View Full Version : Help with finishing

25-01-2010, 11:21 AM
Hi everyone.

Have just started playing with polymer clay, mainly Fimo at the moment. Had a good look around the web for finishing tips. Unfortunately much of it was American based so the products recommended were not always obtainable!

There didn't seem to be unanimous support for the new formula Fimo varnish so was looking for alternatives. Virtually everywhere tho', seemed to be of the opinion that ANY water based varnish would be ok to use.

On that basis, I picked up a tin of Wilkinsons' finest ;) acrylic gloss varnish. I baked the beads according to the instructions (& using oven thermometer) & applied varnish (after allowing the beads to cool) - but after a day the beads feel slightly sticky. Not majorly, but if you hold the bead for a few seconds it just sticks ever so slightly. So decided to try a slightly more upmarket brand - Ronseal Quick Drying Varnish! Same thing's happened, although only to about 40% of the beads, but there doesn't seem to be a pattern to which ones :confused:

Any ideas on what I may (probably am) doing wrong? Sorry for the length of my first post. Would be grateful for any suggestions.

So happy to find a UK based forum :)


25-01-2010, 12:34 PM
Compatibility is a huge issue in polymer clay when it comes to varnishes.

It is for this reason I only recommend varnishes made by the clay manufacturers that are known to be compatible with the polymer clay.

Much of the info you read on the web will be out of date when it comes to varnishes etc. Because recently the EU banned the use of certain phthalates, so the polymer clays have all been reformulated to a new recipe anyway.

I also suspect the same is true of many acrylic varnishes. Because it is notable how many have simply ceased production since the EU ban or changed formula significantly.

Therefore, it can be very hard to work out what will and will not work with polymer clay if you are not a) a chemist or b) prepared to have a lot of trial and error results as you have done.

So I doubt you have done anything wrong at all. I am sure it is simply the varnishes contain either some type of solvent, plasticiser, oil or other chemical that doesn't play nice with the ingredients of polymer clay.

It is also worth pointing out that the Fimo waterbased varnish (http://www.ejrbeads.co.uk/shop/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=17_32&products_id=278) has changed formulation to match the clay. It is now a little thinner than it used to be, and IMO, a very good, useable product. So don't automatically discount it unless you have tried the recent formulation and just don't like it.

Another alternative to varnishing is to sand and buff your beads.

You can wet-sand the beads smooth using wet/dry sandpapers. Then use a buffing wheel, adapted dremel etc to buff to a soft shine.

Or you can cheat. Take the sanded bead and wipe a teeny dab of renaissance wax (http://www.ejrbeads.co.uk/shop/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=17_32&products_id=3509) all over the whole bead then quicky buff off by hand with a duster. Will give the same appearance as a softly machine buffed bead without all the hard work!

It probably goes without saying that you cannot sand, buff or wax any beads that have surface decorations such as paints, metal leaf, glitters, powders etc. Those types of beads would need to be sealed with a varnish.

Hope that helps!

25-01-2010, 01:10 PM
Hi Emma

Thanks for the detailed reply. I have tried to filter out the most recent articles whilst researching this, but it's difficult. I think, in what may have turned out to be a false economy, I was partially avoiding the Fimo/Sculpey finishes because of the ml/ factor :rolleyes: The thinking was to try & find an ordinary varnish that would work & get 275ml for the same cost as 35ml.

Have tried using wet 'n' dry (having been a painter in a past life I have a fair amount lying around!), but, having largish hands, I find it awkward on the smaller beads. I also find it incredibly easy to flat spot round beads.

Likewise I have a Proxxon mini drill & polishing mops. Am loving the exercise I'm getting retrieving beads from the other side of the room - a barricade will have to be implemented :)

Thanks for the link to the wax. I've just been trying Pledge Multi-Surface Wax which seems to be ok at the moment, multiple coats seem to allow the shine to build.

Although the satin finish is great for some looks, with some beads you just want that high gloss finish ;) So maybe I will bite the bullet & try the Fimo.


25-01-2010, 01:25 PM
Do check that the wax you are using isn't oil based. As that could also react with the polymer clay over time.

I have to admit, I find life too short for machine-buffing beads - so by far prefer the wax or varnish method.

if you can find it, the old Johnson's Klear floor finish is fine with polymer clay too. (Often referred to as Future in American websites).

