Smoothing--before sanding
HAND sanding
.....other "sandpapers" (sponges/films/cloths/paper/etc.)
.....basic technique
.....preparation, tips, protection
ELECTRIC tools for sanding
OTHER WAYS to smooth or finish--after sanding (poss. w/ Diluent or re-buffing) & tips
Special polymer tech's using sanding
TUMBLE sanding
....basic info
....sandpaper (squares, wrappings)
....rock-tumbling grits, rottenstone, etc.
....without water
....vibratory tumblers in particular
....other ways to tumble-sand
...inside clothes dryer
(buffing is located on it's own page --Buffing)


Sanding and buffing will give you a nice shine (from a sheen, right up to a gloss depending on your sanding and buffing techniques).
... The smoother the clay before buffing, the better the shine will look though!
....You can also seal after sanding and buffing ... which will make a gloss sealer look even glassier.

Sanding must be followed by some kind of buffing, or you'll simply be left with a whitish cloudy coating on your surface!

(for a SUMMARY of all the ways to "finish" polymer clay, see the top of the Finishes page).

SMOOTHING BEFORE sanding ...(before baking)

Smoothing raw clay before baking results in less sanding having to be done after baking
....and can give a higher gloss with that less sanding!!

(very light) abraision

Sometimes I rub my hands with cornstarch, or wear gloves, during this last step before baking. I'm always working to minimize sanding, but there's no way around some of it. Katherine Dewey
......Barbara F. uses cornstarch lightly on her raw beads, but then uses only 1000 grit sandpaper after baking for a very high gloss finish
...talcum powder can work too, but it won't rinse off raw clay the way that cornstarch will... some "baby powders" nowadays are made more with cornstarch than with talc

A trick I use during the final stage of sanding is to sprinkle a pinch of Bon Ami Cleanser (powder), a very gentle abrasive, on wet, spent, sandpaper (It contains microscopic abrasive particles of feldspar that will take the clay from a dull finish to an almost shiny one and will assure an almost glass-like smoothness.)
...after the Bon Ami treatment, buffing goes very quickly and it's a piece of cake!... here's info from the company: ,Elissa
....Bon Ami rubbed around with a finger should work for less flat areas too

ight Softscrub liquid gel work the same way as cornstarch or Bon Ami? Denita
.......I would imagine that Soft Scrub is pretty much the same thing, except in a liquid gel form (and more expensive) Elissa

"melting" & sanding ...and/or lubrication, etc.

a little water seems to make smoothing easier
....for round beads in particular... so after my beads are shaped, for that last final roll, I put some water in my palms, roll the beads a bit, and those beads are smooooth! Then set them aside till the water dries and they firm up enough to put on rods, cook'em, and they come out great. Jan C
Water works well for Premo, Sculpey and Kato . . .

but Diluent-Softener should work better for Fimo (and Cernit?). Ravensdale, Kathy made us all keep a bowl of water on our desks to smooth with. Works great. Cindy
....I tried a little trick Patti Kimle told me about. I used Diluent to smooth the heart before I cured it. Came out smoother than a Venus behind. Trina
....also, very nice matte look can be gotten by finger polishing the raw clay with water, then using no varnish at all after baking (someone in my guild does this). Jody
...Diluent is a little too thin-bodied for large surfaces to me, and it soaks in.... also, personally I wouldn't want that much diluent on my hands. Patti
......(smudgeable clays --those that "smudge" well for sculpting, Sculpeys & Premo-- tend to be insoluble clays... where Fimo and Cernit, both initially firm clays are soluble clays; both possess a filler (possibly kaolinite) that absorbs moisture. Katherine Dewey

I think I showed you how I use Vaseline to smooth surfaces of my eggs.
....Vaseline sits on the surface better
........this eliminates the friction ....and allows me to get more aggressive in rubbing and smoothing bumps away.
.... it does muddy the surface and smears the pattern, but that layer sands away quickly with 320 or 400 grit. Also gives you a guide to where you have sanded and where you haven't... Patti
....I tried it on my eggs, and it worked better than anything else I've found. Plus it's cheap and easy to find! Karen H.
...If the lumps are way too big for rolling out, I use Jade's trick of grabbing a wad of vaseline and smearing it all over the surface. Then I gaze off into the distance and press and smooth by braille. Once the surface is smoothed as perfectly as I can get it, then I pop it into the oven. If I've used vaseline, I pop it in goo and all. Sanding afterwards is a snap. 8-10 passes with each grit is more than sufficient! sunni

Purel is a great waterless handcleaner. It works great. I use it on my fingers to smooth my clay cabs... makes sanding much easier
...(I also use it on a brush for small areas my big fingers can't get to..... faces are a good example). Annette H.

(for more alcohol or glycerin-containing and/or oily materials like:
....vegetable oil, baby oil, nose oil
....KY lotion (mostly glycerin?), aloe vera
waterless hand cleaners
....alcohol (+ Diluent-Softener) wipes, baby wipes dipped in baby oil
as well as these with brushes and using other tools
also ways to use
plastic wraps and using gloves or glove parts
Sculpting-gen > Fingerprints & Smoothing > Solvents)

"buffing" clay with just with finger saves a lot of sanding later may smear the surface somewhat , but that smear will be sanded off during regular sanding much easier than a bump would have.Jody
....and you can also smooth areas by buffing with the palm of your hand.. Jody

The black rubber brayer I had left over from screen printing works like a charm for rolling a thin layer of clay down onto a switchplate, etc., and doesn't stick to the clay like an acrylic roller (it rolls out the bubbles in the clay sheet without sticking to it at all). of the guys in our local guild does a lot of work with laminating the clay and he only uses the black rubber kind of brayer . . . his work is amazingly smooth without any sanding.

While covering (eggs, etc.) I also I constantly remind myself to get the base layer smooth as possible
...and also to make certain the clay isn't sticking to my hands (this causes air pockets and
is one reason I use cornstarch on my hands). Katherine Dewey

(Just rolling some shapes gently on your work surface can work as well. Jody)


I. texture a lot of things to to hide fingerprints or other imperfections ..or just to add visual interest. Irene NC
....texturing (even very light texturing) can also hide imperfections in expanses of solid color
....I textured (my connected slices) with a piece of sheer chiffon... gives the little quilt a "fabric" look and camouflages fingerprints, too. :-) Elizabeth
....this can be done with texture sheets or with tools and there or all over

(....also see ways to smooth clay after baking --besides buffing-- below in Other Ways to Smooth --After Sanding)

BOOK: The Art of Polymer Clay Creative Surface Effects, by Donna Kato

...surface treatment techniques: stencils, stamps, paints and inks, sculpting, inclusions, special effects, and finishing ...image transfers ...projects: beads, bracelets, pins, pendants, boxes ....essentials of polymer clay, color blending, Skinner blend, etc.

HAND Sanding


You must use wet/dry sandpaper with polymer clay (it's black in color, not brown or orangey)... to keep the polymer dust out of the air.

Regular hardware and hobby stores carry various grits of wet-dry sandpaper, either in packs or sometimes single sheets.

The higher grits (over 600) papers that many people like to use are found at: parts suppliers or the auto dept of Walmart, K-Mart or Ace Hardware (not their hardware areas)
......autobody and paint shops....I happened to notice all kinds of highgrit sandpaper piled in the work trashcan. I asked the manager if he would sell me some and he was more than happy to give me 2 sheets of each grit. I offered him $$ for it but he would not take it. Lisa
...hobby shops (for model railroading, model airplanes, etc.)
.. The higher grits are not in the wood fininshing & painting departments, they are in the automotive section.... ask where Bondo or body filler is, and the sandpaper wll be right nearby. Ginger

... Be aware that the higher grits will probably be in smaller, narrower packages though , not the usual large size. Patty B.
....I have been having a very hard time finding grits in 800 and 1000. The last batch of 800 grit i found was brown, and when I got it wet, the ink, or whatever it was stained the water brown.
Bunny, you may have gotten something called Crocus Cloth.... The guy told me it was the same thing, but didn't tell me that it would shed color. I think Lysle has said that he uses it for sanding. Anyway, I trashed it.... Randi

(online sellers ... especially for polymer clayers)
...Larry at Boston ClayWorks
now carrying an assortment pack of 6 silicon carbide wet/dry sandpaper sheets - one 8 1/2" by 11" sheet of the following grits: 400, 600, 800, 1000, 1200, and 1500 ... $5.75 per set
...Leigh at Polymer Clay Central
packages of the special wet/dry sandpaper, with all the grits that I use to do my translucent clay work... we'll start out with one main package, then as we go along, we'll make up different packageing for people who just need one or two grits
......package Number One will include: 8 1/2 x 11" sheet of 8 different grits of a great quality wet/dry sandpaper,220,320,400,600,1000,1200,1500,2000
...a special Sanding Tips and Secrets sheet written by your's TrueLEIGH
...will cost about a dollar a sheet, which after looking into other places, is cheaper than most of them!!! package is $10.00 EVEN....includes USA s/h... (2 packages $20.00, etc.) Leigh (...proceeds will go toward helping support Polymer Clay Central)
..I buy sandpaper in 50 sheet lots from Online Industrial Supply:
.....they have all the grades I need + the best price (I change sandpaper once a week, so buying this many makes sense). dixie
in the UK:
...the Axminster Tool Company stocks all the grades of wet-dry sandpaper you need (at extremely reasonable prices).Alan (or

other "sandpapers"
sanding sponges, films, cloths, steel wool, papers, misc.

Since so many women have artificial nails, the coarseness of purchased fingernail "files" can vary from very coarse to extremely fine. These work great for polymer clay. It's like having a good handle for your sandpaper and really cuts down on the finger pain. They still have a lot of grit left when they are no longer good for fingernails. If you have a contact or a nail salon near you, ask them to save the files for you. Celia

I make my own sanding sticks from (tongue depressor size) craft sticks & mounting tape (the kind that's sticky on both sides, and has a layer of foam between)...these are pretty darned cheap to make.
...lesson: adhere a strip of the tape to one side of tongue depressor (about half length, giving you room for a comfortable grasp); trim away excess tape..... peel the paper from that tape, and lay the newly exposed sticky part on the back of the sandpaper; trim away excess sandpaper.... write grit number of the sandpaper on both sides of the handle!
...when the sandpaper's no longer usable, adhere more foam and sandpaper to the other side (of the dry stick). Ellen RB

My first sanding sticks were made using a 9-inch section of round wooden dowel, sandpaper, scrap clay, and 2 rubber bands.
1.Use the scrap clay to form a handle on the dowel. Whatever size and shape is comfortable for you.
2. Coat the wood with glue or TLS to help adhere the clay to the wood; then bake.
3. Cut about a 3 to 4 inch wide strip of sandpaper. Make the strip as long as possible.
4. Wrap the sandpaper snuggly around the dowel. Use a piece of duct tape, if nec., to start it on the dowel.
5. Use the rubber bands at each end of the sandpaper to hold it in place.
....As the sandpaper wears down, simply remove the rubber bands, tear off the used layer, replace the rubber bands, and keep on sanding.
....other objects you can wrap with sandpaper: triangular shaped ruler, paint stirs, pencils/pens (chopsticks, )
--I also have sets of sanding rods, with different grits on each rod. Celia

You can wet sand with steel wool too. I find fine steel wool makes a good preparation for buffing too - I get a higher gloss than from sanded pieces.
.... One thing I sometimes do is to finish up a piece using a 0000 steel wool. If I don't want to buff the piece to a high shine, then the last step I do is with the steel wool. I love the effect this has. Dotty
....I haven't had that problem and use steel wool a lot, (AND being CHEAP, I keep using the same piece of steel wool over and over). You have to make sure that the steel wool can get dry or it will rust. I use steel wool under lightly running water. . . . If you are using steel wool for more than one-two minutes, than you aren't sanding with the larger grit sandpapers long enough. This would explain the fine steel hairs happening. The steel wool phase should be a final touch-up/smoothing phase, not a major sanding step. I have never gotten the fine hairs described here nor the slivers in years of using steel wool on polymer. When I sand, it takes less than two to four minutes for each grit that I use and only about one minute for steel wool on something like a 4" long bead, just to give you a way to gauge. Another thing that works well is those flat green nylon, (and there's white, too), scrubbing pads for washing dishes with. They don't rust either... Meredith
....If you go to a woodworking show or a shop, you'll find that they sell those scrubbing pads in an assortment of colors, each having a different level of abrasiveness. I just love them, dry or wet. They can be cut with scissors to whatever size you find comfortable. I also use the household ones, but it's nice to have the variety of hardness you get with the woodworking ones. Halla
a Buff Puff facial scrub pad (or store brand pads at Walgreens, Longs, etc.) can be used sometimes as well. Nancy B.
...I just love the results of using 0000 steel wool for a lustrous finish. You do have to put on two or three coats of the Diamond Flecto Varathane, letting it dry in between coats. Then lightly sand the surface with a 400 grit wet/dry sandpaper. Then begin using the steel wool. I work in circles all over the piece. Check to see if there are any really shiny spots and go over those. This really doesn't take much time and if you like the results, it's worth the effort. Dotty

that sander made of mesh works really well with water on flat stuff. Especially when you need a nice smooth surface and you want it fast. It sands evenly - not leaving scratches and it can be rinsed out and used over and over again.

