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Topic: Non-Toxic Waterproof Sealant?  (Read 19485 times)
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« on: February 25, 2010 04:50:02 PM »

Hey all.  My best friend''s middle daughter Riley is cognitively and physically delayed, and her ot/pt recommended that she get a set of learning beads for at home.  They are basically BIG cube shaped beads that have patterns carved into them. The problem is that they run about $70 for a set of TWELVE.  She asked if I could make some for her, and I readily agreed.  Riley doesn''t put stuff in her mouth anymore, but her baby sister Rory does.  Any ideas on something that''s both non-toxic AND drool proof?  Thanks for reading!
Diane B.
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GlassAttic --polymer clay "encyclopedia"

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« Reply #1 on: February 26, 2010 08:55:23 AM »

I'm a little confused as to what you'll be making the beads themselves from... wood?, polymer clay?, etc.  (If you want to use polymer clay, check out some of the info in the links below**)

As for just the finish, most (or all?) "acrylics" are considered non-toxic which would include acrylic paints, clear acrylic finishes (as well as fingernail polishes), etc.  But I don't know if that would include a child actually sucking on them for a long time or swallowing a lot of them.

Having said that though, there are a lot of ways to be extra extra careful when children are young and their bodies/brains are still growing, so it's just prudent to avoid anything that we might later discover is a problem (e.g., sucking on windowsills or breathing air in rooms with lead paint, etc.).

So a lot of this would depend on just how much Rory could get to, especially since we actually don't really know how "bad" a lot of sucking on anything is okay for kids --whether it's wood or plastic or metal, etc.... I guess glass or ceramic would be okay since they're usually inert, but that's out of the question for other reasons.

(If you did make them from polymer clay, be sure and bake them so that they're completely polymerized all the way to the center.  That should make them inert but some of the lines of polymer clay will darken with that much baking --Sculpey III, SuperSculpey, original Sculpey...Kato Polyclay is the most resistant to color change)

So, would the letter beads be left out all the time, for example, or would your friend monitor them while they're out then put them up between sessions?  Or perhaps they could be put in a specific room that Rory can't get to, etc?  
Or perhaps Rory could be given frozen bananas to suck/chew on while Riley plays with the beads, or just a lot of okay things to chew/suck on in general.

If they were left out, for how long does Rory actually put things in her mouth, and does she suck or chew on them?  None of those materials are immediately harmful, and certainly not "toxic" in the true sense of the word, but over time or with a large amount there could be some "harm."

(Not sure what you mean by drool-proof....many finishes and paints and even waxes will keep the drool from getting under them to the clay or whatever material was used, but polymer clay is waterproof already by itself --air-dry clays aren't. But actually chewing on something while drooling could be different and create breaks in any finish.)

P.S.  Also be careful of the size you make the "big beads" since items (or food items) that are small can still be swallowed by kids under 3, but more importantly, slightly-larger items like grapes can get stuck in the throat and prevent breathing...in other words, too big to go down if they don't get chewed/broken up first. You can look up the actual size that is, or there's a little pipe-looking thingie probably sold at toy stores that shows the exact size limit.

**Here are some pages at my site you might be interested in, but there could be more if I knew exactly what size you'd be going for, and how you were intending to create the cubes.
http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/letters_inks.htm > Lettering
http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/kids_beginners.htm > Teaching & Working With Kids
http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/disabilities.htm > Kids With Special Needs
... http://www.glassattic.com/polymer/beads-holes.htm (would these actually be beads --with holes-- or would they just be cubes?)


Diane B.
« Last Edit: February 26, 2010 09:16:36 AM by Diane B. » THIS ROCKS   Logged

few of my photos
(had to move them from YahooPhotos, so many now without captions)
« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2010 11:11:50 AM »

Rory's almost 2, so she's not still into the major mouthing/chewing/sucking, but I'm sure that they would go into her mouth at some point.  I am planning on doing them with polymer clay, they're BIG beads, at least two inches per side and I'll probably make them two or three inches long.  I was concerned about sealing them because from my understanding polymer clay contains phthalates, but I have been reading that the new batches have a much lower concentration so they're not really considered toxic anymore?
Diane B.
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« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2010 04:01:03 PM »

Actually, the phthalate stuff is not nearly as straight-forward as it seems. Without going into much detail, the reason polymer clays are changing their formulas (this time) is because they want to be sold in EU countries and the European Union recently banned phthalates in an over-abundance of caution and public uproar/hysteria (take your pick).  None of the plastics Rory is likely to come across, even in the toys/bottles/typical housing she's using or in now, will do anything to her immediately... being exposed to a lot of raw plastics in a manufacturing setting is a different story, and a small effect has been found in a very small percentage of male fetuses while in utero.  And even if the "regular" ones did do anything, the effects would only add to her lifetime load of "bad stuff" from living in a developed country.  

So if she isn't a sucker/chewer and would be at least reasonably supervised, there wouldn't be any problem from (thoroughly cured) polymer clay, or even acrylic finishes, etc, just from putting them in her mouth occasionally.

As for the "big beads," I'm intrigued at the size.  Were you planning to "cover" something of the right size with polymer clay or even make the beads hollow? (since polymer clay items can't be thicker than 1 1/4" when baking without risking cracking, and also perhaps risking their not getting thoroughly cured all the way to the center).  
I suppose you could make "base" beads as armatures from polymer clay, then add another thick layer of clay on top to get up to that 2"... but you'd still be using a lot of clay as well.  Or there are other materials/items you could use as permanent armatures, or others that could be used as temporary or shrinkable/etc. armatures when creating something that big.