Although sadly I think this was one of the products that was discontinued recently. I have a feeling the product is available in a new form, but have no idea if that is still clay compatible.


25-01-2010, 01:31 PM

Just realised the pledge wax you are talking about IS the new incarnation of Klear floor finish!

So, by the sounds of it then - it is still compatible with polymer clay you are finding? If so, that is good news.


25-01-2010, 01:50 PM
:cool: Believe me - I did a LOT of research on finishes.

As I said, a lot was found on American sites, where the only thing that seemed to get mentioned was Future Polish & Varathane Diamond Polyurethane Interior Varnish. So spent time looking for equivalents.

Found a modelmakers site where some guy did a complete listing & history of the Future/Johnsons line of products. He did a timeline of the various products introduction/withdrawal, names in various countries, equivalents etc. Mine of useful information. That was where I found out about the Pledge product & it seems to be fine at the moment :)

So I will keep experimenting, but guess I'm also a little impatient & once the beads are made I want to get the finish applied & see how they look :rolleyes: I also want the finish to be as good as I can get it & find what is happening at the moment incredibly annoying :frusty:


25-01-2010, 03:32 PM
My brother does model planes and tanks and the like and he told me the other day that they also use Klear. Seems from what I have read that it is the same as before, just maybe not quite so crystal clear?

Either way, I think that if it is even half as good as the old Klear was, it is certainly worth using so long as it doesn't have any long term problems with the clay.

As you say though, the Americans have been using the new "Future with pledge" stuff for a while now, so hopefully we have the same recipe here in Europe.

You are right though - all this sort of research IS incredibly frustrating - and it seems to me, with polymer clay work, it never ends!

The varathane stuff that the american sites talk about is just a polyurathane varnish. I bought some years ago when I was over the pond and frankly I don't know what all the fuss was about.

I didn't really like it at all. Like you mentioned in your first post, it seemed almost tacky even when fully dry and cured for several days. I way prefer the (old) Klear or the new fimo varnish to that stuff.

I have tried so many other acrylic mediums and varnishes too over the years, because it is an area I would love to be able to offer my customers more choice in. I have just not yet found anything comparable to the Fimo's own one or the old Klear. If they work, they tend to be either cloudy or just won't apply nicely. And if the look like they will give the right finish, they seem to react to the clay :mad:


25-01-2010, 07:46 PM
The beads I have used the Klear on look fine (although only a few days old) & as I said, I think if a few coats were applied the shine would improve. Unfortunately I cannot help in comparing it to the older version, but it would be interesting if somebody else could - 3.05 in Sainsburys ;) Bottle should last forever!

Interesting to hear your thoughts on the Varathane as it was raved about so much. It was also partly the reason for trying the Ronseal acrylic polyurethane varnish that I did! It would appear I will be adding a bottle of Fimo varnish to a future order.

So glad this forum exists. To be able to tap into the pool of knowledge from people who have "been there, done that & made the t-shirt" is great, as is the contributors willingness to share that knowledge & experience.


25-01-2010, 08:19 PM
Oh I certainly will be picking up a bottle of the new Klear to do some tests.

For some reason, I didn't think it was available here yet. I confess though, its because each time i looked in Sainsburies I could never find Klear - old or new - so just assumed it wasn't available yet and the old one had gone.

I will do some test beads in white and do a comparison of old Klear, new Klear and Fimo varnish just as soon as I get a spare moment.

The Klear doesn't suit everyone, because it is so thin and takes so many coats to build up a shine. But it is good if we still have it as an alternative to suggest.


25-01-2010, 08:30 PM
Be interesting to see the results. The bottle is white - the label says (in various size fonts) "The improved formula Klear is now.... Pledge Multi-Surface Wax" (Really felt there should be a "Ta-da" going off then :D)

I think it was on the modelmakers site I mentioned, where it was emphasized that you needed to get the wax, not the multi-finish polish. Presume that holds true for polymer clay use.

Also found it in Wilkinsons, (very close to Sainsburys in Plymouth), but it was more expensive in there.


