Introduction: How to Make Polymer Clay Beads

Picture of How to Make Polymer Clay Beads

I love to make rather large polymer clay beads but the bigger the bead, the heavier the weight, which is no good for jewelry. I decided using a wood "filler" bead might help cut down the weight. Turns out it did and it also cut down my expenses b/c I wasn't using nearly as much clay! And that translated to selling the beads at a better price as well! Everyone wins! :D

Here's how I make inexpensive and light-weight polymer beads...

Step 1: What You'll Need.

Picture of What You'll Need.

-Pre-made Cane
-Tissue Blade
-Knitting Needle or Exacto-Knife or Stylus
-Wax Paper
-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.

Picture of Workstation.

Something to remember is polymer clay is soft and will pretty much pick up anything it comes into contact with, so keep your work area as clean as possible.

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.

Picture of Slices.

Choose your cane and begin cutting slices from one end.

The slices should be thin but not so thin they are see-thru. Slices should also be fairly even in thickness.

Step 4: Cover.

Picture of Cover.

Pick a wood bead to cover. Put a dab of liquid clay anywhere on the bead. Then place a slice of your cane on the dab of liquid clay.

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.

Picture of Rolling.

Once the bead is covered but still with parts of the wood bead still visible, set it down on the paper, place your finger gently ontop. Use a small amount of pressure and slowly roll the bead around underneath your finger.

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.

Picture of Hole.

Obvisiously, for this bead to be a bead there has to be a hole through it for string, hemp, etc.

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.

Picture of Bake.

Most polymer clays bake for 10 mins at around 200 degrees in a conventional oven, but it's important that you read the directions on your polymer clay packaging.

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.

Good Luck!


short_circuit_princess (author)2014-06-11

great instructable. Your beads look very pretty. I also make clay beads and came up with an idea for suspending beads, that can not roll around on the pan. I purchased an inexpensive pan and drilled holes opposite of one another on the upright sides....this way i can thread my needle or skewer through one side....string beads on and then thread through the other side of the pan....easy and awesome everytime....thanks for the great step by step. i never thought of covering wood beads.

Thank you for the great idea! I'm going to keep an eye out at the thrifts store for a pan!

vkingns (author)2015-05-28

One more tip: using surgical gloves you eliminate fingerprints. I have many years of expirience in polymer clay forming. :)

SorkaSpellbound (author)vkingns2016-11-04

Thank you for the tip about the gloves!

SorkaSpellbound (author)2016-11-04

just found this tutorial this evening. I'm new to polymer clay but am very interested in making larger sized beads for macramé projects. This has been extremely helpful and inspiring. Thank you for a well done tutorials!

НаталияД (author)2015-07-29

Hi, you get a very good step by step tutorial.
Allow you to showcase your work?

vkingns (author)2015-05-28

Nice work! It is better using thin acrylic sheet instead of paper for your workstation. Clay doesn't stick onto the acylic sheets.

kaleykyle (author)2015-05-07

Do you know anywhere to buy pre made cane? Ive been looking online and all i can find is the cane used for doing nails is that the same?

msteppe (author)2015-04-13

My wife has been making some clay beads and has hinted that she would like to have some "molds". Can you help me? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!!

hschwartz1 (author)2014-11-06

What can be used in place of the liquid polymer clay?

M.Hawse (author)2014-03-23

Beautiful. Just beautiful. I am starting to think of so many possibilities with this line of crafting. Thank you for sharing!

astrovoid (author)2013-09-27

Mmmm... it's cool!!! Sleds Can-Am No Limit Motors

maidensolo (author)2012-12-19

I stick my beads on a toothpick and stick the toothpick in an apple.  i put them there the minute they are made and they are not disturbed until after they come out of the oven! I set the apple in a cake pan. This is so simple but so successful. You know the more you handle a bead prior to baking the more messed up it gets. This way is flawless. After baking and cooling, remove the bead and toss the apple in the trash. I usually bake a set of 25 beads on one apple.

Kalaus (author)2009-11-19

An even better alternative to wood beads is kitchen foil -- cut or tear it into approximately equal pieces, crumple and roll tightly into balls. Practice to see what size works better for you. Don't forget to make holes (use a needle or a toothpick) before they are covered with clay -- poking a hole through tightly rolled foil is not as easy as it may seem, you will need to hold it very firmly between your fingers.

emilyvanleemput (author)Kalaus2012-08-15

great idea!

craftymama11 (author)2009-11-09


Polymer clay is basically a mixture of clay and polymer (also used in plastics) so it's pretty durable. However, it is not indestructible and the thinner it is, the less durable it is, just like earth-clay. It can get wet, in fact, to get rid of fingerprints and other unwanted marks, you can use a fine grade sandpaper with some water to buff them right out! :D

Polymer clay is not a mixture of "clay and polymer". 

Polymer clay is made up of fine particles of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) suspended in plasticizer.  It is a completely synthetic compound.


