This millefiori USB flash drive makes a great present for friends (or for yourself). With a polymer clay casing you can give the memory stick a very individual appearance. Each one is different and you can personalise by using the wearer's favorite colour combinations.
If you have some experience with polymer clay it can be a first millefiori project. I advise to start with simple patterns, which already give a great effect
If you do not have experience with polymer clay, just take some time to get some feeling with the material and you will very soon be ready to start with millefiori. Check out some of the many online millefiori tutorial videos. I like the ones from fimosieraden.
As taking pictures of a polymer clay work in progress involves cleaning my hands thoroughly before taking the camera each time, I combined pictures of workpieces made at different times to cover all the steps.
Step 1: Materials and Tools
- a USB flash drive. I prefer to work with the smallest possible, in order to end up with a small pendant. Sliding models, as opposed to those with a cap, tend to allow for an easier complete removal of the outer casing. You can also use the types without any cover.
- polymer clay of the brand and colours of your choice. I use Fimo "Soft" and Fimo "Effect", most often in a combination of three colours. Take care as polymer clay in unbaked condition is considered harmful to your health and to many plastic surfaces. I guess it's the softeners that do the harm. Check the instructions of the manufacturer. Avoid contact with anything not needed for the sculpting and wash hands, tools and working area thoroughly afterwards.
- some wood with a thickness close to the thickness of the USB flash drive without casing.
- a piece of lace and a catch of your choice
- some masking tape for option A, some thin double-sided tape for option B. I use the type meant for fixing carpets to the floor.
- a clean working surface suitable for working with polymer clay (the softeners tend to attack many plastics and paints, but not polyethylene and polypropylene).
- a razor type crafts knife
- a toothpick
- a kitchen furnace (not shown) with good temperature control adapted to the polymer clay of your choice (110 degrees Celsius for Fimo).
Step 2: Option A: Using the Outer Casing of the USB Flash Drive.
This is the easiest option for most models of USB flash drive, but it will result in a slightly more bulky pendant. I used this option on an Intenso Slim Line USB drive.
Sliding the USB connector out allowed to saw the casing in two halves without touching the actual flash drive part. Actually breaking of the slide button with a small screwdriver would have made life easier by taking the flash drive part completely before sawing. The slide button It needs to be removed of anyway.
Do saw the casing in two equal halves as you will not be able to see the saw line when cutting the polymer clay layer. If you would choose 1/3- 2/3 for example, you could end cutting up the wrong 1/3. Cutting halfway will always be close enough to the saw line.
Make the piece of wood to the same size and shape of the inner part and assemble the casing halves on it. Close the holes with masking tape.
Option B: discarding the original casing or working with a type without casing.
This option allows for a less bulky pendant. This method also allows for a division other than half way as there is no saw line to aim for.
In the picture you can see I used it on Kingston micro SD card adapter (with micro SD card inserted). I also applied this method on several Intenso Slim Line USB drives.
In this option too, cut and sand the piece of wood to the same shape and size as the USB flash drive. You can try to take in the thickness of the double sided tape and its backing that will cover it , if you are good at this kind of thing,. Otherwise aim for a core+tape slightly larger than the USB stick. You can make a good fit later.
Step 4: Preparing the Millefiori "cane"
You can find a lot of tutorials on how you can reduce patterns in polymer clay to canes, which are cut in slices to form decorative beads and surfaces. I learned it from the following two videos (do not be deterded by the complicated patterns, start with simpler ones):
lesson 3 which I recommend to check out first
Choose your colours and pattern. The reducing process requires a circular outer shape. I mostly use three colours in a simple concentric configuration, somewhat out of center. The middle colour is repeated as a forth outer layer. It is good to know this colour becomes the dominant in the final result. Keep it simple as the patterns do get deformed more ore less.
Step 5: Cover the Core
With some "scrap" unbaked polymer clay (for example from the cane ends) add some butt pieces to the core. You can make them rounded or give them another shape, but you will need some material in which you can make a hole for the lace.
Cut slices from the cane, with a thickness of about 3mm, and completely cover the shape with them.
By applying a little pressure carefully flatten the pieces a little to close the gaps,. Do not try and close the gaps in one squeeze, but gently go round and round the workpiece slowly closing the gaps. While doing, constantly choose change the area where you apply pressure, in order to correct the general shape of the workpiece. Continue till all gaps are gone and you have obtained the desired shape.
Step 6: Making a Hole and Cutting.
Make a circumferential cut through the polymer clay, right to the core. Try to make one continuous cut. Do one large side and without taking the knife tilt it to cut both narrow sides one after the other Turn around the workpiece and make the final cut, connecting the two side cuts.
At one end make a hole for the lace. When working with equal halves I prefer to do that in the half part in which the flash drive will be glued in, thinking it is still better to lose an empty half casing than the flash drive itself. In option B you can chose to make an extra long 'cap' with the lace and a short glued on part. This way you can risk the long 'cap' as the part kept around the neck, while the flash drive is taken out for use.
You can make the hole for the lace by drilling after baking. But doing it in the soft condition makes sure it will not run through the core, thus the lace will not run through the space neaded for the flash memory.
To make the hole, push through a toothpick, till the tip just starts showing the other side. Then pull back the toothpick an insert it in the smaller hole at the other side. This way you make a hole with both openings formed smoothly, instead of one opening stretched outwards.
Step 7: Baking and Finishing
Bake the workpiece as indicated for the brand of polymer clay used and let it cool down. With the razor knife redo the cut. Take care to follow the original cut for a clean result. Pull the halves apart.
Remove the core and all remnants of tape and backing from the baked pieces. The core can be reused, but will probably need new tape and backing.
You can sand the pieces for an extra smooth result. This is best done with the core inserted back in. Finishing with 400 grid gives a good result for most colours. Clean the parts afterwards.
Some colours look better wet than dry, in that case you can apply some wax or varnish after drying.
Insert the USB plug side of the flash drive in the corresponding new cover part, i.e. the "cap". If it does not fit tightly enough to serve as a friction fit cap, you will need to add some "thickness" to the inner hollow of the part. For small additions I carefully put a drop of superglue on the inner wall and leave it dry keeping the part laying down. Keep in mind superglue sets very slowly when left to dry to the air. Do not insert the USB plug until the glue has thoroughly set.
Test fit the complete assembly. With the USB plug side inserted as deep as possible, attach the other part. Put a tiny drop of superglue in that other part and keeping it as the underside part insert the flash drive. Be careful and avoid gluing to the "cap" part. If after the glue has set, the fixed part still seperates, repeat it with another tiny drop. It is better to try several times than to add to much glue.
Attach the lace and the catch.