You are going to love these Polymer Clay Pens for your next women’s retreat!
I’m not very crafty. Thank goodness I have a network of friends willing to step up and lead crafts and breakout sessions at Loving Christ Ministries retreats.
Brooke and I are always looking to grow that network so if/when you have ideas to share for our next retreats, we definitely want to hear from you!
Despite not being incredibly creative, there’s much to be said for completing something I’ve made from start to finish. There’s just satisfaction in that, you know?
Now that I’m older, I don’t even mind so much if any craft I complete doesn’t turn out perfect. Still, it’s nice to have something that’s not only usable but cute, too. These polymer clay pens fit that bill!
For a longer weekend retreat, there’s time to do extensive crafts such as plaster gauze masks and hands.
However, for a one-day retreat, a quick and easy craft like this works best.
When we designed and baked these at the Fall Refresh and Renew Retreat, all the ladies had fun working together, and they came up with gorgeous, useful takeaways from the retreat.
Here’s what you need for these very simple but so much fun Polymer clay pens:
- Oven bake polymer clay (we used Sculpey which you can get on Amazon or at most craft stores). You’ll need about a 1/2 ounce to an ounce per pen.
- Cheap BIC pens, the kind you can pull the ink cartridge from. I like Bic because the pens work. There’s nothing more frustrating than making a nice polymer clay pen and then having the pen not work. (I’m not a Bic employee; I just think they’re the best for this project)
- Needle-nose pliers to pull out the ink cartridge (or you can use your teeth – ewwww…. or actually sometimes you can just pull them out. The pliers would help, though)
- Cookie sheets
- Rolling pins (if you want…we just smashed the clay)
- Plastic knives
- Access to an oven
When I researched information, I found many fancy directions where you cut the clay evenly and made everything super nice and neat.
You may certainly do that.
However, in our quest to have an even quicker and simpler craft, we managed to make beautiful pens by smashing and smushing and rolling; no one worried so much about everything being perfect.
As a result, they turned out that way anyway.
Once you gather all your supplies, here’s what you need to do:
Pull the ink cartridge out of the pen.
Choose the clay colors you want to use and plan your design.
Smash, roll, shape your clay on and around your pen however you want.
You can include layers, too. It’s okay to cover the top of the pen, but make sure you don’t cover the tip.
You’ll have to put the ink cartridge back in later.
When you’re all through decorating, line the pens up on a cookie sheet (or two).
Bake in a 275 deg F oven for about 15 minutes.
Let them cool, and then put your ink cartridge back in.
How to Bake Polymer Clay
If you’ve never baked with polymer clay before, you might want to read further. I’ve tried to include everything you need to know for using the clay. If you have any questions, or if you have any extra tips, please write them in the comment section at the bottom of this post.
Preparing Your Work Area
Before you dive into your polymer clay project, it’s crucial to set up an orderly and clean work area that will help ensure your clay pieces are crafted and baked to perfection.
Choosing the Right Surface
Your baking work surface needs to be flat, heatproof, and non-reactive. Ceramic tiles work wonderfully as they provide a steady, smooth area that conducts heat evenly. If ceramic tiles aren’t available, you can opt for aluminum foil or parchment paper on a baking sheet to create a suitable flat surface for baking your polymer clay.
Gathering Necessary Materials
Equip yourself with the following essentials:
- Aluminum foil or parchment paper: Utilize these to line your baking surface and prevent the clay from sticking.
- Oven thermometer: This is not just handy but crucial to ensure your oven is at the correct temperature.
- Essential tools: Have your shaping and texturing tools within reach for any last-minute adjustments.
Remember, keeping your work area and materials organized is the key to a smooth, enjoyable crafting experience.
Understanding Polymer Clay
Polymer clay is a versatile and user-friendly medium that comes in various types and brands, each with its own properties for handling and conditioning. Understanding these differences is essential for creating successful projects.
Types and Brands
Raw Clay: Generally, polymer clay comes in a pliable form that is hardened by baking, and it’s available in various brands and lines to cater to different artist needs.
- Fimo Soft: Known for its smooth texture and ease of conditioning, Fimo Soft is suitable for beginners and is excellent for blending colors.
- Sculpey Clay: A broad range that includes Sculpey III, known for its softness and variety of colors, and Super Sculpey, which is firmer, making it ideal for sculpting fine details.
- Fimo Clay: This brand also includes the Fimo Professional line, which has a firmer consistency and is preferred for precise work that requires retaining sharp edges.
Handling and Conditioning
Before you begin your project, it’s important to properly handle and condition your choice of polymer clay to ensure the best results.
- Conditioning Process:
- Warm up the clay by kneading it in your hands or using a pasta machine for a consistent and pliable texture.
- Mix colors carefully to create custom shades or gradients, being mindful that the clay is thoroughly blended.
Remember, each brand and type of polymer clay may require a slightly different approach to conditioning due to its unique consistency and workability.
When you’re ready to turn your polymer clay creation into a durable masterpiece, mastering the baking process is essential. Achieving the right temperature and calculating the proper baking time are key to ensuring a perfect cure without any burns or brittleness.
