Introduction: Polishing Polymer Clay
What? This Instructable will give you a beginners guide to polishing and adding a finish to your baked polymer clay pieces.
Why? Polishing and adding a wax finish removes finger prints and other flaws (like marks from your knives or tools), gives the surface a cleaner look, gives a beautiful sheen and helps to preserve the integrity of a piece of polymer clay.
How? Read on....
Step 1: Materials
What you need
*Wet and Dry. From the sandpapers section in the hardware. A range of grits going up to the finest available (the higher the finer). I've 400, 800 and 1200.
*Renaissance Wax. You can pick this up on ebay. Mine came from the UK and was about $20 (including shipping for the 65 mls but this is heaps (for me).
*A cloth to clean off your polymer clay pieces with. I use old torn up sheets.
*Newspaper for the table.
*A dish of water with a tiny bit of dishwashing liquid (a drop). It helps to keep things slick.
*A cloth to apply your wax. I use a bit if flannelette.
Step 2: Polish Your Pieces
Set up your table with some newspaper, your wet and dry sandpapers, a little dish of water with a drop of dish washing liquid, and your old cloths.
Dip your piece of clay (make sure you have baked as per the instructions on the pack) in the water and then use the wet and dry. You use the coarser grit first, and move through to the least coarse. You do this as much as you like to achieve the look your want. My pieces don't need a lot but it you have flaws you are trying to fix or want a refined surface keep working on it.
I place mine face down on the wet and dry and move it in a circle clockwise and anti clockwise for the best finish. The clay wet and dry should be wet enough for easy movement of your pieces.
If you are working with unusual shapes you may need to tear off little pieces (don't cut it, you'll ruin the scissors) and polish that way. This is something where you will need to work on getting the best technique and comfort for your hands and whatever shapes you are working with.
Wet and Dry can be used and reused for ages. I clean the surface with a wet rag by dabbing at the patches where the clay has been.
Move through the wet and dry, from coarsest (lowest number) to finest (highest number).
When you are done rinse it well in the dish of water and wipe dry with your old cloth. The wet and dry can leave some black gunk so make sure you get that off.
Check out your surface in the light and move through the process again if there are still flaws.
Step 3: Finishing Your Pieces
Renaissance Wax was something I read about from a few polymer clay artists. I decided to get some as I can also use it on my Brass work and other metals, to polish wooden furniture, to buff my leather shoes and after reading the info sheet with it I can probably use it for a million other things.
Before I wax my pieces I glue on my findings (bails, ear posts, brooch backs, etc). I only want to wax the front and sides and I don't want the wax to interfere with the glue adhering to the polymer clay (I use araldite glue, it is a two part epoxy resin).
You only need to start with a tiny bit of wax, buffing it on slowly and evenly (using a soft cloth, I use a flannelette scrap) and adding more in layers until you get your desired look. I go with two layers. You need to let it dry a little before adding the extra layers, I do a batch and move through them in a cirlce returning to the start after all have been done. A five min wait between layers works for me, for best layering build up a few hours between layers works great!
When you finish I recommend leaving it to dry for 24hrs.
You can also wax your non polished pieces. It adds a nice finish to those.
Step 4: Looking Good!
It is so hard to photograph but in person the polished and waxed piece (left) is beautiful.
A few extra pointers
*Don't polish glitter filled polymer clays.
*Pearl effect clays come up beautiful with a polish and wax.
*I use Fimo but this technique should work fine across the board with other brands of polymer clay.
*Spend time getting used to your process. It takes me about 20 minutes to polish about 20 pieces and the same to add the wax but certainly didn't at first.