I've also had a lot of success with ordinary Scotch-brite pads & sponges, believe it or not! You can get a really nice smooth satiny "pre-buff" finish with those little green guys!
If you are having trouble finding sandpaper, at least in the short term....Scotch-Brite pads & sponges (like yellow ones with green wool tops, and pink with white woo ) ...sometimes you can just get the wooly pad itself, and sometimes they're backed with a sponge....
...They have (sandpaper) grit equivalents (make sure you read the rating which is on the packaging): =150-180 grit, fine (medium duty) .....maroon = 220-280 grit, very fine
......gray =320-400 grit, extra fine .....white = 600-800, ultra fine (light duty) . . . .Desiree

sanding sponges ....6000? grit (from Micro-Mark) and wow! (nowadays, I just begin with 600 grit (hardware store), then 1500 grit (auto-supply store......, and then finish with the (6000) sponge and I get a high shine! Quick, easy and soooo cool. . . They have lots of wonderful little tools - one of those catalogs that is fun to pore over.

foamy, sanding pads ... Soft Touch (high grit) at Micromark...Micro-Mesh abrasive laminated to both sides of a 1/8 inch x 2 inches x 2 inches soft foam pad with rounded corners (see Micro Mesh sanding cloths below also)

I bought a rather expensive "plastics sanding kit" # 084-1000, $13.99
.... I've tried most other sanding methods, including the scumbuster, but have only truly achieved the "glassy" finish by using the sponge set from wood turners. Here's the link to the sanding kit: ...sanding pads are perfect for finishing materials such as stabilized woods, Corian®, acrylics or other plastic materials, and they are long lasting and easy to use....depending on the grit you choose, surfaces from a matte finish to high gloss are quickly achieved....kit contains seven 2"-square, foam-backed flexible pads from 300 grit to 12,000 grit (color coded)... (I do not use any "abrasives"--just the sponges & a bin of water.) Laurel

a sanding film ...Flex-I-Grit . . Flexible Film Sandpaper & Micro Film Sandpapers .... . . . flexible plastic backing with abrasive particles glued on. It's not necessarily better than good ol' automotive wet/dry sandpaper, but it comes in finer grits. I think it may also last longer than sandpaper. If you want more information, check the product listing at The films I have are the microfine assortment. (The films come in "regular" grits too).... There are 5 sheets with grits from 23 micron down to .5 micron (equivalent to 10,000 grit). ...made from silicon carbide, aluminum oxide, cerium oxide and chromium oxide. Problem is that I can't figure out which sheet is what grit! The sheets are black, light gray-beige, beige, dark gray, green. The package does say 23 ALO and 8 Sil & 23 Sil, so I figure the Aluminum oxide is 23 micron grit and the Silicon carbide comes in two grits.... Irwin (at Micromark)
......Super Film - Sanding and Finishing Film by Houston Art. It was in the same section with the gold leaf supplies. It is white and says it is ultra fine grain and leaves smooth, glass-like surface. The instructions say to use like sandpaper and to use with water for the final coat. Terri C.
I have used this as a last sanding and finishing option. It makes a nice satin surface. If you want a soft shine, it is good to use instead of buffing with a buffing wheel. Marlene

sanding cloths ... Micro-Mesh finishing ... "Micro-Mesh's micro grains of abrasive are bonded to a soft cloth backing with a resilient adhesive. This construction cushions the abrasive, creating a smooth shaving action rather than gouging and abrading the surface. Micro-Mesh lasts far longer since its construction prevents the abrasive crystals from fracturing and overheating. . . "
......I recently discovered are sanding cloths... which are sporadically available at model train and hobby stores or Micromark ) catalog 1-800-225-1066. They last a long while, can be washed and are flexible enough to get into all those goofy corners and crevices on some polymer items that are difficult to sand with stiffer sandpaper. I bought some up to 3400 grit but I was told you can go to something like 30,000. This is true, as I stated in an earlier post... , or any railroad and model car hobby store.

You might try placing the wet/dry Emory cloth on the inside bottom of a shallow glass casserole dish. ...Add about 1/4 inch of water.
Then with two fingers holding the barrette back and two fingers of the other hand. Hold the Emory 'paper' (really a cloth) in place, sand the barrette.

my mother always uses toothpaste to get fine scratches off her furniture (it's more abrasive than it seems)...I am NOT telling others to try it. .. . I also know a ceramic tile installer who uses toothpaste as a polish for light scratches. Think we should try it on some pieces we can experiment with and see what happens. Kay (before or after baking?)

(since sanding films often don't come with the grit number on the back,) what I do now is write the grit number all over the back of each new sheet with a waterproof pen. Robert H.

Other materials can be also used as very-very-fine "sandpapers" ... the finest materials are actually what we call "buffing" but the principle is the same --continue to smooth finer and finer scratches, created by a previous rubbing with a slightly-coarser surface.
....examples are paper-based like old brown grocery bags (can be scrunched till fabric-like first if desired) or paper towels (Lylyfai says cheap ones are best... LuxieLou says they worked well without even truly buffing afterward), some are other materials such as polyester quilt batting (or cotton batting should work too), mouse pads, 0000 steel wool, (plus all kinds of fabrics, from smooth cotton and comforters, to fleece, to more textured fabric like knit polo shirts, terrycloth, denim, etc.) ... for more on all those and more, see Buffing > Other Ways to Get Sheen)

(see more ideas above in "Smoothing Before Sanding")

SANDING ...techniques, tips

....sometimes a high shine is what really makes a piece ... but sometimes it isn't as appropriate or actually destroys a better look for it

.....translucent and metallic clays really benefit from sanding and buffing, giving them great depth and bringing out their shine

.....all clays can be given a glossy shine, but
some people prefer to give most clays only a sheen (by not buffing all the way to a high shine)

....some people prefer the effect of sanding and buffing over the effect of glossy liquid finishes, especially for some things

...a higher smoothness and beauty can often be created by applying a finish and letting dry, then sanding and buffing (and maybe heating)... some clayers repeat this process several times
.......if you want to sand the Varathaned surface and give it a wonderful satin surface, it's best to use 2-3 coats of Varathane... then use 400 and 600 grit wet sandpaper... finally go over the piece with 0000 steel wool. DottyinCA

basic technique

HAND sanding....Begin with a 400 grit (or even 320 if your item is really bumpy), then use a 600 grit sandpaper afterwards (some people will then use finer grits, even up to a 2000)... what you're actually doing is making successively smaller scratch marks until they're invisible to the eye and will buff up nicely. must sand either under a trickle of running water, or dip your sand paper continually into a bowl of water to remove the grit & keep polymer dust out of the air
Here's a word picture (of my sanding): See my big old round Tupperware bin of cool water, black wet-dry sanding paper in sizes 240, 320, 400, 600? Yeah, that's me, sitting in front of the TV, sanding stuff. Each big sheet of sandpaper has been cut in fourths and each fourth folded in half. I'm sanding pens. See me dip the pen and 240 sandpaper in the water, rub the paper on the pen 4-6 swipes, turn, sand, turn, sand, dipping the pen and sandpaper in the water when they start to look clogged. See me change sizes and do the whole thing again with each of the next sizes, changing direction slightly each time. See me finish up with my bench grinder buffing wheel and then look for an audience to admire my smooth shine. Sometimes I wrap the sandpaper around a sponge, especially when I'm sanding round things like eggs and pens -- seems to reach around the object better. There are many variations on this same general theme. Some use sandpaper on up into the 1000s, so I hear….LynnDel

(How long to sand??) . . . Hard to answer, because it varies depending on how smooth the piece is before sanding. The best answer I have is "not that long" -- usually I end up sanding longer with the coarser grits, and less time as the grits get finer (because at that point you're really just taking off the scratches that the last sanding left). Thalassa
Elise Winters did a lot of research on sanding, and she once told me that it really doesn't accomplish anything to sand with one grit more than 4-10 passes in the same place.
After I use 600 grit, I sand with 1000 grit and then 1500 grit. These last two seem to be mostly polishing the clay rather than actually sanding it.

preparation, tips, protection

Try to remember to use a sharpie marker to write the grit # on the back of EACH piece of sandpaper, after you've cut it into usuable pieces!! ....This way you will always know what is floating around in your wet sanding tray. Jill (the numbers are writen only in a few places on whole sheets!)

