Beginner tools
....more misc. tools (hand tools)
... tool "kits"
Handles (clay or other handles for helping grip)
Racks & holders for tools
Heat guns
Dremels + regular drills
.... sanding, buffing, drilling,
......jigs,drill presses, misc & hand drills
Foot pedals
Other elec. cutting tools, mini tablesaw
Work surfaces
Work tables & workrooms
Lights for working, tracing & photography
Brayers, rollers
...pressers, acrylic blocks, etc.
Other tools (airbrushes, etc.)



Beginner & miscellaneous tools

There are just a very few things that are absolutely necessary for working with polymer clay, since most every technique can be done with just those few (though it may take much longer in some cases)
.....also, any other things needed would depend on which kinds of techniques you're using with the clay (sculpting, caning, surface techniques,etc.), and may or not be necessary.

The absolute basics would be:
clay (Characteristics of clay types + polymer clay brands ...also Translucent polymer clays & Mica polymer clays)
--some kind of a work surface (see below) and alcohol or alcohol wipes for cleaning it
--an oven to bake in, a cheapie oven thermometer, and something to bake on (see Baking)
--a round toothpick
--some kind of smooth roller (a straight-sided drinking glass will do in the beginning)

(--and some kind of blade unless you wan t to do only sculpting --see Cutters-Blades)

The next most common tools are discussed on other category pages at GlassAttic:

...pasta machine (almost an essential, at least if you decide to do much polymer clay)'s used for:
..... making even-thickness sheets for many polymer techniques, conditioning clays, mixing colors or mixing in inclusions, as well as some specific techniques like Skinner blends (see Pasta Machines)
(....a hand roller or two is still useful)

..cookie cutters and smaller cutters for cutting shapes from sheets (see Cutters-Blades), materials, and items for making impressions and textures in the clay (see Stamping .... Textures)
.....and mica-based metallic powder (Pearl Ex) in gold or various colors are really fun to have for making holes in beads toothpick, needles of diff. types, needle tool, knitting needles, wooden skewers, etc
........and maybe drill bits used in pin vise or given polymer handles for baked clay
(see Beads-Holes)
...straws of various sizes can be used to make holes in flat clay (Pendants-Cording)

..clay gun for making long strings of clay in various shapes..for framing, Balinese Filigree, etc) (see ClayGuns) specifically for sculpting (mostly discussed on the Sculpting--Tools&Bodies page)

There are a number of other tooks from around the house that could come in handy as well (see more on these below):
...for example, toothpicks/skewers/knitting needles of all sizes, clear-Bic-pen cap, paintbrush handles, Dental tools, crochet hooks, metal cuticle-push-back thingie, orange sticks, golf tees, paintbrushes, sandpaper, plastic mesh, etc., etc.

...other common materials you'll probably already have are cornstarch or baby powder, and water.

Elizabeth's page showing suggestions for tools that beginners might want

Unlike most people who work with polymer I've never used a pasta machine, and I use pretty much the same colors of clay and the same tools I started with:
Keeping costs down
when I started was a real necessity! total cost for these is under $20.00
......My work surface is my kitchen table. It's a tough old thing and cleans easily. No additional cost there. :-)
......Tissue blade. Cost: About $4-5 for a pack of 2.
......Because I needed an assortment of shapes to make my canes, I used the side of a glass coffee cup (or straight-sided drinking glass). Cost: 99 cents. (I still use the same cup as a roller for making sheets!) (she makes mostly small things?)
......Darning needle for making holes in beads. Cost: pennies.
......Clay in basic colors: black, white, yellow, red, blue, and purple. (I mix just about all of the other colors.) Cost varies depending on type and source but figure about $2.00 each.
......Retired baking pan and cookie sheet. Cost: 10 cents each from a yard sale.
......Plastic storage bags for leftover clay. Cost: Around $1.50/box at most grocery stores. Christy H.
You'll also save money by making gifts for people. And they'll love the gifts! Suzanne

more miscellaneous hand tools

(look in individual categories for more info on tools for particular techniques)

A small or large food processor is fairly essential only if you want to break up raw or baked clay into bits or nuggets for various effects, or if you want to work much with the older version of Fimo Classic (to condition it)

You don't need any fancy tools. just look into the garage, the kitchen, the sewing box for everything you need. . . there's a gal in india whose only tool is a toothpick and she cranks out some beautiful items. Sunni

--in general, the round, pointed ones are the ones most used for polymer clay (although the "craft picks," long flat-at-one-end wood picks, are good for applying glue, etc.);
they're used for drilling holes in beads, applying small amts. of glue, poking eye or other hole indentions, etc.
...picking up and placing seed beads
........I use the beads for eyes too, and I made a priceless tool for putting them in. I took a regular, round toothpick and just trimmed the very end of it off. Then I dipped the trimmed end of the tooth pick in white glue and let it dry completely (at least overnight). You don't want a big drop on the end, just enough to cover it. Now, I use that "rubbery end" of the toothpick to pick up seed beads and press them into place perfectly straight. Marilyn glass seed beads that are "eyes" in my bear ornaments. The trick I have found that works at least 90% of the time is to use raw clay that yields a bit (not too stiff) and a toothpick. Rub the end of the toothpick on some fresh (soft) matching colored or translucent clay--just to "wet" the toothpick (yes, I know its not really wet..but they stick better this way--plasticiser, static cling; whatever!) Touch the toothpick into the seed bead hole to pick it up. Press STRAIGHT down into place onto the clay with the toothpick as the "handler/placer" and pull straight up in a smooth motion--AVOID any side to side motion. The trick is to not wobble at all, and this is one of those repetition-makes-it-easier deals. (Even if the bead comes out after baking, theres a nice bead shaped hole for it, and it can be glued back into the spot!) Sarajane H
........I have another "altered toothpick" tool that I took ouside and scraped the tip on a slant a few times on the side-walk to sand it. Now it is a sort of teardrop-ish shape that makes for good tiny eyesockets when used on the slant. The still pointed end I use to poke where the tearduct should be and pull down slightly, to finish the eye shape. . . . They work as tiny smoothers too. Sarajane H.

pins & needles
...I made a tool by putting a clay handle onto a beading needle. The original use was for making holes to let air escape from our (hollow) forms in the oven, but I have since used it as a sculpting tool to make the veins in some very tiny leaves and to make feathers on a big set of angel wings. Because it has a good spring to it, it works great. Jody
.....see below in Handles for putting needles, etc., into clay or other handles
..... see Sculpting > Tools for many more uses for pins & needles, plus multi-pin tools. DB
...I have a bunch of different straight pins....for example, the very short ones used to make sequined ornaments
...and long quilt pins with colorful ball heads . . . ...I snip off the ball heads to use for eyes and embellishments on clay pieces
...the (straight part) of the pin works great for attaching baked clay pieces (I just used the tiny pins to put prebaked clay flames onto baked clay birthday cake candles)
...the pins can also be bent into pinbacks. Jody

for beads especially
....before baking, a toothpick or a "needle tool" (purchased tool with a pointed, long rigid metal rod in metal or wood handle) is usually used to make holes in polymer beads
........for info & suppliers re the all-metal Kemper Pro Needle Tool (best) and also the cheaper PCN Needle Tool with wood handle, see Beads-Holes > Tools for Making Holes
....after baking though, drill bits (held in power drills or embedded in polymer clay handles--bake in place, then pop out and superglue... see more below in Handles) are used to make holes or to enlarge holes which are too small ...polymer is actually soft enough even after baking to twist a drill bit through, if it's on a handle of some kind)
Black & Decker drill bits make very clean cut holes in baked clay (Ai-Ping also uses them for drilling decorative holes in baked clay ...see Vessels > Hollow Boxes)

I have a tapestry needle inserted eye first into a polymer handle. The sharp end is cut off using pliers, and the remaining end filed on a whett stone to a bevel.... I use it for very fine lines where I want the edges a little wider...or for carving already-baked clay. (I made this tool originally for carving rubber stamps.) Rubymac

cutting tools for sheets of clay. . . .you can always use an Xacto knife or the tip of any blade to draw/cut freehand into a sheet of clay, but it doesn't always create the smoothest outline, so some people like to use a more pointed tip to do that:
..... I use a disposable dental pick I found at my local Ace Hardware. It's one of my favorite finishing tools! You can get the same results with a Kemper needle tool though. I just find the bend in the dental pick easier to manipulate. WiseCraft
***(DB: This is the same as Donna Kato’s cutting too? –no, hers is sharper and a bit longer; she uses to cut out a shape from a flat sheet of clay... it has some spring to it but not too much, and a good angle and proportion of bent to straight areas: )
--lesson for making
a really good needle tool (for dragging through raw clay to cut out shapes) need two pairs of needle nose pliers, a sewing needle, and some tubing. Hold the sewing needle with a pliers and heat over a stove flame until bright orange. Remove from heat and bend to 45 degree angle. When cool, scrub the char off of the needle with a fine scrubbing pad and insert in metal tubing packed with polymer clay and bake.. . . You may need to use a little super glue to secure the needle. The 45 degree angle allows you drag the shaft of the needle through the clay to mark your lines and doesn't raise burrs....If you like you can cover the tubing with polymer clay and make it really fancy. Katherine Dewey

.... A straight pin was used to cut out a hand shape from a block of clay that I think was about an inch thick

to measure equal lengths of a cane for cutting:
...I have a really neat 'sewing notion' tool that I use to measure canes.... a "SimFlex Folding Measure"'s designed to help you evenly space button holes when knitting or sewing. I Here is a picture that illustrates it's (originally intended) use: . . . .think it came from "Nancy's Notions." Gail FL
....spring dividers can be used too, but they can be opened to only one measurement at a time
...see also gridded working surfaces below for another way

U-shaped gouges (carving) -- push into clay sheet and rotate in position (with tool perpendicular to clay) to make a perfectly round hole that size for cords or findings (This works with clay raw, or baked if the clay sheet is thin enough)

My favorite tools of all tools are these little screwdriver sets you get at computer stores, etc..... I just picked up another set of 8 tools for $3.00 at Frys. They come in their own little case and everything. I love these things! I do more textures, smoothing, etc with these things. . . . Computer stores have become a great source for me. Hubby shops for computer stuff, I explore for clay stuff I can use. Great source for diff size Exacto blades as well-cheap! Lynda

for stamping and texturing the clay, there are loads of things from around the house that can be used... see Stamping and Texturing for loads of ideas

If I'm having trouble with any of my tools dragging, I dip them in a cup of water then they glide right along.

for picking up clay from a work surface (especially if they're stuck a bit):
...a dull paring knife (a sharp knife won't work as well) You get a feel for the angle you need to use to pull it up with the knife right away--more towards the desk than toward the piece.
a thin & flexible, bent-type pallette knife works well for picking things up too
........Studio by Sculpey now sells a thin bent pallette knife that's pointed ("Lift and Scrape")

pizza cutter, or rotary cutters (they have two wavy blades too)—Olfa brand

Bed Bath & Beyond or a similar kitchen store, I'd recommend picking up a Graham Kerr (Galloping Gourmet) "Bash and Chop" tool (a flat metal rectangle with a wooden piece on top to hold on to?--DB).. . . . It's great for cutting off hunks of clay and also scraping up slices off your working surface, transferring them to baking pans, etc.... Not sharp enough for slicing canes, but will allow you to give your good, sharp blades a rest from routine tasks, and it only costs a few bucks. Suzanne

A lot of quilters go to the hardware store and buy the kind of peephole insert used in front doors; a cheap and effective substitute for a "reducing lens" (so you can see how your colors and patterns will look like when greatly reduced). Jane

"Wet Ones" moist towelettes. One of the few left that still contain alcohol. Good for cleaning tools too.

I love a small spray bottle with water (for spraying water as a release on texture sheets and molds.) Dotty

So......why couldn't one make their own clay shapers out of ElastiClay, using wooden craft sticks for support? You could make *really* small shapers with toothpicks....gotta try that...or using the "eraser" clay. . . DB.
. . . I used rubber gloves, so surface was smooth. They have alot of play in them, pushed pretty hard and didn't break. The hardest thing is getting shapes uniform, but by the 2nd color, I got the hang of it. It helps to have one those rubber glue pads. If your seriously going to try it, e-mail me and I'll 'try' to explain how the pad helps and what to do. Oh, I made sort of a chisled shape, it made smoothing clay real easy ;it’s better than spending 6 bucks on clay shapers. Now the trick is making different sizes.mjburk

I recently discovered a product called Plasti Dip at Home Depot. It is in a tennis ball type can in the Hardware section and also in the section with all the different puttys. It is a liquid and you use it to dip tool handles in to give them a rubber grip. Well, I dipped the tips of lots of my tools in it, including some needle tools, dried out pens, orange stick, nail with pc handle, etc. It worked great. It is a very simple proccess but the stuff can get a little thick. Just read instructions on the can and play around a bit. ClayLadyClay

pastry nails. Traditionally they are used for constructing frosting decorations before sliding them onto a cake. For clay, they can be useful for holding bits of clay while putting them onto a larger object--small cane slices that are being placed onto a large bead, for example. The nail becomes a sort of "portable table" that allows you more freedom of movement. They are lightweight and comfortable to hold. Buy several, load them up with your clay bits, stick the stem into some waste clay, and you're ready to work. The head of the nail is 1.5 inches wide and the stem is 2.25 inches long. The nails shown in the picture cost 99 cents each at Michael's.

Candice's lesson on making a "heart-shaping" tool for shaping logs after rolling --other similar tools could be made for creating new log shapes

And of course there is that really rough rock that when dipped in pearl-ex powder then pressed into the clay creates a wonderful texture. And the burr tips for the Dremel make cool designs when pressed into the clay.

An artist's (METAL roller) paint tube wringer (also used by rubber stampers) because you can make corrugated sheets of paper, thin metal, or thin WIRE (thanks for the tip to Meredith Arnold

When I was a kid, my father was a sign painter. He used one of those little tracing wheels to transfer patterns to the side of a truck so he could then hand letter the truck. He called it a pounce. Here's how it worked: it would make tiny holes in the paper. Then he would tape the paper on to the truck door. Then he would take a little bag of chalk/charcoal and pound (pounce bag) it over the paper pattern leaving the outline of his pattern on the door.
we needed to have a perforation on the tickets. I took a pounce wheel and ground almost all the teeth off leaving teeth shaped like little chisels side by side around the edge. each tooth was just long enough to go through a sheet of paper and slightly into a cardboard backing.
Your idea for the ticket perforation was brilliant!! The last time I did that I used my sewing machine with no thread. . have a good machine you can go through 20 or 30 sheets a pounce wheel has other uses… when I was teaching electronics. . . You lay out a complicated electronic diagram on the paper, and before the students get to the room you powder the faint marks onto a dusty chalk board. If you step back 5 feet you can't see the marks. It leave the students in awe that the teacher could draw such a complex thing from memory. <Grin> Mike B?
(for more on tracing wheels, see Stamping or Texturing)

Some of my favorite tools come from Tandy Leather Besides their leather stamps, I especially like the Curved Spoon Modeling Tool #8037 for smoothing, which is double-ended with a medium stylus.

