Wednesday, June 17, 2009

June Update

I was hoping to do some crafts this summer.....

But right now I am having the living room redone and I can't get at my craft supplies and I don't have any place to do them. :(

But my living room is going to be really pretty. We are getting it painted, new windows, new flooring, the wet bar remodeled into a storage closet, new curtains, and re-covering the furniture. Oh, and we may get a new entertainment center. (We need a new TV and our stereo is old)

I have gotten really and truly hooked on a computer game on Facebook. Mafia Wars is the most addictive game I've ever played.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Too Busy

I'm going back to school part time and it is taking all my time. I have done a few more experiments with polymer clay but I need to take pictures still.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Experiments with Translucent Polymer Clay

When I created some beads with translucent Sculpey III clay I was surprised to find it was yellowish after it was baked. I googled it and it apparently is always yellowish. So I ran a few experiments...
I cooked it at 3 different temperatures and for 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 and 35 minutes. It started creamy looking and turned a little yellowish. It was not ever very translucent. I added a tile to the bottom of the toaster oven to even out the temperature and tented the beads with aluminum foil to discourage browning. I had read that dropping the beads in ice water after taking them out made them more translucent but I couldn't tell it made a difference.
Here are some pictures.

(After I had done all this, I realized that sometime in there I had flipped the circuit breaker. So the results aren't real accurate. But I thought they were still interesting.)
A few observations ... after 5 minutes at 225, the clay was still pretty soft. I could gouge it with a fingernail but it wouldn't take fingerprints. None of the other beads were that soft. I could mark a couple with a fingernail but it took work.
The longer and hotter I cooked the beads the yellower and more translucent they got. Temperature didn't seem to make a real difference for that.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Taking Photos of Beads

In my last blog post I took close up pictures of the beads I have been working with. I had to work pretty hard to get reasonable pictures. So I thought I would write about it.

I have a Panasonic Lumix DMC - FZ20 which is a very nice camera. It is almost but not quite a digital SLR camera. I can't change lenses but besides that I can do everything I can think of to do. And more than I have the skill to do. For what I am doing here the most important things are a place for a tripod and a shutter release cable.

I wanted to take pictures really, really close up and very sharp of my beads. The first time I tried the pictures were too fuzzy and didn't show the detail. So I decided to try harder. I figured a real photographer with real equipment could do it so I would at least try. (I am nothing if not optimistic about what I can do if only I work at it.)

So I set up on my kitchen table with a piece of foam under the beads. I used bright yellow so both the white and the dark purple would show. It was already by a window but I also took a pole lamp that I had handy and pointed 3 lights right at my work.

Then I got my little tripod. This one is little enough to sit right on the table. And I flipped it around so the camera was pointing down at the beads. It wasn't very steady so I ran and got an ankle weight from my bedroom and leaned it up against the leg to help steady it. (I only tipped the camera over once. Ouch!)

I knew from previous tries at this sort of thing that I didn't want anything more than necessary on the front of my camera so I removed the assorted adapters and filters and hoods that I keep on there.

The shutter release cord plugged into the camera and I was ready to go. I use the shutter release because I have a tendency to shake the camera when I push the button directly. And of course shaking the camera is always a bad thing. I do have image stabilization on my camera but doesn't ever seem to do enough. If I didn't have a shutter release I would use a timer on my camera. That is what I do for my old camera.

I took a bunch of pictures varying the setup to see what would work best. I always used a tripod and I always used the shutter release. But I took pictures with and without a flash. And I moved the camera a little closer to the beads then a little farther from the beads. I took them from this side and that side. I tried zooming to make the beads a little bigger.

The flash left a ring of shadow on the picture from the lens. It didn't wash out the picture too badly though. Sometimes a flash leaves a bright spot in the middle of the picture but I didn't notice that being a problem this time. But my best pictures were without the flash because of the shadow.

With the tripod I was using I could get the camera about 6 inches from the beads or I could move it farther away -- about to 10 inches. Closer seemed to be better. When I got closer I used the macro setting which has an icon of a flower on the dial. These worked pretty well together.

Zooming didn't work well. It made the image of the bead bigger in my viewfinder but it made the image fuzzier. I had a few pictures where the image was completely fuzzed out. I think they were where I used both the macro setting and zoomed. So my best pictures weren't zoomed.

The last thing I did was this. I thought more light would be good since I wasn't using my flash so I went and got a gooseneck table lamp and put it on the table. I bent it over so it was shining directly at the beads. I hadn't thought about it but the pictures that I took with that lamp were a lot yellower than the other pictures. I am guessing it was a different sort of light bulb. Next time I will try to use my Ott light.

So after I took all these pictures I went in Photoshop and threw out all the bad ones. Then I straightened them up and cropped them -- and fixed the color of the ones that were yellow. I think they came out pretty good.

Pictures of Tumbled Polymer Clay Beads

I have been trying out finishing my polymer clay beads by tumbling them. I tumbled them with 3 grades of sandpaper and with flannel. Here the tumbled beads are being compared with beads made at the same time but not tumbled.

The tumbled beads are smaller, rounder, smoother and shinier. They also have less fingerprints and nail marks. I could probably have gotten them smoother and gotten rid of the marks by tumbling them longer -- and possibly also with a coarser grade of sandpaper.

I tumbled them for about 20 hours total. (There is much more detail about the process in my previous post.)

A good selection of the beads seen. The non-tumbled beads are on the left, the tumbled beads are on the right.

A closer look at the groups of beads, notice the nail prints visible in the non-tumbled beads on the left.

A close up of the amethyst point inspired beads. The tumbled bead is much smoother and shinier.

Close - ups of two swirly beads.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Tumbling Polymer Clay

I made some polymer clay beads, and when I did, I left fingerprints and nail marks all over them. I wanted to get all of these marks off and I was interested in seeing if I could make them look shinier. So I checked into sanding them to clean off all the marks.

