Some of the best tools to use with polymer clay may be closer than you think, they are lying all around your household, your pantry or kitchen even, you never know! They are tools that cost very little, sometimes free in some occasions.
Here is a list of the best contenders so if you’re saving up and budgeting for “the real thing” or the professional ones I describe in this post, you’re just not sure you need or want the best up and coming instrument, these are some objects that work amazing well! Check around and see what you can find!
Both the rounded and pointed kinds are perfect for making small details or piercing clay parts. Be sure to keep these on hand as they will always come in handy! And you can also use them to stir together things like paint or glaze, or pop air bubbles in varnish, which sometimes happens.
2 – Cookie cutters
Even if the sugar-cookie baking days are long behind you, if you manage to dig up some of these from way back when, save them – they are perfect for making shapes for wall hangings or Christmas tree decorations….especially if you’ve got a range of different themes, like holidays, animals, or basic geometric shapes, you’ll find that cookie cutters really come in handy.
I find that the metal or aluminum ones tend to cut the best, the ones I have are vintage, they are what I used for my window suncatchers. So dig them up and clean them off – a must have for polymer, and other clay types too!
3 – Sponges
Since these usually come 3-4 to a pack, check around to see if you’ve got any brand new ones you’ve never used, a basic household sponge can be great for textured effects on clay. I like to cut mine up in small pieces which can make it easier to apply on small clay art.
As a bonus, many sponges now come with double sides, one of them for “scouring” so you’ve got an extra effect that can be used, too. If nothing else, just buy a new pack of them from the household cleaning aisle and use them for your art projects, I use them for painting and other things too.
4 – Popsicle sticks
Not just for making standalone sculpture anymore, these handy sticks can be used to shape clay slabs, the rounded ends can be used for details, or they could serve as a tool to wrap clay around.
You can get these sticks from the local craft store, or better yet….Next time you’re enjoying a fruity or creamy frozen treat wash off the stick and save it; I’ve collected dozens of sticks this way, and there’s always a use for them!
5 – Cornstarch
A staple ingredient for thickening soups ans stews (yes I do that too) it’s also an ingredient I use for homemade gesso to make it thicker, and it’s also a good tool to use when you go to start baking your projects, especially beads – if they are round, the cornstarch serves to “sink” the objects to keep the heat level even, and prevent them from rolling around.
One trick is to take a piece of cardstock paper and crate an accordion fold shape , then pour in the cornstarch, and arrange your beads. Just don’t do this approach if you are using a convection oven as the fan action could cause it to blow around.
6 – Plastic silverware
Yep – forks, knives and spoons, all of these are useful when working with clay. Forks can create ridges, knives can cut (somewhat – the teeth of plastic knives is notoriously tame as you’ve probably noticed) and spoons, well the round part can get you started on cupped or flanged designs, or heck, wrap the slabs around the handles when working. If you order take-out in this day and age you probably get utensils as a courtesy, so make good use of them!
7 – Toothbrushes
I never throw away old toothbrushes after changing them out – they are great for cleaning! And flicking paint onto a canvas! I sanitize them real good first, and add them to my toolbox….there’s always a use for one of these. You can use the handle to wrap clay slabs around, the bristles can be used to create textural effects, and as some more modern toothbrushes have special ‘scrubber” additions on them, well, you get the idea, so it’s a trifecta of uses there.
8 – Brayer
Remember those from making prints? Brayers are not just for this purpose; as they are also commonly used with polymer clay. These can work really well for rolling it out…just be sure to clean off the roller parts very well so there is no ink residue on them, if you used it often. You can use some rubbing alcohol to do this.
9 – Playing cards
A deck of cards serves as a great hack for rolling out clay….I did find this from another fellow clay artist blogger/vlogger….Take your deck of cards (these are dirt cheap at most stores, including the grocery, at 99 cents!) and arrange the number you need for the thickness you need for the left and right side, there should be an equal number of cards in each stack, three, four, etc.
As a pro tip, use some tape runner to stick the various stacks together, and the card with the corresponding number on top to “designate” the number of cards. You’ll thank me later for this trick if you’re saving up for a pasta machine, and need something that will make rolling the right thickness easier.
10 – Loose craft glitter
If you can’t find mica powder at the moment, some loose glitter that you can shake or sprinkle in, may be all you need to create a little glamour. Yes, it’s not mica powder, as it’s not made of the same material, but the effects can be just as good. A little crystal, silver or gold can be such a nice finishing touch to a project, so if you’ve got some in your stash dig it up and put it to good use.
Well, that’s my roundup for great cheap or free tools that can really help up your clay game….how many of these can you find around your home or craft room?