Introduction: Polymer Clay Pendant Trial

A friend of mine has been into The Longest Journey, and he asked if I could make him a pendant like the Talisman of Balance. I'd make one just to make one (and I still owe him for the homemade Homestuck scale mate he gave me), but that's an awfully complex pattern to just jump into. So I thought I'd give it a try with a simpler design just to figure out the right way to make the real thing.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

This could be done much better with nicer materials, but I don't have much money or space for those so I went with what I had:

    • A printout of the design
    • Polymer clay
    • A roller
    • A sharp razor
    • Waxy paper
    • A pan for baking
    • Paint and brush
    • Cord or chain

    Step 2: Figuring Out the Design

    I'll only need to figure out the size when I make the Balance version, but I wanted something simpler just to test. After going through a couple ideas, I chose an alchemical symbol for earth.

    Step 3: Making Some Discs

    I wasn't actually too keen on carving out a design or settling with a fragile cutout, so I opted to fake an engraving. I would make two sheets of polymer clay, one with the design cut out and another to serve as a backing, both would be glued together and finished to look like one piece.

    First things first, I would need some very flat clay. Fairly easy to do with some waxy paper and a roller. Anything round and hard would do; I just happened to have a highlighter that did the job.

    Step 4: Transfering the Pattern

    With the sheets ready, I cut through my printout to transfer the pattern. The waste would come out later.

    A sharp razor is key here. The clay itself was almost as soft as butter, but the paper still needed a good, pointy blade to poke through. Remember: sharp tools are actually safer and easier to work with, whereas a dull tool is likely to jam and make you use too much force.

    Step 5: Cutting Out the Pattern

    I didn't actually cut all the way through the clay in the previous step, so I had to go back and cut out the scrap. It was a little tricky to remove the scrap clay; it liked sticking to that paper.

    Step 6: Cutting Out the Back Half

    The easier half, but not entirely simple. I wanted to get the back half to match the front so I wouldn't have to reshape it too much after gluing, so I transferred the pattern leftover from the front.

    Step 7: Add Some Texture

    I thought the inside could use an older, more clay-like texture, so I grabbed some things within sight to give it some character. A bit of ceramic and the knurled grip of the razor seemed to work well enough.

    A common mistake in weathering like this is to make it too uniform. This could probably be avoided by actually banging it up, but it's far too delicate for that at this stage.

    Step 8: Time to Bake

    Pretty straightforward, but I managed to mess things up a bit. The clay really stuck to the paper, so I think I distorted the discs a little. In retrospect, working on foil would've been a better idea. On top of that, I managed to tear a little bit off the back half, so I would need to salvage that later.

    Step 9: Gluing the Halves Together

    I originally meant to just use some super glue, but I was fresh out. So my father-in-law set me up with some frightening and foul-smelling epoxy that did just fine.

    Step 10: Finishing and Weathering

    After a bit of filing to get the edges more even, it was time to paint. I just slapped on some gold spray paint and raw umber I had laying around. Most of the brown would be wiped away later.

    Step 11: Completion and Lessons Learned

    Some hemp cord and paper beads I happened to have later, and I was ready to call it done. I decided to just cut out that ruined part of the back half to allow space for the cord to tie around; it's a good thing Sculpy is so soft

    Not a bad test run, but not really my kind of thing. Maybe I'll tie it to a sword or something. More importantly, it taught me some things to do when I actually start that favor for my friend:

    • Use some Apoxie next time. I'd rather not risk distorting a delicate pattern like that moving it to-and-from the oven
    • Find something else for the back half. I surely have some kind of disc around that's about the right size already. If it looks "too round," I can always beat it down later
    • Be more generous with the edge of the front half. I can always trim it down later and leave less of a gap between the halves