Sanding and buffing polymer clay is another great skill that needs to be in your arsenal of techniques. Why? Well, apart from an application of glaze, is the only way to bring out the glossy look worthy of impressed eyes. Depending on which type of clay you use, most of your projects will take on a matte look. Some people are ok with that, but others prefer a certain look with more shine and if you can execute the process the right way, you can get that look.
However there are more wrong than right ways to go about it…it’s very important that you know what tools to use and the subtle nuances of getting just the “right” veneer on the surface of your project. So without further ado, let’s dive in!
Pin for Later?
Let’s talk about the sanding part first! And that starts with choosing the right kind of sandpaper. Choose a wet/dry 400 to 600 grit – this is important as you need to be able to moisten it to prevent particles of dust from flying around or scratching the surface of your project.
This can be found at most home improvement stores. Yes I know its not always fun to handle sandpaper; I’d love to tell you to pull out an emery board for this but you can’t get those wet because if you do they will become warped.
Check the back numbers to be sure you are getting the right kind. You should see something like this on the back:
It’s best to start with the smaller/finer grit first and go up to the slightly more coarse.
Donna Kato says in her book (I am paraphrasing here) “The Art of Polymer Clay” that the particle dust that is sanded off “is hazardous to breathe in” I’m not sure if anyone else has pointed that out, but I thought I would mention it here. So you may also want to put on a dust mask too to negate that problem.
The right amount of sanding will help to eliminate fingerprints, extraneous particles, whether it’s dabs here and there left by oversight, and produce a good surface for paint, glaze and also must be done before you buff.
Image credit: Image by talty
So even though it’s not fun holding one of those rough sheets and avoiding getting scratched yourself, this is the only way to go. There are other types of filing pads or squares that are more petite and less abrasive but they tend to leave scratches behind on the object (s).
Now when the time comes to buff….there are two ways to go about it. You can use a cloth by hand, it should be made of cotton or linen, a piece of denim will work too. I find myself thinking of those polishing cloths that are included with jewelry cleaning baths that you use to remove the tarnishes and fingerprints from. I still have mine. I think it would work for this, too.
The other method is with an electric tool, such as a dremel. Look for a small rotary buffing attachment that can fit it along with the other interchangeable attachments. A motorized tool would be best if you’ve got a higher volume of objects, e.g. beads, as this will save a little time. The setting on the dremel should start out being low and use light pressure.
That high gloss look you’re after can be yours if you follow these tips strategically, so don’t shortchange yourself…
And then there is the topic of polishing, one thing you can do in addition is the use of a wax substance to bring out the shine. I’ve heard of people using Future floor wax with good results, another product that is highly recommended is Renaissance Wax. This product has lots of other uses such as working on furniture, leather and other things so you can’t go wrong!
You need to start with a small dab and apply with a cloth like you would in the buffing procedure, and then work it into the grooves of the object, if there are parts where you did lots of fine details, Use a circular motion as you work it in, you can also build up layers, but do allow each to layer to dry in between before going onto the next one.
You should also let your pieces dry more thoroughly and let them sit out for a day or two before using or wearing. If these will be jewelry components, and need additional parts such as earring backs or lapel pinbacks, I would be sure you’ve attached those and let them cure up before you start applying wax too.
Well, that is the nitty gritty (lots more “gritty” though, huh?) of sanding and buffing your polymer clay work! Enjoy your newly finished pieces with the addition of high gloss and a beautifully refined look, free of smudges and flaws.
Image credit: Images above by: organgrinder