If you are looking for really cheap and interesting sculpture tools check out your local scientific supply store or university bookstore. The basic tools that they sell to biology students are wonderful for details. At my supplier prices average between $0.19 and $4.50. Lana\

Lee Valley's small brush-like disposable applicators (lifted directly from the dentistry business) let you apply tiny amounts of oil, paint, glue, stain, etc., very accurately and controllably. They are equally good for cleaning hard-to-reach areas. They have articulating necks that let you set them to reach around corners. The ball-head styles (approximately 3/64", 5/64", and 7/64" diameter) have lint-free, non-absorbent fibers that have quite good fluid-holding and flow characteristics. The 1/16" diameter brush head has 1/4" long bristles. All brush styles are about 4" long and are available in packs of 10 or as a set of 40...,110,42967

for info on eyedroppers and syringes (which are useful for applying inks, drizzling Liquid Sculpey, and applying glues to small areas, etc.) see Inks, Liquid Clays and Glues.

Things to color the clay (metallic powders, powder make-up, paints, inks, etc.)

tool "kits"

There are various "tool" kits that are made for clays of all kinds... most aren't worth the money IMO for polymer clay because they're either oriented toward sculpting with earth clay, or made for kids and modeling clay, etc. ...Some kits have been created for polymer clay (DB: look up any good ones), but unless you'll want everything that's included in a kit, it's usually better and cheaper to just buy tools individually.

Bead Making Tool Set put out by Amaco (US distributor for Fimo products) .. still available?... price? (for the little you get)
......7 tools for making beads which they're given their own "names" to... the package includes:
...wet/dry sandpaper ...straight cutting blade (long, presumably flexible)
...a sponge ...can't tell what kind of sponge they're including but must be flat because the packaging is flat... not sure what they suggest using this for
...2 "mandrels" ..2 metal rods (diff. diameters) for stringing beads on, then baking them suspended, or for applying finish
.."Roller Bead" template ... plastic stencil as guide for cutting long triangles from sheet of clay to make rolled-up beads (aka, "magazine beads")
..."Dimple" tool ...?? ordinary ball-tipped embossing tool, or more of a needle or blunt needle tool?... suggested us is to make a "guide dimple" in a raw clay bead (for drilling the actual hole after baking with a drill bit)

HANDLES (clay, etc.)

temporary handles

A metal tool called a pin vise can tightly hold round-shaft items like needles or small drill bits down to a #80 -- which is about half the thickness of most human hair!!
......... tiny drill bits and set of bits at PolymerClayExpress... their pin vise *stores the extra bits*), or buy at hardware or hobby store
.... an Xacto knife handle can also be used to hold tiny drill bits, as well as Xacto blades. JAN

permanent clay handles

Handles (large and small) can be made to hold needles, drill bits, carving bits (gouges), Xacto or other blades, wire shapes for stamping, etc., with polymer clay (this makes them into usable hand tools)... they can even be made to fit your own grip.

*more of Celie’s tool handles (including handles for a seam ripper, rolling texture, awl)
. . . she also mentions breaking a tissue blade in quarters then embedding one in a handle
Mile High Polymer Clay Guilds many wonderful tools with handles on both photos)
Dar's many tool handles
Katherine Dewey's handles & info on tools

Celie also mentions breaking a long tissue blade in quarters, then embedding one in a polymer handle
...Jean S. broke her tissue (?) blade into a shorter length by repeatedly bending it at one place ... the metal fatigued at that spot, and eventually broke

Letting the clay rest at any point in making the clay handles below will also help to keep an even shape and thickness.

One way to make a handle for a needle or drill bit (or whatever), is to form the raw clay around the needle or bit (pressing well), bake, then remove the needle, and glue back in with superglue.
...sometimes it's not necessary to remove the needle/bit and glue it (after baking, pull on it to check how tightly it's held, then decide if needed)

Especially for tools which can't go in the oven use the same two-step process.
.....cover the handle area with paper, or with another release like perhaps cornstarch
.....then create the clay cover around it
.....carefully pull or twist off the clay covering (and paper if you've used it) --chill the clay first if using a soft clay like Sculpey or FimoSoft
....bake the covering ( hold the hole open if necessary --depending on the size of the hole and the thickness of the clay covering-- put a skewer/etc or a roll of paper of the right diameter inside the hole to keep it exact, or stuff it with a tissue/fiberfill/etc)
.....while clay is still warm, or when cool, push the cover back onto the hook handle with glue (a two-part epoxy glue or E-6000 or even superglue would work, or probably even permanent white glue).
..bunnyboo covers the back half of her crochet hooks with clay... creating a wider area with a depression halfway up the hook, at the top of the clayed area, for a thumb to rest in
(for more on crochet hooks and knitting needles, see Mixing Media > Knitting, Crocheting)

(for more on handles, especially if you have hand-arm, strength, or muscle problems, see Disabilities > Tools for some ideas on making specialized handles with clay and with other materials)

mechanical holds:
...sometimes it's possible to make a kink of some kind in the enclosed end of a needle or wire, so that the clay can actually be closed around it forming one kind of mechanical hold keep the needles anchored in the clay, what I've found that works well is to use very thin wire through the eye of the needle and then a couple of twists around the eye. ....some "tooth" for the clay to grab. Patty B.
...i smooshed a wee bit of clay through the eye of the needle first, then proceeded to do my handle ..have had no problems with them. Sandie

It can be a problem to get a needle, e.g., exactly centered along its whole length though a clay rod handle (that may not make much difference for most tools though). . . here are some ideas for centering exactly:
---wrap successive sheets of clay around a bit the way canes are wrapped (so that they butt exactly, rather than overlapping) ... would be more fiddly for a thin needle though
......these can be rolled a bit after wrapping to lengthen, but not too much or may lose consistency of thickness
---create a stack of 2 or more thick pasta machine sheets... cut in two parts ... lay needle or bit across the top of one stack, then add the second stack on the needle and the first one (this creates the same depth for two of the 4 sides)
......(if bit is thick, gouging out a trough from the clay on both sides approx. half the depth of the bit will help to keep the amount of clay exactly equal)
......the tricky part would be trimming the stack so the 3rd and 4th cuts are equal to each other, and also the same width as the stack is high (could cut off a bit of the stack to use as a measurer?)
......then roll carefully to round it (or bake first, then add finger grip only to the rectangular handle... or add more clay, roll to round, rebake)
---use an extruded clay rope to wind around the needle/bit ... gently roll to round, or do the bake-first method as just above

---another way might be to use methods similar to making tube beads:
...start with a ball or short tube of clay at the center of a rod or skewer... roll it while at the same time stroking the clay out from the center
...SaraJane Helm had us make a clay "hot dog bun" about three inches long and maybe a half inch in diameter ...we sliced the bun lengthwise (halfway) way through, then set our wire or knitting needle into the cut, and sealed the cut .... then we started rolling and pulling outward. .. The main problem with doing these is (the hole widens) and gets baggy. . . .If that happens, she saysyou need to twist the clay back firmly (trying to keep even?) and then roll more. Dott
.... I use Premo for its extra stickiness or I end up with floppy holes in the tube. Jody

---or use dissolvable armatures: cornstarch clay or rods?
use something which is already exactly centered, but which can be removed? ... see Cornstarch for ideas?
.....or use Fimo Release Gel (or an equivalent superglue debonder ---see Glues for details) to be able to remove something from baked clay?

---or to use methods similar to making centered holes in beads
...I am thinking I could work out a system where I could just slide the Dremel along (flat on its side) to each bead, and go straight in. Jean
......(application for rods, baked or raw?)

Underlying my polymer clay handles are aluminum tubes ....a tube cutter, available at (hardware stores and) hobby shops ... is a device made for cutting small metal tubes and works just like a pipe cutter. . . . at Arrowmont, Christopher Hentz introduced a tube cutting method that required no special device, simply a strong, sharp blade (roll tube back and forth under the knife blade). Katherine Dewey
....(now I make) handles over hollow knitting needle armatures:. . . aluminum knitting needles sizes 10 and up are hollow so you can pack them with clay and add some kind of tip, then bake tip or "bit" might be a wire loop to use as a gouging tool for sculpting. Katherine Dewey
.......for much more on this method, plus a workaround for cracked clay if not using extremely leached clay inside the tubes, see Sculpting-Bodies&Tools > Tools > More . . .
....could use small or thin polymer tubes instead??? as with one of the tube bead methods?

I was buying those 12 inch copper tubes at the hardware store, then cutting them in pieces . . . I will fill them with liquid polymer (will this work???) and make handles for tools with them. Gail

Small holes can also be created in prebaked handles by first heating a pin (held in pliers) over a flame till red hot, then quickly pressing into the clay to make a hole.... there will be a small puff of smoke (don't inhale), and a tiny corkscrew of clay will emerge. ...then insert the needle or bit (which probably should be slightly smaller than the one you burned the hole out with) into the hole of the cooled handle with a bit of superglue.


RACKS, holders for tools

"tool holder" swap --covered cylinders of PVC (will be glued together to a lazy susan) (okay, Epson)
canejane's cane covered pill bottles (she will glue them to a lazy susan for holding tools)

Tandy also makes an inexpensive plastic tool rack with round holes for 36 tools plus an X-Acto knife. It's about 7" wide x 2.5" deep x 3" high. Really keeps things organized.
I have a handy-dandy, little lazy susan type thing that holds my tools.
...I'd love to have one of those magnetic tool bars to keep them separated and organized.
I just got an order from Micro Mark and bought these magnetic tool holders that you mount onto a wall and then just flip the tools onto the bar and they just hang there! Kind of like the reverse effect of refrigerator magnets

"samplers" for holding tools. . . It's a great idea to cover something with polymer slices (or other things) when you're first getting started (or at any stage along the route for that matter). I covered a tall drinking glass with samples of all my "first" canes (it was for my mother-in-law who was interested in what I was doing ... but I covered a second one for myself while I was at it). I just love having it now.. . . I use my covered drinking glass now as a holder for things like dental tools and paint brushes ( but I could also cover smaller jars/glasses --or perhaps make a draped bowl-- to use for smaller tools, glue containers, q-tips, etc., or even cover PVC pipe or toilet paper rolls to cover for tall tools too.) )
Come to think of it, I should have done this even more . . . it's stimulating to have all those samples from the first glass right there while I'm working on other things. Now I'm thinking I should make "samplers" of other things too: for example, maybe powders colors, types of mokume gane, or different ways to use striped stacks, etc., etc,. . . . maybe even molds. Or a collage of various things might be nice too.
Maybe it would be easier to keep a few "category" glasses or jars going all the time, then just add the newest sample with a bit of Sobo or superglue and bake when one gets full enough. . . could always add more later that way too. Diane B.

Jean S. created a multi-blade, multi-tool holder from a large half-ball or half-oval of clay... she created grooves for the blades to rest in (sharp edge down), and holes to stand various other tools in

For bead racks and other ways to hold beads while baking or while finish is drying, etc., see Beads > Baking, Suspending & Finishing


Heat guns can be used to set or partially set clay
... and to partially cure liquid clays (in layers, or for transfers, etc.) prior to baking

There are several kinds of "heat guns" available (...some go up to higher temps than others).

"embossing guns" (from Michaels, etc., in the rubberstamping area) intended for melting embossing powders after rubberstamping, are the lowest temperature guns relative to the others (cost $20-30 usually...can use 40% coupon at Michaels)
....Genesis also sells a heat gun for curing their Genesis paint (which has two settings), but it's around $50
....most craft heat guns only go to 600°
... I use a heat gun all the time. I recently bought one by Marvy that I love called the "Marvy/Uchida Embossing Tool". My older, first generation embossing gun for rubber stamping was too powerful and got too hot. You had to be very careful not to burn things. ...This one is perfect, quieter and the tip is insulated so it's much harder to burn oneself. Libby
....The very small heat guns that look like mini hair dryers will also work if all you are doing is curing TLS, but if you are trying to cure regular clay I'd go with a full size model. Libby
... I have a long and purple one by Darice...but I prefer the other one I bought from Walmart (small white) because it doesn't blow the air so hard (they both heat up the same IMO). So I dont use the Darice one anymore, I use the walmart one for everything. Jeannie

hardware store heat guns (used for paint stripping, shrink wrapping, etc.) are also available (or automotive supply stores?)...cheaper to buy ...I got one with 2 heat settings at Home Depot for around $10.00- 15.00
... those guns usually have more settings for higher heat (up to 1100° or so), so they may have to be set farther away from the piece than a rubberstamping one
....I am a rubber stamper but I use a paint stripper (same as a "regular" heat gun) to emboss, and to heat anyting that needs some heat.
.....this kind is made to withstand the hot air returning into the nozzle ...embossing guns are not made to take this hot air return and can burn out quickly (???). (technically you are supposed to hold a rubber stamping heat tool on an angle to allow the hot air to escape...this has proven to be a big pain.) Jan/Toronto
....Jan's right, a paint stripper will work okay ....just be careful with them because of the higher heat possible. Dotty in CA

To test the temp of any heat gun, Kathleen Dustin says to aim it at an oven thermometer (which is sitting on something heat proof!) for some seconds, and then read the resulting temp until you find the best distance for 275 or 300 degrees, or whatever you need.
... always wave the gun back and forth when curing ....rather than holding steadily on one spot.
Bunny's lesson & explanation on using an embossing heat gun (to cure fingers of a sculpture to a certain shape, in this case)... she waves over the area from 6-7" away ....for 1 -2 minutes
... then to check if it's heated enough, she sees if it will move or if her fingers will leave fingerprint impressions (not cured enough).

One reason to use a heat gun is because a polymer item may be awkward to put in an oven as in insetting polymer into a large or outdoor item, for example
... or to help something "dry"/cure more quickly ... or in steps.

If you make a figure out of clay and keep a heat-gun handy, you can heat sections of the figure AS you build him and save yourself the trouble of needing an armature. ...The technique works REMARKABLY well
.... it saves propping them up during baking... and the heartbreak of splitting.
....The baking may not be complete <always> but you'd be surprised how this material TRANSMITS heat throughout its structure (heat a foot and the WHOLE THING hardens). I doubt you get maximum strength (could repeated partial baking be a problem?), but it's perfect for small original sculptures with protruding parts.
....The only thing you have to watch for is NOT to overheat the thin parts, or they'll scorch and even burn.. so just 'waft' over it.

At Arrowmont, Kathleen Dustin said she used one to cure small add-ons to pieces
...(I think usually when backfilling a carved line).

If I had to go on a retreat etc...or can bet if taking clay that the heat gun would be right with me. Jacqui
....could also help just to firm up clay a bit to avoid getting squished in transit

Garie has a lesson on using any heat gun (but not an embossing one because no heat return??) to create your own oven for baking polymer clay.

(see more in Liquid Clays ... and in Baking > Other Ways to Cure)

DREMELS (& other rotary tools) + DRILLS
(for cutting, carving, sanding, buffing, drilling)

(...for other small rotary electric tools which can be used for filing or buffing, see Buffing > Other Electrics) ... Dremel has the most known version of a hand-held "rotary tool." . . . there are several versions and prices; get variable speed if you can.
There are battery-operated ones (get a second battery if poss.), and corded ones.
One accessory which can be purchase or comes with some models is called a flex shaft.... this is a long, rubbery tube (18" long?) which attaches to the tool at one end... the other end is the actual bit, and that part's rigid so it can be held like a pencil (barrel about the size of a magic marker). The flex shaft can allow the bits to be used more precisely, away from the tool itself, and at more angles.

lots of info on Dremels, using them and the different kinds and accessories

Be careful working with a corded (not battery-operated) Dremel anywhere near water . . . humans make a good electrial ground!!! If you splash any water in the motor of the tool, it could short out and you could get a jolt or worse. ...Make sure your hand that's holding it is dry.

some uses for Dremels
(see more details in sub-categories below)

It's been great for buffing both small and large pieces.... when using a muslin (or felt, or other fluffy) wheel, I can get a glass like finish.
...It can also be used for sanding with certain bits and techniques

I also use mine to grind off any rough edges, and to drill and reopen small holes.

