As I am one day behind this week, I will add some extra "oomph" to my blog entry!
My first tip comes from a post by Kater's Acres. Does it seem like as much as you try to clean your pasta machine, you still end up with streaks and other colors that "muck" up your clay sheets and blends? Well here is an easy way to get rid of the unwanted surface muck. The tool shown is sold for ceramics and is called a Cleanup tool. It is a sharp spoon shaped blade that has just the right curve to shave away the unwanted clay bits, but not gouge too deep into the clay sheet. It will create dents but when your clay is clean, simply continue to condition it.
My second tip is actually a handful of great tips shared online by Cindy Lietz. These will help you get the best looking, professional and smooth shine on your polymer clay.
~Avoid fingerprints: Work with cool clay if needed. If the clay is to warm fingerprints are more likely to show up. You can also wear latex gloves, maybe not the whole time you are working with the clay, but at least when you are roll a bead for the final time and for piercing. Or, the alternate is to wear finger cots that just cover your fingertips. You can also spritz your hands with water, or apply cornstarch to them to avoid fingerprints. These tips will save you a lot of time sanding!
~Bake for the full time recommended: I have read that many polymer clay artists bake pieces for up to double the length stated on the package. *It is IMPORTANT not to raise the temperature recommended though, or your beads will burn and release nasty smells. The clay, especially with beads will become rock hard when baked a little longer. Hard clay will sand and buff easier so you can get that beautiful shine you desire.
~Sand your clay pieces after baking: I am talking about smooth clay, not textured clay. To get that professional shine, you must use a little elbow grease on your clay by sanding. Using wet/dry sand paper only (a gray color), start with the roughest grit such as 400 and gradually move up to finer grits (600, 800, 1200). Do nto skip any grit or the surface will not be smooth. When you reach the 600 grit and finer grits, you are basically just sanding off the scratches made by the previous grit. So, sanding with these grits take less time. Sanding is probably the most important step to achieve a professional look to your work.
~Buff your clay: This is an absolutely necessary step if you have sanded your beads. You must buff off that cloudy look caused by the sand paper and bring a shine back to your clay. I suggest using a power tool, just as a small buffing wheel with several stacked muslin fabric circles (do NOT use felt, it will gouge into your clay). You can buff a piece by hand if you really don't mind the effort. There are many free buffing tutorials and instructions on the internet. Simply search "buffing polymer clay". The best tip I can share is to watch what you are doing! And, make sure there is a barrier behind the buffing wheel for clay to hit if it happens to get away from you. Read all the instructions before you try it!
~Add finally, adding a liquid coating: This step is optional if you have sanded and buffed your clay properly. But, at times you will want to add a protective coating to a piece. Make sure your gloss is polymer clay friendly because if not, you will end up with a sticky mess and pieces of clay that will stick together in a jewelry box.
Yes, I have a third tip, even after all of the "shine" tips above, start out with clean hands. This may be obvious, but even dust or oils from your hands can come off onto your clay, so play it safe!