A web search quickly showed that some people use a rock tumbler to do the sanding and buffing on polymer clay. They use sandpaper instead of grit because polymer clay is much softer than rock. For the same reason the time for tumbling is much shorter.

I thought I would try it. So here is the rock tumbler I got. It is a toy rock tumbler available at Michael's for about $20. (That is with a 40% off coupon.)

It has several advantages over professional tumblers besides price. It is small which is good for tumbling small amounts of beads because the tumbler should be about 3/4 full when it works. Also it is plastic which is nice because most real tumblers are rubber and the black rubber leaves black marks on polymer clay.

I went out and bought sandpaper in 3 grits, 400, 600 and 1500. I got it at Ace Hardware. I looked at Lowe's first but I couldn't find it there even after asking for help. The really fine sandpaper is often used for body work on cars so it should also be available at auto supply shops Walmart, and on line.

There should really be another grit between 600 and 1500 but I didn't find one at Ace, Walmart, or at Auto Zone. I found some on-line but I didn't get any yet.

I cut the 400 grit sandpaper into small pieces for tumbling. I loaded the container about 3/4 full with the beads and sandpaper and added water to cover and a drop of dish detergent.

Then I tumbled it for about 6 hours before I couldn't stand it and had to check on it. It is a good thing I did because all of the sandpaper curled up and formed into stacks so no sanding was going on.

You can see the rolled up pieces with stacks here.

So next I cut more 400 grid sandpaper up into confetti and put it back in along with a long piece lining the edges of the tank and added a piece on the top and bottom of the container. (It is important that the long strip of paper is arranged so the beads won't feed into the sandpaper when the tank turns.)

There is a picture of the confetti just below so you can see how big it is.

Some people glue their sandpaper together back to back to get grit on both sides and to discourage the curling. I haven't tried this yet and I may not ever. It sounds like a lot of work.

Then I put it back in and let it go for another 3 hours. (The recommended time for the first pass is really 24 hours.)

That seemed to work reasonably well. The strip stayed around the edge and the confetti was distributed throught the rocks although there was one big clump. The pieces on the top and the bottom curled into tubes with the grit on the inside so I left them off after that.

Then another 6 hours with 600 grit. (Till bed time)
And 8 with the 1500 grit (overnight)

An interesting thing about the sandpaper I am using is that it curls side to side across the sandpaper so long thin strips that run from top to bottom might work well for the squares.

After the sanding, it was time for buffing. The recommended cloth was white denim. It is clear from reading that getting the color right is more important than getting the fabric right. because color can rub off on your beads. I didn't have any white denim but I did have white flannel -- so I used white flannel.

I cut the fabric into squares roughly the size of the base of the tumbler so I could stack the fabric into the tumbler with beads in between the pieces. Many people buff with the fabric dry, but I was worried about things getting hot from the friction so I dampened my fabric. Then I stacked it up. When I was done stacking my beads and fabric squares I had a small air space at the top.

I let it run for a couple of hours and checked on it. All of the fabric was bunched up at the top of the container and the beads were all tumbling around in the middle.

So I lined the edge of the tumbler with a strip of the flannel and cut more strips so the container was full and set it off again. This seemed to work well. When I took the beads out several hours later they were still distributed between the flannel. Also nothing seemed in the least bit warm so trying to buff with the fabric dry is probably safe.

Overall I think the whole process worked pretty well. The beads look better and feel much smoother. There are still a few fingerprint marks that I can see from looking for them but I'm not sure other would notice them.

Next time I do this I will probably start with 200 grit sandpaper. When I was looking up the buffing I ran across advice that beginners need to start with 200. Also leaving at least the first pass longer seems to be in order. That is to get the marks all off.

I may still finish the beads with Future floor wax. That is one of the recommended ways for finishing and I think I have some on hand from last time I did this.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Polymer Clay Beads

Well I've progressed a bit with the polymer clay.

I have successfully made several kinds of solid lavender beads ... and some nice swirly beads ... and I even got a cane to work. The beads I made from it are pug-ugly but there you go.

I tried making faux amethyst points. (My mother gave me some real ones for Christmas so I had an inspiration.) I put purple for one end then lavender then white and finished it up with translucent. Unfortunately the translucent turned rather yellow. so they are a bit challenged in the looks department. I was using Sculpey III which apparently turns yellow when you burn it.

So I got an oven thermometer to go with the toaster oven and turned the temperature down. I didn't make more points but I did try making more things with translucent. The backgrounds for the cane beads are translucent. This seemed to be a little better -- it's not yellow but it is not very translucent either.
So anyway I bought a bunch more transparent. Fimo Classic, Premo, Kato Polyclay and of course I had Sculpey III. I plan to do some controlled experimenting with this.

I also decided that I wanted my beads to look more finished. Apparently, one can tumble polymer clay with sandpaper to get it to look nicer. So I bought a toy Rock Tumbler today at Michael's with a 40% off coupon and the very last of my Christmas money. I looked for sandpaper at Lowe's but I didn't find any that was fine enough. I'll try ACE Hardware tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Polymer Clay for Christmas

So for Christmas this year I got all set up to work in polymer clay

My DH got me some polymer clay, and a toaster oven, and a pasta machine and a visa card to buy more stuff to go with it. My DD got me a set of tools.

The visa card is mostly spent, I got a roller, a bead rack, a thermometer and some more clay …

So far I spent several hours mixing some lovely lavender clay …

First I mixed several shades of lavender.
Then I ran them through the pasta machine to make sheets
Then I stacked them and rolled them up to make a cane …
And sliced it, and decided I didn’t like it
Last I mushed it all up to make a big lump …