(it's best for many reasons to have the object as smooth as possible before baking; see just above in Smoothing Before Sanding for how-to's)

The idea behind sanding is that you use the coarsest grits first (220, 320) to knock off the large bumps & imperfections. Then you use each higher grit to take off the marks left from the previous grit of sandpaper.
. . .If you do it right, you may spend a longer time sanding at the coarse grits, but a much shorter time (depending on project size) at each successively finer grit. Barb

Most people sand in a circular pattern.... but I prefer to sand perpendicular to the previous grit ... for example, 400 goes side to side, 600 goes up and down, etc. (When you sand, you are creating tiny hills and valleys, essentially sanding perpendicular to the previous grit, you level out those hills and valleys). Irene

soaking the wet-dry sandpaper for awhile before use will allow it to drape around the bead as much as possible
...using warm water can be a good idea

Now comes the important part. ...look at & feel the surface of your clay piece, and find the grit of sandpaper that looks & feels most like your clay surface. Usually (especially for beginners) that means you'll start at 220 grit, but it might sometimes be 320 grit.
. . .Dip your clay into the water. Take up the wet sandpaper & rub it across the surface of the clay. Let the sandpaper do the work; you don't have to "muscle" it. Periodically re-dip the sandpaper & the clay to clean off the "scum." Sand just until the surface feels uniform & you've taken off any noticeable imperfections, dips, or bumps that you don't want. ..sand only until the marks from the lower grit are gone. Barb

Adding a few drops of liquid soap will help with sanding (Ivory, Dr. Bronner's etc.)
...soap makes things slippery, so in addition to slip-sliding that clay residue right off of the sandpaper, it probably makes the sandpaper itself slide around over the object easier. Diane B.
...not only that, but when you tumble sand, it breaks the surface tension and makes it all go better and faster. caneguru
...kind of like adding a drop of oil to boiling water to break the surface tension and bubbles so it doesn't bubble over. claydragoness

Vernon bought me a bottle of Kodak's Photo Flo -- he thought it might make sanding easier, and it does! It's really concentrated, something like 200 parts H2O to one part Photo Flo....there's no residue on the sanded piece either. Donna Kato
...not only did this product make sanding easier, it minimized surface scratches and prolonged the life of the sandpaper! ...After using, wash your hands and apply lotion, as it may dry your skin. Vernon
...Another idea is water softener, or washing soda. ...a common way to increase the cleaning properties of many solutions...also one of the main ingredients of the "Jet Dry" products for dishwashers. Kay
......since we do not have to worry about residue on the photo paper or reactions to the emulation on the paper we can simply use a drop or two of household liquid hand detergent or even a drop of that stuff you use in your dishwasher to prevent spotting (Jet Dry, etc.). They all do the same thing - reduce the normal surface tension of the water. Also the liquid hand soap or spot remover costs a whole lot less and is likely to already be in the normal household. . . . Regardless. a good washing of the object/photo will remove traces from them. Lysle
.... here's a fun thing to do with some of the excess Photo Flo....I especially like that this doesn't seem to require a thickening agent. Diane B. :,1789,HGTV_3284_1369895,00.html

I've been using drops of Cetaphil, a extra gentle, liquid skin cleanser when hand sanding and I love it. Haven't used the new Lortone yet, so I can't comment there. But

After I finish wet sanding with each grit, (200, 400, 600, 1200, 1500, 2000), I wash the piece with a super soft sponge and high lather bar soap. I think this helps get all of the polymer dust out of all the tiny bubble holes in the surface.
....after the last sanding with 2000 grit, I wash it again the same way and buff it to a satin shine with an old soft cotton towel.
. . .Then... I start to apply coats of Flecto, usually 2 coats... then light 2000 grit sanding and another 2 coats, etc.... until I'm either satisfied with the shine or sick of the whole thing. James

I started adding a touch of white vinegar (with Sculpey) to my sanding water ...and then washing the item with straight vinegar after the final sanding. Buffs up quite nicely. Mags

To massively reduce your sanding time and effort, bake the clay until it is only "half baked" ie 5-10 minutes (you might need to experiment). Then let it cool and sand it while it is still partly soft. You want it hard enough not to smear or crack and soft enough that you can sand it off easily. Then when you are done bake again for the full time. (but will this make the final item weaker?…depends on time?)
...Don't forget Pier's tip about baking only partially and sanding first. I do this with eggs and it saves TONS of effort. I bake eggs at 200 degrees for 15 minutes (pre-heated oven) then sand them with "medium" grit 3M wet/dry sponge things. Cuts the bumps great. Then rebake at proper temp for full time and sand with the "fine", superfine", 400 and 600. Each step takes only a minute or so to go around the whole egg.
..... Some years ago Judith Skinner suggested to me that I bake my pieces for ten minutes then let it cool and then sand it, then put it back in and complete the baking. The pieces were easier to sand, and came out with a beautiful matte finish. Dotty

My favorite sanding trick is to bake between sanding the various grits . . . and rub the warm object all over with a terry cloth towel. I'm positive that baking between grits sort of "re-melts" the clay to fill in the scratches left by the sand paper, and rubbing it (gently) with the towel while it's warm seems to help a lot too. Since I've been doing this, I've cut my sanding time in half. Dianne C.

Has anyone tried sanding the Kato Clay yet? I've been experimenting with faux mother of pearl and used Kato Pearl. I covered some pens and found that it was soooooo hard to sand, gunked up the sandpaper (on the mica-containing clays only??). . . almost like sanding something coated with TLS . . .Kathy
..The grit wears off my sandpaper very fast when I'm sanding it and it doesn't seem to work as well as it does with the other brands. I use 220 to start with and I'm thinking of getting an even coarser grit for the first sanding. Trying to sand mica shift stamped things flat takes forever....I just picked up 150 grade sandpaper today and I'll see how that does...Dystini
...Another possibility - quite a while ago Donna mentioned she was sanding Kato Clay dry, no water. Might work better on the big bumps. Linda (wear a mask? Kathy)

Mike B. taught us to sand in a flat container (I bought a pyrex baking dish), and sand in the dish with water, laying the bead flat and using the dish to sand against (...for curved beads, kind of rock as you sand). ..Diane S.
...You might try placing the wet/dry emory cloth on the inside bottom of a shallow glass casserole dish. Add about 1/4 inch of water.
...My hands tire easily so i found it easier to put the wet sandpaper on a towel, then rub the baked clay in circles on the sandpaper. Easier to control clay... pressure and speed is faster for me. lilypad
...for a round or teardrop bead, put a sponge in a shallow bowl of water, and put the sandpaper on top of that ... Then just rub the clay piece on the sandpaper. I find this a lot less tiring than holding a piece while I sand.... I also try to minimize the amount of sanding I have to do by smoothing as much as possible before I bake. Jody
...the 3M sanding sponges are awesome ...put them grit side up in a bowl of water, then push down on the piece to sand it and the sanding sponge conforms somewhat to the piece. Denise

Doing lots of sanding can be hard on fingertips and fingernails, especially with smaller or flatter items.
....gloves ...I could wear latex gloves while sanding, but I seem to be sensitive to the latex gloves so I stopped using them. Stephanie
...I wear cotton dermatology gloves and put the latex gloves on over them. Denise
...nitrile gloves would be better than latex (but the plasticizer in raw clay will eat through the nitrile gloves eventually ... I learned this the day I used a gloved finger for applying liquid clay (which is concentrated). Laurel
...fingertip caps ...there are little thin "finger cots" sold at the drug store for rolling down over the tips of fingers to protect them (made from latex or what?)
...maybe those thicker brown rubbery fingertips (those often have holes or knobs on them) would work?... sold in office supply stores for giving a grip when dealing with papers and paper currency (made from what?)
...OR what about using 2-part silicone putty to make your own custom fingertip protectors? (like the stuff we use for making molds for clay... see Molds >Silicone >2 pt.putties >brands ) making your own, you could make them fit tightly, be smooth, and be as long or short, or thick or thin, as you wanted (... for example, you could make the finger part thin, but have a thicker area on the end for wherever you want
.....they might be good to use especially when doing gross motor things with clay like color mixes, blends, conditioning, etc.). Diane B.
...I found a place that makes finger and thumb guards of knitted kevlar.. .which are abrasion and high heat resistant.....looks like 75 cents each and you have to order 20 ...(or must buy 100?)...... .....Pat
....protective tape for fingertips... .the woman who does my acrylic nails has some stuff, looks like puckery blue tape, that she wraps around her finger when she is filing, so she doesn't file the edge of her own finger. It is sort of like stretchy just wrap it around your finger (it sticks to itself) and cut it off.... should be able to find it at beauty supply places.
......that might be the same stuff that carvers use to protect their fingers . .. (I'm thinking it also might be like the fiberglass cast material that is used for setting broken bones). Sticks to itself, comes in colors.. . .Maybe check quilting shops too for those who don't like thimbles but need to protect the finger tips. Helen P.
......the nail tech tape sounds suspiciously like vet wrap (same stuff vets use on animals to keep them from licking/chewing off their bandages). (I use it to cushion the handles of steel crochet hooks.) Cost about $4 a roll at the feed store. (It's a bit TOO sticky for my taste so I wrap a second layer of cloth tape on top so my hands don't end up all blue & gummy.) Lauren
.......I'd bet that floral tape might work too! Margaret D.

OR, attach something to the polymer piece you're sanding, rather than to your fingers.

suction cups to hold onto beads or small flat pieces while sanding:
---manual: Jenny P's lesson on making a holder for beads (not completely round beads though)... she basically hot glues a tiny suction cup to the bead temporarily while sanding (she also makes a polymer handle for the suction cup)
... this tool can be made with the convex or concave side of the suction cup outward for diff. applications
---electric: small suction cups & an electric drill ... are great for holding onto small flat pieces while sanding them (like lentils/bicones, etc.). need a standard drill as cups have a 1/4" long stem that a metal hook wraps around (I pulled that off) and my older drill has (a set of adjustable metal "prongs" inside) which hold onto the drill bits... I stuck the cup's stem into the drill and tightened the prongs so the drill holds it firmly but not extremely tight. ....if the lentil isn't smaller than the suction cup and isn't too rounded, I can 'thwock' the lentil right into cup... then while resting the drill on the edge of the sanding bowl, I hold various grits against the piece while it rotates. ....I've been able to sand a lentil on both sides from grits 320 - 1500 in about 4-5 minutes. Desiree

If you bake tiny (flat) tiles on a ceramic tile or something else that they'll stick to, and don't pop them off after baking, you'll be able to sand them while they're still stuck to the baking tile. Irene

Nan Roche video: Ancient Structures and Surfaces (detailed finishing techniques taught (sanding, polishing) will result in truly professional results.... and much more)

POWER Tools for sanding

powered tools must be used to get a high-gloss shine (can also use for sheen only)

There areo more ways to "sand" items in Tools > Dremels > Sanding, including:
...for beads or pens (with holes) ...can use an electric drill...holding the rotating item on a long needle (doll or tapestry) against stationary sandpaper, 00 steel wool, or sanding pads, etc.
...using felt or rubber bits in a rotary tool, or stitched muslin wheels on a buffer, as "sanders" more try and sand (or to buff) clay pieces with other (possibly unconventional) small electric tools (corded or battery) like shoe buffers or fingernail buffers, see Buffing > Other Electrics

(for using a small suction cup to grasp and hold a non-round bead or small flat-ish pendant while sanding it, see just above --end of "Preparation, tips, protection" subcategory)

Tide Stain Brush..... Scumbuster..... Mouse sander... etc.

general info

So far, several power tools have been discovered which work well for sanding clay'; these make sanding quicker, less tedious and are also great for saving our hands, wrists and sometimes fingertips!
There are several ways to use them depending on what kind/shape/size of item you're sanding, and what works best for you.
In addition, there are different ways to attach the sandpaper to the pads, or sanding pads can be used.
The main two tools are the Scumbuster (Black & Decker, submersible, rechargable, bathroom/etc. scrubber with various attachments which rotate) and the Mouse Sander (Black & Decker, not submersible, corded, pointy nose, smaller, oscillating)...the Mouse may be better than Scumbuster for many things).

There are different types of pads in the box, white and blue (one is tougher than the other), but that doesn't matter for us because we just use them as padding. Jane S.

