Smoothing, Sanding, Buffing Polymer Clay
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Smoothing, Sanding, and Buffing polymer clay is definately something that you don't hear a lot about in the younger polymer clay community, but it certainly does make your pieces look a lot better in the long run. If you smooth, sand, and buff your clay AND add a layer of varnish - watch out, your pieces will look as bright, beautiful and glossy as a piece of delicious candy.

Have you ever noticed that translucent clay really isn't THAT translucent? Well, if you smooth, sand, and buff it - you'll be seeing differently! It really DOES get see-through!

Give these tips a try, and although I can't guarantee that you will get it right the first time, practice makes perfect, and sometimes new techniques take a little getting used to before you find a way that works the best for you.


Smoothing Clay

Smoothing your clay is what you do to your clay before you bake it. Running your fingers along the surface and smoothing out bumps and impurities can work wonders on a piece and give it a very smooth surface after baking.

:star: Some people get a little bowl of water, wet their fingers, and than smooth out the clay. The water makes the smoothing process a lot more easier, for sure. It works very well for brands such as Premo, Sculpey, and Kato.

:star: For brands like Fimo & Cernit, using a bit of Dilutent/Softener also works in smoothing out blemishes and bumps.

:star: Vaseline apparently works extremely well. It muddies up the surface, but this muddied-layer is taken off in the sanding process, listed below. You can even put the polymer clay into the oven to bake with the vaseline still on it. You don't need to wipe it all off.


Sanding Clay

Sandpaper is used to sand your clay after it has been baked, however you must make sure that you are using Wet/Dry Sandpaper so that you can keep the polymer dust out of the air and use it with water. Wet/Dry Sandpaper is Black in colour as opposed to orange or brown. Hobby stores, Hardware Stores, and Automotive Stores carry this type of Sandpaper.

:star: You can also use fingernail files, green scrubbing pads (the ones you use to do the dishes) and steel wool as well.

Basically, what you do is sand your piece under lightly running water, say under a tap or just by dipping the sandpaper in a bowl of water (try adding a drop of dishsoap to make it more slippery), and just sand the surface until the impurities are gone. The running water cuts the dust so that the polymer particles don't get stuck in the grit or get into the air.

Start out with the more COARSE grits of sandpaper and than use a very FINE grit of sandpaper. You can get a lot of different grits of sandpaper, from below 400 all the way up to 1500 or MORE! The higher the digit, the finer the sand paper.

An example is to start out with a piece of 400 grit, and than move up a few numbers to a 600 grit, and than all the way up to a higher grit like 1000, 1500, or even 2000. What you are doing is creating smaller and smaller scratches in the surface that will really "buff up" nicely.

Don't be afraid to get in there and really really scrub - start with a coarse piece of sandpaper and rub and sand your piece for the longest. Just use the fine sandpaper to finish it off. Work in little "circle motions" until the entire piece is sanded. You will notice little tiny scratches on your piece, and that is perfectly normal. That just means you are ready to buff!

Some people actually bake their pieces half-way, sand their pieces with a coarse sandpaper, bake for the remaining time, than sand with a finer sandpaper. Like I said, it all depends on preference - these are just guidelines to get you thinking and experimenting.


Buffing

Simply put - the longer you buff your polymer clay creations, the more shiny they will be. Some brands of clays won't shine up as much as others, such as the Sculpey brands.

Buffing is exactly like sanding, except you are using a much finer material, such as Terry Cloth, Cotton Fabric, Jeans/Denim, Cheap Paper Towel, or Crumpled Up Brown Grocery Bag! You just wipe the material vigorously over the surface for several minutes until the scratches are gone!

:star: Some people even re-bake their pieces for a few minutes after buffing and than re-buff after they have baked it.

Pieces can be left as-is or you can varnish them with a few layers of your favourite gloss for a lovely glass looking or candy-like finish. If you have any questions or comments, don't hesitate to mention them! If you have any additional feedback and tips, do so by mentioning them in the comments so that other people can learn by them!