It also can be used to engrave (carve) without damage to the piece and with a wide range of accesories, the possibilities are endless! This is my second favorite tool (right behind the pasta machine!) Diane, creaturecreator electric tool for carving really isn't necessary as the cutter goes through the baked clay like it was butter! Besides, the speed of a power tool would melt rather than carve the clay (???). tinidril (see Carving for using hand gouges, etc.)

carving: Also other fun bits to use are the tiny carving bits for a Dremel. I tried doing that and it worked out quite nicely. -NF
Lisa Pavelka's lesson on Carol Duvall, carving pattern through goose eggshell with Dremel,1158,CRHO_project_35082,00.html

If you are going to make wood display cases, or stands, etc., plexi cases and other show-offs for your PC, the Dremels are quick, invaluable. If you do any casual woodworking you would want a Dremel.. If you do more than casual woodworking, you would want to invest in more substantial machinery such as Foredom buffer, full sized machinist lathe, drill press, etc.. Our Dremels are always set up, ready to use at a moments notice (as router, shaper, drill, buffer, sander, etc). Bigger, heftier machinery is also set up, but out in the barn..... I sometimes use the Dremel to carve designs into cured blocks of clay to be filled with contrasting clay......a quick buffing... cut-off parts for joints...etc. Sammy (I'm a girl)

I have had a Dremel for almost a year now, and it's mostly collected dust. It just seemed to take forever and I was always recharging it. Now, I've found uses for it that I hadn't thought about. Last week, I was making puff beads (ala Dotty Mc) and the edges didn't fit together evenly (do they ever?). A touch with the Dremel evened out the edges. Kim K.

I was making a rock purse and had some intricate detail....that Dremel got into places I couldn't with sandpaper. Kim K.

Sometimes I just can't get the hole to go all the way through a long bead just using the needle tool. Not too good at eyeballing the exact center. ...So I poke both ends as well as I can and (after baking?) use a small drill bit with the Dremel. Kim K.

I use the Dremel a good deal. ...for clay I clamp it into a vise, then move the clay onto it unstead of it onto the clay. Marty
......I have a small vise that I lay my dremel in (putting the on/off switch on top where I can get to it easily). This holds the dremel in place and steady and I can use it like a foredom buffer or bench grinder depending on what wheel I have on it. Elise
...It's a pain to hold a bead and control the buffer at the same time and I even have the extension attachment that goes with it (easier to hold but more cord for me to get tangled in). The idea of having BOTH hands free is going to change my whole outlook on this sanding and buffing business! Michele H.
You can get a drill stand for the Dremel. Then set up the Dremel with buffing wheel (vertically) in the stand and treat it like a table buffer.Judi
...and if you want more power, or to work with a larger wheel... you can also clamp a regular drill to a table & use it like a table buffer as well. (just make sure it's stable). Joanie

Lately I've been wondering if I could use it to make some textures in (on?) the clay, but haven't gotten a Round Tuit. Was thinking about putting TLS on unbaked clay, adding powder and setting the Dremel on low. Nother one for the someday list. Kim K.

For those of you who are still hand buffing your clay things, you may want to look into a Black and Decker Wizard Rotary Tool. I just got one the other day for $40.00. Thought the muslin wheel attachments sold in a set with other items was a bit expensive (there are many brands of small rotary tools... Dremel was the first?)

Wal-Mart carries Dremel tools and accessories, including the drill press attachment…

Also, there is a book put out by Dremel that is free. One should come with the tool if you buy it but they often have them at stores where the accesories are. It had dremel's recommendation for different bits for which job and what speed it recommends. Nitefalcon

Cordless rotary tools

What do you want to do with it? I LOVE my little Mini Mite...the smallest dremel, and is portable. It has a rechargeable battery pack...and yet stays charged for a long time. It is about $30.00 in a hardware store. You do need to buy extra drill bits and the collett that holds them in the drill. You can buy them down to 1/64 in size (if you can find them!) add another $10.00 or so for assessories. It works absolutely wonderful.....and is variable speed, btw.
...I have two of the Mini-Mite dremels. They are great!!! Easy to handle, and travel with. I make buffing wheels by making approx. 2" circles from polyester felt and putting as many as possible on the mandrel with a screw in the top. I can usually get about 8 or 9 felt pieces on. The battery will last about 2 hrs. of pretty constant use. I have two of them, so I can charge one battery while using the other one. The Mini-Mite is great for buffing, drilling holes, and even etching. They also don't make as much noise as some of the others. Best money I ever spent. Judi

. . . the Dremel, or the Craftsman rechargable rotary tool, sells for about twenty five dollars, is better than the big dremel for drilling holes in beads! ?????Two speeds and the ability to hold the drill in any direction does make a big difference!! I actually have 3 cordless dremels and a big regular dremel and at this point rarely turn on the big one!!! <I have 3 so I can have different drill bits or different grits on at the same time!!! Leigh

In my experience the cordless Dremels are not as easy to handle, since they are a lot larger around to accomodate the battery. I'd only suggest cordless if you were going to be doing a lot of work away from an outlet. Andrea
There are two models of cordless Dremel. One is a "hobby" version, which I think has only one speed, and the other is a two-speed. The two-speed, which is what I have, is more powerful and of course more expensive than the "hobby" model. I bought the cordless version for the convenience of being able to work in various places without having to crawl around behind the furniture looking for outlets (dangerous in my house -- the dust bunnies outweigh me and tend to get hostile when I invade their territory). The cordless Dremel works nicely for buffing, although I very quickly found that I needed an extra battery. I keep one charging and one in the tool, and not infrequently need to switch to the new battery during a long buffing session, particularly if I've been using the higher speed.
One downside of the cordless models is that you can't use the flex shaft attachment with them. Some of the other Dremel equipment (like the drill press) also doesn't work with the cordless models. I haven't found this to be a huge problem. Thalassa

~I have a 5 speed electric dremel and when I (tried to drill the hole in my bead, the drill bit bent!). This was on the lowest speed which is 5,000 rpm. Thankfully I always wear my goggles when I work with the dremel.....Corgi
...Ah, but it was an electric dremel, I believe that that has too much power and that's why it probably did that, I use a rechargeable dremel with only two speeds and it never gets going that fast and doesn't have the same power behind it. Leigh

Flex Shaft & basic Dremel

And if possible, invest in the flex shaft attachment too (a long rubber tube-like extension of the chuck itself)! ...that you can actually put in water because there are no electrical parts at the end of it!! Joan
...flex shaft . . . I used a coat hanger to make a hook to hang the Dremel from the cabinet over the sink ... this keeps the shaft straight (if you bend it, the inside cable slows down or binds, and that sucker get's hot and eventaully it will ruin the motor, shaft and the Dremel itself. Way too much stress on it, you can actually hear it bog down. Joan
since I have the flex-shaft extension on it, I hold the rotary tool in my right hand ... it rotates the OPPOSITE direction.... .I MOVE the buffing wheel rather than bringing the piece to the wheel...Kim
...I cannot use sand paper. It aggravates my arthritis in my hands too much. I had not heard of the Dremel flex tool. I may look at it as it might be helpful for me if I don't have to hold it too tightly with my fingers. I wouldn't give up on the Dremel. It just takes time to learn how to use it. . connie
...The flexible shaft is so much easier to hold; you don't have to control so much weight as you do with holding the actual Dremel tool itself. And for the same reason, it's easier to control than holding the actual tool. If you have problems with your arms or hands, the flex shaft is wonderful! Barb
...I have found a couple of things that have made it easier for me (with my joint problems)...I use a dremel for just about everything.I have a flexi grip. If you don't have one you might want to try one.Its a long atachment that is snake like. It s what you hold onto instead of the dremel.It's real easy to maneuver . . . . actually I also just got a foot speed control. I think it like a sewing machine pedal.It slows down the wheel to as slow as you want it.Or as fast. . . .On my good days I sand w/ 600-then-1500 grit always w/water.Then i go to town w/my dremel.I prob.just told you what ya already know.But if i can help a fellow sufferer even a little i don't mind looking a little foolish..Have fun , Dawnie

I get it all hooked up on the dremel side okay, but when I want to put a piece in the tip, I can't figure out how to grip it closed. Shelly
... If it's like mine, there is a small hole near where the bit goes in...on the put the back end of an extra shaft or bit in there to hold it still and screw the holding part around. Anna
...don't need anything special now though?

If you want to use a Dremel tool, try to get a variable speed model, and use a flex-shaft extension. No one seems to be mentioning how much easier the process is to control with this add-on. It seems to work best by suspending the Dremel tool, and not putting a whole lot of bend on the flexshaft.

Those with flex shaft tools might want to take a hint from the glass engravers. They secure the handpiece in a vise on the bench, then use both hands to hold a piece up to the bit. LOTS more control and pieces are less likely to go shooting across the room when you're using both hands to hold on! Donna in Dallas


Be sure to wear a eye protection and also a mask any time you sand with a machine. This will result in a LOT of dust flying around.

...soaking the wet-dry sandpaper for awhile before use will allow it to drape around the polymer object as much as possible
......using just a drop of soap or Photo Flo in the water should do a better sanding job too

...write the grit number of the sandpaper all over the back of each sandpaper sheet with a permanent marker before cutting it up!'ll be glad you did because the cut-up pieces often won't show one of the preprinted grit numbers.

other materials that might work for sanding:
....various sanding pads .... or 00 steel wool
....felt or rubber tips for rotary tools and stitched muslin wheels are coarse enough to "sand" with
....or Desiree even suggests a pile of diatomaceous earth (holding the bead firmly in the middle of a pile?)

needle "bit," holding rotating clay bead (or pen)

For sanding a small quantity of beads, I use a rechargeable cordless Dremel.
... the beads must be round,,oval,, tubular, or conical though
..... (I remember reading a post from Leigh Ross at PCC a couple of years ago about how she uses a drill for sanding her beads. I don't remember the exact details about how she does it, but I was able to adapt her idea to my Dremel)
....the only special adaptation I need for my Dremel is a different sized collet (wider diameter?) --that's the collar which holds the drill bit
.......I bought a set of large-sized doll needles at Michael's in the embroidery section (and use the largest or second-largest needle)
...... insert the needle
eye-first into the collet, and tighten
.......then push the already-drilled bead snugly onto the end of the needle
.......hold the spinning bead against varying grits of wet sandpaper, moving the sandpaper over the bead so that it will sand the entire surface.
The Dremel is so powerful that you only need a few seconds at each grit. I can take a bead from rough to glass-smooth in about 30 seconds, spending just a few seconds at each grit.
... be careful to center the hole as precisely as possible....a poorly-centered hole will not allow the bead to spin evenly
...About the only problem you may have is losing the bead off the tip of the needle sometimes. You don't want to jam the bead too hard onto the needle, 'cause it my crack the bead. Eventually you learn the appropriate amount of force to use, but you're gonna have an occasional bead go astray anyway. Elissa

I've also mounted my pen on a drill bit that had been put in a regular? drill backwards (so it wouldn't drill into the pen).
...I held small pieces of sandpaper or different grits against it in sequence while the pen was spinning. (frequently wetting, dipping in water with Dawn, etc.) It goes very fast! I got this idea from Leigh putting her beads on the Dremel to spin while being sanded
.... I found I could only use a 1.5" square piece of sandpaper once for best results. Basically each little piece could do one pen. (so 4 grits, 4 pieces of paper per pen.) I just kept a little bucket for discards and went whizzing through. Sarah

Could try laying the drill down on it's side, or putting it in a drill press, which might be good too for freeing up both hands

...this might be good for people with hand/wrist problems though you'd want to move your wrist as little as possible, perhaps just angling the Dremel up and down which would cover all the areas of a round bead.

other things used as "sanders" Dremel's solid felt bits (or rubber) or stitched muslin wheels
(these are not the stacked bits of felt used for buffing--see Buffing below for those)

I use the Dremel's muslin buffing wheel itself, but also wet my finger and wet the wheel (I don't stick the the buffing wheel in the water) . .. I first start on the fast speed and then go to the slow speed... it's so much better and faster than sandpaper (when I first started doing this, I couldn't use the slow speed without it going out of control, but now I can) . . . I also use a mask. Connie
...Gwen Gibson uses a stitched muslin buffing wheel wheel on her large power buffer a bit like a mild sander (could do the same with a Dremel muslin wheel?)... since the stitched wheel is stiffer than the unstitched one we prefer for buffing, it will actually remove baked clay (...from edges fo things, for example, to make them rounded).

I find the Dremel's little shaped felt bits are great to do the initial, very rough sanding. . . these are great and they take the high parts off, and do it MUCH faster than hand sanding. Plus, they dont scratch like the rough sandpaper.
The little felt tip buffers are really good for shaping and grinding clay, but, they don't "smooth" or "shine" it very well, if at all.

There are also rubber tips with embedded silicon carbide....these come in a number of shapes. I suspect that this would act like fine grit sandpaper.

polishing points (blue, pink, and maybe grey?) from jewelry supply places .... good especially for small surfaces.... (first I do some regular wet sanding by hand). ..then I use a polishing point to sand it even finer (these are not the regular dremel bits).... I got mine at Metalliferous.

Also, I had a friend who got some dental tool bits that fit into a dremel, and one of them was also like a fine sander.

adapting the disks & bits

With the sanding you might want to try making a sanding disk of the size sandpaper you want
. . . just make sure whatever you used, test it first because the added speed could make even an 800 grit (which normally takes a while to sand something) sand through the clay quite quickly. NF
In Dremel's little book of recommendations, you can take any kind of sandpaper you want, and cut it into a disk then use it with a particular shaft (which one I don't remember). This will eat through the clay very fast. ...So will most of the other dremel bits with any kind of grit in them (including the rubber bits with grit)

I used one of the round flat sanding disks that came with mine as a template, then cut all different sandpaper grades just a hair bigger... it is a PITA but worth it. Joan

I came up with a great way to make sanding discs for my Dremel. I couldn't believe the cost of the pre-cut disks. . .I have a circle cutter I used for memory book things. I set the cutter to the desired size (just slightly larger than the pre-made sanding discs). I was able to cut 20 in a matter of a few minutes, and with a full sheet of sandpaper you can really make quite a few. I am able to mount these on my mandrel. I now have at least 20-30 of each grits in a nice storage case, all organized and ready to use. This saves alot of time, and stress on your fingers, not having to cut them out one at a time..... (I have a new digital Dremel that allows me to drill as slow as 5000, which is what I use most of the time for everything, sanding and drilling.)... I do not touch the surface very hard, just lightly. I actually count the passes on each disk, then move to the next item, or the next grit. This way I attempt to sand each disk the same amount of time, to hopefully ensure a smoother finish. I only touch the sanding disc on an angle (sides), so I don't scratch into the item with the mandril screw.Dar
....I don't have a ciricle cutter I just cut it by hand but I always mark the back of them so I know which is which grit. 2 for 200 3 for 300 and so on!! . . . Nite
... I use 200 up to 1500 grit. it just takes a really light touch!!! Joan

the round rubber pads (thick disks?) that come with the Dremel can be used as a holder for the sandpaper ...... cut a piece of sandpaper about the size of the pad, and apply the paper on the pad, and then fasten with a pin (it doesn't have to be exactly round but the closer the better) ..... you'll then use the top of the disks instead of the side . . .

cut-off zinc screws
(& polymer shapes or glue sticks as sandpaper holders/forms)

