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Making Polymer Clay Medallions

Recently, my kids and I have started playing with polymer clay. It looks like ordinary modeling clay, and comes in a wide variety of colors. You can even get metallic polymer clay. It looks and feels like clay, but it’s actually very similar in chemical makeup to another favorite maker material: PVC (which some of you used on Monday to make rocket launchers).

Polymer clay molds like ordinary clay, but it has one important difference. After you sculpt something with it, you pop it in a toaster oven for about 30 minutes, and it will permanently harden.

That’s why polymer clay is so great for making. For things like bricks and pottery, a very hot kiln is usually required, but you can harden (or “cure”) polymer clay in your kitchen.

Here’s why: polymer clay is PVC mixed with liquid plasticizers, which keep it malleable. Those liquid plasticizers burn off at very low temperatures, and once they’re gone, the hard PVC is all that’s left.

Today, Iet’s make medallions out of polymer clay that can be used as jewelry or a good luck talisman.

Materials for polymer clay medallions:

-Polymer Clay, available online or at most hobby shops
-Things around the house that you can press into the clay to make interesting patterns, such as coins, cookie cutters, hair combs, paperclips, meat tenderizers, paperclips, and so on
-A toaster oven that you can set to 175°F
-String or a chain so you can wear your medallion
-an oven bag (like this: http://www.amazon.com/Reynolds-Nylon-510-Oven-Bag/dp/B0007M45XE/)

As I said, polymer clay is malleable, which means you can shape and mold it however you want. Here are my recommended instructions: 

1. Start out with clean hands and a clean work surface. Dust and dirt show up easily in polymer clay. I keep baby wipes on hand to clean table tops and  hands (especially important when switching between colors of clay.)

2. Begin with a lump of polymer clay. I'm using Sculpey III. This piece is about the size of a grape.

3. Knead the clay until it becomes soft enough to mold easily. Form it into a ball.

4. Flatten the ball with the palm of your hand, but don't make it too thin.

5. Now comes the fun part! Use a variety of household objects to make impressions and patterns in the clay. I used a ballpoint pen end to make eye holes, a connector from a computer fan to make a mouth, and a Lego strut to make brow lines. You can poke a small hole in the clay to put a chain or string through it, or you can wait until after you bake it to drill a hole or insert an eye screw (Step 7).

6. Make as many medallions as you want, and when you are done, heat up a your toaster oven to 275 degrees F and bake according to the instructions for your particular type of clay (usually 15 minutes per 1/4 inch of thickness). For added safety, place the medallions in an oven bag when while baking.

7. If you did not poke a hole through the clay in step 5, you can insert an eye screw or drill a hole though it and run a string or chain through it.

8. Now that you've made a simple one-color medallion, start experimenting by mixing colors. Here are a few examples of things my daughters and I have made. Have fun!

Feel free to use my photos as inspirations for your own designs, and share photos of what you made with the #MakerCamp   hashtag.
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22 comments
 
I’ll be hosting a live Hangout at 2pm Pacific as well, tune in and we’ll talk more about this great stuff called polymer clay.
 
My sister made cool stuff tonight with polymer clay.
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Is it safe. ie what happens if a 2 year old gets some in his mouth?
 
maybe it hardens and no chemicals come off even if being sucked or chewed!
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No toaster oven here - does this work in a regular oven as well?
 
Doesn't PVC give off nasties when it's burned/heated past a certain point?

I know there's a lot of info out there on this, and it's hard to separate the good data from the bad.
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