LC's Beads
25-01-2010, 08:35 PM
I use Klear which I managed to get in my local small hardware store. (Unfortunately just realised that it has leaked in the cupboard I hid it in over Christmas in an attempt to tidy up). I usually put around 3 or 4 layers on. Find it much easier than using the thicker spe******t varnish (although it may have been the "old" version that I used).

I have a setup with cocktail sticks in polystyrene and varnish 40 - 50 in one go.

25-01-2010, 10:00 PM
Hi...have just used the renaissance wax I purchased from Emma and was really pleased with the results...I have a shoulder problem so a great help not to use so much elbow grease :)

03-03-2010, 10:35 PM
I'm very pleased to have found this site!

And this thread in particular.

I seem to have gone round the same loop as everyone else on the varnish front. I have more 'test' items on my work desk than is reasonable.

And shall shortly be adding test items for the renaissance wax!

03-03-2010, 10:54 PM
I've got to say I've tried almost every varnish/polish on my polymer beads and in my opinion the Fimo Gloss varnish is far and away the best product I have used. I guess it's like Emma said earlier in this thread it's formulated by the company that makes Fimo specifically for polymer clay.


Nihal Erpeden
03-03-2010, 11:07 PM
I use colourless nail polish after to sand. Cheap and effective :)

04-03-2010, 07:57 AM
I use colourless nail polish after to sand. Cheap and effective :)

You shouldn't use nail polish with polymer clay.

Many solvents in nail polishes are not compatible with the clay - it may appear to dry at first, but over time will react with the clay badly.

I really recommend people do NOT use nail varnish on their polymer clay for this reason.

The manufacturers own varnishes are just as cost-effective as nail polish and they are formulated to be totally compatible with the clay.


04-03-2010, 12:26 PM
Had this problem a while back too.
I purchased a varnish on ebay that specifically said it was suitable for polymer clay (the seller also sold different polymer clays and accessories). When it came I followed all the instructions but about 3 days later the baked items were still tacky. Not wet, they just felt wrong, if you squeezed them in your hand and then tipped your hand over the beads would stick to your palm.
I emailed the seller who seemed to have problems believing me and said they had never had this problem before etc etc. Anyway after much to-ing and fro-ing they eventualy sent me a Sculpey gloss which I use over the ruined beads. This worked fine and they dried properly.
I have also bought a Fimo Gloss but I've not opened it yet. I prefer the look of a satin finish on the things I have been making but if I need a shinier finish I will open the Gloss one.

I know its a bit galling to have to pay so much for a teeny weeny pot of varnish when you can buy a litre of the stuff for the same price in B&Q etc (exaggeration), but at least you know you are getting the right one, and anyway, it does last a long time.

I second what was said about nail varnish, I read that it can appear fine at first but over the weeks and months it reacts with the clay and causes it to become sticky and discoloured.


04-03-2010, 03:37 PM
Had this problem a while back too.
I purchased a varnish on ebay that specifically said it was suitable for polymer clay (the seller also sold different polymer clays and accessories). When it came I followed all the instructions but about 3 days later the baked items were still tacky. Not wet, they just felt wrong, if you squeezed them in your hand and then tipped your hand over the beads would stick to your palm.

That's exactly the problem I had. Not out & out sticky, just didn't feel quite right. The longer I held a bead the worse it felt.

I did give in & buy the Fimo varnish - but it is a little galling when I have 250ml pot of Ronseal which was only a quid more :rolleyes:

It also doesn't help when you then accidentally knock over said Fimo varnish! The conversation was along the lines of:

"Oh s**t!!"
"Don't worry, I'll get a cloth"
"Sod the cloth. Do you know how expensive this stuff is? Get a spatula so I can scoop it up!"


04-03-2010, 04:17 PM
I have been there with the varnish - and sometimes it can take a year or two before the beads go tacky, but suddenly they have just gone all yuck on you. Not fun!

I don't really think the branded varnishes are that bad a deal really. I can't comment on the sculpey one of course as I don't use that. But I find the Fimo varnish (http://www.ejrbeads.co.uk/shop/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=17_32&products_id=278) lasts a long time, and well worth it for the peace of mind when it comes to compatibility.

There are other products out there that can also be used on clay.

Johnson's Klear floor finish was always a favourite for example.

Now, both the clay and the Johnsons Klear have both been reformulated in recent years - so I have no idea if they are both still compatible, but I have not heard any reports yet to say they are not.

