want to find new things to make or decorate with
polyclay. For some time, I’ve been on the
lookout for an all-metal penknife, which could
be covered. I say all-metal because, as we all
know, penknives frequently have side-plates on
their handles which can be made from all kinds
of materials, most of which wouldn’t stand up to
claybake heat. Something, which may not be
widely known, is the fact that some knives have
inserts of nylon or other plastics inside them
to space the blades or reduce friction. So, if
in doubt, the whole penknife shouldn’t be
exposed to claybake temperatures.
Recently, I’ve found
some knives that have stainless steel blades,
several different functional attachments and
metal side-plates on their handles, which can be
removed easily for clay covering purposes.
the side-plates, one could make templates, which
are exactly the same size as the side-plates.
Then the baked clay panels can be subsequently
attached to the original handle plates without
the latter having to be removed.
I suggest that these
templates be made from thick card or the kind of
aluminum sheet used to make drinks cans. Metal
templates have several advantages. The clay will
easily detach from the metal, they are quite
robust, both sides of the template can be clay
covered and the template can be reused after
removal of the baked clay.
There is a
definite advantage in disassembling and
sacrificing one knife in order to use the actual
handle side-plates. The plates are slightly
curved at their edges and if the clay is baked
on these plates, it will conform exactly to the
original shape. As the knives are mass produced,
of course, all the plates are identical and so
the clay formed and baked on one will naturally
be a perfect fit for any other.
I suggest that
the template or side-plate is first covered with
a layer of scrap clay and smoothed carefully.
This will provide a good surface on which to
apply cane slices, sheets of solid colour or
whatever design with which you have decided to
decorate the knife. Of course, any design can be
used in the clay. If one is making a handle with
a specific recipient in mind, one can
incorporate their initials into the design. It’s
also possible to stamp designs into the clay,
which could reflect the recipients’ interests or
hobbies or celebrate a special occasion.
Some examples of designs I’ve made
include quilt canes, fake ivory with a stamped
decoration like scrimshaw and even my clay
version of the semi-precious stone, malachite.
with your designs, bake them at the usual
temperature and time for your selected clay.
When they’ve cooled thoroughly, remove them from
the template and tidy up their edges with
scissors or a blade – there may be small spurs
of clay, which should be removed.
the metal surfaces of the side-plates of the
knife to be decorated need to be abraded to
allow good adhesion of the clay. I used emery
paper or a small file to scratch the surfaces.
Then apply a layer of Superglue to either the
metal or clay and firmly press them together
until the glue is fully cured.
good varnish. It may be a good idea to apply
several coats, gently sanding between coats,
particularly if the knife is likely to be
subjected to rough treatment.
The knives that I’ve used and
recommend are shown in the accompanying
hope I’ve given you some ideas for yet another
item that can be clay-covered and sold or given
away to an unsuspecting public.
(Editor's Note: The 7 Function Knife is a
product of Rolson