This idea is for a cordless dremel (or flex shaft) but I am sure can be adapted for other stuff.
...First I started with the # 5 size zinc screws which are 1 1/2" long, and I cut the heads off like it says to do in Des's tut: (see below in Buffing for using these screws for adding more than one buffing wheel)
... then I either embedded them into polymer and cooked them. . . .or I screwed them into 1/2 wide glue sticks
....(and on a couple I used the felt Dremel buffing pads I also have a Foredom, but since most of the time I buff little things like beads, like you, I like using my Dremel. My Dremel (and the like) is small and light and, "it comes to me", instead of me having to "go to it", so to speak. In other words, I don't have to specially mount it. I can sit at my project table and simply reach for it, hold it in one hand and buff. Recently, I've discovered that offset squares, as opposed to circles, seem to do quite a bit better for buffing clay, and it's easier to make, plus wastes less material. Desiree ).
...I cut out sandpaper to fit around each form....I made a form for each grit size ...I think having the paper longer than the form is a wonderful diea....helps with the nooks and crannies)
(one trick....make sure the overlapped sandpaper won't flap out when the dremel is overlap it in the opposite of the spin direction)
...I used rubber cement to secure the sand paper to the forms....(when it is time to change grits, I just change the form....and when the sandpaper itself gets shot, rip it off and glue another one in its place) . . .I can make one sandpaper set up last for three eggs or pendants. (I am working on a fast change on the paper...but haven't found the "perfect" way yet :) Kathi
...I am thinking maybe some sort of tacky substance to hold it on rather than glue. Like "Quake gel" (that holds stuff to shelves during earthquakes, but lets the crystal loose when you want to have a drink...)... maybe stick-backed Velcro? Sara ......Is quake gel the same stuff as "museum putty"? Pamela (they are similar)
I tried each one of the forms out and this is what I found:
...the polymer ones work best on large items with the larger grits, for rapid grind down.
...the glue stick ones work well at all grits on all sizes of things.
...the felt buffer ones work well on things you want the sandpaper to conform to
.......I stuck the sanding tips in the water, and the item to be sanded in the water, then pulled them out and sanded away.
......(I sanded to a 1500 grit and then flecto or future added) took me more time to change grits then it did to sand the items
(I had remembered the tut Desiree has on her site for making a bigger buffer for the dremel and went from there ...thank you Des!!) Kathi

I have a several small sanding drums for my Dremel, but they were really coarse grits - until I glued on my own sandpaper grits, LOL! . . . You do have to really careful not use too much pressure or you'll get dips... I like your idea of making a longer, bigger drum. katbyte

Grinding, shaping, cutting

a Dremel is a cool thing to have for other stuff. If you want to try shaping PC with it ,stick to a reatively coarse sanding mini drum or burr because it will clog up finer grits. Jody

With the right burr (a rotary file for smoothing rough edges), you can drill seaglass, stone or china shards to string with your PC beads. Jody

Just a word of caution here! Grinding stones for the Dremel or other high speed tools are not safe for aluminum. This soft metal clogs the stone. The stone will over heat and EXPLODE! To shape aluminum use high speed steel cutters or drills, and hand files. Always wear safety goggles when using a Dremel type tool. I have been hit in the face several times over the years when cut off discs break (fortunately no injuries) --and cut off discs always break. Steve

. . the plastic that is used for picture framing (acrylic?) . . . I cut the design with my dremmel tool cutter. It is smelly as the placitis smells when you cut it. Make sure you use some eye protection. After I cut it I buff the edges so they are not sharp. Diana


I have a (tabletop) Foredom buffer in addition to my Dremel, but since most of the time I buff little things like beads, I like using my Dremel.
....My Dremel (and the like) is small and light and, "it comes to me", instead of me having to "go to it", so to speak. In other words, I don't have to specially mount it. I can sit at my project table and simply reach for it, hold it in one hand and buff. Desiree

Most buffing just requires a light hand with the piece being constantly moving across the face of the buffing surface. Patty B.

If you have a lot of beads to buff, then you might try laying your Dremel on its side with the shaft and wheel sticking out well past the table/counter (use a Quick Clamp or C-clamp to hold it in place)..... Turn it on. and then you'll be able to hold your object with both hands and move it back and forth against the wheel.
....I like to put a number of beads on a metal rod (piano wire works well) or a bamboo skewer ....then for buffing I hold them on the rod, parallel to the floor (this allows the beads to rotate against the wheel and the wire keeps them from flying away).
....usually I start at one end and do 2 at a time they are finished, I slide them off into a container. Kind of an assembly line system. Patty B.

Things not to use when buffing polymer clay (as opposed to buffing metal, stone, glass, etc.)
....It's important to remember that polymer clay is much more susceptible to heat than metal and many other materials that Dremels are optimized for. So the buffing wheel materials and the way they're constructed is important, to make sure they don't damage the clay surface. They need to be soft, 'loosey' (or flexible) to give and to grab lots of air as the buffing material flies by against the clay. Desiree
.......Dremel's regular "polishing" disks (hard, shaped felt, etc.)... are too hard/stiff and will EAT through the clay very quickly (those polish wheels are all are designed for things much harder than clay)
......One reason to avoid the small muslin wheels made for Dremels is that they are really too hard unless you rip out the stitches. They will quickly burn your clay especially if you are unfamiliar with buffing. PattyB.
(.....the polishing wheels for other rotary tools are even a bit coarser than those for the Dremel brand --which I already find a bit coarser than I'd prefer. Desiree)
..... don't use any polishing pastes which come with Dremels! . . .also will scratch polymer clay.

speeds:...The speed on the pro-hobby type ranges from 5,000 - 30,000.
...You would probably find that having only two speeds would limit what you can do with the Dremel. You'd probably find a variable speed one more versatile, especially if you want to do any buffing with it. . . .I think even 7,500 rpm would probably tear your clay up, even with a 2" wheel. My Dremel is variable from (I think) 1,500 - 7200 rmp. I've never used it on clay above about 2/5ths (around 3000 rpm) its capacity, either for drilling or buffing - usually about 1/5th (1500 rpm). Elizabeth
...With a polyester felt or denim cotton buffing/polishing wheel I've cranked my Dremel up to 4/5th of its max speed without damaging the clay. Not all the time, mind you, but I have done it frequently. But more importantly, I think variable speed is more comfortable for the user/operator. You have far more options. You can start out at a lower speed and step your way up as you feel comfortable. . . . Later you'll likely find that you'll want different speeds for different buffing/polishing conditions.
. . . For example, when polishing simple continuously flat or curved surfaces (like a table top or an egg or sphere), high speeds are a breeze. But if the surface is a bit more complex, like with holes or sharp edges, corners or bumps, you may feel more comfortable stepping the speed down so you have more control. Desiree

buffing wheels and materials:
...I use a Star Muslin wheel from Rio Grande - best $2 investment I ever made.
......The layers of muslin are not round - hexagons or octagons I think. This gives a softer edge to the whole wheel & it buffs much cooler. If you need a wider wheel, put 2 close together (adjust the holes so they both fit snug though).
I have not had buffer tracks even once since I started using this - & half the time I don't even sand before buffing & I still get a nice shine

I use muslin and balloon cloth wheels purchased from Rio Grande (Carodec) in moderately large quantites.
...I get the mini balloon cloth buffs from Rio Grande; they come in a package of 6 for $5.15 to $3.70, depending on how many you buy, and find I can buff a couple of hundred large tabular beads with one before it even starts to look tired..
. . I'm using the SMALL balloon cloth buffs, 1 and 1/4" diameter, number 330-600 in the Rio Grande catalogue, with a screw mandrel that'll fit very nicely into the Jacob's chuck type handpiece on my Foredom or into one of the collets supplied with the Dremel. -- Margaret B.
...i also bought the chamois wheel and tried it with my dremel and it burnt my clay piece in a matter of seconds. I read that chamois is great for polishing but I think it's for metal not PC. Just my 2 cents. Karen O. (but see "faux chamois" below in "Other materials")

I've made my wheels softer by removing the outer rows of stitching from the wheel (on the muslin wheel there are two rows of stitching - an inner row and an outer row - for those that don't know). Elisabeth

If you are using the Dremel-made muslin wheels, make certain it's tightly screwed into the mandrel, then remove the stitching that holds the cloth wheel together. Those threads can damage a polished finish, and they also hurt if you buff the way I do, by using my finger to support the edges on sculpted pieces. Buffing in this manner insures I don't press the wheel too close to the work, thus avoiding grooves. The cloth wheel (Dremel's muslin wheel), even at the fastest rpm, won't hurt your finger. Katherine Dewey

I bought a couple of 2" cotton muslin buffing wheels, and I have a 1" wheel too, but I use the bigger ones a lot more.

Desiree's lesson on using a cut-off zinc screw as a mandrel for holding more than one buffing wheel
(.....see more on "cutting off zinc screws" sub-section above)

Desiree's lesson on buffing with a Dremel (or a bench grinder)

Michele's lesson on making your own 2" muslin wheel from a 6" muslin wheel (lesson also covers a "shammy" wheel, which she uses after the muslin one) .... see more on Michele's shammy wheel below in "Other Materials"
....(older info from Michele on her previous model) . . . Got the bright idea to cut the cost and do a little work. I purchased one of those larger muslin wheels that fit power drills (I separated it into two thinner wheels?). I used the 1 inch circular cut off wheel (included with the tool), traced around the purchased muslin wheel (10 times—at the outer edge, slightly crossing over the outermost stitching line). I used a number 8 or button hole twist thread, put a few stiches through to secure. I then used an Exacto knife to start a small hole in the center. I followed that with an awl to widen the hole. I put it on the spindle attachment and went to work. I am truly impressed with this little machine that adjusts up to a speed of 24,000 RPM. I netted 20 little muslin wheel discs from the larger one at a cost of only $4.50. Crafty Michelle
The muslin wheel, is approx. 4 inches in diamater with a large hole in the center of it. You simply place a 1 inch round circle near the edge, picking up the natural curve of the original. Trace around the wheel until you have about 8-10 circles. Place a pen or pencil mark in the center of each of those little wheels. That will be your center hole for attaching it to the rotary tool. Depending on how thick the wheel is (mine was about 3/4") you can divide that amount in half. Keep in mind this wheel is stiched together. You will have to remove the stitches before you begin this process. Just stitch to secure about 1/4" away from the center hole.

(see below for more materials)

other materials for making buffing wheels

polyester felt:
(making a felt buffing wheel for Dremel, or other buffers) (make a (mandrel) center post long enough to screw on two felt wheels, or more layers of felt) by cutting off th head of a 1 1/2" (5,E) wood screw (made of zinc) with the Dremel's metal cuttin gemery wheel (#409) and it's spindle #402
...I want to share with you how I made a superior (IMHO) polishing system. I didn't think this one up, Becca Crauswell did... I tried making one, so last night I did!...Then I tested my new polishing system on some unfinished eggs I had laying about. The wheels I made last night and mounted on the Dremel is the best polishing system for polymer clay I have ever tried.
........ The trick is the polyester felt (the craft kind from the fabric store??) --(consisting of six hand cut 1/2" felt circles stacked). It produces a lovely shine in at least a 1/3 - 1/4 of the time of the fabric wheels. I highly recommend trying this, if you can. I went from liking my Dremel to loving it and wanting to polish anything in site. Desiree
...Recently, I've discovered that offset squares, as opposed to circles, seem to do quite a bit better for buffing clay, and it's easier to make, plus wastes less material. Desiree
...I learned about the felt circles from a friend, Becca Crauswell ( Becca doesn't sew hers together like Desiree does.)
...It has to be the rectangles of felt that you buy at fabric or craft stores. It is somewhat fluffy looking.(also not the real wool felt, and not thereally thin polyester felt.)
(the felt used under chair legs is not the same...that's like the ready made felt bits that come with Dremel....those are too stiff & gouge the clay.
........We don't even sew ours together. We just put a couple of 2 - 3 in. circles on the (regular) mandrel that is made to hold on the muslin buffing wheels, and use a muslin wheel to hold our felt circles on. .....We are not even careful about the circles being perfectly round.
.........The felt starts thickening up on the edges and fuzzes out and makes a great buffing wheel. ... the best buffing you've ever seen. chaun
...The felt is much softer, and gives a great shine. I don't have the problem with gouging even if I use a "heavy hand". Polyester felt is easier to find. Judi
... Do you think it would work to use a dab or two of hot glue between the layers of felt to hold them together, as an altrntive to sewing. Meredith
......... I think someone mentioned having tried glue and she said it worked fine (I don't recall the exact type)..... it might take a little experimentation to find the one that works the best... hot glue would also firm up the area where the spindle cuts through the felt, thus increasing the chances of the spindle threads gripping the buffing wheel after time when it tends to wear down the fiber and not grip well). Desiree

I like the buffing wheel I made out of an old pillowcase (cotton or blend??) cut up better than the polyester felI tried. Jeanne in Ohio

I've made myself some really great buffing pads out of (old) denim jeans that nobody wants to buy. I make them the same way as the felt ones at glassattic....except that I cut out about eight small circles and put a goodly dab of pva wood working glue into the centre...add a bit...repeat repeat repeat...and then clamp them hard with a good hard spring grip. (I've done it with clothing pegs too....and that works pretty well as well)... 24 hours after the dense centre of glue has "gone off" completely, I drill into it using a drill bit smaller than the mandrel on my dremel....and VOILA...... When I had tried felt...I couldn't get proper kind of was synthetic... The denim is fabulous for shine. (It does shed in the beginning like the muslin ones). Tania

Michele's lesson on making a 2" buffing wheel from shammy material ("Mushroom Buffers")
Some months ago, I was strolling around one of my favorite places (the Dollar Store) and located a product called "Sammy Shammy" (faux chamois). The price was right at $1.00 and is 20" by 13.5". It is a felt-like sheet that can be used to make an ample supply of buffing wheels. I made a wheel using 8 discs and attached them to my Ryobi. They produced a fabulous shine and don't shed. For those of you who have one of these stores nearby, you might want to try this or any similar product. And they are washable as well. Crafty Michele
.. . now she uses the shammy first (6 discs, not 8) then her homemade muslin wheel (see same website)
.. I use muslin, balloon cloth, and chamois wheels purchased from Rio Grande (Carodec) in moderately large quantites. I can get many of these for what the local stores want for one genuine Dremel brand wheel. Margaret B.
...real chamois may gouge the clay though??

You may have read where the fleece side of an old sweatshirt makes a wonderful polishing cloth for baked polymer pieces. Well, it does. BUT.......if you cut 3-4 circles of sweatshirt material about 1" in diameter or so, and attach it to your mandrel (of your Dremel), you should see the sheen it brings up! I love watching it!!! It beats out my muslin wheel, I know that.. .
I failed to mention (sorry about that) that I like to use it wet! I dip the mandrel into water or else I wet the item. (That keeps the flying debris to a minimum I think.) I keep wetting it. But I do use it dry on small pieces.
The nice thing about it is when you feel you gotten all the use out of wheel you can, you can just cut some more and quickly replace it. I just take something like a needle tool or something to poke a hole through the circles, then I put the screw in, attach it to the mandrel and off I go. .
Also, I have polished some older pieces, even those on which I have used Future Floor Finish and it gives an incredible gloss to the project. I used to use Future on practically everything I made. But the sheen I get from this is so natural I can't tell you the last time I put a finish on anything! . . .
. . . I have a cordless Dremel. ...It's the fleece side that brings up the sheen. If you put them on the mandrel fleece side down that is fine....or you can put each set of two fleece sides together so those two will flare out when you are polishing. ...polar fleece may be even better, but I can't say as I have never tried it. Pam
....(if not using it wet,) ...before too long I was choking on the 'dust' that was flying off the wheel, and for hours afterward I still felt the little hairs on the back of my throat. I loved the shine that It gave off! Christy

I had great results tonight making a buffer. I used an old t-shirt and cut out 1.25 inch circles. Seems to work pretty good. Gentle enough that it can't remove fingerprints and good enough to gloss an unsanded piece. I needed to figure out something to work on these minature masks for a swap. Denise in Austin


Dremel . . . . just use the mandrel for the 1" sanding drum and maybe a couple more muslin buffers and a washer at the screw head end.