I do have some concerns about the new ingredients in the new Klear, but havent bought any to test out yet.

However, there are other pure acrylic floor finishes on the market too, designed for tile floors etc. These are FAR more likely to be compatible with the polymer clays than the cheaper types of varnishes used for wood. But as with all things polymer - if you try an un-tested product, you really are on your own! You might end up discovering a great new product, you might end up with a mess. That is the fun of being a claying pioneer!

Generally speaking though, even those types of acrylic finishes are quite expensive as well, if you compare them to bog-standard wood varnishes. And trust me, I have tested a LOT of different varnishes over the years.

I promise you, it hasn't escaped my notice that the Fimo varnish was quite little compared to what you see at B&Q!

Believe me, I have looked long and hard trying to find alternative varnishes for people to use with their clay. That is what EJR Beads is all about after all - finding cool new stuff for your claying projects. I have tested out more varnishes than I care to remember.

Only, apart from the Renaissance wax (which is really a different type of product anyway) I never found any alternative varnish to the Fimo ones that I was happy to stock and sell.

The Renaissance wax (http://www.ejrbeads.co.uk/shop/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=91&products_id=3509) is nice to use on the baked clay too though. You need to use this sparingly and buff it off quickly to leave a fine coating of the wax, but it is another product that clayers have used for a while now, so we can be pretty sure it is compatible.


04-03-2010, 05:29 PM
Appreciate what you're saying Emma, & value your experience on all matters polymer clay wise ;) :)

I have used the new Klear & - touch wood - at the moment no adverse reaction. What it will be like in 6 months is another matter. At 3 for 750ml it is certainly good value. It is rather difficult to get a shiny finish with tho'. On the beads I tried I'm up to 4 coats & still no real result, so timewise it could be hard to justify.

I am tempted to keep experimenting but have visions of ending up with a cupboard full of floor finishes, that I have no other use for :)

Looks like I will end up sticking with the Fimo until an alternative is found.

04-03-2010, 05:36 PM
Certainly with the old Klear, I know you needed to do multiple coats to build up the shine.

One coat looked like nothing happened, two coats - a satin sheen, 3 coats - started to get glossy, 4 coats - nice and glossy.

So it will be interesting to see how the new stuff compares. I must get some and do some tests, I just don't know where the hours are going at the moment (probably too much time yacking on forums and not getting work done!)


04-03-2010, 06:16 PM
I must get some and do some tests, I just don't know where the hours are going at the moment (probably too much time yacking on forums and not getting work done!)


Not yacking...it's 'educating people in the art of polymer clay through online communication', right? ;)

04-03-2010, 06:47 PM
Oh yeah!

It's that. Wot she said. My bad.

:D Emma

09-03-2010, 11:28 PM
Just thought i would post this as just found a decent varnish!!!! been trial and error for months tried all sorts already mentioned, was getting pretty fed up of sticky results. Got it off ebay from a seller called dougarts ... polyurethane high gloss varnish 100ml for 3.49 + 1.99 p&p they do bigger sizes but thought i would try it first. I don't know the seller and not promoting his stuff at all i just got all excited with the results, you do need 3 thin coats though or it can look a bit opaque and it is designed for polymer clay, very high gloss result and very pleased, hope this helps anyone i've been pulling my hair out and spent a fortune on varnishes!
anna x

11-03-2010, 10:00 PM
Interesting. I had looked at that seller before when pricing up clay. Noticed the varnish, but wasn't sure & was a little weary of trying different products - my cupboards were filling up! I need to buy wood flooring so I can use some of them up :D

So thank you for trying this product & letting us know. I may now try a small bottle & see what happens.


09-04-2010, 12:16 AM
I am new in jewellery making .:mf:
I bought Pledge multi surface wax and want to finish my polymer clay beads.Please,need advice step by step,how to finish it.
Should I bake it after waxing?
thank you.:p

09-04-2010, 10:29 AM
Bake your clay items first,

After they have cooled, then you can varnish them with the Pledge. You will need 2 or 3 coats to build up a good shine, just be sure to allow the varnish to dry really well inbetween each coat.

You can support the beads on wooden toothpicks and either brush the varnish on, or dip the beads into the varnish to apply it. Support the beads- on their sticks, in a block of polystyrene or something similar until they are touch dry.

