DRAGONS! Who doesn't love dragons? Well, okay, maybe that dude over there and the dog over yonder. And she told me the other day she doesn't understand what the big deal is all about. Me? I LOVE dragons! Here is how I made a dragon scale necklace out of polymer clay.
Sure, I could have used metal scales. But they aren't exactly readily available without ordering online and usually only come in specific shapes. But polymer clay, if you don't already have some, then you can go to your local craft store and pick some up. And you can have any shape and color you want! Not to mention it's nice and light.
Fair warning, this project does take some time and a lot of patience. But as you can see, can be quite worth it with all kinds of possibilities!
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Step 1: Here, You Will Need These...
So things you will need:
- Polymer clay
- I have 2 colors pictured and that's because I will be creating a gradient. Feel free to do a single color
- I am using a custom cutter I made out of a soda can
- Surface to bake on
- I am using glass. Just do not use wood or cardboard. And make sure if fits in your oven. You will be creating directly on this surface and going straight to the oven.
- Clay extruder with a tear drop disc
- Bake and bond
- Pasta machine or rolling pin
- Long blade
Step 2: Condition the Clay
So first thing you will need to do is condition your clay. Basically you are warming up and softening the clay to be more pliable. Kneading is good. Rolling it out, folding and twisting is my preferred method, followed with a few trips through the pasta machine. Sometimes I check email, Facebook, or watch tv while I knead it in one hand. You just need to get it to be easy to work with. If it's all crumbly and hard to shape, then it's not ready.
Now if you are using 1 color, then go ahead and skip the next step. But if you would like to see how I do a two color gradient in a strip, then please follow me......
Step 3: Linear Gradient Strip
So I know there are all kinds of different ways to do this. But I wanted to control the width so as to not waste clay, but also to control the area with the gradient. I still wanted the opposite ends to retain original color. Why? Because I'm using a small cutter and in a regular skinner blend, the gradient area (where the colors blend) can easily become too large.
- Load the extruder and crank out the clay in each color. Remember to clean it between colors. Yes, you will be blending the colors, but you don't want unexpected blemishes
- Cut the tear drop rope into even lengths. I did 3 inches each.
- Take a strip of each color and put them together. Pointed end to rounded end. Lightly press them together. It will now look like a flattened log.
- Go ahead and give them a LIGHT roll as another step to make sure they are together.
- Set your pasta machine to the widest setting and pass the strip through with the short side in. Basically pass it in long ways. You can also just use your roller and slowly increase the pressure. Just try to focus on increasing the length and not the width.
- Fold it over from end to end, give it a light press to get the two sides to bond and pass it through again. Do this 2 more times.
- If the two sides are not together well, there is a chance that they will separate and split two ways as it's going through the machine. You don't want this.
- Decrease the setting on your pasta machine one step. Pass the strip through without folding it. Then decrease and pass through again. Do this until it's at your desired thickness.
- One of the pictures above shows strips as they SLOWLY decreased in thickness. The length increased, as did the width
- You will start to see a slight blending, but not much. It's also very likely that the strip is not wide enough for your cutter yet. So repeat the fold and roll method until you get the desired blend and width. You know, where you fold the two ends together and press them together? Yeah, do that.
Step 4: Taking Shape
Whether you did the gradient or you decided to do a single color, roll it out to your desired thickness. I do recommend going to the thinnest setting on your pasta machine. It will be more flexible in the end.
- Lay the sheet or strip out on your baking surface (piece of glass in my case) and lightly roll and get air bubbles out.
- Cut out your shapes with the cutter. How you do so is up to you.
- Now you can either remove the surrounding clay, like I did and save it for later, or you can leave it like this and bake.
- Removing the excess gives you scrap clay, or excess clay to make more or use it for anything else.
- Leaving it on makes for cleaner edges, by just popping it out
- Press down any bubbles or edges that lift up. Just do it lightly
- It's possible to have rough pieces still attached to the cut shape. This is ok, it can be cleaned up after baking. Trust me, you are more likely to mess up the scale if you try to fix it now.
