I’m not sure why this is the case, but some practices and products commonly recommended for polymer clay (and recommended so fervently) don’t work well for many users. The superficial information commonly shared on social media doesn’t tell the whole story, leading to misunderstandings. Here are some often-recommended and overrated polymer clay products and practices with the missing tidbit of info that should be included.
Use a Dremel for Buffing
As my Sanding and Buffing Course explains, a Dremel rotary tool can allow you to buff to a high shine on polymer clay. But it’s not the best tool for this. The small wheel isn’t fluffy enough, it takes an extremely light touch, and the tool is hard for weak hands to hold. Dremels are good all-purpose tools, but if you want to buy a tool specifically for buffing, there are much better choices (such as purpose-made buffers and converted bench grinders). More info in my course!
This oft-recommended solid paste wax can eliminate the dusky dullness we sometimes see with dark colors (similar to putting lotion on dry skin). But it offers no protection to surface treatments and is easily rubbed off baked polymer clay. Additionally, hand lotion or petroleum jelly will do the same thing at a much lower price.
Dimensional Glazes (eg. Triple Thick)
This category of thick, syrupy, air-dry gloss coatings seems like a great alternative to resin. Not so fast. Sadly, the material softens in humid climates, often turns cloudy, and coated pieces will stick together if they’re touching while stored. Choose a better finish. Here are some to explore.
This solvent-based glue is an old standard for jewelry makers. It works well to bond two rigid surfaces. But it has a very high failure rate on polymer clay. This is because polymer clay is flexible and sudden shock (ie. drops) will cause it to flex, breaking the bond. Additionally, it is often applied poorly and has a short shelf life, compounding its failure rate because it never cures in the first place. Some users have great results with this glue, but in a survey of experienced polymer clay users, E6000 was the top most-regretted purchase.
Gel superglues such as Loctite Gel Control work much better. Two-part epoxies generally work well, too. But remember, glue can fail. For fine jewelry, embed the findings into the clay rather than relying on glue.
Heat Guns for Curing Clay
Polymer clay only reaches full strength when cured hot enough and long enough. While heat guns CAN cure clay, it isn’t easy in practice. If the clay is attached to a larger object, the heat will be drawn away from the clay into the object. Even a bead on a skewer is hard to cure because only one side of the item is heated at a given moment. The other side is cooling rapidly! Heat guns work well to cure thin coatings of liquid clay on small items, but larger pieces are difficult to impossible. It’s always best to bake in an oven for a full cure.
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But I Like Those Products!
That’s awesome! If you’ll notice, I didn’t say that any of these products are total crap. They have their uses! But these products are often recommended blindly, without sharing the caveats and other details that polymer artists need to know to get good results. If you’re using them without problems, you’ve likely already learned the essential details that make them more useful.