Submission Guidelines

Join Our
Mailing List

Your Comments

Fun & Games


Previous Issues

Tutorial Archives
New Feature!

Contact Us

Please visit the National Polymer Clay Guild website

Polymer Clay Polyzine
Copyright 2000-2004
Raleigh, NC
ISSN 1534-1038
All Rights Reserved.
Just Ask
By Deb Hayes

Dear Readers,

Welcome to Just Ask. I am here to answer your questions…if I don’t know the answer, I will research it with our team of experts and give you THEIR answers. Email me at: Deb@pcPolyzine.com.

Hi, I’m a beginner in this field. I was wondering if you could explain the difference between polymer clay and paper clay coz I never really touch those. And can you tell me where I could learn this stuff? Thank u very much.
                -- Suryawati

Good Question, Suryawati!

There are many clays out there, aren’t there?  In addition to ceramic clays that require high heat to fire, there are non-hardening modeling clays, paper clay, and the polymer clay we all love.

The main difference between paper clay and polymer clay is the way you harden it; paper clay air dries, and can then be tooled, sanded or carved, while polymer clay requires curing at a moderate heat in your home oven. 

Their makeups are different, as well; polymer clay is made of plastic, while paper clay is actually made of cellulose, with many of the qualities of paper.

As far as learning, the Internet is loaded with places for tutorials, projects and instruction.

Of course, you’re right here at pcPolyzine, and that’s a great start!

You might also try Diane Black’s Polymer Clay Encyclopedia at glassattic:  www.glassattic.com.  Allow plenty of time, too.  It is chock-full of good stuff!

www.polymerclaycentral.com is a great place to meet other clayers, participate in swaps, learn new techniques, and just get comfortable!

There are also mini-lessons available at Polymer Clay Express:  www.polymerclayexpress.com 

And if you haven’t had enough yet, just do a google search for polymer clay lessons or polymer clay projects.  You will have enough links presented to last you a good long while.  While you’re at Google, you can also check for polymer clay book titles.  I always suggest first checking with your local library, to get a chance to look over the books.  That way, you have a better idea of what book better suits your needs.

I hope these ideas help you.  We would love to see pictures of your projects!


What is a buffer?  The Saturn bead project requires a buffer.  Thank you for your help.
                    -- Belinda


A buffer can be any one of several devices used to bring up a shine on polymer clay. Some folks buff their beads to a shine with denim, by repeatedly rubbing then on their jeans, while others use a mechanized buffer. There are jewelry buffers, which can be quite expensive, you can adapt a bench grinder (as I did) with muslin pads for polishing, and still others have modified their power drills to do a job for them on the beads.

Lately, there has been some talk of using a rock tumbler to polish beads, as well. Instead of using an abrasive, folks are trying cut up denim or flannel, and tumbling the beads. I understand that method produces a lovely, soft sheen.

For more information on ways to polish your clay beads, see Diane Black’s glass attic at www.glassattic.com .

Thanks for writing!


Hi Deb,

First, let me say how great it is that you are there to help with all our problems!

Mine is a minor one, but to me this problem is one that I don't seem to be able to solve. I make necklaces (they are not especially heavy) from polymer clay which I sell on a word of mouth basis so far. They are strung on .019 Accuflex wire and closed with a crimp bead.

Now here is the problem: several of the necklaces have become undone, and it is always the crimp bead that does not hold the wire in place.  In the beginning, I used crimping pliers to get a neat and finished look, but lately I have just been squishing the crimping bead and end up with a flat metal seal.

I have spoken to the folks at my crimping bead supplier but they are unable to tell me why this happens.  By the way, the crimp beads are silver plate and I was told they are just as strong as sterling. Could it be that I use too much force when I flatten the crimp bead and so break the nylon coating that is on the wire? I am stumped for an answer and you can imagine it is very embarrassing and not good for repeat business to have this happen!

I like this method and would like to be able to keep doing the closures this way.  I'll be really interested in what you are able to find out. Thanks in advance.
                    -- Aud

By the way, say hello to Jeannie Havel for me, we are both members of the Capital Area Clay Guild. 

Gee whiz, Aud -

Until I researched this problem, I had no idea there were so many ways to string beads and close jewelry!  Can you tell I don’t make necklaces?

