Here's how I make inexpensive and light-weight polymer beads...
Step 1: What you'll need.
-Knitting Needle or Exacto-Knife or Stylus
-Liquid Polymer Clay (preferable)
-Wood Beads (size is up to you)
If you don't have a "pre-made cane", look for an instructable on "how to make a polymer clay cane". I'll probably have one out in a couple of hours. ;)
Step 2: Workstation.
Good lighting is important too. Especially when working with smaller crafts like beads. And have all your tools within arms reach.
Now, tape down your wax paper, making sure you get all the corners pulled snug so the paper doesn't crinkle in the middle. Move your hands around on the paper after taping just to make sure it's secure.
Step 3: Slices.
The slices should be thin but not so thin they are see-thru. Slices should also be fairly even in thickness.
Step 4: Cover.
Gently press down on the slice's edges so they conform to the bead's spherical form. The slice's edges will not lay perfectly flat and that is fine, don't force them to lay flat! The amount of pressure you put on polymer clay affects it's look...too much pressure and the clarity of your slice's rings and colors will be lost. Always be gentle!
Continue dabbing the liquid clay all over the bead and placing slices on the dabs until the bead is covered. But don't try to cover every single inch of the bead by overlapping slices!!! Some of the bead should still be visible for the next step to work properly.
Step 5: Rolling.
Remember, too much pressure will "smear" the patterns and colors.
Once the slices have rounded out a bit and the bead is starting to resemble a sphere again, use a little more pressure from you finger and roll faster. But don't get all crazy with your rolling!
You'll start to notice the slices covering all visible parts of the wood. The slices should also be fairly flat against the bead too.
Step 6: Hole.
In rolling the bead around to flatten the slices, the clay may have partially covered up the bead's hole. This is normal and easy to fix.
If you want the bead to give the allusion that it is solid polymer clay, use a knitting needle to smooth down the edges.
Use just the end of the needle one each side of the bead. Slant the needle and move it clockwise all the way around face of the hole. The clay may buckle slightly on the sides. If this happens, pull the needle out and turn it sideways (adjacent to the hole) and roll it gently across the hole. I can't stress enough to be gentle!
*If you're not worried about the bead looking like solid polymer clay, use an exacto-knife or stylus to "cut" the excess clay from the hole. Either way, the bead will look dope.
Step 7: Bake.
For the bead to keep it's shape, it has to be suspended when baked. You can buy kits for this but I use knitting needles and a baking pan.
"Thread" your beads on the knitting needles and then place the needles so they stretch from edge to edge of the pan.
Be careful when putting them in the oven so as not to rock the pan and them roll away!
After the bead has cooled, you can sand it down to be as smooth as possible using a fine-grit sandpaper.