Although you, Marlene, seem familiar with how polishing wheels attach to the mandrel, I've also included some words for anyone who's concerned about the wheels simply "hangin' off the threaded end of the screw. ***** The end with the head (then, to be without) goes into the Dremel chuck. The head is removed to make that end fit properly into the Dremel chuck, you know like a drill bit. The other (pointy) end is for twisting on the polishing wheels. The screw's threads and the general rotation hold the wheels on the screw. The end with the head has characteristic common with wood screws. Just past the head is a non-threaded or smooth rod section that's about 1/4 the length of the screw. It compares just right with the mandrel because the end that goes into the Dremel chuck is a smooth rod. But a very common concern among those who've not tried putting a polishing disk on a mandrel is how will the wheel stay on? It's kinda cool when you think about it. The disk simply stays because the mandrel is tapered and threaded in a direction that encourages the disk to twist on even more during use but it can only go so far because the mandrel gets wider and wider. Desiree

Desiree's lesson on Making a Better Dremel Polishing Mandrel. This page shows I made a customized polishing Dremel mandrel . . . to hold more than one polishing cloth wheel.
also at
Michele's homemade mandrel


The booklet says that you're supposed to use one of the slower speeds for buffing, but, Faun on PCI was talking about how she works with hers, one day, and since I started using her methods, I'm spending a lot less time sanding and buffing, and getting to that shine quicker.
I turned the speed up... it's a variable, with a 1-5 guage, and I put it right about 2 and a third. Pretty fast! The first few swipes in and area are "dig in there" swipes.... they slow the wheel down, considerably, and the machine makes a loud "Waaaow, waaow, waaaow," while I'm working. (Like that? No extra charge for sound effects. *g*)
Then, I back off the pressure and work that area from a little different angle for a few swipes, trying not to put that wheel edge into the exact same spot more than once. Then, I back wayyyy off, barely letting the fuzz at the outside of the wheel skim over the surface. I move the wheel in tiny circular motions. The shine pops RIGHT up!… Ziggybeth

As to the speed. I use between 2 and 3. I think that is actually the recommended speed on the package for dremel. As it always says in the dremel guide "Let the speed do the work" You want a very light touch as you go over things NF.

Also, I have found that the higher the speed of the dremel, the lighter the touch you need to use. On the faster settings, I barely touch the clay at all.

Misc. (for buffing)

(buffing speed) depends on at least a couple of things. One, what kind and size of buffing wheel you're using. The coarser the material, the slower you should go. The larger the diameter of the buffing wheel, the slower the wheel will spin, so you could crank up the speed of your Dremel. Most importantly, select the speed that you're most comfortable with. I started out ...using #1. After I got comfortable with the buffing results, how to handle the tool itself, etc. I felt confident enough to crank up the speed. Now that I make and use my own polishing wheel on my Dremel, I often go up to #3 and #4. I figure #5 is getting a bit there. But perhaps one day I will try the max. Desiree

You do have to be really careful about flinging objects... that dremel will rip that bead right out of your hand and plant it in your chin, if you aren't careful. (Or quick to duck!) You have to get at good grip on the piece, and try not to let the wheel catch that back edge. The wheel does not hurt your skin with momentary contact.

EYE and LUNG PROTECTION --- don't skip them... get some of those huge ugly safety glasses that cover half your face, and some dust masks. These are really important. I think I might have an allergy to the "very-much-airborne" dust from the buffer, because my throat closes up if I buff without the mask. Elizabeth (Ziggybeth)
I had muslin fibers flying all around at first, but doing well now. Jeannetta
Then I let (the muslin wheel) spin against the edge of a board for a few minutes. It not only removes all those aggravating little threads but it also fluffs it up and "ages" it quite a bit. It's like breaking in a new pair of blue jeans. Elisabeth
....On my foredom buffer, Petra showed me how to "groom" the new muslin wheels by holding the edge of a knife against it while the wheel spins. All the loose threads go flying off all at once. caneguru

If you can secure your Dremel rather than hold it, you'll find it easier to buff. MicroMark had a small plastic holder with a metal strap that works very well. At about $5.00, it's proven to be a bargain and freed my vise for other tasks. It does have to be screwed or bolted down. Katherine Dewey
I set the tool on a folded towel. . . this way I don't have to hold it. . .just make sure it goes no where. I mount the beads (one at a time only) on a piece of wire and hold both ends of the wire and the bead in my hand to get the finger prints etc. . .then to buff it I let the bead spin on the wire while I hold both ends in one hand. . .the beads stays in place and I never (well hardly ever.) over buff it. .Dawn

…using the rotary tool to polish the piece. I like to work on an old mouse pad, one of the rougher ones. I lay the piece on the pad, starting on the edge away from me, I will lightly run a line across that edge with the buffing wheel. I then work my way down the piece to the edge closest too me. I then dunk the piece in water and turn it 1/4 way around and repeat the process. Light touch and multiple passes seems to be the key here. I can do a lot of pieces in a day this way. Irene


Ronda drilled the features in pumpkin faces with her Dremel after making them hollow as in Kato’s pinch pots/bubble bottles…Ziggybeth?

Dremel chuck . . . Mine came with 3 chuck inserts. I have since replaced it with a 'Micro jawed Chuck'. No more changing the inserts and will grip anything from about 5/16" down.

I think the largest drill bit in the American Science Surplus kit is about a #40 or 1/8th"
I have drill bits that go down to a #80.I think that that means it takes 80 of them to make an inch.

(a collet is kind of like an interior spreadable collar which holds the bit; the bit is slipped into the collet, and the collet is slipped into the chuck which tightens around it-- you'll need to have a large enough or small enough collet to hold a particular size bit)

My Dremel came with 2 of the 4 collets, but I bought a complete set (cheaper than purchasing them separately) in order to accommodate some cup burs with 3/32 shanks. BTW, the collets are coded. Even without any literature, you can determine the size by the number of thin rings (or lack of them) located along the shaft (back end) of the collet. They are as follows:
No Rings = 1/8" 1 Ring = 1/32" 2 Rings = 1/16" 3 Rings = 3/2"

I bought mine through Rio Grande. They don't have an online catalog, but here's their number and item info: 1-800-545-6566 Set of 6 mini diamond drills (.75 - 2.5 mm) item: 349-015 (These bits are not made by Dremel, but by a lapidary manufacturer) They recommend using a jeweler's saw lubricant, such as Burr Life, with these drill bits. If you want to be really economical, you might consider using Dove bar soap instead. I had one metal smithing instructor who always uses Dove with her jeweler's saw. Says it's just as good as Burr Life. If it works with a fine toothed saw blade, I don't see why it wouldn't work with the drill bits. Haven't tried that one myself, though.
One thing to ask Rio Grande if you order from them is what the smallest shank size of the drill bit set is, and if a standard Dremel collet closes to a small enough opening to hold the small shafts.( If not, Dremel makes a set of different size collets that handle a variety of smaller drill bits -- down to needle size ones.) ...Rio has those also.
(As you can tell, I'm well acquainted with the Rio Grande tools catalog :-D Also, their technical department is a wealth of information on things such as this, and they are more than willing to try and answer "how to" questions. Barbara

I have a 5 speed electric dremel and when I (tried to drill the hole in my bead, the drill bit bent!). This was on the lowest speed which is 5,000 rpm. Thankfully I always wear my goggles when I work with the dremel.....Corgi
...Ah, but it was an electric dremel, I believe that that has too much power and that's why it probably did that, I use a rechargeable dremel with only two speeds and it never gets going that fast and doesn't have the same power behind it. Leigh

see also below in "Hand Drills"


I make a jig to hold my beads while drilling holes by making an impression of a bead, in various sizes, in some scrap clay, then baking it. To use this you can double stick tape it to the table. A trick learned from Daniel Peters at Arrowmont!

I use a pair of locking tweezers covered with a couple of pieces of aquarium tubing (the rubbery kind) to hold my beads for drilling. Kathy G

Drill Presses

In a former life I had a drill press that was *wonderful* for drilling cured beads. I could start the pilot hole on round ones and let go of them to make sure they were spinning right. This told me if I had a straight hole. Then I'd push them up onto the drill bit, pull them off, and on to the next. Julia
I do not lower the drill onto the bead using the press, but simply use it to hold the drill steady while I finesse the bead up and onto the bit, using "bead karma" to help me find the exact center. For some reason, doing it by hand this way works the best…

Micromark tools < > ; many of their tools can be used with clay . . .
My dad had the biggest table saws and drill presses you can imagine - until MicroMark came along, and now sitting on top of the huge tools are smaller versions!! ~The little table saw is perfect for cutting sheets of clay. And I love my little drill press. Syndee

~Wal-Mart carries Dremel tools and accessories. including the drill press attachment.

I purchased a Wolf Drill press (about 1/2 the cost of Dremel). MY DH bolted a piece of 1" wood to the base and I used the bit that's a 1/4" metal ball to drill a dimple (not too deep, just a dimple). If the beads are round they get drilled in just the same spot each time. Susan

I had a terrible time trying to drill my small beads. . . I was rumaging around in his nuts and bolts and found some different size washers and tried them over the drill press hole and they work great for holding the smaller beads. Rita

Microlux -$40
Turns your 1/4 inch drill into a precision drill press. Turns drill on automatically as it is lowered. 5 inch x 5 inch table; 1-1/4 inch travel; 0-3 inch chuck to table adjustment
Microlux Drill Press--$140
The MicroLux Drill Press has all the quality features of drill presses costing much more. Here, at last, is an affordable drill press designed and sized for small precision work. . . .Plus, you can select the right speed for the job in seconds. Prevent jagged holes in wood from a speed too slow… And drilling in steel, brass or any metal is a breeze. The high torque motor will drill a 1/4' hole through 1/4' brass quickly and easily... and even deeper holes in wood, plastic and other soft aterials. Imported from Japan exclusively by Micro-Mark.
Dremel Drill Press -$49
For precision drilling, shaping and routing. 6 inch square work surface, 0-3 inches adjustable tool carriage, 3 inch throat, slotted table for guides and hold downs. Holds newer rotary tool models 275, 285, 395, 595 and 398.

Dremel Misc. ......& Hand drills

Also a trick for getting better results is always move your tool in the opposite direction of which it spins across the surface but keep it moving. -NF

I have an attachment that makes it into a miniture router… with that and the right tool I can remove areas of clay. ….I also use it with a speed controler to make coils of wire and to 'wire wrap' one piece of wire around another.

But I've seen some lovely clay work that was actually turned on a lathe. With that in mind, I bought a router attachment for my dremel... I thought I'd try to make clay display platforms with nice routed edges. Hope it works.

incense burner bottle. . . I have seen them with decorative bottles or stain glass stuff. Probably would look really nice with translucent clays or pretty canes. I just can't figure out the best way to make the 4 holes in the bottom without breaking the bottles.
>>Donna, Use a miniature drill with an abrasive arbour it will slowly cut through…

Those with flex shaft tools might want to take a hint from the glass engravers. They secure the handpiece in a vise on the bench, then use both hands to hold a piece up to the bit. LOTS more control and pieces are less likely to go shooting across the room when you're using both hands to hold on! Donna in Dallas

For storing my Dremel and its accessories, I use a wood flatware tray
...for the drill bits, I use a wood game board (has little holes in it, but forgot name of game) ...I may have drilled some of them larger, but don't remember ... this board sits inside the wood flatware tray. Jeanne.

(I do take my Dremel and buffing wheel when I go to workshops and stuff away from my "studio" for because they fit into my tool box and my Foredom doesn't.

In addition to the mask, I have a shop vac with a flexible hose, and my trick for minimizing dust is to run the vacuum hose through a C-clamp on my work bench, so that the end is near where I am holding the Dremel, so that while I am drilling, most of the dust gets sucked right up. I have lost a few beads this way, too, but not enough to make me stop using the vac!

For my jewelry, I printed up cards (for holding jewelry, etc), used my dremel to cut uniform holes and inserted the pieces on the card. . . I use a small clamp to hold a bunch of cards together then drill the holes through them all. This gives me cards with all the same hole position. Sally

Marina's lesson on how to cut an egg with a Dremel,1158,CRHO_project_2104,00.html

Just replace the pully with a 4" muslin buffer wheel and then just dial up the speed you need. echo (what was this about?)

Micro Hand Drill ...(not electric) uses regular (small) drill bits held as in a pin vise, but rotate when the handle is pushed down... a small, slender push drill, with steel chuck (4" long) ... clamps around bits no. 61 - 80 .. drill holes in wood, plastic and thin brass...swivel head (about $8 ) (search for item no. 60348) ..or try a hobby or hardware store?
...2 small push drills
...I bought a small hand drill (push?) from Walmart. It was located near the leather and wood crafts. It does great making holes into used books for altered books. Was only about $3-4 . It's made by Forster (they make craft sticks). MsB in SC

larger push drills (aka Yankee drills)? ... larger ones are available too (see e-Bay, e.g.)

tiny Finger Drills...set of 4 short tools, each with a permanently embedded tiny drill bit (1/64 - 1/16" ) ...item 60935 ($10.50)

Foot Pedals

You can make any machine variable speed with the simple addition of a foot pedal !
...I just got a foot speed control. I think it's like a sewing machine pedal.....t slows down the Dremel wheel to as slow as you want it, or as fast... it really makes a diff. on the shine. On my good days I sand w/ 600-then-1500 grit always w/water. Then i go to town w/my Dremel. Dawnie

If you want to pay the price you can get a truly variable speed ajuster to hook between your wall outlet and your grinder.Lysle
...I'm assuming you mean you can turn a regular cheapo grinder into a variable speed one by using some sort of a voltage regulator to plug the grinder into. Right? What is it called? Will a rheostat work for this? Ginger
...Yes a rheostat MIGHT work. It depends on which type of motor you have. . . . There are also fancy 'Pulse duration' type controllers that adjust the width and strength of each pulse of AC. . . . .Then there are the type that reduce either the voltage or current. They sell them as 'Speed controllers'. Lylse

The one I have is made by Dremel, but you plug the foot pedal into the wall, then plug your machine into the foot pedal and it turn any machine into a pedal machine! I use an ordinary bench grinder, and I put a foot pedel on it so I could use it as a variable speed! …I think the foot pedel works great because you can keep pushing it higher if you need, but as soon as you take your foot off, it stops right away! Very good for when the piece flies across the room and you lean down to pick it up, so you hair doesjn't get wound around the grinder! Leigh

.I just got a foot speed control for my Dremel. I think it's like a sewing machine pedal.It slows down the wheel to as slow as you want it.Or as fast.I always use the cloth polishing wheels.I soften them by snipping some of the stiches out around the wheel.Not to many or it will fall apart. On my good days I sand w/ 600-then-1500 grit always w/water.Then i go to town w/my dremel. Dawnie

I just got off the phone with my brother brainstorming how to adapt an old sewing machine motor to push a pasta machine. I told him I didn't care for the available pasta machine motors because they whine. Being a bit of an engineer marvel, he speculated that they whine because the motors are the smallest, cheapest ones the manufacturers can get away with and the motors have to use several gears to get torque transferred properly. He said they likely have only 1-2 fixed speeds. I also told him I wanted a variable speed motor with a foot controller - something like a sewing machine. Viola! We both realized at the same time that would likely be the perfect thing. He said that since most sewing machine motors are belt-driven, the tranny would still be a bit tricky (to get the power transferred to the pasta machine). Personally, I think it's worth investigating. Desiree

OTHER Electric Cutting Tools

Aaaah a band saw to the rescue (for cutting polymer) for slicing baked beads in half. I have tried Rotory engravers (I.e. Dremals) jig saws, table saws, miter saws (with and without the box), scroll saws and others, but my favorite is the 3 wheeled 10" variable speed table top band I have in the shop fitted with a 60 tooth per inch 1/4" blade.