Be sure though to remove the beads from the sticks as soon as the beads are dry enough for your to handle. If you leave them on the sticks too long, they can get stuck and are a bugger to shift!

Hope that helps,

09-04-2010, 11:37 AM
Thank you,
I found this on net:

6) After allowing the Future or Johnson's Klear to dry. you can cure harden the coating by popping your beads into the oven at 265F for 15 minutes. Make sure they are dry though. Otherwise you may get bubbles forming...

I don't understand ,do I have to bake it after varnishing or not?:)

I mean do you bake it after varnishing ?

11-04-2010, 08:57 AM
All acrylic varnishes (and paints etc for that matter) work the same way.

You apply them and they will be touch dry after an hour or few. But they do not cure and fully harden until after a few days.

Now, I don't personally hold with the baking varnish idea. I don't think it gives you anything that just allowing the varnish to cure naturally over a few days does. But maybe it speeds up the process? I just don't know.

When I read that it makes the varnish "harder" though, I cannot help but be a little sceptical and think maybe people are comparing it to how hard their varnish was when it was only touch dry anyway and not fully cured.

The thing to do is experiment. If you feel that you are getting more benefits than drawbacks from baking the varnish then great. Keep doing it!

I can only tell you that I have never bothered baking after varnishing and never seen the need. That doesn't mean I am right - I haven't done extensive testing on it. The little tests I did do made me feel that baking after varnishing was just adding an extra step (and risking bubbling the varnish) for no real need.

I cannot speak for the new Pledge Future of course as it is a new formulation and we just don't have facts and figures yet. But certainly with the old Future varnish, I have beads that had a couple of coats on, allowed to just cure normally and are as tough as old boots. They have been kicking around jewellery boxes for years with no special care and still look as good as new with a quick rub of a soft duster.



11-04-2010, 11:58 AM
Thank you Emma,so much.

12-04-2010, 06:36 PM
Has anyone got any advice for finishing Das air-drying clay?
I am not sure if it would react in the same way as bake products like Fimo.

I have found a specific Das varnish on eBay, but it is very expensive like the Fimo one, so I think I may experiment with some others first.

To the supermarket! :D

12-04-2010, 07:55 PM
Sorry, I really have no experience with air dry clays, only polymer clays.

Maybe someone else can help you out?


11-05-2010, 10:36 AM
This is brilliant - all the opinions and experiements all in one place!
Can I throw another question?
Can I hear different techniques for holding on to pieces when you are sanding and buffing them. Flat brooches can be rubbed on the sand paper, but how do you hold them to the buffing wheel?
While earrings seem to be impossible to even sand.
I attach the findings to items if it will help, otherwise I just swear a lot. Has anyone come up with a clamp etc.

11-05-2010, 06:42 PM
Just another reason why I am not a big fan of buffing. It's hard work, annoying and downright dangerous when bits fly off everywhere (so please anyone, if you buff stuff do wear safety goggles!)

If it were me - well, I would be sanding the items smooth and then either varnishing or applying renaissance wax (http://www.ejrbeads.co.uk/shop/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=17_32&products_id=3509) -depending on the look I was going for. A lot easier than buffing awkward shaped things.

I have to be honest and say I don't even understand why people like buffed clay so much. In my experience, it just isn't as durable as waxed or varnished pieces for jewellery. I find buffed clay beads / jewellery lose their shine very quickly when they are being worn or handled a lot. Especially if people handle the jewellery when they have hairspray, handcream and the like on their hands, or worse still have been touching unbaked polymer clay.

I think there is still a feeling that pervades a lot of polymer clay writing though that somehow buffing is "best" or more "mature" than varnishing. Well, I would certainly agree that buffing is better than BADLY applied varnish. Of course! But if you put the same care and dedication into sanding and varnishing / wax an item as you do making it - there is no reason for it to look anything other than fantastic. With the added bonus of being that little bit more durable.

Of course, there will always be people that prefer the look of buffed clay, and if you are one of them then it is obviously worth struggling on and finding the best ways to get the job done. But I do come across a lot of people who sort of feel "obliged" to buff their peices and can feel quite relieved to find out there are alternatives and it is not polymer clay law!