, pencil-like one. Take care to snug the clay around the needle to ensure a good hold.
- Bake all of your needle tools at the recommended temperature for 1 hour. The longer bake time ensures a stronger clay handle.
As Part of Your Tool Chest
Needle tools are part of my Indispensable Tool Series, an ongoing series of tools and materials that I find to be completely indispensable in my polymer clay studio. These needle tools are made in a similar way as my Natasha Bead Hand Drill Tools, so you might want to consider making a full set of color-coordinated hand tools for working with polymer clay. You could use the Natasha Bead pattern as I have done here, or you could decorate and embellish the tools any way you would like. I like the idea of using ugly old clay and then covering the handles with slices of intricate and beautiful kaleidoscope canes. Perhaps even make a set in colors to match your studio or your business’s branding. The choice is yours.
Have you ever made your own tools for working with polymer clay? Did you make your own needle tools? If so, I’d love to hear about it in comments. Pictures and links are welcome, too!