I also cut the scrubby pads in half horizontally so they are only around 1/2" thick and not the 1" that they come. This way I get two for the price of one.
....start with 320 or 400- grit (wet-dry) sandpaper , and work up through several grits...Elissa
...I do all my pieces with one grit (before moving on to the next grit). When I finish I rinse the pad and stick on the next higher grit... Rinse everything and lay the pads on a towel to dry. When my pieces are dry I still buff them on a buffing wheel...Jane S?
.... you get a different effect on each grit of sandpaper if you are sanding close to the center or at the outside. Lenora
...I write the grit # of the sandpaper on the side that attaches to the scum buster with a permanent marker. This way I know what grit I am using (if using an appropriate attaching method--otherwise it can be a bit tricky.)
...I also put a little liquid soap in the sanding water. Jane S. careful's you can accidentally sand right through a creation whilst still thinkin "oooh pretty pretty" ROFL.! tantaz the revolving pad very lightly against the object you are sanding. Elissa

..........I adore my ScumBuster. I have 5 batteries now. LOL 3 regular and 2 golds that last twice as long. Tonja
.......I use a Scumbuster adapted for sanding because it is totally immersible (and other electric or battery sanders aren't?); the Mouse Sander by Black & Decker isn't approved for wet sanding. Lenora (however, see below)
.... I'd say with the amount of labor it saves you, it more than pays for itself within the first few hours of use! Elissa

...someone also attached a piece of old denim for buffing. Lenora

TIDE STAIN BRUSH (...small, battery-operated, oscillating-head brush used to scrub stains before washing... buy near laundry products... $5?)
... works well as a sander for clay, especially for smaller items! ... just attach small pieces of sandpaper and sand.... water doesn't hurt it
... I've found that the brush is really good for light sanding needs- like *after* you've knocked off all the bumps. Makes sense. Hava
....I just use hot glue to hold the sandpaper on the bristles ...I put a small dry square piece of sandpaper face down on my worksurface, put a bunch of hot glue right onto the brush bristles, then pushed the bristles against the back of the sandpaper... sometimes I also add a little extra glue around the bristle edge next to the paper, if it doesn't look like it's gonna stick... Then later, if it pops off, i just peel off the glue and start over with again with the same or another dry piece of sandpaper... If we could get replacement bristles, we'd be all set... just pop off one and pop in the other... I'm going to try out the velcro method next... easier to change sandpaper grits ... unless, of course, you have more than one Tide Stain Brush...Stargazer
...I cut out a circle of sandpaper larger than the bristles.....the extra part of the sand paper that is not glued down is very useful for hard to get to areas..Macy
...the velcro dots worked great once I cut down the bristles a bit and used Gorilla Glue. That stuff really works!! Hava
...I used rubber cement (or Gorilla Glue, can't remember) and velcro patches (or the larger Velcro dots?). Glued the velcro to the brush and used the sticky sideto stick to the sand paper. ...the patch on the brush is the hook as long as the other side lasts is as long as it stays on the sandpaper....does that make sense? And in using rubber cement, I can easily peel it off the velcro and attach to a new piece.... coat the bristles really well with the glue and then coat the velcro with it too? Kathi
...I glued mine on with E6000. Works well. sus

SCUMBUSTER . . . (also click on Accessories)
I first heard about the Scumbuster from the gals in the Columbia Gorge Polymer Clay Guild in the Portland area. One of them brought it to our clay camp several years ago. It has definitely saved my hands and wrists. Jane S.
...I got my Scumbuster at Wal-mart. Jane S. (about $39)...they can be purchased at Target and other stores like that... or cheaper at Amazon or other websites ($29 or less).

Elizabeth's article on using (the hook side only of )industrial-strength Velcro to attach sandpaper to its round spongy pad . . .
..the scumbuster comes with those scrubbing pads. Tracing around the pad, I cut the sandpaper into a circle.
I glued 4 small pieces of velcro (hook side only) to the sandpaper around the perimeter, equally spaced.
Now I can stick the sandpaper to the scrubbing pad. birdums
... I intuitively picked up some industrial velcro and some good epoxy . . . it works great! Kathy

bigger (twice the sanding surface), better improved Scumbuster pad holder . . I modified the Scumbuster attachment which comes with 3 sets of spiky wheels (used for raising the nap on carpeting)... take out the center screw, then remove the plate, 3 sets of wheels, and metal brackets; using a hack saw, cut off the tall wall perimeter and the central post (sand to smooth) leaving only the flat bottom area. . . cover its surface with the rough half of a Velcro sheet. . . . attach the larger foam pad that had the elastic bonnet over it. Tonja L.

I use high temp. hot glue. It works like a charm and the sandpaper has never fallen off. I would say it takes less time to use the glue (than other methods). (However, with the low temp glue, it may set up too quickly.)
I use the scumbuster pad as a template to draw a circle on my sandpaper or on the 3m pads, and then cut them out and while I am doing that I am heating up my glue gun.
...I use separate pads for each grit so I have 5 different pads. This way I don't have to glue new sandpaper onto the same pad. I just remove one pad and put on the next higher grit.
...When I need to replace the sandpaper or 3m pad, I just tear it off (and don't pay any attention to any hot glue left on) and just put more glue on and then new sandpaper. Jane S.?
... I imagine that you can glue right onto the prior sand paper - so long as it's still tight on the pad. Ellen

...When I was playing with one of the sanding pads tonight, I accidently pulled off the black velcro layer, exposing the orange pad underneath which has a layer of sticky tape on it. ...I simply placed the sand paper directly onto orange layer. At this point, I can still put the original black velcro layer back on but I just plan on sticking my sand paper on with double-stick tape and pull the paper off when I need to change grit.... Hey maybe I should try the removable poster tape instead of double stick. Alaina
I had been attaching a circle of sandpaper to the scrubbing pad with some sticky-back velcro and some two-sided carpet tape. It would work fine for a while, until the water undermined the stickum of the velcro and carpet tape, and the sandpaper fell off the pad....Elissa
. . . would this work with the Mouse Sander though since may not get as wet??

...Chryse Laukkonen told me about her method for attaching the sandpaper, which has proven to be the simplest and most failsafe yet! She cuts out a circle of sandpaper larger than the sanding pad, folds the excess margin down around the pad, and pushes straight pins straight in around the sides, through the sandpaper and into the pad. About eight pins around the pad will do.... Works like a charm!...Elissa
...Use the round pad that looks like a fat dish scrubber as a template for the sandpaper. . . . Cut out a circle at least 3/4" larger than the pad ...then "snip" to fit over the pad on the scumbuster (toward the center to make "tabs"?) (Don't Cut across or trim!) and stick pins through the sandpaper into the pad to fit accordingly it's not a pretty look....but it works. tantaz
. . .what I find works better is to cut my sheet of sandpaper into square ( thereby getting four pieces out of one sheet of sandpaper, with a 2-inch strip left over). I fold the 4 corners of a square down around the pad, sticking in two pins to anchor each corner. It still works just fine! So forget about glue guns, velcro, and two-sided tape! All you need are eight straight pins!... Elissa
....the longer your pins are....and more expanisve...the better it is ...tantaz

Discovered a great way of keeping the sandpaper on the scumbuster pad. Get six large safety pins and cut off the catch end of each of them with pliers. ...Cut out your sandpaper disc with overlap as before... now gently close both prongs of sprung steel and insert through the overlapping sandpaper edge and into the scumbuster pad as before The advantage of this is a longer pin for better anchorage, no more sharp pin heads coming loose and the paper really stays put! Tania

What I have started using now is the 3M foam pads that are foam on one side and a sanding surface on the other.
You can get them at hobby shops, Michaels and Fred Meyers. The hobby shops carry the finer grits.
I cut them into a circle and attach them also with hot glue.
I actually like them better than the sandpaper since I think they last longer.
....I used some of those plastic scrubber/refinisher pads made by 3M--the course ones. Patti
...Are you talking about the 3-M pads. like pot scrubbers? Or something heavier from the sanding section of the hardware store?? Ellen
...Some people have used the green scrubbers, but then recommended the ones from the hardware store. They are thicker and courser. Just be sure to get ones that are wide enough to get a circle out of. Make a template of the size you need before you go shopping. The first ones I bought were too narrow. Patti

When sanding with the scumbuster (or the Mouse?), I hold the buster on it's side and rest it and my hand on an overturned bucket, and keep it stationary, then bring the piece I want to sand up to it. I found that if I tried to hold the scum buster without any type of support, I would get pain in the wrists. Since I work with polymer all day doing production, I try and pamper my wrists as much as possible.. . .I dunk the pad with sandpaper into water and then I dip my piece in water and then sand.. .Jane S.?

good technique for doing many beads all at the same time. . . round beads & cabochons (& other shapes?):
...I went to the kitchen and found a shallow bowl, just a little bit bigger around than the ScumBuster's pad. I put the beads in the bowl and added just enough water to cover the beads. I slapped some 320 grit wet/dry sandpaper onto the scrubby pad, stuck it into the bowl, turned it on and started sanding those round beads. Whoo hoo !!! I think my kids rock tumbler just became obsolete. LOL ...You need to press down firmly and rock the SB back and forth just a little....Try not to use a bowl much larger than the SB scrubby, you want to trap the beads underneath the sandpaper.... moving the SB around just gives the beads the opportunity to roll around a bit so no flat sides. But it works pretty good.
... This technique is perfect for using up the sandpaper I'd used for other things too... While sanding larger objects (furniture, etc.), I noticed that the center of the old sandpaper doesn't get much used and I hate to throw away anything that isn't completely worthless (so I use it for my SB). Tonja

Since (the large hearts I'm sanding) are (very) dimensional, Tonja's (the rocking action of the SB in the) shallow-bowl method would not be very efficient in getting at the lower (side) areas. So I hold each heart with one hand while sanding, turning it constantly to expose the entire surface to the sandpaper, and do it in a large, deep tub of water.. . .Hold the Scumbuster's revolving disk partially under water while sanding ...which continuously rinses the clay residue from the sandpaper. Elissa

MOUSE Sander (& Polisher), by Black & Decker (orbital)

... its footprint is similar to that of a fat clothes iron . . . and pointed at one end
...11,000 orbits per minute ...easy to control...soft, ergonomic grip
...two interchangeable bases ... Velcro fastening system for quick and easy pad changes
...kit includes assorted sandpaper, scrubbing, and sanding tips, foam pads, steel wool, and storage box
...usually somewhat more expensive than Scumbuster ($39-60--shop around!). . .
but it does all kinds of non-polymer things around the house too (rust removal, dry scrubbing, polishing, and detail sanding as well as regular sanding) (can use the steel wool or abrasive pads to clean cast iron... spray WD-40 on surface as lubricant/cleaner; let Mouse float over all but toughest areas, for those add pressure...remove all dust, spray with 409, & wipe clean) and other places, $39
... in a book that presents how to make fine woodworking objects, they here comes the blow... orbital sanders are ok, but hand sanding is always the best method for finishing. *sigh* I kinda suspected it from the difference in results I was getting between my orbital sander and hand sanding. But I had held out hope that there was some labor saving appliance and technique out there that mimicked hand sanding. Desiree
... compared to a Scumbuster, the Mouse is a plug-in sander, and it's non-submersible, but more importantly it oscillates since it is a regular sander (the SB rotates)... I chose it because ...1) I wanted something for sanding many things including polymer clay.... 2) I don't like dealing with rechargable devices unless it's absolutely necessary... 3) I have found plug-ins usually lighter and more powerful..
. . I discovered I can still wet sand with the Mouse. I just don't submerse the whole appliance. It is sufficient to periodically dunk the bead in water and slightly dampen the sandpaper.
...(when I tried pins and sandpaper,) most pins flew out after a few minutes since it oscillates at such a high rate. ...however.... all the pads for the Mouse have looped velcro...So I purchased some adhesive-backed velcro strips, then adhered the adhesive side of the "loop-sided" strips to various grits of wet-dry sandpaper. (Home Depot has water resistant velcro strips.... Desiree
...The only real drawback I have experienced is the same as with anything that is velcro-ed; pulling off the attached pad. Those velcro loops and hooks really hate to let go of each other. . . . So I've determined, if I want to just sand one or two beads, I won't bother using the mouse. But if I have a nice little collection of beads that need sanding, I happily plug in my Mouse and oscillate.
...Since the grit value on the sandpaper is covered by the velcro strips, I marked some ziploc bags with the cooresponding grit values and keep each pad in its bag when not attached to the Mouse. If you can think of a way to directly label the pads, I'd love to hear from you. Desiree about cutting tiny notches on one edge of the sandpaper? DB . .. are the pads too thin to mark with a Sharpie on edge?
...that li'l pointy nose on the "mouse" is gonna come in handy too. wheeeee! ol' rebbie
...I've been making inro boxes and it cleans the seams perfectly with no effort. I guess I'm really partial to flatter clay items but the Mouse is now very close to becoming my best friend. frostysb
....This is going to be one of my favorite tools, especially where I've used a lot of TLS in the project (because it saved a lot of time and the LS is so hard). Elizabeth
....I use 220 grit sandpaper all the time now that I have a B&D Mouse. Even for a high sheen I rarely (really never) go higher. Seems the action of the mouse prevents the scratches I used to get with hand sanding. It is a dream. Valerie

other electric "sanders"