- Add any details you want. This is your last chance to do so before baking.
Step 5: Bake and Cool
Bake your scales at the recommended temperature for 20 minutes. DO NOT remove them after the timer goes off. Trust me, you will be tempted. Instead leave them in there to cool as the oven cools.
Before proceeding you want to let them cool completely.
Step 6: So Many Scales!
Ok, so now your scales and surface is cool, go ahead and remove them from the surface. Clean up the surface thoroughly, you may need to scrape it as well, and set aside.
Inspect your scales. There is a possibility that one side will be all shiny, that is the backside.
Those scales that had rough parts after cutting? Here are you options:
- Leave it rough
- Scrape it off with a knife
- Sand it off with a rotary tool.
I sanded mine. At first I was scraping and at times found myself carving instead of scraping and therefore ruining the shape. So I took out my rotary tool and did light sanding around the edges. It's up to you how you want to do.
Also, this is your last chance to add any scale specific details. Any painting, polishing needs to be done before proceeding. Careful about covering it too much with paint. You might not get the bonding you want after the next bake.
Step 7: Layout and Combine!
First you are going to want to play freely with your scales to determine how you want to lay them out. I tried different patterns and finally decided on something. Just make sure you stagger the rows.
Now take out your baking surface again. You will also need the bake and bond and some toothpicks.
Take note of where the scales overlap, this is where you want to apply bake and bond. Do this on your baking surface and take your time. The scales will move around as you go, but will stabilize as the bake and bond dries.
Sure, I could use regular glue for this part, and you can if you want. I wanted to do it this way. If you decide to use glue instead, bake your scales for an additional 20 minutes prior to gluing.
Once you have the scales together with your bake and bond, bake for 30 minutes and again, allow to cool in the oven.
Step 8: Finish It Up and Wear!
Now it's cool, carefully separate it from the baking surface. Drill in some holes to attach it to chain, jump rings. It's up to you. I tied ribbon on. You can also add additional detail or glazes at this point.
Then wear it and enjoy!
So there is definitely a variety of things you can do with these, just have fun with it! One of the things I'd like to try in the future is making feathers instead of dragon scales and trying that. If anyone does try it, I'd love to see it!
If you'd like to know how I made the dragon scale bangle bracelet, continue to the next step. :)
Step 9: Make It a Bracelet!
You're going to need a set, right? Of course!
Well, for this bangle bracelet I used some other scales I had already made. I originally wanted to do this with these scales, but I didn't have many pictures of the process of making the scales. But that doesn't mean I can't use them to still make a bracelet, right?
Well, just like with the necklace layout your pattern. Trust me, you want to do that. I didn't do that and realized that I was either going to have to make the bracelet to small or too big. But you want to lay them out into a long strip. If you are going for a bangle that is closed, then you will need to make sure it's big enough around to fit around you hand just below your thumb. After you lay it out as a long strip, bake it flat for 20 minutes to cure the bake and bond. Then let it cool completely.
Now here's the tricky part, getting the ends to come together and stay long enough to bake one last time. Put on your adhesive and bring the ends together, matching up the stagger to have a seamless round. Then you want to get a very advanced specialty tool that won't melt in your oven. I like to call mine a "spoon". With the bonded side down take your "spoon" and hold it over the seam. If you are using a craft oven like mine, then there is a slight issue of the top part burning. So bake for less than 10 minutes to begin with and watch it closely. It might become limp and look like it's going to flatten. This is ok.
Now we are going to let it cool while we find another very advanced tool known to some as a "soda can". Yes, of course you want an empty one. If you are using a craft oven like mine, you're going to have to cut it up so it can fit anyway. Stand the bracelet up on one side around the can piece. Bake for about 15 minutes and let it cool completely.
And there you go! A bangle dragon scale bracelet!
Another option is to make it as long as you want and drill holes in the ends. Then like the necklace, you can use ribbon, chain, or cord to close it off.