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Topic: Newbie sanding/buffing questions  (Read 1327 times)
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« on: April 21, 2007 04:11:02 PM »

Is it reasonable to use power buffing tools (such as the dremel buffing wheels) on polymer clay? I've wet sanded and sanded and *sanded* and I'm not seeing any difference. I also have a real aversion to the sound and feel of sanding, wet or not, so a power tool would be a blessing. If you've had this work, would you tell me a bit about how you use it?
I tried the Dremel buffing disk, and while it had an effect, it seemed minimal. I think I wasn't at that stage yet - I probably needed something courser first, but the sanding wheels scratch the clay. Any help is appreciated!
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« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2007 06:20:41 PM »

You could use a muslin wheel on your Dremel or make one of these.  If you don't like sanding (I hate it), you could use a rock tumbler lined with sandpaper with bits of more sandpaper floating around in the soapy water.  I'm currently looking at garage sales for a tumbler.

But, yeah.  You can use buffing wheels.

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« Reply #2 on: April 21, 2007 07:47:58 PM »

i don't usually sand my pieces, but i've heard that you shouldn't use power tools to sand pices that have TLS.

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« Reply #3 on: April 21, 2007 07:56:33 PM »

what are you sanding? beads or figurines?
 If it's a sculpture.. i wouldn't think  a tumbler would be safe for it.. getting knocked around and all.
  if you're not seeing a difference being made, maybe you just need to start at a rougher grit. I sanded a doll starting at a pretty rough grit.. and it left all kinds of scratch marks but as i went down the line using a finer paper, then an even finer one and so on, those lines went away and in the end my fairy was extremely smooth and soft .

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« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2007 10:11:12 AM »

(same answer I just posted to you at beadandbutton.com)

Is it reasonable to use power buffing tools ... on polymer clay....

Definitely, and thats' the only way to get a high gloss on a clay item using the sanding-and-buffing technique, should you want one.  You can also get a sheen or a lower gloss with an electric buffer of some kind if you want by just not electric buffing very long, but hand buffing after sanding alone won't ever bring up a glassy-looking high gloss).

.. . .(such as the dremel buffing wheels) . . .  
... I tried the Dremel buffing disk, and while it had an effect, it seemed minimal. I think I wasn't at that stage yet - I probably needed something courser first, but the sanding wheels scratch the clay.

There are various electric buffing thingies that can be successfully used on polymer clay.  
A regular jeweler's buffing machine (like a Foredom) or a garage-type bench grinder are the most common ones used, but for small items, a muslin wheel on a Dremel works well too. Either one of those will come outfitted with a muslin wheel or two (usually with the circular stitching is removed on any of them to make them fluffier, which makes for less scratching), or there are other materials you can use to make fluffy buffing wheels for polymer clay from scratch.

Btw, when using a Dremel, the actual "sanding" disks that comes with it are never used.  Polymer clay is way too soft for that unless you actually want to remove a lot of clay, or to rough-carve the clay.  
(Sanding can be accomplished with a Dremel bit though by using one of the "hard felt " bits if you really want to use a Dremel for sanding.)

With polymer clay, the smoother the clay is before buffing too, the higher the shine can be taken (some peole go all the way up to 1200 grit or more wet-dry sandpaper, but 400-then-600 is sufficient for very high gloss).  But in general,  if the clay isn't smooth enough to start with, buffing won't take it there.

You might want to check out this page for loads of ways to "sand" polymer clay though (including sanding some small pieces --especially beads-- in a tumbler):

This page at my site (the GlassAttic referred to before) is where you'll find most of the loads of info I have on buffing clay with all kinds of things:
But buffing specifically with a Dremel (or other brand of small rotary tool) is covered on this page:
(.... look under Dremels...)

Generally, scratching appears because the clay gets warm from the friction of buffing and the surface softens very slightly... so if a rotating buffing wheel gets pressed down on any area too hard, or for too long at one time, then the threads will begin to scratch into the clay.  (ways to avoid that are discussed on the Buffing page above)

I've wet sanded and sanded and *sanded* and I'm not seeing any difference.

As long as you are wet sanding (clay that's already reasonably smooth) with 600 grit then 400 grit (even for a short time), you should definitely feel a difference with your fingers even if you can't see any effects till the area has been buffed.  (If you can't feel any difference either, respond back with more info on exactly what you're doing, what you're using, and in what order.)

I also have a real aversion to the sound and feel of sanding, wet or not,

This is a little perplexing ... there should be very little "sound" from wet-sanding polymer clay... certainly nothing like dry-sanding wood, etc.  Are you using a running stream of water, or just dipping in a bowl of water occasionally, or what?

a power tool would be a blessing. If you've had this work, would you tell me a bit about how you use it?

Well first, you can also do a lot of "sanding" and smoothing when the clay is still raw using various materials and motions... some people can get the clay smooth enough at that point that they don't even need to sand it after baking. There's more info on how to do that on the Sanding page linked to above (... click on Smoothing Before Sanding...)
Then check out the Sanding page above for other power tools that can be used for sanding polymer clay, and click especially on Electric Tools for Sanding.

...Or of course, you can always use a liquid finish and not have to sand at all if you don't want to (to get a high gloss), though without sanding fingerprints and dings will still show through the clear finish.
...Or just get a a sheen on the baked clay, you could use a paste wax or Vaseline, etc., instead of the liquid finish, then hand buff --or you could use Future on still-warm/hot clay, or you could use Kato Polyclay alone since it has a sheen as its natural baked-up finish.  
Check out this page for more info on those:


Diane B.

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« Reply #5 on: April 22, 2007 02:43:24 PM »

Wow! Thanks! I'll follow up on all the links. Great responses -thank you very much.

You're right that if I hold the piece under water, I don't actually hear it - I'm just so neurotic about that sound that I *think* I hear it. I know it's bizaare. Anyway, I'll take advice and try harder, and if neither works, I'll check back.

It was the felt wheel I was trying to use on the dremel as a buffing wheel, so that's clearer now.
« Reply #6 on: April 23, 2007 05:01:47 AM »

Great info posted here!  I've been sanding my stuff and wondered why I wasn't getting much gloss.  Guess I forgot about buffing! 
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