Enjoy!

Monster Kookies - Cutesy & Creepy Jewellery by the Mad Scientist of Polymer Clay!
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Comments (49)
CharIie-H's avatar
CharIie-H|Hobbyist General Artist
Can this sanding method be used for air-dry clay such as Das? 
Reply  ·  
monsterkookies's avatar
monsterkookies|Professional Traditional Artist
I'm not sure - I don't use Das. Why don't you give it a shot on a sample piece and let me know what happens?
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TwirlyMind's avatar
Thanks for the info :)
Reply  ·  
monsterkookies's avatar
monsterkookies|Professional Traditional Artist
Of course! :)
Reply  ·  
SkylarMinx's avatar
This is so wonderful, thank you!!! I'm working on a piece that was maybe a bit too ambitious for someone new to sculpting but it's coming along really well and I was wracking my brains trying to find a way to smooth it out after I baked it. 
Thank you!!!!
Reply  ·  
monsterkookies's avatar
monsterkookies|Professional Traditional Artist
No problem! :D Good luck finishing your project. :)
Reply  ·  
SkylarMinx's avatar
thank you oodles!
Reply  ·  
monsterkookies's avatar
monsterkookies|Professional Traditional Artist
No problem!
Reply  ·  
LauraLynnTreasures's avatar
LauraLynnTreasures|Hobbyist General Artist
Just came across this and it's some very useful information!  Thank you :)
Reply  ·  
monsterkookies's avatar
monsterkookies|Professional Traditional Artist
I'm glad that I could help you! :)
Reply  ·  
Informative-Silver's avatar
Informative-Silver|Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you so much on the smoothing part. I was afraid water would mess up the clay since it didn't seem like a regular earthy clay and had a more plastic like feel to it. But I have a question, can you use water on Fimo as well? Or can you only use softer?
Reply  ·  
monsterkookies's avatar
monsterkookies|Professional Traditional Artist
I'm not sure! I don't use a lot of Fimo, but it definitely shouldn't be a problem! All polymer clays are very similar.
Reply  ·  
RodneyV's avatar
I am looking at getting more into sculpting and working in this medium, so have a question: Can a Dremel tool with fine detailing bits be used once the clay is hardened?
Reply  ·  
monsterkookies's avatar
monsterkookies|Professional Traditional Artist
Perhaps with certain techniques like etching a design, yes - but for general sculpting, I can't say for sure.
Reply  ·  
CazSteele's avatar
CazSteele|Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
Thanks for these great tips!
Reply  ·  
monsterkookies's avatar
monsterkookies|Professional Traditional Artist
No problem at all!
Reply  ·  
PatientSoul88's avatar
Omg!! I know I loved you for a reason! Thank you so much for this post. You save me for having to bother you in a email!! Going to try this out right now!
Reply  ·  
monsterkookies's avatar
monsterkookies|Professional Traditional Artist
No problem at all! Glad to help. :D
Reply  ·  
craftysorceress's avatar
craftysorceress|Student Artisan Crafter
Thanks for the great info. I have read that sanding and buffing really male transparent clay look awesome, so I will give it a shot. Th
Reply  ·  
monsterkookies's avatar
monsterkookies|Professional Traditional Artist
Great! :D Definitely give it a try. :)
Reply  ·  
keyofdestiney's avatar
keyofdestiney|Hobbyist General Artist
i'm trying to make sculpey translucent clay look like glass, any help? plz?
Reply  ·  
monsterkookies's avatar
monsterkookies|Professional Traditional Artist
I suck at translucent clay. I'm afraid I don't have much help, lol.
Reply  ·  
keyofdestiney's avatar
keyofdestiney|Hobbyist General Artist
oh.... ok
Reply  ·  
ninmusicgrl's avatar
Put it in ice water after you take it from the oven.
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