Micro Power Sander (by MicroMark) --mostly for miniatures? ~$69
---small, lightweight, finger/hand held unit the size of a battery-powered Dremel
...reciprocating action (back and forth perpendicular to the barrel) --feels like just "vibration"?
...has diff. shaped sanding shapes on 1-2 projecting rods which snap into the working end, adhesive? sandpaper pieces of the same shape (pads) attach to them... includes 8 tips, and 60 self stick sanding pads. 7-1/2 inches long , 7,000 strokes/minute.
... just keep the pad and object damp, not in the water. . . . .it is easy to change out both paper and tip shape. . . . Because it has a variety of shapes, it can sand in corners, on curved surfaces, and because they are fairly small, get into small/tiny places on jewelry or boxes, frames, etc . . . more later. Patty B.
Someone had mentioned earlier about using the Feathering Disc Adhesive to make your own glue-on sand paper. I had a hard time finding this glue, but finally found it at Rio Grande. Judi

I have found a good way to make some adhesive sanding discs in advance. I cut out the shapes and put the glue on them and attach them GENTLY to aluminum foil. I write the grit number on the foil. This way, I have a bunch of the discs ready when I need them. Judi

Contour Sander, Dremel
. . . sand a range of curved, angled areas and larger surfaces... hard-to-reach nooks and crannies, deep grooves, intricate carvings, curved moldings, thin slats, etc.... has multiple contour-shaped sandpapers (like cylinders squashed lengthwise, which clip into the sander), variable speeds.
... If I recall, it ran in the neighborhood of $69 in the kit, which included several sanding belts as well as a set of 'shapers' ... these are rubber bits with various different shapes to better mimic the contours of the piece being sanded.. . . Dremel doesn't sell directly from their site and I never did find one at Lowe's or Home Depot, but you can find a supplier at the link. works on the same premise as the rotary tool. It uses different attachments that are specially shaped for sanding and buffing. Jerri (see more on using as a buffer in Buffing > Electric)'s really a fine tool. I just wish it had a wider range of polishing devices associated with it. Paul


(possily + Diluent and/or rebuffing)

Clayers have found that just re-heating the baked clay after sanding (sometimes along with re-buffing, or adding Softener-Diluent to the surface first) can remove the dusty look from sanding, but also can bring the clay up to a nice sheen or a shiny finish depending on how it's done.
...Here are some ways that clayers have used to get a sheen or shine:

SHEEN? ...heat gun achieve
a matte sheen, you can heat the surface with a heat gun after sanding. Donna K. (hotter than quick oven re-bake?)
SHEEN... rebake only (darks esp.)
....the darker clays, especially black, do get that dusty look after sanding. Sometimes if you put the piece back into the oven for a while, it will disappear.
SHEEN... rebake only
...On Gwen Gibson's video tape she mentions putting a already baked piece back in the oven after sanding and that it would close any tiny cracks and give it a nice satin finish. Dotty

SHINY...rebake, buff
....when I sand black (dark) clay especially, I always follow by buffing it on my buffing wheel. This gives it a deep shine and eliminates the dusty look completely (...or apply Future which will also get rid of it, but you will again have a very shiny piece).

SHINY...buff, rebake, rebuff
... If you want a really high gloss on your piece & don't want to use a glaze, you can rebake the piece after sanding & buffing (don't have to bake as long as the first time) and then re-buff. Really brings up the shine. Thalassa

NO DUSTY... Diluent, rebake
...What I do after sanding, is to rub a little Sculpey Diluent on the (dark) pieces and bake for a short period of time. Voila, no dusty surface. Randi
NO SCRATCHES...Diluent, rebake
"melt" scratches from sanding ...rub the item down with Softener-Diluent, and throw it back in the oven for 20 or 30 mins. .........lo & behold, no's as if the Diluent melts the scratches completely out of the clay.
SHEEN?.. Diluent, rebake
....I bet (putting the sanded item back in the oven) would be even better with some of Diluent on the piece. Haven't tried it but plan to tonight. Dotty

SHEEN... Diluent, rebake, buff
....My favorite satin finish doesn't involve any varnish ....(I first wet sand until smooth) ......then I rub the piece with Diluent (to remove the whitish coating) ......and rebake at a very low temp (200 degrees) for about 10 minutes. . .......then gently buff with a soft cloth, just enough for a gentle sheen. Katherine Dewey

SHINY... Diluent, rebake, buff
...also I've found that it gets *really shiny! if I do sand to 600, then Diluent and rebake, and then buff too. indy

tools & tips

When I have an irregular surface that makes it hard to sand in the crevices, I use a buffer bit which has a felt tip
....(Dremel, or other small electric tool) but it works as a sander in this fashion. You just lightly run the tip over the surface and it takes the top layer off..... Since most of my things are canes, removing the top layer helps to increase the definition because often the top layer surface smears and stuff
......Then I use a 400 and 800 grit sandpaper.
...I do lots of small faces and it would be wonderful to have a small tool like that electric filing and buffing kit (intended for fingernails) of yours to do the sanding around eyes and noses. jazzybead2
(.......for more info on using this or other small or unconventional sanders/buffers as mild sandpaper, see Buffing > Other Electrics)
Gwen Gibson uses a stitched muslin wheel on her (Foredom) large power buffer a bit like a mild sander...since the stitched wheel is stiffer than the unstitched one we usually prefer for buffing clay, it will actually remove baked clay (from edges, for example, to make them rounded)

Another great trick is to put a piece of plastic wrap between the clay and the tool while you work on an area. By doing these things, I generally have only to sand a little with 400 grit and 600 before applying Varathane. Some times I can even get away with just the 600 grit. Jody
(for more on that technique which is often used for sculpting, see Sculpting > Fingerprints & Smoothing > Plastic wrap)

(for info on foot pedals for making electric sanders or buffers variable speed, see Tools > Foot Pedals)

I tilt my work towards the sun (or light source) over a white background then rotate it to find any uneven spots and imperfections in the finish. doololly


sanding a baked braid of clay which is composed of ropes of variegated colors of polymer clay; this exposes the color underneath the surface (see Braiding sub-category)

"texture sheet" mokume gane, in which the baked clay is sanded to reveal the depth of impressed clay stacks --by texture sheets or various tool impressions (or most other mokume gane techniques.... see Mokume Gane for more; look especially under Texture Sheets)
....Kellie's lesson on making a texture sheet mokume gane (she shaves raw clay before baking, rather than sanding after baking, but you still get the general idea)

The ghost image mica clay technique is similar to texture sheet mokume gane, but one sheet of mica clay is used rather than layers of any clay before the sheet is textured/stamped/manipulated . . . these can also be sanded after baking rather than shaved before, which may result in an more even removal of the top clay or whichever areas you want revealed the most. (see Mica > Ghost Image)


basic info

Most beads are fairly smooth after baking if the artist is careful when forming them (ones made with the bead rollers are very smooth). However, using an ordinary rock tumbler (a rotating tumbler) or a vibrating tumbler can make them even smoother, as if they had been sanded.

Tumble sanding doesn't take the place of buffing since it won't make the beads shine.
...however, beads can also be buffed in a tumbler as well (or in a clothes dryer) after tumble-sanding ... (see Buffing > Tumble Buffing) can erase fingerprints and small imperfections.
....It's especially good for fairly small beads which are very difficult to sand.
...(If you plan to glaze your beads, using a tumbler first will make the glaze look a lot better and you'll need less coats...glazing often brings OUT fingerprints and small imperfections unless you put on three or more coats of it). Dotty

Although using a tumbler does take longer than sanding each bead individually, it does not take my time. ....while beads are tumbling, I work on something else... and also my wrists and elbows are not being bombarded by sanding the small beads. So I figure it is worth it.... Dianne C.

Most materials used for tumbling rocks are much too abrasive to use on polymer clay (rocks are hard, clay is just "soft" plastic).
......There are a few very-very-fine abrasive powders that can be used, but they're expensive and may stick in any bead holes/crevices (see more on those below in the category Rock tumbling "grits"...Rottenstone (very fine grit) ... Aluminum oxide)
...You cannot compare rock polishing to polymer clay bead polishing ...they are two different beasts.
...... Do not use (most regular) loose grits intended for rocks.....yucky mess. Dianne C.
......The water must be thoroughly rinsed (out) between different grits . Dianne C.
I would not even use the same tumbler for polymer that I've used for rocks... just asking for ruined polymer! Talia

Tumblers can be purchased in two types:
... rotary (...a plastic or rubber cylindrical barrel which turns around and around, like a clothes dryer)
....vibratory (a non-cylindrical container which is vibrated,and possibly spun? --doesn't roll)
Rotary tumblers are be the plastic ones often sold for "kids"
... and the sturdier, rubber-coated barrel types which are made by Lortone, Harbor Freight, and others

The kiddie-type plastic rock tumblers usually cost around $30-40... but they often have them at Michaels, and with a 40% off coupon that's pretty reasonable
Lortone rubber barrel tumblers.. site with good prices is Randi
....a single-barrel Lortone can cost as little as $40
....the independent barrel(s) sits on top of 2 revolving rollers, which makes the barrel turn
........I have a double-barrel Chicago from Harbor Freight with 3 lb barrels, which cost about $40 (the comparable double-barrel Lortone model runs around $90) dixie
.... a local gun shop is another good look-and-see source, as they constantly tumble the metal components in bullets. Cjozzibozzi
...Local gem & mineral societies may have members who are upgrading to larger tumblers and want to sell their older, smaller tumblers. Kim
Chicago/Harbor Freight rubber barrel ones are not as well made (when I buy another one, I will buy a Lortone).
(for info on the Harbor Freight rubber-barrel tumblers, see below)