Also, how did you plan "carving" the patterns into the clay?  And what kinds of patterns?  Have any links to images of similar beads online?

Diane B.

« Last Edit: February 27, 2010 04:09:17 PM by Diane B. » THIS ROCKS   Logged

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« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2010 09:27:07 PM »

The original beads.

I was planning on making base beads with my large collection of waste clay and then overlaying a heavy layer of clay over those.  I'm not deeply committed to any certain size yet, but they do need to be large.  I haven't decided on whether I'm doing the carving before or after I've cured the final layer, but as for cutting the patterns I will probably use my v-gouge lino carving tools.  I plan on doing grids and stripes, nothing majorly intricate.
Diane B.
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« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2010 02:46:08 PM »

Okay, I see.  Cool beads! ...not exactly what I was expecting though.

If you do use your waste clay for the bead "cores," be sure to bake them before adding other layers if any total bead width will be over 1 1/4", though you might need some liquid clay and/or tacked up white glue to help the outer layers hold onto the baked layers.  
I'd also bake them a fairly long time to be sure they're fully cured all the way to the center (at least 30 min, but up to an hour or even longer if you can).
(Or you could use blocks of wood or other materials to "cover" with the outer clay layer.)

You could also use an air-dry clay under as your bead cores (thoroughly dried) like salt dough clay or bread clay, or you could use an air-dry clay based on paper which would also be lighter-weight (like purchased Creative PaperClay, Model Magic, Celluclay, even paper pulp, etc.).  Those air-dry clays might need sealing inside their holes though since the clay wouldn't be sealing the beads in those areas.

If you want to actually "carve" the baked (or semi-baked) clay to create textures on the beads, you might want to check out some of the tips on doing that on this page:
You may also want to avoid certain brands of clay for the outer layer since some might not carve as smoothly as other brands/lines.
(Also, carving on top of sharply-rounded polymer clay surfaces can get pretty fiddly--slightly-curved surfaces are much easier).

It might be a lot easier and quicker to do beads like this though especially for deeply-textured items like the ones in the pic by using "onlays," or by using "stamping" or "molds" (or "texture sheets" you make yourself or buy or just find around the house),  instead of by carving them.

For example, the rectangular bead in the pic with long raised (rectangular) rows, could be made as a raw large rectangular shape of clay, onto which 4 or so long thin "logs" of raw clay would be pressed into place (i.e., "onlaid" onto the clay) before baking.  
Those long logs could be extruded with an inexpensive clay gun** (using one of the square dies), or they could just be cut from a very-even thick-ish sheet of clay into strips using a long blade--or with the tip of another kind of blade plus a straight-edge/ruler).
There's lots of info on doing clay onlays on this page:
http://glassattic.com/polymer/onlay.htm ...click on Dimensional Onlay
**using clay guns with polymer clay: http://glassattic.com/polymer/claygun.htm

Here are some onlay examples that show abstract lines (and other shapes) in particular:
http://s96.photobucket.com/albums/l163/DianeBB/tools/?action=view&current=273b.jpg ...on left and top are two extrusions from a clay gun (one has been flattened a bit)... they haven't been put onto other clay to use as onlays yet
http://i96.photobucket.com/albums/l163/DianeBB/tools/claygun_quartertriangles.jpg ...the 2 yellow triangular logs on the right were made by splitting another extrusion, but the same thing could have been made just by using a triangular die in the clay gun for the extrusion
(if those, or extrusions using a square die were simply onlaid onto the beads, leaving spaces between them, you'd get the same effect as carving out channels with a square linoleum carver)
http://www.pbase.com/revbyrd/mandala__gallery ...all those are created with "onlays" (click on each to see detail much better)
http://www.polymerclaycentral.com/guilds/shrinegallery4.html#liska (click on orangey one by Laura Liska)
I can't find good pic of a "twisted square log" but this shows the same thing, but the twisted-logs here are large and have been cut into shorter lengths to create freestanding beads:
2 round logs twisted around each other (not used here as "onlays" but could have been):

If you had used a stamp though --or made your own stamp-- (or used a mold or texture sheet--or made your own of those too) then indented a pattern into the clay instead of onlaying a pattern on top of it with more clay, you could easily get the same kinds of patterns as on the beads in the pic (though the edges of the upper edges might not be quite a sharp as with the extrusions or cut strips).
You can see a few examples of using either shallow molds or "stamps" to make lines and other patterns in raw clay in this pic:
http://s96.photobucket.com/albums/l163/DianeBB/molds/?action=view&current=9b21.jpg (at bottom right, the lines and dots created on the clay pieces were made with a rubber eraser I'd carved--then the upraised areas were highlighted with gold mica powder to make them show up more ...for other pieces there, I used all kinds of things to "stamp" with, from things around the house like the blue one in the center which was impressed with a sheet of "plastic canvas" and the bottom center one stamped with the plastic bottom of a fancy corrugated box, to stamps/molds I'd made with polymer clay then baked--highly addictive Cool)
Here's the Craftster post I created to show those, and talk about how they were done, but the link took so long to come up that I'd given up:

(more info on stamping, molds, and texture sheets here, if you're interested:
http://glassattic.com/polymer/molds.htm )

Diane B.

P.S.  If you do make these with clay, I'd love to be able to put a link to them at my polymer clay "encyclopedia" site so others could see them (especially those who want to make similar learning things for young kids, for those with learning or other disabilities, etc.)

« Last Edit: March 01, 2010 03:10:35 PM by Diane B. » THIS ROCKS   Logged

few of my photos
(had to move them from YahooPhotos, so many now without captions)
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