New Tools for Making Polymer Clay Earrings

I wrote last week about my latest attempts to design and create unique polymer clay earrings. I’m designing my own shapes rather than relying on purchased cutters. This involves creating designs on Vectornator and making templates on a Silhouette Portrait 3 machine using plastic notebook dividers I’ve found around my house. I’m able to design and cut almost any shape I want. The notebook divider material is not rigid, but it’s easy to trace around it with a craft blade. And you can use the shapes over and over.

You will always have to clean up your shapes, whether make them with a cutter, or a craft knife. But it seemed that I could never catch every burr and crumb before I baked. I thought that a bow sander would be handy for getting into tight places. Why not use an emery board, a sanding stick, or a file? Didn’t work for me. I wanted to be able to choose any grit of sandpaper, and I didn’t want to be throwing away spent sanding sticks and emery boards and constantly buying more. But most of the bow sanders I saw were too big or too expensive. Then I saw these.

The bow files are on the left and the sanding blocks are on the right. I bought them from Rockwell Exchange on Etsy. They are small, 3d printed, and reasonably priced. I started out with the bow sanders and liked them so well, I ordered the block sanders a few weeks later. The tools are held together with plastic screws. You unscrew them, insert strips of sandpaper that you’ve cut, reassemble them, and you’re good to go. Since they’re plastic, you can wet sand without fear of them rusting. Here’s how I’ve been using them.

Some shapes

You can see that the sanders let you get into tight corners and wrap around curves. I know that a lot of people like to use rotary tools or Dremels for finishing, and sometimes I do too. But a problem with mechanical tools is that they can spin too fast and do some damage if you’re not careful. Hand tools are great when you’re trying to slow down like me.

I’m not the kind of person who buys every tool under the sun, and I try to make my own tools when I can. And I don’t accept any payment or other remuneration for products I recommend on this site. (See my Disclosure statement.)

But I have found these sanding tools very useful and recommend them if you are looking for some sanding help. You can buy them here.

I’ve found a few other inexpensive tools to recommend and will write about them in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, the earring adventures continue.

Clay Cutter Magic from the Mind of Robin Milne

This has been another one hell of a week. I won’t go into details, but humor always helps. As I opened up the web browser on my newly-repaired computer to write this post, one of those real provocative headlines you see on the Internet shot across the screen. You know the kind I’m talking about: Stuff like “If You Have One of These in Your Kitchen, There’s a Ninety Percent Chance You Are a Narcissist,” or “The Ten Things Your Dog Does Not Want You to Know,” or “Scientists are Begging Seniors to Wash This One Body Part.” The headline that I saw was “Seven Things You Should Never Do With a Magic Eraser.” Only seven? I can think of lots more.

Let’s see, you should never insert a Magic Eraser into your Blue Ray drive. You should never give a Magic Eraser to a panhandler on the street and expect a thank you. Don’t think you can cut a pocket in a Magic Eraser and stuff it with falafel. Ok, maybe you can, but that doesn’t mean you should. And finally, (do I really need to tell you this?) don’t roll them into tubes, shove them up your nose, and go food shopping. I could list more things you should never do with a Magic Eraser, but I’ll stop here. I think you get the picture.

Besides, I digress. This week’s post is about one of my friends, Robin Milne, who I am convinced comes from a family of geniuses. Robin is a talented artist in several mediums including polymer clay. Her latest project is developing a line of 3D printed, high-quality clay cutters (although you could use them for cookies, too) . 3D printing has always intrigued me, so I asked Robin how she got into it.

Robin’s Canes

My father got me a small 3D printer 5 years ago for my birthday. One of the first things I made was a cutter in the shape of M.C. Escher’s tessellating lizard. I wanted to use that cutter to make a sample of all the polymer veneers I made and connect them all together. Once I had learned how to use the printer, I upgraded to a bigger, higher quality printer and started designing. I made a stamp with my gym’s logo to mark the attendance sheet that I had been to class. That led me to start making initial stamps for artists to mark their polymer clay pieces. A year and a half ago, I upgraded to an even better printer that can print larger items. Since then, I’ve been learning and printing and designing all kinds of things. I brought 3D prints of about 10 different cutters styles sets to Clayathon this past February and almost sold out.

“People were really happy with them and I got requests for new shapes. When I got home I stocked up again, printing as many as I could to take to the next retreat but then Covid happened. Since I can’t take the cutters to a retreat, I have been taking requests and making customs cutters and mailing them out. I have a lot more cutters I want to design and I also plan to make texture sheets and rollers. I have always loved clay tools and now I can make my own.”

The good news is that Robin opened an online shop! You can buy her beautifully designed and reasonably priced cutters , here. Support the arts and small business! Robin’s adding new designs all the time. I’m looking forward to seeing what she comes up with next.