Setting the Right Temperature
To ensure your polymer clay bakes properly, it’s crucial to set your oven to the recommended temperature, which is typically between 230°F – 275°F. Use an oven thermometer to verify that your oven’s temperature is accurate, as internal temperatures can fluctuate. A consistent temperature is essential for even baking and to prevent any mishaps. You should never bake at higher temperatures than suggested as it could cause the clay to burn, while lower temperatures might not cure the clay fully.
Calculating Baking Time
The precise baking time is determined by the thickness of your polymer clay piece; generally, you should bake for 15 minutes per 1/4 inch of thickness. Always check the specific temperature and time recommendations on your clay’s packaging, as some brands may vary. Remember that baking for too long at the correct temperature is often safer than baking at a higher temperature for a shorter period. If you’re unsure, err on the side of a lower temperature and a longer baking time.
Using the Oven Correctly
When baking polymer clay, using the correct oven settings and understanding the different types of ovens can greatly influence the outcome of your creations. Care should be taken to avoid imperfections during the baking process.
Types of Ovens
Toaster Oven: A toaster oven is a convenient option for baking small batches of polymer clay. It quickly reaches the desired oven temperature and is often more energy-efficient than larger ovens.
Regular Oven: Your regular oven is perfectly suitable for polymer clay, provided that it can maintain a steady temperature. Precise temperature control is key to prevent burning or underbaking your piece.
Convection Oven: A convection oven uses a fan to circulate air and create an even heat distribution, which can be beneficial for curing polymer clay evenly. However, be mindful that it may heat the clay faster, so adjust the baking time accordingly.
Microwave Oven: Unlike the previously mentioned ovens, a microwave oven is not appropriate for baking polymer clay due to its heating mechanism, which can cause the clay to burn or emit harmful fumes.
To ensure accuracy, always use an oven thermometer to verify the internal temperature, as the dials on the oven may not reflect the true heat.
- Placement: Place your creation on a ceramic tile or oven-proof glass surface centered in the oven, away from the heating element to prevent uneven heating and possible scorch marks.
- Foil Tent: Cover your clay with a tented piece of aluminum foil to shield it from direct heat, which helps prevent the formation of shiny spots.
- Temperature: Bake at the recommended temperature—typically between 230°F and 275°F. Consult the packaging for the clay’s specific instructions.
By understanding your oven options and taking steps to bake your polymer clay correctly, you can achieve the best possible results and bring your creative visions to life.
Finishing and Post-Baking
Once your polymer clay items emerge from the oven, the finishing and post-baking steps are crucial to ensure they reach their full durability and aesthetic potential.
Cooling and Curing
After baking, it’s important to let your creations cool down properly. Transfer the polymer clay items to a glass plate or a cool baking tray away from the oven. Avoid using metal as it can retain heat.
Cover them loosely with aluminium foil to prevent dust without trapping heat. Allowing your items to cool to room temperature gradually will help prevent cracks and ensure they cure correctly, which can take a little time.
Adding Finishing Touches
Now’s the time to make your craft truly shine. Start by carefully inspecting each piece for any imperfections. You can use fine sandpaper to smooth out any bumps. Once you’re happy with the base, you may want to add color or sheen.
Acrylic paints are a good option for coloring and should be applied only after the clay is completely cooled. To protect your work and add a professional touch, apply a clear glaze or sealant, ensuring that each layer is dry before adding the next.
Frequently Asked Questions
Whether you’re working on jewelry, figurines, or custom crafts, knowing how to bake your polymer clay correctly is critical for achieving durable and long-lasting creations. Here are some answers to common queries you might have about the baking process.
What’s the ideal temperature for baking polymer clay in the oven?
The best temperature range for baking polymer clay in your oven is typically between 230°F and 275°F. It’s a good idea to check the manufacturer’s instructions on your specific brand of clay, as the ideal temperature can vary slightly between products.
Can you bake polymer clay using an air fryer, and if so, how?
While unconventional and not necessarily the best way, it is possible to use an air fryer to bake polymer clay. However, precise temperature control is crucial, as fluctuations can lead to uneven curing.
If your air fryer has accurate temperature settings, preheat it to the polymer clay’s recommended temperature and monitor closely to prevent burning.
What are the steps to bake polymer clay beads to ensure they’re fully cured?
To ensure your polymer clay beads are thoroughly cured, follow these steps: preheat your oven to the manufacturer’s suggested temperature, place the beads on a baking surface like parchment paper, and bake for 15-30 minutes depending on their size and thickness. Allow them to cool down completely after baking.
How can you tell if your polymer clay has been properly baked and is fully cured?
After baking and cooling your polymer clay, test its doneness by trying to press a fingernail into it. Properly cured clay should be hard, with a surface that your nail can mark without sinking in. If the clay is still soft or it bends easily, it might require additional baking time.
Is it safe to bake polymer clay on materials like parchment paper or aluminum foil?
Yes, using materials like parchment paper or aluminum foil is safe for baking polymer clay. These materials prevent the clay from sticking to your baking tray and can also help maintain a consistent temperature around your piece.
What are the risks of overbaking polymer clay, and how can you avoid them?
Overbaking polymer clay can lead to discoloration, brittleness, and even burning. To avoid these issues, always use an oven thermometer to ensure your oven’s temperature is accurate and follow the advised baking time. If needed, tent the clay with aluminum foil to protect it from spikes in heat.