Sweet2Spicy (author)Sweet2Spicy2010-03-21

Unfortunately your information in Step 7 above about the baking temperature for polymer clay is not correct. 

You state, "Most polymer clays bake for 10 mins at around 200 degrees" ....

There is NO major brand of polymer clay that bakes at a 200 degree temperature.  This is far TOO LOW and will result in a weak and brittle product that breaks easily. 
When polymer clay is baked at the proper temperature (normally between 250 to 300 degrees depending on brand) you get a strong, long-lasting product.

You are correct however in directing folks to read the instructions on the clay package.

I bake my beads at around 210F and have not had a problem with brittleness.

I've never head of clay that bakes at only 210 degrees - that's way too low to bake out all the plasticizer and give a hard, strong product.

Here are the correct baking times for the top brands of polymer clay:

PREMO = 275 degree (for 30 mins each 1/4" of thickness - i.e. 1/2" thick equals 1 hour)

FIMO = 265 degrees

SCULPEY = 275 degrees

KATO = 300 degrees

Hope this helps.

Take care and happy claying.

sassy111 (author)Sweet2Spicy2011-04-12

Everytime I cook my polymer clay for this long by beads have a tendency to burn. I have to cook my beads at 265 for 15 minutes no longer. They start turning brown

Sweet2Spicy (author)sassy1112011-04-12

Are you cooking them in a small toaster oven? ... close to the heating elements?

Clay does not burn at 265 degrees unless you've got it right by the heating element. If you "tent" the clay with aluminum foil, this may help.

It sounds like you are doing something unusual here ... 265 is a very safe temperature even if you bake for 40 minutes (like I always do).

mslaynie (author)Sweet2Spicy2012-08-12

Lots of ovens aren't quite accurate with their temperatures. It could be that 210 on her oven actually is closer to 275, and that 265 is enough higher that its burning her clay.

Thanks for clearing that up :) I should've looked it up before but was too lazy. Fail.

emilyvanleemput (author)2012-08-12

where's the ible for the clay cane???

maddymooskie (author)2011-07-11

where did you get your pre made cane?

I don't buy premade canes.

maddymooskie (author)2011-07-12

how much do you pay for a cane of pre made cane

I don't buy pre-made canes. I make all of my own canes.

WeaveKiller (author)2010-10-26

You can bake the beads on a nice little "nest" of Polyfill. (It won't melt.)

Do you mean the same poly fill used for quilts and pillows or something else. That seems too easy.

popnicute (author)NaturalCrafter2011-07-12

yes, it should be the same polyfill for bedding stuff. i bought the thick sheet ones and cut to fit my oven. it helps baking things that are not beads. it helps to keep your creations' shape really well. polyfill doesn't leave any marks on the baked clay.

NaturalCrafter (author)2011-06-21

Thanks about the beads..I just had to see what other things you are making. Fun stuff!

BrutalMastodon (author)2011-01-06

Have you tried using 6mm airsoft bbs for small beads? you can buy like 5000 for $10 or so, depending where you look.

Lettucehead (author)2010-03-15

 Yes! I have been trying to find instructions on these FOREVER!!! Yay!!!

beadydani (author)2010-01-02

Very carefully explained tut, better than all the ones I have come across. I like the way you explain every step and why it is important to get it right.

I may give it another (had two failed attempts) try at some point but right now I am so busy with other aspects of jewellery making.

Thanks for sharing.

thickneckarts (author)beadydani2010-01-11

Thanks :D Good luck with your next try!

lotusduck (author)2009-12-09

 I have also heard that you can roll up dissolving starch packing peanuts to make a completely hollow bead, or a nearly hollow bead with a little something to roll around in there.

bassclarinet23 (author)2009-10-18

Could you roll your own little ball and poke a hole through it, then bake it?

Absolutely. But check out my intro.

Okay. They're very professional looking.

Thanks! Unfortunately, this set didn't work as well as usual, but practice make perfect! :D

suzettefsy (author)2009-03-30


KreaKatri (author)2009-03-26

Looks nice :) Since the liquid polymer clay is only preferable, does that mean that it will work without it?

thickneckarts (author)KreaKatri2009-03-27

You can, but the clay may not stick to the wood as well. If you're not using liquid polymer clay, try scoring the wood first so the clay will stick better. Experimenting is the best way to know. :)

KreaKatri (author)thickneckarts2009-03-27

Okay, thanks :) I'll try that.

Bard (author)2009-03-26

Have you ever attempted to clear coat one of these things to see how it turns out?

thickneckarts (author)Bard2009-03-27

Absolutely. There's a type of resin that works well. I use a jewelry clear coat which works well. I don't recommend Sculpey brand coating. It peels easily. I find the look of the bead determines whether it should have a clear coat.

thickneckarts (author)2009-03-25

Thanks :D

About This Instructable




Bio: I dig making hemp jewelry and upcycling would-be tossed items. I also run a free website that maps businesses that offer "free tire air" to ... More »
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