Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Liquid Polymer Clay + Heat Gun: A Couple Dos & Don'ts

Nothing to do with liquid clay, just my newish kitty Goose!
In the last couple of weeks, I've read several blog posts about liquid polymer clay--specifically people using it as a final glaze/effect with a heat gun.  This is a technique I use with probably 95% of my polymer clay beads, and I highly recommend it.  There are tons of techniques for lots of interesting effects; mixing it with powders (as you can see I do from the mess on my desk in the photos), paint, other embellishments, layering, etc.

Then I saw a post on Facebook that Sculpey is now offering a line of new liquid clays, and the clear one looks REALLY clear, which is very desireable. I have a feeling the use of liquid clay in general is going to really take off.  

The blog posts I read mentioned using a wooden skewer to hold the polymer bead to brush on the liquid clay and blast it with a heat gun.  This makes perfect sense--those skewers are a common tool in a polymer clay studio, and perfect to hold while applying and letting dry paint, crackle medium, etc.  But not at all perfect for using in conjunction with a heat gun.

Obviously, the skewers are meant to be used with heat--they're made for kebabs.  And bbqs have actual flames, so I don't know why it's different, but for whatever reason, my experience is the heat gun is just too hot/concentrated or otherwise just incompatible with the wood skewers holding a polymer clay bead.

Wood bbq skewers were the first implements I tried when I first started working with the liquid clay a couple years ago.  It was nothing but trouble.  The bead gets too hot too quickly and the liquid clay is likely to become discolored or scorched.  But the skewer itself can also get too hot and scorch.  I had this happen and it ruined the bead.  That wasn't a big deal, but I feel like had I not turned the heat gun off in time, it could have turned into a gigantic matchstick, aflame.  Egads.

Instead of wood skewers, I recommend using a bead reamer.  It's proven to be an excellent tool for working with liquid clay and the heat gun.  The plastic handle never gets hot--as a matter of fact, the lower part of the metal part doesn't get even get hot.  And the area of the metal directly in contact with the bead doesn't get hot enough to affect the integrity or dynamics of the bead itself.

I apply the liquid clay to the (cured) polymer bead while it's on the reamer and immediately cure it with the heat gun. Any liquid clay that gets on the reamer and cures peels right off.  The fine texture & shape of the reamer holds the beads very firmly so they aren't spinning around--necessary if you are doing any kind of intricate embellishment work with the liquid clay, and just convenient because it's easy to turn the reamer as needed for even heat application.

This might be a personal quirk but there are times when I feel a batch of cured liquid-clay-finished beads needs a final blast of heat.  I was in the habit of using a little folded foil boat, like the photo above.  I held the boat in one hand using long pliers, jiggling it so the beads got tossed around on all areas under the heat gun, which I was holding in my other hand--seemingly a safe distance from the boat--moving it around evenly. Aside from the beads sometimes jumping out of the boat, this seemed to work pretty well.  But then something creepy happened.

It apparently created too much built up heat and had a feedback effect on the gun itself--there was a big orange flash.  Luckily I immediately switched the gun off and there was no indication of any burning or anything at all.  (This is one reason I always hold the heatgun vs. using it on its little stand--I want immediate control of the switch.)  When working with the heat gun on polymer, always make sure there is NOTHING in the heat path but the polymer and tested, safe implements even if you think or know it's a heat-safe material (like the foil.)

Aside from safety concerns, it's practical as well.  Make sure there are no bottles of liquid clay (or clay scraps or packages) even close to the direction you point the heat gun; they can partially cure from that kind of heat.

Anyway, in the photo above, there is an example of a way to give a finishing heat gun touch to multiple beads.  Raw brass wire (likely any type would do) holds them and can be twisted loosely at the top so they can be held at a safe distance while using a heat gun. The beads can be jiggled around so all areas are exposed to the heat.  The wire can be used and reused.

Just to be clear--the wire method would be used on beads that have already had an individual initial or partial curing of their liquid clay.  I have just found that there are certain circumstances in which a batch may need a little extra bit of time under the gun.

Goose and her food in polymer--a Valentine's Day present for my husband

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