~The little table saw (from MicroMark) is perfect for cutting sheets of clay. Syndee

....I have been using a miniature table saw for some of my polymer clay work for a couple of years now. I purchased a # 80463 Microlux TILT ARBOR Table Saw from Micromark - the catalog business that specializes in model-making tools and accessories. It's small - about 12" high and 10" square on the top ($329). (variable speed, cuts a full 1 inch at 90 degrees, 3/4 inch at 45 degrees, 11 lbs).
I use the saw to cut baked slabs of polymer clay that I assemble into boxes, book covers or other projects. The saw makes beautifully clean cuts and angled cuts.
This allows me to make mitered corners on my boxes and the results are clean and professional looking. I have been extremely pleased with the saw's ability to meet the various challenges I have given to it!
It has variable speeds so you don't have to worry about melting the clay at high speeds.
The blade tilts from 0 - 45 degrees which has been adequate for all but the most unusual projects I have undertaken.
Here are some details about its use:
Since I don't have a heated workshop space where I can work, I clamp the saw to kitchen island and connect the vacuum cleaner to the saw's handy output pipe to suck up the copious quantities of polymer dust that are produced. I always have lots of clean-up to do after using it!! I wear an apron , safety glasses and mask as quite a bit of dust still kicks back during the cutting process.
Like every carpenter I know, I've had to remove the safety guard over the blade to be able to see what I'm doing.
I have to store the saw on some shelving when not in use.
I use a high speed slitting saw blade with the smallest kerf for cutting the baked clay. The kerf is the thickness of the blade that eats the clay as it cuts. I believe it has 230 teeth and a .020" kerf. These blades are available from Micromark as is the "easy mount bench bracket" that holds the saw to the table.
As I became more skilled with using the saw for cutting up small slabs of clay, I became more ambitious and wanted to cut larger slabs. Unfortunately, the surface area of top is small so I was limited in just how wide a slab of clay I could balance on the tabletop - I think the limit was 4" and I wanted to move onto bigger and bigger! So, with the help of a carpenter friend who had lots of leftover plexiglas, we made a plexiglas table top that is 18" square and is now screwed right on top of the original saw's table. This has been terrific and given me lots more flexibility in terms of larger clay slabs.
SAFETY: I grew up around power tools but never have used a full size table saw as I am rather short and don't have enough leverage to safely handle lumber. I feel perfectly safe with this little saw because I'm above the saw and always handling materials that I feel like I can control - very important when working with power tools! This saw is dangerous - no doubt about it - it can still cut off a finger or kick back a piece of clay and send it flying. If you're not accustomed to the basic rules of how to work around a table saw - no matter the size - definitely find someone who is and have them give you all the safety info regarding how to use accessories to keep yourself safe, where to position your body so you are safe, etc.
Bake up a bunch of slabs of various thicknesses of junk clay and practice on those first. Different clay brands cut differently - some edges are cleaner than others. If you're making angled cuts, sometimes your work needs to be face down or face up so you have to think through every cut (sometimes 3-4 times it seems!!!) before you commit yourself to the blade. I've made quite a few wrong cuts but "Life is like photography - we develop from the negative." Your spatial perception skills will be challenged but will grow too.Carol

Micromark also has a non-tilting miniature table saw for $165 (6-1/4" x 6-1/4" aluminum table, (takes up 7-1/4" x 9-1/2" workbench, adjustable rip fence, 0-90ƒ miter gauge,... standard blade, 1/10hp 110v AC motor with belt drive...Fixed position 2 inch blade.

"The Poor Man's Workshop" by Johnny Blackwell. At least I think that was the title. I haven't seen that book in probably 6 or 7 years. It was full of designs for tools made from "around the house" materials. There was a mini-lathe made with an electric drill; you could build one based on the picture of my buffer. The principle is the same. All you need to do is make a tool stand out of plywood that fits the contour of the drill's casing. Then you would have to make a tailstock piece and a tool rest. Then, of course, you need turning tools. Since the objects you can turn on a drill sized mini lathe will be quite small, you would need small tools. Probably have to make your own. . Gabe, message # 2918 at PCC, Delphi (re transforming a single-blade food mixer to a buffing wheel)

Other Tools

a jeweler's saw lubricant, such as Burr Life.... If you want to be really economical, you might consider using Dove bar soap instead. I had one metal smithing instructor who always uses Dove with her jeweler's saw. Says it's just as good as Burr Life. If it works with a fine toothed saw blade, I don't see why it wouldn't work with the drill bits. Haven't tried that one myself, though. Barbara

~(instead of a Dremel) purchase a "pin vise" at Home Depot ( which is basically what the jewelry hand drill at PC Express is, although theirs STORES the extra bits!) But then I had to purchase the tiny bits (dremel doesn't have a large variety, at my most convienient store) The super fine bits at the hobby store are VERY expensive! Pat
It's simply a sturdy metal rod with a small chuck at the top (like an electric drill) which holds a drill bit firmly.


For their work surface, most people like something clean, hard, smooth (and not reactive with raw clay, but which can also keep plasticizer from leaching into the surface below)
... for a studio, could be large or sevearl smaller surfaces for separate projects (like individual tiles), or portable for workshops
-- examples might be glass, plexiglass, self-healing cutting mats, marble, etc.
-- some people add sheets of paper, parchment or deli sheets, so they can transport and bake on the same surface. Sherry

What you bake polymer clay on can be very different than what you work polymer clay on, however. Many folks like baking on ceramic tiles, finished or unfinished, because ceramics manage the temperature changes much better than most other materials. But you can successfully bake on metal, wood or anything that is bakable.
.... Polymer clay will, however, "adopt" the texture of the surface it sits on. For example, baking on a shiny surface will cause the part of the clay that is in contact with the baking surface to become shiny. Since the surface of baked polymer clay is most like paper, baking on paper such as manila folder is a common and very successful practice. ...For support, it's a good idea to set the paper on something stiffer like a metal tray or cookie sheet... or ceramic tile. Desiree

12 x 12" tempered glass work surface with permanent 1/4" graph markings and rectangles (attached to small tray at top, for total of 15 x 12"), $20 + s/h

I tape or glue a paper strip of photocopied ruler or sheet of graph paper with marked inch numbers under my clear acrylic and glass work surfaces, to be able to measure lengths easily... and especially to have guidlines for cutting canes into equal lengths. Diane B.

Also, to keep slippery work surfaces like acrylic sheets or some cutting mats from slipping around (especially when rolling logs of clay), I put a piece of Rubbermaid drawer liner (the rubbery/foamy kind with the holes in it) underneath. DB
....if you find yourself with a work surface that's slipping around and you're table won't be damaged by water, you can put a wet paper towel, a wipe, etc., underneath to hold it still. DB

I use blobs of poster tac (Blue Tac, etc.) under the sheet of glass I do my claying on. Mary

I have put little rubber feet on the bottom of my work surface... and have also glued a magnet to the top for laying my blade on.

For portable work areas, or various work area setups for those with physical problems, see Disabilities > Work Areas, Tables, Chairs

FROM THINNEST (sometimes cheapest) TO THICKEST:

POROUS or SEMI-POROUS ...these are great for working on temporarily, but plasticizer in raw clay will eventually soak through and leach into them or any porous materials beneath them over time

The cheapest and most available work surfaces may be a bit of waxed paper, or even plain paper for short term use.. (if you'll be rolling clay on your surface, the paper will need to be taped down or it will slide around...

I work on pieces of plain old paper! I have trouble with my clay sticking too much to surfaces like glass and getting distorted. On paper, it sticks just enough to not move, but I can easily lift up a sheet of clay without it getting messed up. If I need to move the clay to work on something else, I just pick up the paper and start on a new sheet. Lisa

However... don't leave raw polymer clay on regular paper or even waxed paper for very long though, or the plasticizer will leach out and leave an oily ring on it (and also anything that's under the papers, though waxed paper will take a lot longer... plain paper is much quicker)


I like to use "Patty Papers" (from restaurant supply stores, & possibly Costco, sold for separating hamburger patties) when I have something that needs to be moved, or put directly in the oven without distortion.... it's like a thin parchment paper in flat 6" squares (and 10"?). Diane B.
........another brand made for delis is called Crown Alpine Waxfold. I have purchased it at Sam's & Costco or Pricesavers. It comes in a box of 500 sheets and is about $6-$7.. . .
......I use paper I got from Sams.. (Kabnet brand.. pulls out like tissue paper..used in places like donut shops etc) Jan

......I also use these papers daily for mixing paints, baking clay, putting under small pieces of fabric that could be eaten up in my sewing machine and putting out a little glue which I need to use a pin or toothpick on a small item.

all the rest are NON-POROUS

For no leaching at all ever... try "silicone parchment pan liners" or "high density polyethylene (which?)
.....easy release...waterproof & greaseproof..
..Marla Frankenberg introduced us to a different kind of deli paper by Papercon that doesn't leach at all ....... it's wonderful for burnishing with as it is somewhat slick... in a green box that says "CP8" and "interfolded Clear Plastic"...1000 sheets (8x10 3/4" is the smallest size).. $9 per box. Helen

try some no melt mylar ...I used it for making quilting templates and turns out it is fantastic for working on. Nice smooth surface that doesn't react with the clay. It is really easy to wipe off between colors and is somewhat resistant to cuts from tissue blades etc. You can get it at the bigger craft stores. danabates

At my classes, I give everyone a vinyl sheet protector (like you'd keep in a binder) that has a printout in it... a quarter-inch grid, and circles of various sizes.... 1/8", 1/4", up to 1 inch.... and a diagram for laying out an cutting/folding a Skinner Blend. You could make your own reference to put in the sheet protector. Smooth surface and keeps your clay off the table. It stands up to straight-down cuts, but you really can't make many "dragging" cuts with your knife or blade before your surface starts shredding. Elizabeth

For a portable work surface when I go claying elsewhere, I have a (PolymerClayHaven) placemat thingy that we made for the last event as a souvenir. It's a legal sized sheet of paper that's been laminated, and has all kinds of tips and fun stuff on it. They were pretty popular at the event.Bunny

What I like to use for a disposable surface is Saran's new disposable cutting sheets from the grocery store. Use the BACK of them. I tape them to a table I use and love them. also the blade won't cut the surface like it can a lot of things. There are 20 sheets in one package. They can also be cleaned with alcohol and a paper towel. Kate
...cost about $2.80 - $4.00 per pkg. . . . and they last quite awhile

I have something I really enjoy because it's so lightweight and handy. So far no problems with the plastic. I have it in two sizes, one is placemat sized, the second is 18x24".
It's called the Flexible Cutting and Pastry Mat. The large one is translucent and cost $7.19 at a cooking supply store. Actually, it's close enough to transparent that I can put a pattern under it
.....Is this the same as the 2-for-a-few-dollars 12x18", translucent mats for cutting or rolling out dough? I bought somewhere?? They're smooth on one side and kind of pebbly on the other (that side good for rolling without the clay sticking?)

I use a product called "Borco." It's used to cover artists' drafting tables. It comes in various color combinations (green one side, white other side, grey one side, white other side, etc.) or even translucent. It "self-heals" if cut with a blade (tissue blades, X-acto knives, paring knives, etc.) Of course, after you use those, you should make sure to clean it off well. The clay will tend to stick to it if it is allowed to build up. I usually just turn it over or get a new piece.

An Omnigrid (quilter's ruler) is used by Mary Reynolds for making cuts when making boxes especially so they'd be straight and measurable at the same time. or for cutting even strips. .. good thing to work on when making measured, straight or parallel cuts. ...she used the 6 x 12" one (they have bright yellow lines)..come in various sizes...squares, rectangles and triangles, down to 4" x 4".... (prob. little less expensive at retail fabric store) (click on the zoom icon, nex to the left-hand ruler)
.I was surprised that this stiff plastic isn't the kind that's melted by raw clay, but it must be acrylic.
... all markings are on the back side of the rulers sold now
....(if you have an Omnigrid from the 1980's though, the markings could be dissolved off by contact with Diluent and raw clay)

. . . I've been using a sheet of graph paper stuck to the back of my clear acrylic work surface, but this would be better in various ways. Diane B.

Elvenwork Modeling Mat (and Junior) Dewey's mat with all the landmarks of the human form listed and accurately illustrated at 1/12th scale on a precise grid, the scale used by most miniaturists... the other side is a multi-purpose work surface complete with a grid, clay measuring and cutting guides that will make it easy to convert the scale of your figures upward or downward.
..... my work mats got here from Elvenwork, and I have to say that these things are going to be a real time-saver! I got both of the mats... the adult and the child... I now have a quick reference for sizing and checking proportions on my dolls - no more scribbling notes on freezer paper! I'd seen copies of her workbooks, before, so I knew the work mats were going to be pretty cool - they are so completely thorough in the amount of information on them. The child mat has children from six months old up to ten years old. Really neat, Katherine! I'm going to love these! Elizabeth

translucent plastic rectangle (somewhat flexible?) which came in 3 sizes. Mine is 12" x 18." One side is printed with a 1" grid, with more detailed "rulers" around the edges, making it easy to cut accurately sized clay pieces. The best feature is that the surface is "self healing" I found these boards (sorry, I discarded the brand name) at Staples, in the drafting supply section. They came in translucent, green and black, but I recommend the translucent: I found that if I left raw clay on the surface for a long time (several hours) it picked up some of the grid pattern. I solved the problem by turning the board over and using the back side, and because of its translucency I was still able to see the grid.

Makin's Clay's (flexible?) plastic-type mat with grid lines ....http://www.Makin'
....would work with polymer clay too?

countertop cutting surfaces. . . then they cut out a spot for the sink to fit into...and you can generally find the cut-outs at places like Menard's and Builder's Square, but you have to ask for them, or you'll never find 'em (CZC uses them)
...I must confess I got my countertop cut-out at school when someone was cleaning out a cupboard. However, there is a counter shop (it looks like an auto repair shop) in our town where I would go if I needed more. They have a bin of scrap that you can pick over -- some for free, all pieces very affordable. They even cut the pieces for you, if you ask.

acrylic and plexiglass . .. (what's the difference, if any?)

I didn't know about plastics supply stores until recently, but if you can find any in the yellow pages of your area, it may have a scrap bin like Tap Plastics here - - there you can get a huge assortment of sizes, colors and thicknesses of acrylic plastic sheets (still backed with sticky paper for protection), and pay for it *by the pound* --usually a great deal. I have lots of these pieces, some I pass out for use in classes, some to keep all the pieces of various projects sorted together, and some smaller ones just for squishing a flat surface for a pendant, e.g., or for rolling bicones.
. . . These can slip around so I cut a piece of Rubbermaid drawer liner (the rubbery/foamy kind with the holes in it) the same size as each piece of plastic and keep it underneath. I also have a photocopied strip of ruler about 10" long which I tape to the underside of the plastic near the bottom so that it shows from the top, for easily cutting logs in equal sizes, etc. Diane B.
OR use 2 thin strips (of the drawer liner) under the far will hold your board in place when you are flattening out clay!