It seems I will be answering your question by asking a few more.  By way of troubleshooting, does your crimp bead fit your wire by size?  There are beads that will be just too big, and fall off.  Apparently, the crimp beads do come in sizes, but it sounds like your supplier has probably covered that base.

Another question for you:  Do you use both parts of your crimping pliers, making the attachment a two-part process?

It sounds like you have already considered breaking the wire by crimping with too much force, and I am told that squeezing too hard could be a problem.

When all is said and done, remember, glue can be a beader’s best friend!  Beaders I consulted agreed that they used a drop of cyanoacrylate glue into the bead, after putting the wire through it.

Finally, Jeannie says, “Hi” to you, too!


Barbara Asks:

Any suggestions to reduce plaqueing that occurs in translucent polymer clay?  I have heard someone mention using bleach, but does that do something to the integrity of the clay in the end?  Thanks.

Yours is a common question, Barbara.  Those little white moon-like spots can be very annoying.  They can be useful, as well, but that’s another matter!

There have been three causes identified when it comes to plaqueing:  moisture, oil, and rolling.  I haven’t found THE definitive answer to this problem, but I do have some suggestions that may help.  

First, work the clay only as much as needed to condition it.  Overworking it has been known to cause stickiness in some brands, too.

Second, make sure your hands are clean and dry, and that you’re working in a dry place.  In other words, if you’re working in the laundry room with the washer going, or in the kitchen near the dishwasher, you may find spots!

Regarding bleaching your clay, I believe you might be thinking of Premo! with bleach.  It isn’t as widely available as regular Premo! Translucent, but it might be worth trying, if only to compare them!

Some folks have found better luck with the bleached clay, while others don’t.

Of course, your mileage may vary!


Now, Chris has several questions:

Help!  Please I too am new at this.  I have my clay, pasta machine etc.  I have read things from sites as well as DIY and HGTV shows.  Here are my questions:

I am so confused.  I read baby powder, cornstarch now I am too scared to start.  I want to cover BIC pens, my Embossing tool, business card holder, etc.

#1.  What is the setting the pasta machine needs to be set at to get the general thickness?  (I have I believe the 150 model)

#2.  Do I need to prepare the surfaces of any of the above items I mention prior to placing my sheets of clay on them?

#3.  When do I add any embellishments to the clay example other clay pieces, wire, glass beads, embossing powders, etc.?

#4.  Is the 275 [degrees] standard temperature for all thickness/projects?

Okay, Chris, here we go!

It sounds like you have had lots of input on release agents, with cornstarch, baby powder in the same sentence!  The good news is that they work the same.  If you need to prevent your clay from sticking to a mold or stamp, for instance, either will work.  I would suggest cornstarch instead of baby powder, although I would also suggest taking precautions when using ANY powders with your clay.

Preparing the surface of your project is especially necessary when you’re working to cover papier-mache or wooden objects.  A thin layer of Sobo or other white glue will help hold the clay to the paper, and will also help hold the clay to the wood.  Metal and plastics don't usually require glue, but a quick wipe with an alcohol wipe will help remove any skin oils that might interfere with the clay.

If you are talking about the Atlas pasta machine, the thickest setting is #1, but it probably will be too thick for some of your projects.  If you are going to add cane slices, beads, wire, or other embellishments, you might want to use #3 or #4 setting instead.  That way, you always have the leeway to add another layer, if the clay on your pen or other project is too thin.  Remember, you can add more raw clay to an already-cured project and re-bake without harming the first layer.

The important safety concern there would be remembering not to exceed the manufacturer’s recommended temperature.  Too long isn’t a problem, as long as the oven isn’t too hot.

And that brings us to what the correct temperature is.  The answer: it depends.  Each manufacturer has a specific temperature that’s best, and that means safest and most effective, for that particular brand.  Directions are on each package of clay, and are usually stated using specific thicknesses, i.e. 275 for 15 minutes per ¼” thickness.  Therefore, if you had an object ½” thick, the minimum you would want to cure it at the recommended temperature would be 30 minutes. 

It sounds like you’re all prepared to begin.  Now all you need to do is pick up the clay, and get started.  Good Luck~!