After all I had read about kiddie tumblers and Lortone tumblers, I was ready to cop a 'tude about my kiddie tumbler.
... However, at the moment, the only bad thing I can say about my kiddie tu
mbler is the noise it makes at least for use with polymer clay, the kiddie tumbler seems to fit the bill quite nicely:
...... its hard plastic barrel is durable enough for handling polymer clay and any kind of soap
...... it's easier to open and close than the Lortone handles a small, but nice amount of beads..... and the price ain't too bad! Desiree
....I have a Lortone double barrel rotary tumbler and each of the barrels (holds?) 3 lbs. ... honestly I don't think you'd need a 4 lb barrel. Jenn

alternate barrel for Lortone.... or, just a liner for inside Lortone barrel?
...Des, you wrote "I'm still hunting for the ideal liner for my (vibratory) Lortone; something that fits snugly inside the barrel and is readily available.... I want to glue various materials, like several different grits to the liners so I could have a 400 grit lined barrel, a 600, etc. ".... So here's my idea (which you can take or leave)
..........I am guessing that there is a PVC pipe of the same diameter as your Lortone....cut the pipe the right length for inside the tumbler and then glue your sand paper to that... I can "see" it working in my headbut RL might be different. Kathi
....It's a fantastic idea!... I had already made a liner from a sheet of polymer clay, but if there's a pvc pipe out there that would fit, all the better! Desiree
.... I like the idea about an insert piece, so I'm going to go to Home Depot and get PVC piping with screw on PVC caps so that it makes a little capsule, and use a seperate capsule for each grit sandpaper. Mollie M
.....In fact, I'd like to just forget the blasted black rubber barrel... it'd be fab to use pvc pipe to make my own barrels
.........the motorized part (the revolving rollers the barrel sits on) could likely accept anything of the same simple dimensions as the Lortone barrel
....... .the trick with the barrel is making sure it's watertight, each and every time it's closed (Lortone's setup for that is pretty good, but not easily reproducible. My kiddie tumbler, on the other hand just uses an O-ring. Hmmm).... Desiree

noise: The Lortone tumblers are a bit quieter because the barrel is rubber rather than hard plastic. They still make noise though.
..."The sturdier rotary tumblers (with a thick rubber barrels or rubber lined barrels like Lortones) have a soothing rhythmic rolling sound much like the pebbles in the surf at the beach, and are not disturbing to neighbors, etc."
...Next time you are near your local "rock and mineral" store, chat with the local owner about his tumbling/tumbler experiences, and, if possible, ask to see the back room and his operation.... most will have several tumblers going at different stages. There is a certain "ka chunk" "ka chunk" that tells them they have properly loaded the contents, and things are moving along as they should.

see more on vibratory tumblers below in Vibratory Tumblers

I have a double-barrel tumbler which has two large tumbler containers.... I use one for silver clay, and the other for regular polymer clay.
....the lady at the RockShop pointed out that you could have two projects going at once
have a dedicated barrel for each grade of sandpaper. dixie,

You can't put in too many beads at the same time (in a kiddie tumbler?)... I'd say about one cup full (in the kiddie type). ... so beads, sandpaper and water together should not take up more than 3/4 of the tumbler. Byrd
The instructions with my tumbler say that it MUST be 3/4 full, because there won't be enough tumbling movement - specifically says that half full is not enough because then the stuff inside will just slide rather than tumble.
....and that the water should just cover the stones (beads). Crafty Owl.
...Time to start experimenting.... try 1/2 full. It won't hurt your tumbler and it just might work. I seem to remember that the proportions for pc were different from rocks. Sally

Most people find using a squirt of dish soap in rotary tumblers helps with the sanding's slipperiness may also keep any sandpaper bits from sticking together?)
...I used Dawn dish liquid in my kiddie rotary tumblers and I thought it worked great
....but since it is a serious grease cutter, doubt it would be a good idea in the (vibratory type tumblers or in the rubber-barrel ones??). Tonja

When you change the water after each grit session (even when using clay and sandpaper??) , you should not pour it down the sink (regular or disposal). . . I pour mine outside. Gcivy


The theory is that the most work is done by the coarsest grit, so it needs the most time -byrd

Real rocks should tumble for 14 days or so, but polymer clays need less time.
.... I tried tumbling at 400 grit (sandpaper) for 10 hours, then at 600, 800, 1000, 1500, and 2000. .... after buffing, those looked like glass.
........(later she said) I don't suppose there is one right answer as to how long to tumble things, but here's mine:
400 grit sandpaper for 12 to 18 hours... then 600 grit at 10 hours ...- 800 at 8 hours ... 1000 at 6 hours ... 1500 at 6 hours ...2000 at 4 hours - byrd

I use cycles of 5-6 hours per grit of 3M paper...( I go through 6 grits of paper, so that's 30-36 hours of tumbling total.)
... after cutting cut my papers approximately 1/4" square... I layer the paper sqauress with the beads... then add water just to top of top layer of beads....
...when finished tumbling, I rinse beads in a Dawn (dish soap) bath, and then a clear water bath.... I dry them thoroughly.
........or for a glassy finish ...big beads get buffed .... the little beads just get Futured then hard-sealed in oven for 15 min at 250 degrees. Dianne C.

Regardless of your grits and time table, I recommend checking the beads every so often (so they won't tumble too long for the effect you want) patterned beads are solid (with the pattern running all the way through the bead), so mine were never at risk of losing their designs to the sanding no matter how long they tumbled
.......but if you do clay veneered beads (thin layer of pattern over a base bead), you may want to make sure you aren't actually sanding off the pattern. Desiree
also if your beads have any inclusions in them, especially like metallic leaf, don't tumble them if you want to retain those inclusions on the surface
....... the beads also seemed to gray slightly (from metallic leaf?). Dianne C.

I have my tumblers labeled with each stage, so I line them all up on the counter
...I empty the contents of each one into a strainer, rinse, and put in the next tumbler.
.. I usually have about 6 batches processing at one time because I have multiple tumblers...
...(I go from 400 grit to 2500 grit) ..then a final cycle in the tumbler with denim (without water) --one day usually suffices for buffing). dixie

(Btw, when you open container to drain off the water and separate sandpaper from beads, it appears that the sandpaper has congregated at one end of tumbler...that is only appearance though. Dianne C.)

I filled up my little rock tumbler with beads, sandpaper, and water and set off to tumblin' for three days (3 grits).
.....Last night I was horrified to see that all my FimoSoft (old formula?) beads were covered with gunk! ...the beads made of Premo DID NOT have this residue on them, and they were all tumbled together!
......I tried alcohol on the FimoSoft beads to remove the gunk and it didn't work. I spent an entire evening just scratching the gunk off with my fingernail! Not fun. Heather
...I tumbled some Premo translucent beads, and they now have gunk on the ends of them (they were barrel shaped that a factor?) ...It will come off with some serious fingernail scratching, or a very, very hard and brisk rubbing on a jeweler's cloth.

my beads get icky looking in-between grits, but what I do is put the beads (without sandpaper) into one of the other tumblers, half full of water and one-two drops of Basic H (household cleaning liquid soap by Shaklee, concentrated, environmentally wonderful, I've used it for about 30 years!)
....those beads come out after 15 minutes or longer (doesn't matter how long) just as clean as clean can be.
....every other soap I tried left gunk on my beads. Jackie

There is something in the rubber lining of the Chicago brand tumbler (from Harbor Freight) that is causing yellowing. Valerie

....the black rubber lining of the tumbler chamber itself that was staining the light colored beads yellowish.
....I had to line the interior of the barrels with vinyl, because they will discolor.your beads otherwise. dixie
...There is no problem allowing pc beads to tumble in the rubber barrels, as long as you wash the barrels first with soap Jackie
(Harbor Freight seems to be worse though??)

To prevent yellowing from black-rubber lined tumblers, I suggested she use a separate container inside the chamber; one that would just fit inside, and put the beads inside of the second container. That cleared the problem up right away. .........she found a canned frosting plastic container was just the right size. Desiree
....If using an inner container (in a tumbler), Desiree said that it will need some sort of ridges in it so the beads will get tossed around. Rickie
........the kiddie tumbler, being made of smooth plastic, seems to need those three ridges to help effect an effective tumbling environment. These are similar to the "fins" you find in a clothes tumble dryer....

.... .So, like clothes dryers that have smooth walls and fins/ridges to faciliate tumbling, I am speculating if one were not to take advantage of the gripping rubber properties in the Lortone by inserting a smooth liner or container, something else would need to be included to facilitate tumbling action. Desiree

...Desiree's lesson on cutting and using a 32 oz tapered plastic tub (PP or HDPE--- she used a one from cottage cheese, Berkeley Farms) in her Lortone tumbler, with attached "ribs"(sections of plastic clothes hanger, sanded to flatten a bit) to facilitate bead movement

........but would lining with sandpaper provide enough friction for movement?
....I made an inner sleeve for my Lortone from a sheet of baked polymer clay ... glued sheets of sandpaper to the inside of that sleeve, and also cut out two circles of sandpaper to go line the base and under the lid of the tumbler chamber. (Basically, the tumbling clay beads not only tumble in a mixture of water and sandpaper chips, they're also hitting walls of sandpaper of the same grit.).... As long as they don't rub against the rubber, I don't believe the clay will stain. So far, my hypothesis seems to be holding up ...(that problem didn't occur with the hard plastic kiddie tumbler).
...I put beads in the tumbler inside a plastic bag with the loose grit and some Ivory powder ... the beads did not yellow, but the bag yellowed!!

My new (rubber) rock tumbler from Harbor Freight is leaching a rubber smell onto my beads, and it doesn’t go away for a long time. cheryl
...but couldn't you use the interior container technique?
...That's why I went with the Lortone model - I heard of all kinds of complaints about other tumblers, including the Harbor Freight model.
...... someone had talked about first scrubbing the insides with baking soda, and then coating the inside with rubber caulk (same stuff you use for your shower). Problem is, you have to replace it over time (depending on how often you use your tumbler). . Karen H.

Various people have reported that the belt on the Harbor Freight -Chicago tumblers breaks...'s the secret to getting the belt replacement FREE. :-) the toll free number in the instruction booklet and tell them the belt broke as soon as you tried to use it. Nicely request that they send you a replacement belt as this one was obviously defective. If you handle it nicely, they will do that. If it hasn't arrived in a week, call back and tell them you need it ASAP and ask them to put a rush on it. I ended up with 2 free belts that way. :-) ...And the replacement belts last much longer than the original belt did. :-) kimba
... the belts break quickly I have replaced mine with a sewing machine belt (4 inch in diameter)
......I have also taken the cover off of the motor compartment to help keep things cooler... working so far. Helen

my new Lortone stopped working because its belt slipped off.after a couple of has a belt-driven drive and the two parts that the belt is supposed to rotate around are not lined up properly, so as the whole contracption gets warmer, the belt can stretch just enough and start slipping and jumping off.'s not too hard to fix... if you bought your tumbler at a local shop, they should be only too happy to tweak it.
...or...reference that sheet of paper titled "Instructions and Part List" where there should be several blow-out diagrams. ...Fig.6 shows a top-down view of the pulley setup; you will need to loosen a set screw, then slide the head in or out to better align it with the drive pulley.... I think you will need some type of hex wrench to adjust the set screw. Desiree

If you have a used tumbler whose (rubber?) barrel coating has worn out, you can recoat it using Tool Dip. Just follow the directions on the package. Make sure beforehand that you have washed the barrel thoroughly with hot soapy water, rinsed it well, then rinsed it out with denatured alcohol and let it dry completely before coating it. Try not to even touch the inside with your fingers after you've washed it. You want it as clean as possible before coating. Talia

When buying a rubber-coated tumbler look inside the barrel proper. It should be glossy rubber-coated everywhere. If it isn't, you are looking at an exposed plastic areas that will wear out (be eroded by everything).
...If the rubber inside the barrel is foam with a texture, or even worse open pores, it will hard to rinse out while switching abrasives
.... when changing abrasives, don't just take out the pieces of sandpaper and think you are done... bits of the grit rub off, and you MUST get them out, so do thorough the end ALWAYS run two rinse periods of about 10 minutes with nothing but the objects and soap and water and if you have them, and want to, pieces of cut up rubber bands.) Lysle

The rotating tumblers, in which the pieces fall over and over and over as the barrel rotates, would be used mainly for round(ed) beads
.... but "round, teardrop, ovals, cylinders, or tube shaped beads" are all still basically "round" (meaning that they are not 3-sided beads, or the Buesseler-cut style "football" beads or others which have sharper edges that you want to retain.)