I'd recommend the plexiglass. I have a piece about 11 x 14 that I got for 50 cents from the scrap bin at the local Ace Hardware
....I use plexiglass in a 14 x 24 inch sheet. They'll cut it for you at Home least they will in Jersey. Carolyn
...polymerclayexpress sells two sizes as well
I've had my large piece of plexiglas for about six years now. If the surface gets roughed up over time, I just wet sand it in the sink, rub in a tiny dab of mineral oil, buff with a towel, and put it back in place.
Home Depot sells a plexiglass cutting tool for $3-4. You use a metal straightedge and score the plexiglass along the straightedge. You basicly score it approx 1/8" to 1/16" deep depending on the thickness of the plexiglass. You score plexiglass by shaving a gouge in the surface using multiple strokes. With the scored side facing up you place it on a counter or table. Position the scored line directly over and parallel to the edge of the table or countertop. Holding the piece secure on the countertop or table press down firmly on the portion hanging over the edge until the plexiglass breaks along the scored line. The deeper the scroe the less chance of a mis-break. It will make a loud pop and should break clean. The thinner the plexiglass the easier it is to break this way. . . . You DO want to protect your hands with gloves or a towel, and just to be careful protect your eyes. You can place a towel over the scored line to arrest any flying splinters. . Don

There's also a product you can buy in sheets... it's Lucite Acrylic... I bought an 18"x24" piece for $8.75 at my local H.Q. That's a nice big working surface & it's harder than plexiglass is.

see also the Omnigrid 6 x 12" ruler with grid lines, above

I also have acrylic cutting boards that only I can use. I'm selfish. It's just that smoothing the clay on those work better for rolling out tissue thin clay (than on glass). Susan

Here's a little gimmick I discovered for transporting the big piece of acrylic cutting board to workshops, etc.--- At the local fabric shop (quilting dept.) there is a blue handle shaped thing with 2 suction cups attached. It's used for manipulating the quilting templates. Just pop that handle on the edge of the acrylic board and--voila--no more trying to carry it under your arm.(!!!!)

Glass, marble, tiles

a large sheet of thick glass (from a glass dealer, windows & windshields etc.) I had them buff the edges smooth, and I think it cost about $10 or so.
If your glass has sharp edges it would be a good idea to sand the edges with wet/dry sandpaper first. Wear gloves to protect your hands.

...I use a glass cutting board for my work surface. Often the glass cutting boards have a texture on the top..BUT..if you flip it's smooth as a baby's butt. You can EASILY remove the little rubber "feet" too (can use a piece of non-skid white shelf/drawer liner underneath, or glue feet on other side) it makes a great work surface. ...I have a large one..that's tempered glass..really thick and strong. You can also slide a cutting matt underneath so you can easily measure things as you work.JAN
....the glass cutting board can also go into my oven when I want to use liquid clay with fabric. Patty B.
...I bought a very thick tempered glass cutting board that is 12" x 18" (& other sizes) (I think) that has little rubber feet to keep it from sliding and hold it up so you can slide a grid or pattern underneath. The glass is smooth. It's very heavy. Got it at Bed, Bath, and Beyond for $20 (online too: It's a good thing :) Emily N. Walmart these were around 5 or 6 dollars. They were 9" X 12" . I think they were used as hot plates. They are in kitchen wares. They had kind of a pebbled on one side and flat on the other. They had little plastic feet that I cut off. I have a bunch of them for the kids. Susan
--I bought one at Lechter's for about $15. The great thing about it is that it can also go in the oven if you remove the rubber feet. Valerie
--I found all mine at KMarts. Desiree

I use the tempered glass trivits sold at Walmart. They range in price from about 4 to 10 dollars. They also go right in the oven and fit in my convection oven perfectly.They come in many sizes. .

A 12" ceramic tile is good for a work surface. I added little rubber stopper things on the bottom (so it wouldn't slip). . . and glued a magnet to the top for laying my blade on. It's also good for moving around the house with.

I've bought a few used heavy glass microwave-oven trays at thrift stores. They're great as work surfaces. You can work on them and then bake right on them as well! Also, they're cheap and fairly easy to find, and reusing discarded items is good for the environment. Suzanne refrigerator shelves. -- beveled glass, smooth on one side, textured on the other

At Wal-Mart, I found a 9 x 12 glass cutting surface with a "built in grid" on the bottom. It's called Glass Mat and is in a sort of pinkish box with green and teal. It has a handle and can be used to store it. It's in the crafts section and was with the scrapbooking supplies but I think this will be a great work surface for polymer clay - especially for traveling. It was $12.96. Jan C

I found some picture frames at Amazing Savings that are just two pieces of beveled glass clipped together. Thick glass, 1/4". 8x5" that are great for putting on a lazy susan (those rubbermaid spice/jar turntables) and for then popping into the oven. Valerie

simplymad's workroom, with mirrors for surfaces and on the walls to see the sides and backs of things, see how earrings look, keep clay cool, etc.

Tiles made of smooth ceramic or terra cotta can be used ...These come in very handy for working on, then baking without having to disturb the piece by moving it to a baking surface. I have a number of the small ones.
... Just remember that if a tile has a slick surface, any place it touches the clay while baking will be shiny, and that any unevenness in the tile will be transferred to the clay if baked together.

Here's another thought. A thick tile should hold its temperature for a while. You could warm the tile up, and it would help warm the clay while you work with it. Or, you could chill the tile, which might help if you want firmer clay for a while.

Also: small sheets or tiles of marble, or even mirror tiles.

I thought about marble, but it's come to my attention that granite is just as cold but not as porous. Marci

for using marble or gel packs to help clay or canes cool down, see Conditioning > Cooling


(for shelving, bins, racks, etc... see Storage)

Tables, etc.

Byrd works directly on the melamine surface of her work table... & finds its U-shape very helpful (can custom order)
...or make your own from thick sheets of melamine at Home Depot, etc.

I bought a 10-ft-long countertop from Home Depot for part of my work surface
...then my husband built 2 shelving units that serve as its under supports
....a) countertops are already finished (no painting or sanding)
....b) their short backsplash keeps things from rolling off the back side
....c) if you find one with a nick or ding in it, they'll probably give you a discount. Irene

I have a workbench that I got at a home improvement store...the kind with wooden slats on the top
.... I used to use a large sheet of lucite over the slats.
....however, we tiled the top of it with large black and white tiles later and I love it! ...Bunny

small & portable "table" or easel made from a tripod and sheet of plywood,etc. (size desired), held together with a steel "mounting plate" (one 5/16" hole in ctr, 4 outer holes, 4 screws) (...this item would normally be attached to underside of a table so one could screw in a wood table leg), and a nut to fit tripod's bolt (which would normally screw into camera's bottom)
lesson by Marty W:
...I've also used an old slide projector platform (also has a tripod bottom)

To clean up all the bits of stuff that collect on my work area, I bought a small, battery powered vacuum on clearance at Micheals a couple of years ago.... it was only $5...It does the trick for me, picking up metallic powder granules, pencil shavings, small beads, etc. quite efficently. Runs on two AA batteries. ...fits in the palm of your hand. This one is shaped something like a computer mouse. (this one's full price, sadly). Becky
....I use a DustBuster, but it's too big to leave around the work table. John
...a very effective small vacuum... tape a plastic soda straw to the end of your regular vacuum hose (or Dustbuster). Flo


simplymad's workroom .... with mirrors for surfaces and to see the sides and backs of things, see how earrings look, keep clay cool, etc.
......also note the periodically-tacked strips for hanging pliers
....for storing my pliers (and getting them out of the box they were in), the best thing I found is a towel bar. I attached it to the front of my worktable shelf so the pliers sit on top of it and are ready to go if the urge to tweak something strikes!
Karen H.

Tamila's workroom
Julie's work area and her kids' work table
PoRRo's work room, and storage
Ruth's work space
Elizabeth's work room and storage

This is my work area as of today. I say that because it seems I am always trying to improve it, so it changes. :-) Jean M.
...*g* Well, this is another one that just goes to show no matter how much tabletop you might have, you still end up working in a leeeetle teeny clear spot. Eliz.

Prospective studio planners want to know the name of this (great room designer program)...
Actually, I've tried a couple... but the easiest, most satisfying, one I've tried is the 3D Home Architect by Broderbund. It's click and drag... real easy to use. I never even read the manual, just started punching buttons. You can design a room, place furniture... then call it up in 3D and see how it works spatially.... make sure you haven't crowded anything and have good flow. VERY fun! In the deluxe version you can even do landscaping around the house... and you'll see it outside the windows when you call up a 3d view. Joanie

I liked Sunni's idea about painting the walls first with gray primer to "seal" them (it's a really old garage).
...also I may just leave the cement floor as-is since I'm a slob - but I might end up painting it in a "creative fashion". Karen H.

I was going to close off and seal the old garage door, but then I went to an "art tour" where artists opened up their studios, and sold out of them
... so instead I'll buy some sturdy metal shelves on wheels (Costco) that I can stick against the garage door, then wheel out of the way if I do my own art tour in there. Karen H.

I love all the posters on your walls, Lori, especially the color pics of different blends and skinner blends. ...It's great to have inspiration right in front of you when working. Linda B.

I'll put up some cork for tacking inspirational swatches, color combinations, shapes, etc. Irene
...Similar to your cork board, there's at least one other good way of having a pin-able, fabric-stickable surface for a wall that I wanted to mention. I made one when I was a quilter (in fact I covered half of one whole wall in my workroom). I used 2x4' acoustical ceiling tile panels (I think that's what they're called anyway) and nailed them on the wall --4 nails per panel is fine.
...Then, because I wanted to be able to temporarily "audition" fabric swatches for blocks and borders, etc., I added a piece of (sewed-together) white flannel over my whole set up (six tiles?...pinned on the sides of the perimeter; think thin batting, etc.,could be used too). The flannel is just fuzzy enough to grab onto cotton fabrics so they stick on, unless there's a breeze. Otherwise, I just pin anything I wanted on the board with long quilters pins (color combos, magazine pictures, embellishments, inspiration, etc.).
...Originally I had thought about using different colors in blocks or columns instead to make separate "categories," or to have different background "feelings" (like white vs. a neutral organic-type fabric or even black), or using one of the colors already in the room, but I finally settled on the white alone. I've got so much stuff on it that it's colored for sure now! I love that wall.
. . . I had tried some cork years earlier but had been bothered by the smell before it finally dissipated, so was happy to find out about the cheapo tiling. The tiles definitely reflect light better than the cork too, and I find that every ray helps! Diane B.
... I cut two pieces of foam core to fit one of the empty frames... taped them together with double sided tape... and covered them with black felt.... $1.99 a yard. Then I installed them in the frames.... and VIOLA! Instant spiffy looking display boards.. for almost nuthin'! Joanie my new workroom there's also a whiteboard that I just started using to keep track of what I need to be making to fill orders. . .
...This used to be a studio apartment, and you can see part of the ex-kitchen. The counter and cabinets are so fantastic to have! Lots of stuff stored in there, extra bags and tissue paper and pasta machines and shipping supplies and clock mechanisms and more and more. Completed orders are lined up on the counter, and I use the far end for packing.
... and pegboard is wunnerful! I love having my color swatches and frequently used tools so handy . Irene

Joanie's many storage ideas ... work room, display board, etc. (2 pages)

LIGHTS for working, tracing & photography

"Full spectrum" or nearly full-spectrum lights are best for working under because they produce less glare, reduce eye strain, etc.,
...but most importantly, they'll show the true colors of whatever is being worked on even at night

Various fluorescent and incandescent lights/lamps and individual bulbs are sold which are full spectrum, including Ott-lites, halogens, and special bulbs like Verilux, Reveal, Blues Buster, etc
....these are good for working, but also for photographing one's items indoors (especially with digital cameras)
ALL THAT INFO HAS MOVED to Photography >

John built a light box for tracing patterns, which he stores (upside down) on a thick clear acrylic shelf just above his worksurface so that he can also use it for spot lighting (since the shelf is see-through, he can also see the colors of bottles of paint or whatever else he's put there)
...he uses a coiled fluorescent bulb inside the open wood box, and puts a rocker switch on the cord after it exits the box.
.. his surface is a (~8 1/2 x 11") sheet of clear acrylic, so he uses the paper with the original drawing as a diffuser when he wants to trace something
...I'm considering creating an in-desk lightbox since my desk is fairly large. Daibhi

Environmental Lighting Concepts said today it is voluntarily recalling about 1,560 floor lamps. An electronic component inside the plug can overheat, presenting a fire and burn hazard to consumers. The floor lamps are sand colored, stand about 4 feet tall and have flexible gooseneck arms to adjust the position of the fluorescent lights.. model number DMBLH-18W or DMBLP- 18W. ......Craft, hobby and fabric stores, including Hancock Fabrics, sold the lamps nationwide from Nov-Dec 2000 for about $170. replacements...(800) 842-8848



There are various kinds of rollers and brayers which can work with clay.
......I've always thought of a "brayer" as a roller of some kind with a handle attached (I could be wrong though).

Brayers-with-handles that clayers use have roller parts which are made from acrylic or hard rubber
...these are good because they are smooth (extrmemly smooth in the case of acylic) and won't leave any marks on the clay... they also won't react with the clay like some other materials can
...some people prefer the acrylic ones, some prefer the hard rubber ones

I also sometimes like using a short wallpaper roller ---the one with a plastic roller, not wood which leaves marks in the clay
.... it's good for small things like making square and triangular canes. . . but the roller is narrower (only 1.1/2" wide) so it's not so good for certain things

Consider the size and length of a brayer because too-long ones won't be as convenient to use
...I really prefer the 4"... just the little bit extra weight of the 6" tires my hands faster. Patty B.

Having a brayer allows me to flatten clay using one hand only, rather than having to use both hands on a rod
....for example, to reduce a square cane, I roll over the cane with the brayer then flip the cane with the other hand after each roll. Patty B.

I use both the acrylic and the hard rubber, but I prefer the acrylic. It seems to give a smoother finish to the clay . Dotty CA

for some things a black rubber brayer works better than an acrylic one since it doesn't stick to the clay and pull it away from the surface you're rolling it onto. Helen
........the black rubber brayer I had left over from screen printing works like a charm for this and rolls out the bubbles with no sticking at all.

........I bought an acrylic brayer, which I ended up not liking all that much for rolling a thin layer of clay down onto other things like switch sticks to the clay just enough to create more air bubbles than it rolls out. of the guys in our local guild does a lot of work with laminating the clay and he only uses the black rubber kind of brayer, which is why I dug my old one out in the first place. His work is amazingly smooth without any sanding.

....... to care for it, I dry wipe with a rough cotton rag after each session, and just occasionally give it a good washing with dish soap.

(slices on eggs)... I try to lay them down in such a way that I make a sorta smooth surface. In both cases, I roll over them with an acrylic brayer to do the final smoothing… actually, it is one of my most used tools, and I love the way it smooths things out.
....the trick is just to only apply light pressure with it, and go over the area many times. I get very little distortion if I use light pressure.

brayer sources:

local: art supply stores, craft stores, stamping suppliers, drafting suppliers? (mostly hard rubber?... some acrylic?)
.....(for a rubber brayer?) You want a real art supply store that also caters to drafting needs
........or occasionally you can find them at Office Depot or Staples with their art & drafting supplies (their common use is layout work). Helen (is this the brownish ones?)

