I was talking to a new friend yesterday, who is starting to get her feet wet in polymer clay, and I was showing her some of my tools, many of which are repurposed from some other use, or are handmade by me. It occurred to me that some of you might also be interested in a glimpse into the handmade portion of my toolbox, so here it is!
The first four tools are made from a plastic sheet with a 1/4-inch grid printed on it. I found a package of them in the quilting section at Michael’s.
- 1. Button hole positioner: I use this one a lot. To make the tool, I traced around the cookie cutters I use to make my buttons, and then I poked holes in the plastic with my needle tool, using the grid to help me center them. The edges of the poked holes were rough on the other side of the plastic and could be used to mark the clay. To use the tool, I center the positioner over my raw button, using the traced shape as a guide. I press down on the holes gently, and lift away the positioner. My button now has two impressions where the holes should be, and I can use a knitting needle or my needle tool to poke them through. Without this tool my button holes would be all over the place.
- 2. Barrette templates: These are simply rectangles cut from the grid in the appropriate sizes to make barrette tops. I use them as templates to cut the correct size veneer every time I make a french barrette. This means the veneer always fits the barrette, and all of my barrettes of the same size are consistent with each other.
- 3. Polka dot maker: This tool utilizes poked holes in the same was as the button hole positioner does. The holes are evenly spaced, and when impressed upon a sheet of clay, will leave indicators of where polka dots should be cut from the sheet. Items that have been made from this cane be seen here.
- 4. Bracelet templates: I made these in a cuff bracelet class with Donna Kato. They are used similarly to the barrette templates, and were, in fact, the inspiration for them.
The next three tools were made by embedding some other type of tool into a raw polymer clay handle and baking it. Please forgive the lousy photography on these. I had trouble getting my point-and-shoot to focus on this type of item.
- 5. Needle tool and 6. Needle tool – head-on view: This is one of my most-used tools. I embedded a large sewing needle eye-first into a clay handle. I use it for poking guide holes in raw clay, adding texture, and anything else that requires a pointy object.
- 7. Hand drills and 8. Hand drills – head-on view: More of my favorites, I use these to drill all of my holes in baked pieces.
- 9. Doll hair plunger: I don’t really use this any more, but it saw a lot of action when I was still making Christmas ornaments with doll hair. This idea came to me by way of Cecilia Determan, who said she learned it from Maureen Carlson. To make the tool, use wire cutters to cut a sewing needle across the eye, leaving two sharp prongs. The needle is embedded in the handle point-first so that the newly-cut prongs are exposed. To use the tool, place a bit of doll hair on top of a raw clay head. Position the tool on top of the hair, and press downward, plunging the hair into the clay, and creating “roots” for it. Repeat as necessary until the head is full of hair.
The rest of these are used for baking, on the off chance that baking polymer leaves a residue in the oven that I’d rather not have. They also help contain the smell of curing clay.
- 10. Small baking enclosure: I like using my regular toaster oven to bake my claythings, so I created this little enclosure from aluminum baking trays that will fit in my toaster. As you can see, it’s gotten quite a bit of use and has seen better days. To make this, I took two trays and set them together one upside-down on top of the other. I used my needle tool to poke three holes through both layers, and threaded some wires through the holes to act as hinges. For the inside, I cut a piece of parchment paper to size and placed it on the bottom. This is so that I can bake items without getting the glossy spots that result from baking directly on the aluminum. I also bought a few tiles to fit inside so that I can bake directly on tiles and still utilize the enclosure.
- 11. Large baking enclosure and 12. Large baking enclosure – view of the hinges: This is essentially the same item as above, but it’s larger so I can use it in my regular oven.
Now that I’ve shown you mine, I want to see yours! Have you made any of your own tools to help you in your craft (it doesn’t have to be polymer clay)? If so, blog about it and trackback to this post. If you don’t know how to trackback, or your blogging software doesn’t do that, you can just leave a comment here and link to your post that way. I look forward to seeing what kinds of nifty things you work with on a regular basis!