The only beads I have a problem getting smooth are flat shaped discs
. . . . but bicones sand beautifully!!... !I don't think there is a lot of clay loss...maybe under 5%? which I don't think would even change the size, mm-wise. Mia

Since tumblers are only supposed to be on for a few hours, set it up with one of those timer things for lights
. . . that way if you forget about it, you don't end up with "nothing" beads. -NF

(For tumble-sanding in a separate container you put inside a tumbler, see below in Vibratory Tumblers... problems with rubber liner staining clay)

(Also see also Tonja's technique for sanding round beads and cabochons in a bowl with water and a Scumbuster --or a Mouse sander-- it's above under "Power Tool Sanding)

small squares of sandpaper

The original technique for tumble-sanding polymer clay in an inexpensive rock tumbler was described by Elise Winters in a Jewelry Crafts article.... although she changed her method somewhat later.)

... I purchased an office-type paper trimmer for cutting the bunches of sandpaper sheets into strips and then chips. Desiree

Elise Winter's newer method: . . . . Cut sandpaper or wet/dry "polishing paper" (about 1/3 - 1/2 sheet, depending on sheet size) into 3/8" squares. Begin with 400 grit. Fill tumbler with beads to the depth recommended by the tumbler's instruction booklet (usually 3/4 full) and cover with water. Tumble per manufacturer's instructions for 4 - 6 hours. Rinse beads thoroughly and remove chips. Proceed to next smaller grit size and repeat.

Elise proceeds through 6 grits: 400, 600, 1200, 4000, 6000, and 8000. (If you use polishing papers instead — which is what she recommends — they are gauged in microns: 30, 15, 9, 3, 2, and 1; unlike sandpaper, the smaller the number, the finer the grit.) According to Elise, the very fine grits leave a polish so refined that the bead needs no further buffing or sealants.
NOTE: Sandpaper can be reused. Just let it dry out, then store it in a plastic baggie. Use a removable tape label to indicate the grit size and how many times it has been used. (The number of uses you get depends on the length of time you tumble; you'll have to experiment.)
(Elise no longer carries the polishing papers –3M brand?--she recommends, as they are now available from Rio Grande and from Metalifarous in NYC. Lenora)

My Method: I use only 3 grits — 400, 600, and 1000 — and I tumble each grit longer — 10 - 12 hours. After 1000, the beads have a nice matte finish without any other treatment; I often use this matte finish on small Mobius beads. If I want more gloss, I apply Flecto (thin coats) after the 1000-grit tumble and rebake.

My 600 and 800 grit sandpapers just curl up when they get wet, then they bunch up together, so I know the beads aren't seeing much of the sandpaper's surface. In addition, I hate getting that wet sandpaper out of the tumbler too, and I have to use vasoline to keep it from leaking, so the whole thing is a mess! Heather

For the rotary tumblers, I made "chips" (1/4" x 1/4") ...of 450, 600, 1000 and 1500 grits. Desiree

... 3M sandpaper comes in two formats that I know of: - A full sheet (about 9" by 11") - and strips of 4" by 11". I use a half of a full sheet, or a sheet and a half of the strips.
I cut the sandpaper into 1/4" strips and then cut those strips off in about 3/4" lengths. seems to work the best. I can re-use the same sandpaper for several loads. It just needs to be left out to dry before packing away in a baggie (Don't forget to label which grit!)
When I load the sandpaper and beads into the tumbler, I alternate a layer of sandpaper, then beads, sandpaper, then beads, til I run out of things to add. I never sand more than about a 1/2 cup of beads at a time.
Then I add water, just enough to cover everything. You don't want the water to fill up the tumbler, because the sanding occurs from friction and too much water impedes friction. Not enough water and it just glues itself together. Leave room for air.
I sand with 400 grit, then 600 grit, 800, 1000, 1500, and 2000.
Using the same logic for tumblers (as hand-sanding eggs), 400 grit tumbles for about 14 hours. Yes, 14. It should have gunk in it when I open up the 400 grit batch to change the sand paper and rinse off the beads.
Then subsequent grits tumble for 8 hours, then 6 hours and the last few grits at 4 hours each.
Of course, you still have to buff the beads, one at a time. byrd
...I tumble 220, 320 and 400 grits for 24 hours like Mia does, then drop down to 20 hours for 600, 16 for 800, 12 for 1000, 8 for 1500 and 2000. I haven't lost a design yet. Corgi
....I fill the barrel with all shapes and size beads about a quarter full, along with all the sand paper pieces, cover with water and add a squirt of dish soap. I do each batch on four successive papers, coarse to fine for 12 hours each. Works great! ccconnie

Try gluing sheets of sandpaper back to back before cutting into squares, to prevent the sandpaper squares from sticking together. I've used both Zap-a-Gap and E6000 glues and both seem to withstand the tumbling. Jan
...The glue came off and went everywhere when I used E-6000. Jackie
...I use aquarium glue to glue my sandpaper together and have had no problems with it coming off or with the sandpaper curling or anything like that. Kimba
...I tried a few different glues (superglue, E6000, epoxy) and discovered the waterproof epoxies work the best (don't use water resistant epoxy though). Desiree
...make sure to dry (your sandpaper squares?) completely before putting them in another grit or your little pieces will curl up from the extra moisture. . .Susheke

sandpaper wrapped around barrel + sandpaper bars

Mia's lesson on using sandpaper around the barrel and in the top and bottom of the tumbler with duct tape, then sandpaper squares in layers with the beads for tumbling beads

One of the members of my guild has started using a waterproof glue to seal the sandpaper strip around her tumbler. She says she was having problems like you had in your Lortone (two-barrel, rotating) tumbler (the duct tape coming off during the tumbling) and the glue solved that problem completely. I can't remember which glue she uses, but I think it was GOOP. Kimba

The tumbler I have isn't round shaped in the inside, so I can't line it with sandpaper. But my friend came up with an idea of fitting it with PVC pipe! will fit inside perfectly, and then I can line the PVC with each sandpaper!! Dawn

(Instead of sandpaper squares) I took a slab of (raw?) scrap clay about 1 1/2" wide , 2" long and 1/2" thick. I then wrapped a strip of sandpaper around the clay and kinda folded it in half. The I mushed the end clay together to hold it in place.
...I have tested it out with 220 grit allready and I plan on using it with the higher grits as well (220 is very coarse tho for most polymer clay)
...I also place a square of sandpaper at the bottom of the tumbler and some extra squares left over from sanding other stuff. Mia

Rock tumbling "grits"
...Rottenstone (very-fine grit) ...Aluminum oxide

Recently, I got tired of cutting up all those little chips and even more tired of trying to pick them out of the wet beads (the little chips get caught in the "tulip" of tiny Mobius beads and have to be removed with a pair of tweezers). Anyway, I began to wonder about using grit instead of sandpaper chips.
.... I checked around and discovered that Lortone makes grits from coarse rock-tumbling size all the way down to 2000.
....... I ordered a can (1 lb., I think) of the 400 to test with. I've used it twice, and I've been very pleased with the results.
........Unfortunately, the finer grits (1000 and up) are expensive. I'm keeping track of how many tumbles I get from one can; I'll switch to the finer grits only if I can justify the cost.
. . . .Even so, the coarser 400 grit has saved me lots of time, and it reaches into the small compound curves of flexed beads much better than sandpaper chips. TricheO

Apparently, Elise experimented (in the beginning) with tumbling grit. According to the gentleman I spoke to at Lortone, her objection to it was that it was difficult to remove from the bead holes though I have not experienced the same problem.
However, I can think of two things which might alleviate the problem, if you have it:
...(1) Make your guide hole smaller than you want your finished hole to be; after tumbling, use a small drill to ream it to finished size.
...(2) Use Oral-B's SuperFloss, or a chenille pipe cleaner (depending on the hole size), to clean the hole after tumbling. TricheO

Rotary tumbling with loose grit media has been a tough behavior for me to get a handle on.
...One problem with loose grit is that it does tend to embed itself into polymer clay while it won't embed itself into rock or wood (...sanding at the next higher grit will get it out though). Desiree

"Rottenstone" is a fine dust ground from volcanic rock, and is softer than pumice (and less abrasive than "rock tumbling grits?")
... wear a mask when dealing with this, and be sure and clean up well, keeping it out of the air
...(Rottenstone is primarily used to polish a lacquered or varnished wood surface after a coarse rubbing with pumice stone, as the final sanding on fine furniture for a flawless finish. For woodworking, it is used with a soft cloth or peice of felt, a puddle of linseed oil mixed slowly with the rottenstone is then mixed and gently rubbed on the surface; may also be used with plain water. The particle size breaks down easily under use, and it needs to be replaced as it wears down.)

Graded loose grit media on polymer clay seems to work differently than it's sand-papered equivalent.
. . .For example, if you're sanding wood I read that rottenstone is supposed to be used in a pre-polish phase, used after sanding with 600C grit sandpaper.....But from what I've seen, when used on polymer clay in a rotary tumbler it acts more like 300-400 grit. Desiree

I do hundreds, probably thousands, of beads in a kid's rock tumbler. I don't use sandaper in it...I use something called rottenstone.
...This is NOT the pumice that comes with the tumbler.
....I tumble only once from 1-6 hours... The slurry can be re-used..... I buy it at Lee Valley tools.
....Make a thick slurry with water and dump the beads in. . . . You'll have to experiment a bit with the quantity of rottenstone to water...don't make it a thick paste, but not too runny either. . . . I sort of abuse the tumbler and fill it at least half full of beads then add the rottenstone/water. Take a couple of beads out every hour to see how they're's the only way to discover for yourself how long it will take to get the effect that pleases you. nokomis1

You might be able to find rottenstone in a woodworking supply shop, or a high end hobby store, maybe even a hardware store??? (or you can buy it online at Lee Valley tools or other online places). ccconnie
..Lee Valley tools:,190,43040
or go to and do a search for "rottenstone.". . . it's about $5-6 dollars per lb.

I *just* started using the rottenstone, I really like it! I ran my first batch through for 5 hours and then sifted through the beads and took out the ones that were done, and then let if go for a few more hours, just like with my sand paper method. . . . I had a wide variety mixed of beads in there ranging from square and triangle pillow beads, sphere beads, tube beads, tri-set focal pendant chips, bezel set cabs, spacer "pills" with all different sizes large to small. It worked great!
...Don't go by the directions that come with the tumbler... remember those directions are for very hard gem stones and the like!
....It's quite I'd recommend checking your beads every couple hours when you first start using rottenstone...
... especially if you are tumbling very tiny beads or intricate not recommend putting any textured beads in.
. . . Rottenstone is decomposed limestone. It is extremly powdery. Fine furniture makers and restorers use it as the final step in getting that absolute smooth glass like finish. Oh yes you can use it alone. But it is very fine, it doesn't have much "tooth" so your beads need to be quite "finished" to start with. It is very much a final finisher.
How long would it take? Again, it depends on the condition of your beads to start with. When I use rottenstone I tumble mine for maybe an hour or so, but that's only after they have gone through hours and hours of previous smoothing, sanding and tumbling.
. . . it is quite gloppy and gooey. It's kind of like clayers slip. So be aware and be prepared.
....You can reuse it. Have a large bowl and a sieve ready to scoop your beads into. Scrape as much goop off into the bowl as you can and put your beads into the sieve. Then get as much goop into a big zip lock as you can so you can save it for next time. You really want to get as much goop off your beads as possible because like I said the rottenstone is essentially loose clay and you really don't want to rinse a whole lot of this down your drain.
Your beads will also need to be cleaned. After all, they've been slopping around in dirt for hours. A quick 10-15 minute tumble in plain water with a tiny squirt of dish saop will clean them and the tumbler right up. ccconnie

I tried the rottenstone and aluminum oxide
.... first I mouse sanded batch with 240 grit paper .... rotary tumbled batch in a rottenstone slurry for 36 hours .... rotary tumbled batch in 600 grit loose aluminum oxide slurry for 18 hours .... hand sanded with 1000 grit (to remove staining).... hand polished with polyester felt wheel and dremel.
...I haven't completely eliminated the manual process yet, and even though it's relatively easy to remove with a light sanding, I'm not happy with the light staining caused by using rottenstone and aluminum oxide. Desiree

Vibratory tumblers

more info on some vibratory tumblers mixed into tumbling categories above
...quieter than rotary tumblers, more expensive, etc.