...printing inks are often applied with brayers, so Speedball, etc., have various brayer types available (at art supply stores or other places). clayers don't use Speedball's spongy rubber ones, though the hard rubber ones are good.

online: (4 & 6" acrylic)
.... (rubber, acrylic, and polypropylene)

Fiskars has put out some patterned brayers:

rollers ....(no handle)

You don't absolutely *need* a brayer-with-a-handle to roll clay, though they are nice to have.
Other things that can be used are acrylic rods (solid or tube), straight-sided drinking glasses, small smooth rods of various materials to use in smaller areas (knitting needles, metal tubes, glass, PVC pipe, acrylic-painted wood, etc., etc.) ... or pasta machines for some uses.

Lots of people use just a straight-sided drinking glass. . . you can see through it well as a bonus.
ry using a heavy, straight-sided bottle such as a wine of the cheap ones with a screw on lid. . .
...That way if your clay is too soft, you can fill it with cold water to help in rolling it out. If it is too firm, use warm water to roll it out. Patty B.
...I've been using a Sobe (large fruit drink) bottle with water filled to the top (usually warm water) ...the only problem is getting the cover off to put more warm water in gets tight when using it to roll with. Sandi

Or you can use an acrylic rod (or tube, if you can't find a rod) purchased from Tap Plastics or another plastics supplier (they are cheap--only a few dollars; they will cut them to any length). I buy the solid ones, and have them in several widths and lengths. One of my favorites is a brutus-long thing (18") which I saw the famous Citizen Cane use when they taught a class to our guild. They use it only for rolling the ground-up or broken-up clay into a slab so it can be fed into the pasta machine. It's amazing how much extra torque you get from the extra 6" of length!--but that one was more expensive.
The rods (big ones too?) can be easily cut with a hack saw or scored with a utility knife and snapped apart. Smooth the end with sand paper.
...My husband makes my rollers and cane end caps from acrylic (rods?). It has been a learning experience for him. At first he just did the cuts and smoothed the rough edges but had lots of problems with minute cracks. From that he learned to lubricate the saw first. Now he is able to cut nicely and sand and buff to a nice clear finish. So it can be done but you need the right equipment. Trina
... (various rod shapes and blocks)
... (clear rods, tubes... and 1/2" diameter acrylic rods available in several colors... and very small diameter (1/4"A PuffinWand
tool for smoothing in various colors)
Usually available in clear, red, yellow-green,, blue, and purple)

One more option is a 12"-16" piece of large, 1-2" diameter PVC pipe. In our local lumber yard you can even buy short lengths of pipe of this size. You might call some of the lumber yards, hardware stores and farm/ranch supply stores to see if they carry the cut up pipe.. . . . To use the PVC, you will have to either cover your clay with waxed paper, freezer paper or parchment paper to keep the clay from sticking. Patty B.

getting a flat sheet, without a pasta machine. . .. Quick and dirty, use a smooth sided paint can, the seams on the ends will give you about a #4 to #6 thickness. This is dependent on the can seams. Another way is to make some sticks on a saw with one side being the dimension desired. You could also make up some 18" long by 1/8" by 1/2" sticks. Also make several like sized strips out of a stiff cardboard (not corragated). You the deside what thick ness you want and make two alike stacks that you fasten at the ends with rubberbands or tape. Then tape these two strips parallel to your work bench. Of course they must be closse enough for the roller to span. Now lay down a sheet of waxed paper, a flattened ball of clay (try to get it flattened to near the desired (but not less than) thickness, place it on the waxed paper. Cover with another sheet. starting in the middle and roll away from the middle.
~If you want to get some really 'hard' guide rails get rectangular brass tubing. (I say rectangular so that you can get two different sizes.
I have been using rods of acrylic I got from Diana Crick--after she started working with canes and needed some herself. I use them lots more than I thought I would--especially because it seems like I have fewer air bubbles with rolling down a thick slab than with building one up from pasta-machine layers.

fat metal knitting needles...double pointed knitting needles come in packages of 4, so you can share with guild members, or have spares.(in knitting, they are primarily used for knitting things with no seams, like socks or hats, or special stitches like cable.) They are shorter than regular needles. Size 15 is the largest (or used to be), and they should be easy to find at knitting shops as well as Michaels, Hobby Lobby and fabric stores that carry yarn, etc. Though they come in metal or plastic, I recommend the metal ones for smoothing clay. The tips, or smaller sizes, are great for getting into hard-to-reach areas. And, no, there is no need to cut off the ends. Judi

see examples of using glass or acrylic sheets and blocks as rollers, just below in Pressers

+ acrylic blocks & sheets (& glass)

The other tool I'm really enjoying right now is a simple acrylic block (paperweight?), appropriated from my husband. (near bottom of page)

This also allows for thicker clay pads than a pasta machine can make

To have the pressed clay's thickness end up as even as possible, 3 or more small cubes (or other small items of same height) can be placed under the block before pressing (see examples in photo above)
....all kinds of things can be found around the house which allow you to make different clay pad thicknesses (jewel boxes for tapes, corks, etc.)
.......or if you can't find 3 of the same thing, cut one thing into 3 pieces.... or try 2 open books

Using a clear "presser" allows you to see the process as it's happening, so you can stop when you want, or to make corrections
......but other smooth, solid blocks or sheets which are opaque can be used if you don't mind not being able to see the clay sheets can also work for many of these methods be able to remove the clay more easily after pressing, place the clay on a sheet of paper (not on a smooth inflexible surface) may also want to place a transparent or translucent sheet of something over the clay (plastic baggie --thick would be best, waxed paper or patty paper, etc.) since it's easier to peel those flexible things from the clay than to peel the clay from a flat and unyielding surface (though if the clay is thick, it isn't often a problem)

The acrylic blocks shown in link above are approx. 3x3", and came from the scrap bin at my local plastics store --I had one of them cut into 2 pieces... fairly inexpensive, between 50 cents and $2.00 each
....sanding the corners and edges of the thicker blocks with sandpaper is a good idea, if you want

....acrylic sheets of various sizes and thicknesses can also be found in the scrap bin of plastics stores, or you can probably use thicker picture frame plastic inserts (glass would also work but be heavier) sheets are available in small frames, glass stores, etc.
....acrylic blocks can be found or cut for you at plastics stores (look for Plastics in the yellow pages --mine was called Tap Plastics, and they should have an online store as well)
....various acrylic block and rod shapes

some uses

pressing down on:
....clay slices (possibly on a ball of backing clay) or on other patterns in order to make them larger on the surface without the distortion usually caused by passing through a pasta machine (which will stretch more in one direction than any other
........just press straight down over the clay with the block.
....balls, ovals, logs, etc., of clay, to thin them out evenly as they're being flattened (this also creates nice even, rounded edges around the perimeters ofthe shape)
....spirals of clay to create a different appearance (slightly flattened) for onlay or Balinese Filigree
....lettering of clay, or rope "vines," or other long clay designs (using a longer rectangular acrylic block) to flatten evenly
...charms, tiny holeless beads, etc., to push them into clay permanently, and also leave a flat surface

heishi beads, or checkers, e.g., are all the same size & height, so this might be a good way to make a bunch of them all the same (beginning with equal size balls --made from cutouts from same thickness clay sheets, etc.)

I use when covering little bottles
....first, many of the bottles have necks... I like to eliminate some of the necks to make straight-sided bottles, so I put a rope of clay around that area, then roll over the bottle with the acrylic block to get the clay as smooth and even with the sides as possible)
....then I cover the whole bottle with a sheet of patterned clay... then use the block again, rolling over the entire bottle to get the covering as smooth as possible so it won't need to be sanded (a light touch is best for controlling the bottle when rolling)
(......see more in BOH-covered bottles)
..also acrylic sheets are good for rolling clay-covered pens smooth (...the pen should be parallel to and just next to the edge of your work table, so that the sheet will actually be using the pen and the edge of the table at the same time, to steady and guide the sheet as it rolls over the pen)
(.....see more in Pens)

crackling metallic leaf or dried paint & inks) on raw clay by pressing down....but be aware that larger cracks in leaf will result than with other methods (more in Leaf and Paints)

molds ...this method of making molds also leaves the top and bottom of the mold very flat which is often helpful later

onlay or Balinese Filigree ...putting an acrylic block on top of a lazy susan mechanism really helps make the rope spirals (I got my turning mechanism at the plastics store, but the all-metal ones are available at hardware stores....see more on all that in Clay Guns > Balinese Filigree)

bicone beads can be created by rolling (long or short) bicone shapes with small discs of glass (or plastic --though the plastic ones I got at Michaels seem to be made of the kind of plastic that reacts with the clay, leaving it foggy; if you get that kind, just don't leave clay touching it between rollings
(for info on making bicones and swirled-pattern bicones, see Beads > Rollers > Bicones with sheet of acrylic)

texturing ...the edges and corner points of the acrylic block can be used as texturing tools too.

other pressers

a metal tortilla press can be very handy for flattening clay also, whether it has a pattern you want to enlarge evenly or whether you just want to flatten patties of clay for storage (suggestion from Johnny Kuborssy) aware that it will only press the clay one particular thickness evenly (that thickness if thicker than #1 on the pasta machine though)

Other Tools

Ordinary sprayers/misters can be used to apply a water release for molds, or to spray Future or Flecto (though see the caveats for which kind to use, how to keep unblocked, etc., on this page, under the sub-category Sprays: There may be other more exotic uses that aren't common yet, for example spraying acrylic or other paints to give a spotted background for a background or component piece, or to make powders or other surface finishes mottle or actually run in a pleasing way. Using a sprayer with alcohol in it might be a good way to clean pasta machine rollers, work surfaces, or blades, without having to unscrew the alcohol bottle's top every time . . . hey, I like that idea . Diane B.

I used an airbrush for a number of years to apply underglazes to pottery. The main difference in prices is how you change the width of the spray, from very fine to course. On the more basic models, it is manual and there is a thumb screw you turn to adjust width. You can get more expensive 'automatic' versions which have a level or button to do this. I was told using the second kind took more skill so I opted for the manual type which was a good choice since underglaze is hard on the metal and the tips on mine have eroded considerably. They all require a compressor. There are several options in compressors. There are the little aerosol cans which in my opinion are only good for travelling and demos. There is the electric compressor which is what I use. The main drawback is it is loud and there are hoses you can trip over. I used to put my compressor in another room and sometimes wore ear protection -- which along with the mask I wore, not an altogether comfortable and happy art experience. Still one does what one must. ...The drawbacks are somewhere to store the tank and also it is flammable. The electric compressor has a long life -- of course the aerosol cans have to be replaced and the tanks need to be refilled. Set up is pretty easy. Clean up -- depends on what is in it. For acrylics I think you need to use a solvent, but watercolour and underglaze clean up with water. I just took my airbrush to the sink and ran it under the tap with the airbrush going and put my finger over the nozzle to force anything stuck to come back out. You can do some amazing things with airbrush -- they are fine art tools -- however I was using mine pretty crudely with stencils and masking. They are fast and there are no brush strokes. They do take practice though. Hope this helps, Deborah

I have used a few different brands. I have come down to preferring the high end Aztek kit. ...This particular brush, the 470, is considered a professional airbrush and the body has a lifetime warranty. The reasons I settled on the Aztek are numerous. 1. it is both single and double action. That is to say it can be used by pressing down on the button to regulate both air and paint flow which is considered easier for beginners. AND it can be set to regulate airflow by pressing down on the lever and paint flow by pulling back on the lever. This allows for some really nice detail work. 2. It comes with several nozzles bundled in the kit. These puppies are about $10.00 each if you go to buy em retail. (bonus 2 of the nozzles are specifically for use with acrylic paint) 3. The documentation is excellent. Manual, spec sheets, and a start up video. 4. Nozzles and add-ons are readily available at nearly any hobby shop.
Do the cheaper ones tend to clog or spit?
Yes they do. Any airbrush, if not properly maintained or loaded with paint that is too thick will clog. But the cheaper models do so more often. This is not to say that they don't have their uses... For instance if you have no idea if you REALLY want to work with an airbrush, buying a little 16 dollar testors airbrush and a can of air is is a 26 dollar investment and lets you see if you like using them. That is what I first did. Eventually the nozzle wore out and I replaced it with the more professional model that I have now.
Do all airbrushes require an additional compressor or something similar, and how often do these need to be replaced?
Yes you must have an airsource. I have a pretty standard compressor. These can be very pricey but are worth it in the end. The cheaper models like the one I opted for are just as good from a utilitarian stand point as the more expensive ones but there are trade off's in the area of convenience. The cheaper ones usually need to rest for a while every hour or so. They are somewhat loud. The more expensive models are very quiet and can go and go and go... but you have to keep them lubricated. A decent lower end compressor should last you for years and years and years if you maintain it properly.
What is a good one brush for use on detailed sculptural pieces? How easy is set up and clean up? Finally, what kind of paints would work well with both the airbrush, and the clay? (I'm guessing more liquidy acrylics)
Well technically you can use ANY paint with an airbrush provided the paint is thin enough. All of the documentation I have along with several books and informational web-sites seem to agree that something with a similar consistency to whole milk is what you are shooting for. The aztek comes with nozzles specifically for use with acrylics. And the beauty of acrylics with the airbrush is that the only thinner you need is water. The only cleanup you need is water.
The aztek has worked well for me and is a good brush with lots of applications from laying a basecoat to doing some pretty nice detail work once you get the hang of it. Some minor points to save you some heartache... If you go with canned propellant... you want to find something that is just canned air. The chemicals in some brands of propellant can react to the clay and make it sticky. Practice a lot on paper or junk pieces you buy from a thrift store or something. Don't get discouraged too fast... it does take a while to get the whole process down pat. The exercises are a bit tedious but will make for really nice pieces when you get down to the actual artistic endeavor. Have fun and hope this helped some. I honestly have no connection with Aztek other than I have been very happy with my product. SpookyT

Having used just about every airbrush there is, my personal favorite and the one that several illustrators I know use, is the Iwata. It is a dual action airbrush with a gravity feed. That means that the paint cup sits on top of the brush. (In several models of airbrush the paint cup connects to the side or even underneath. This makes it difficult to reach some angles. Also, the paint cups that are separate from the mail airbrush instead of being part of the body tend to be knocked off very easily. That can make some major messes!) Badger also makes a gravity feed airbrush.
One of the reasons i like the Iwata, though, is that they have fewer parts. That means they are easier to clean and easier to repair (if it becomes necessary).
The airbrushes that are called single action aren't as versatile because you have little or no control over how fine a spray you can get from them. With a dual action you can alter the width as well as the pressure of the spray. If you're planning to do more detailed work you won't like a single action brush.
The tank that everyone has referred to is a CO2 tank. These can generally be purchased at a welding supply company. The run about $100 but you need to get the regulator that goes on it (what you attach the hose to) which can cost from $30-$50. The benefits are that it is totally silent, doesn't require an electrical source, provides a continual and steady stream of air. They last a long time and can be refilled for about $15. If you have a 20lb. tank it should last around a year before needing to be refilled unless you use it ever day for 8 hours a day.
As far as what type of paint to use, you can use any type of paint as long as you thin it down with water or airbrush medium. However, as a beginner you probably want to start by using paint designed specifically for airbrush until you know what consistency is best. Createx and Badger make good airbrush paint. elisabeth


(see also Pasta machines, Cutters/blades, Sculpting--tools, Sanding, Buffing, (warmers in) Conditioning, Beads-drilling, Baking for ovens, Clay guns )