How to Sand Polymer Clay
Sanding polymer clay is essential to producing a clear, smooth finish and a beautiful final product. If you’re interested in working with clay, are a craft hobbyist or enjoy making clay products, consider the best ways to sand and polish polymer clay. From the popular wet and dry sandpaper method to polishing cloths and buffing Dremel tools, you’ll find many ways to sand and polish your product properly.
How to Sand and Polish Polymer Clay
Many craft enthusiasts and clay lovers wonder about the best way to sand polymer clay. Should you use a special cloth or range of grits? You might also want to explore which polishing methods produce the shine and smooth feeling you want your finished products to have. Here are the most common sanding and polishing methods you should know.
Wet and Dry Sandpaper
Wet and dry sandpaper is one of the most common tools used to sand polymer clay. You can sand polymer clay after baking it, which ensures the material becomes smooth and is ready for sanding and polishing.
Wet and dry sanding rids your clay of unwanted scratches, marks or fingerprints. When done correctly, it also won’t leave any unwanted marks on your final product and prepares the surface for polishing.
Here are some benefits of the wet and dry sanding methods:
- Affordability: It’s easy to find inexpensive sandpaper, making this method one of the most affordable sanding techniques.
- Easy to find: Many stores sell basic sandpaper, including craft, hardware and standard retail stores.
- Range of grits: Wet and dry sandpaper is available in a range of grits. When sanding polymer clay with sandpaper, you’ll want to work with multiple grits. You’ll want to sand with the smallest grit first and work your way up. For example, you might move from 400 to 600 to 800 to 1000.
- Sanding is easier: Wet and dry sandpaper sanding is very user-friendly. It produces a smooth finish quickly.
- Removes large chunks easily: Dry sanding is ideal when you want to remove larger chunks of clay quickly. The dry sanding method is quick and works best when you use lower-grit sandpaper. Keep in mind that dry sanding produces a good amount of dust!
- Prevents marks and scratches: Wet sanding helps produce a smooth finish. It involves keeping the sandpaper wet by continually dipping it in water as you work. You can also sad submerge your project under water when wet sanding. You can use higher-grit sandpaper for wet sanding. You can also consider adding dishwashing soap to the water if you wet sand your clay after dry sanding. The dishwashing liquid keeps dust off even better than the typical method.
Micro-mesh pads are sanding tools made with a backing of cloth and latex. They help reach small spaces and crevices while ridding your polymer clay projects of fingerprints or scratches. Micro-mesh is a standard tool for hobbyists who need to polish acrylic, granite, ceramic and polymer clay projects. Some advantages of using micro-mesh pads include the following:
- Easy usage: You can lay the micro-mesh pad flat on your work surface, or you can hold it like a sponge to sand your polymer clay project.
- Wider grit variety: This sanding tool comes in various grit sizes.
- Smoother finish: Micro-mesh pads can produce a smooth and polished finish with a beautiful shine.
- Even sanding: Micro-mesh pads provide even sanding due to their cushioned back padding.
You can wet sand and dry sand with these pads. For best results, you’ll want to rinse the pads between sanding to avoid scratches on the surface of your polymer clay project. If you do not rinse the pads between sanding, they might hold onto some of the excess clay. These pads are also more of an investment than sandpaper but are still widely available.
A polishing cloth is one of the most valuable tools for sanding polymer clay projects. Polishing cloths provide a highly smooth surface, are easy to use and are extremely flexible. You can find various polishing cloth types online or in retail, hardware or craft stores. Some of the advantages of using polishing cloths include the following:
- Flexibility: You can lay the cloth flat, hold it in your hand or wrap it around your finger.
- Great final step: A polishing cloth is the perfect final step before buffing your clay project.
- Shiny appearance: Polishing cloths produce a very polished look.
Keep in mind that a polishing cloth alone won’t completely rid your clay material of scratches or fingerprints. These cloths also tend to wear out quickly, so you might have to invest in more than one cloth for the best results. This makes them less cost-effective than wet and dry sandpaper, but you might find that the investment pays off!
Next Steps: Buffing and Polishing
After you sand your polymer clay creation using one of the aforementioned methods, you’ll need to find materials to buff or polish. Buffing and polishing are necessary to ensure a silky feeling and produce the bright sheen typical of finished clay products.
Compared to many sanding and polishing techniques, buffing is quite easy. There are two common methods to keep in mind — hand buffing and using motorized tools like a Dremel or a Jool Tool.
If you buff your polymer clay project by hand, you can rub a soft cloth against the clay. The rubbing creates friction, which helps produce a better shine. The faster you rub the fabric against the clay, the better buff results you’ll have. Some hobbyists get more creative with buffing, using items like white denim or muslin. Most soft materials will do the trick!
Hand buffing produces a softer sheen. For greater shine, you might want to buff using a motorized tool. Motorized tools like JoolTool or Dremel are effective options. You can attach a polymer clay buffing wheel to the tool. As with any craft pursuit, there’s a bit of a learning curve involved here, but the results are definitely worth the time and effort! Motorized tools produce precise results quickly. While the machine requires a more significant cost investment, you can consider purchasing one if you work with polymer clay frequently!