From what I've read on vibrational tumblers... they don't actually tumble, but use either ultrasound or spin around the vertical axis.
.... If you were polishing rocks, it's supposed to work much more quickly and retain the essential shape rather than producing only rounded rocks, so I was figuring maybe the same thing would apply to polymer clay beads. Jainnie

If you're looking for a good inexpensive tumbler, get one from a gun shop. They use them to clean shells for reloading, and you'll find that they're about half the price for the same tumbler as you'd pay if you bought it from a jewelry supply house.
... There's a lot of them online, starting at about $40 for a good sized vibratory machine, which I greatly prefer to the barrel style. The vibratory machines do a quicker and better (?) job and are easier to keep clean.. Talia

I went to a rock shop today and they had a tumbler and a buffer there called Lot-0-Tumbler and Lot-O-Buffer..... The tumbler costs $149.00 ...I know their are a lot cheaper ones, but this one vibrates plus spins around. It also has a rubber lining. It says it tumbles rocks in 2/3 the time it takes rotary ones. Matilda
...Raytech is another brand

The Mini-Sonic tumblers are also vibratory, but it says it is "not your ordinary vibratory tumbler....the patented achieved without shafts, belts, pulleys, eccentric weights or even a motor. ....with no moving parts to wear out or a motor to burn up, these tumblers will outlast any other vibratory type tumbler."
..... add'l. info on the Mini-Sonic says, with stones/rocks you can "tumble polish... fast and efficiently and without changing the shapes to any measurable can even tumble polish carvings without wearing away delicate features."
...some mini-sonic models feature dial speed controls for selecting power required to control intensity and rotation. Jainnie

The other day, my sweet hubby gave me a new (regular) Sonic Vibratory tumbler to play with. I created some mixed translucent beads to test this with and had very good results.
....I found the vibratory tumbler to take less time, and to make a lot less noise than the drum tumbler. They are more expensive, but the one I have is capable of tumbling more beads at a time... up to 300 one inch beads . For a person doing production work, this would be a great time saver!
....Down side? It did enlarge the holes pierced before baking, so I would recommend that you drill your holes after tumbling. Irene Coyer
....I think that the Sonic tumbler works much better than the other variety. I helped pioneer the regular tumbling about five years ago along with Elise Winters who went even further with it than I did. However, I was never very happy with the results as the (loose?) grits tended to clog up the holes (so I stopped putting them in until after they were done), and the finish still left something to be desired. Also, it took one to two weeks of tumbling which drove me nuts. It also reduced the size of the beads somewhat. Dotty
....I saw Elise Winters yesterday, and mentioned all the discussion about tumblers. She said that she thinks the vibratory tumblers would be best (though that's not what she used), but that they cost hundreds of dollars. Randi

for a batch of medium to small beads, my vibratory tumbler works quite well... although not quite as well as when each bead is carefully hand sanded
.... I have to use a 220 to begin with to break the surface tension... then I go to a 400, 800 and 1000.
.... I have better luck with Premo and Fimo than I do with Kato Polyclay which seems to have a tougher surface tension.
...they do end up nice and smooth, but afterwards they don't buff up as shiny (Premo shines the best, looking a lot like glass). Dotty.

(lessons) . . .my beads were baked at 260F for 30 minutes then dumped into a bucket of snow to give them more clarity. . . . then placed the beads into a Sonic Vibratory tumbler with enough water to cover them, and a cup of cut up of 1/4" squares of 800 grit wet/dry sandpaper. . . . the beads were allowed to tumble for 8 hours and then were lightly buffed using a soft cloth (in this case, an old diaper). Irene C.
.....I have a Lortone and it works great for clay beads..... I line the tumbler with 600 grit sandpaper, then I cut little squares of sandpaper and the beads in the tumbler. I cover the beads with water and add a teaspoon of Tide Detergent..... I tumble for 8 hours and repeat with 800 grit. My beads come out very smooth. Maria

When you add soap to a vibratory type tumbler (to make the sandpaper slip around better)...make sure you use only scrapings from the Ivory soap bars ...all other dish detergents may degrade the rubber lining. Jenn
...........if you have some really old Ivory Snow powder, that's okay, but the current formulation for Ivory Snow flakes (now called "Ultra") is no longer 99 and 44/100% pure soap, according to Proctor & Gamble
....yellow Sunlight bar soap is also pure soap... so you can scrape and use that too ...also Ivory liquid or Dr. Bronner's, etc?
...however, from what I can tell so far, the key is just to avoid using solvents or any strong detergents on natural or synthetic rubber because they eventually dissolve whatever substance that makes rubber flexible? If so, I could see why products that are very effective degreasers would be bad on rubber, but the milder ones would be OK. Desiree

tumbling dry... WITHOUT.water

I no longer tumble my beads in water
....doesn't work as well as putting them in with LOTS of sandpaper at whatever grits you like, then tumbling them for about 12 hours per grit. Jackie

I have recently started tumbling without water with great results.
....although afterward, I take the sandpaper squares out, then tumble again for an 1-2 hrs. with a little dish soap (and water?) .... takes a lot less total tumbling time. Mia

(rotary or vibratory tumbler?... would it matter?)
....The DH took some 600 grit wet/dry sandpaper, and cut long thin strips, like julienne green beans..... Put that in the tumbler with the beads, and let it go - NO WATER.
..........I was angry when I first found out about it, because I was sure you needed it, but when I checked the beads, they were so smooth I couldn't believe it! (I was sure they'd be all nicked and scratched to heck, but they were fine)...... So we just changed the little sandpaper slices and did it again.
.......The were so smooth that I thought I'd skip the 800 grit, and go straight to the 1000..... I checked them this morning, and all I can say is WOW. . .
I now have the smoothest beads, and I don't think I will ever have to bother with cleaning wet sandpaper and gunk out again. ...I only did a grit a day, but it might not even need to go that long
..... The dust does stay in the tumbler, but it's easier to clean that out with a baby wipe or water, then drying it and adding the next grit of sandpaper, than it is slogging off all the old wet pieces of sandpaper and the mush off each bead and the walls of the tumbler. Bunny

...I started a dry tumbling run last night with new 400 grit sandpaper.... I thought tumbling was noisy with water, well now it is three times noisier because you hear every bead hitting the sides of the canister (good thing the tumbler is in the garage!)!
.......anyway, this morning I peeked into the canister.... the PC dust is everywhere inside there --don't know if it is the new sandpaper, or the no-water method, but it sure seems to be working!.... I'm letting the 400 grit go for the day, then I will briefly wash everything off and start the 600 grit.... I think I'm going to like this. Heather

... bad thing about this dry tumbling...I seem to have the clay dust wedged into every crevice that is still on the bead, including where my cane slices meet the bead where they haven't been sanded down well enough. Heather
.........hmmm, I haven't had those problems. Bunny
....Even though the sandpaper does get clogged with polymer dust using the dry-sanding technique, and does generate dust because of the curly problem with a single layer of wet sandpaper, I find it still smooths them better.
..... to deal with the clogging ....after each grit (wearing a mask) I separate beads from sandpaper, wipe the barrel round with a clean dry kitchen roll, then put the next load of paper in (I can usually salvage the paper for another run if I then rinse the bits in soapy water.)
.....During the process the beads look really grey and horrid looking with pc dust, but after the last grit I rinse the beads, bung them back in the tumbler sometimes with and sometimes without the last grit of sandpaper (depends how lazy I'm feeling) with a dash of soap and let tumble for a couple of hours, that seems to clean off all the dust. Shelley

I use the Lortone (rubber barrel) with three drums as well and I dry sand
....I tried just the bits of sandpaper first, and got a residue on one set of beads I put through multiple grits (why not until the third I don't know?!)... I had to hand sand the gunk off. I sure wish I had known about Jackie's magic soap to get it off!
.... But, I discovered that taping the sandpaper to the sides, top and bottom with double sided tape, as well as having little loose squares, works really well
.........I do wash the beads between grits (just a quick rinse) .... but make sure to dry them completely before putting them in another grit or your little (sandpaper?) pieces will curl up from the extra moisture. Susheke

Other ways to tumble-sand ...clothes dryer

I especially liked the tip about using a clothes dryer as makeshift tumbler buried within that web page, along with other good tips about sanding. Desiree
(no water used in the original technique of this?)
"...quick, easy sanding of multiple small pieces: ...most manufacturing operations use abrasive tumbling machines to remove burrs from small pieces. Chances are, you have the makings for such a machine in your laundry room...called a "clothes dryer". . . .
.....Find a soft, plastic container that contained margarine, lard, or similar products...the larger, 5-lb size is a good choice..
.....Line the inside of your container with sandpaper ...double-stick-taped or glued into position.
.....Place your small pieces inside the container, and snap the top into position.
.....Toss the container into the clothes dryer, along with a blanket or several heavy towels..
.....Set the dryer on a "no-heat" setting, turn it on and let it do the work for you.
.....Remove it frequently to check on your progress."

definitely-using-water addition:
...Line separate containers for each grade of wet/dry sandpaper you plan to use (400, 600, 800, 1000) ...each with a seal that will stand up to tumbling...if you're lucky, you might be able to do them in containers that would stack inside one another for storage.
........or you could use just one container & switch the grades of sandpaper between tumblings if you adhere some velcro dots on the edges of the container and on the back of the sheets of wet/dry sandpaper (with super-glue? or epoxy? need to keep the sandpaper wet to keep it from getting clogged so you'll need an adhesive that will hold up to water).
... Put some water and a drop of liquid soap (Ivory, Dr. Bronner's) in the container with your beads to decrease the surface tension.
... (as above) Tumble in dryer on "no heat" setting, with some old sheets or towels to cushion the "bead tumbler."
....Rinse beads and sandpapered container between each grade of sanding.
(I haven't tried this dryer tumbling yet) Karen in NC.


Buffing in a tumbler
.....(see more on this in Buffing > Other mostly electric buffers > Tumble buffing) .....

I also buffed my beads after tumble sanding by letting them tumble with an old cut-up t-shirt for two days, great polish! Valerie
....buffing in a drum type tumbler works really well. I cut up old jeans, taped them on the sides as well as put in bits. Susheke
.....After you are all done sanding, run the beads through a tumbler with a batch of wool felt squares, cut up to the same size as your sandpaper squares (1/4 to 1/2 inch?). Timing depends on how much you have sanded, how smooth the beads are and how high a shine you want on the beads. I've been playing with this technique a while now and have gotten GOOD results...Connie
LePoppet is introducing Micro-Surface Polishing Fabric on Ebay. The fabric is the same type used to get a "glass-like" finish on bowling balls and comes in 3200 and 3400 grits . . . each piece measures 3"x 6" and is perfectly capable of lasting through 5 or 6 tumbling sessions in a rock tumber. Maria
.....Someone mentioned using a salad spinner for (sanding or buffing?) clay beads.


(see also: Tools for Dremel, Sanding, Buffing, Finishes , )