I’ve been working with polymer clay for over 17 years. About 6 years ago I started cutting polymer clay with digital cutters to help me with production work and to cut out shapes of my own design. I have tested the machines tirelessly for several years and have great fun creating new projects to share with others. I have several classes on CraftCast.com that use the Silhouette Cameo and Curio machines with polymer clay.
Cutting and engraving polymer clay can be done successfully with a few minor adjustments to the tools and settings. Before my experimentation, it wasn’t possible to get a clean cut on anything but very, very thin polymer clay. It either wouldn’t cut all the way through or it would cut, but leave the impression of the blade cap on the clay. I discovered that removing the blade cap from the cutting tool solved both of those issues. The blade is now opened up to its full cutting edge.
You can use the regular Ratchet Blade – with the blade cap off – with the Curio. It is a better choice when cutting very thin clay. For thicker sheets of clay, the best choice is to use the Deep Cut Blade, but you still need to remove the blade cap.
Because the Curio has a dual tool holder you can set up two tools with different tasks and settings. So you can engrave and cut without having to stop and change tools and settings.
You have two choices to engrave the lines in your bowl. The Fine Embossing Tool comes with the Curio machine. It works well for this project. However, if you want a finer line of engraving then you will want to use the Chomas Creations Engraving Tip. The settings are different and they are listed below as an option.
In this tutorial we will take an ordinary cut file from the Silhouette Design Store and turn it into a polymer clay trinket bowl. It’s great for rings, candy, or well… trinkets. (This project can be done on a Cameo 3 with minor changes to the settings)
If you are new to polymer clay I suggest you read my post – Polymer Clay 101
- One package each of Sculpey® Souffle` polymer clay in Pistachio and Sculpey® Premo polymer clay in Green
- Silhouette Curio™ machine
- Silhouette Studio® or Silhouette Studio® Designer Software
- Silhouette Curio™ Cutting Mat – should be a new mat that can be dedicated to polymer clay
- Silhouette Ratchet Blade – should be a new blade that can be dedicated to polymer clay
- Silhouette Fine Embossing Tool or Chomas Creations Engraving Tip
- Celtic Knot Flower design ID #55415 by Deborah Stine
- Polymer Clay blade
- Pasta machine, Clay Conditioning Machine, or lucite roller with measuring slats
- Rubber Brayer
- Cling Wrap
Reynolds® Freezer PaperOR Craft Chameleon Blank Plastic Template
- Patty Wax or Parchment paper
- Form to bake bowl on – Fat Daddio Hemisphere Bowl or large round glass light bulb
- Extra small ball stylus and/or extra small paint brush
- Paint or ink to highlight engraving
- Wet/Dry Sandpaper 400 & 600 grit or 3M Radial Disks in blue and pink
- ArmorAll Protectant Spray
Preparing the Design
Purchase the Celtic Knot Flower design ID #55415 by Deborah Stine from the Silhouette Design Store. Fig 1
Open up a new file in the Silhouette Studio Software. Click on the Library tab and select the Celtic Knot Flower design. Resize the object with the two layers still grouped together. You may want to do a size test to see what fits your form best. I used 3.25” for the round lightbulb and 3.75” for the Fat Daddio hemisphere bowl.
Once you are at the size you want you can Ungroup and Release Compound Path until you get all of the elements surrounded by grey boxes. Fig 2
Delete the star cutout in the middle of the base piece and then move that piece off to the side. You will cut that separately.
Go to the top layer and select the cut lines that we want to engrave instead of cut. You can hold down the shift key and select multiple elements all at one time. Once they are selected then you can change the line color to blue. I use blue for engraving lines and leave the red lines as cut lines since that is the default color for cutting lines in the software. Fig 3
Refining the File Video
Next, you need to go in and remove some of the nodes to make the file easier to cut in clay. Choose the red cut line and then select the Node Tool. You can select multiple nodes by holding down the SHIFT key. Once you have removed the nodes go back and straighten out the lines to make the cuts more uniform.
Point Editing Video
Regroup all the elements of the top layer.
Open the Send tab and click on Action by Line. This will open up the Line Color cut options. Fig 4
We want the Curio to do the engraving function before it cuts. So move the Blue line color box to the top position. Select the Blue Circle in the Tool column.
I created a Custom Material Type for each function to keep track of the settings that work best. The settings for Clay Etch are Blade Type = Embossing Tool Fine Platform = 6 Speed = 4 Force = 20. ( If you are using the Chomas Engraving Tool the Settings are: are Blade Type = Embossing Tool Fine Platform = 6 Speed = 4 Force = 6.)
Now select the Red Line Color. Create a Custom Material Type for the Clay Cut function as above. Settings are: Tool = Ratchet Blade=1 Platform = 6 Speed =4 Force = 5.
You may have to adjust your settings slightly to get the best result. Do a test sample on scrap clay before starting your project. Your goal is to cut the clay without cutting completely through the freezer wrap and/or gouging the cutting mat. Start with changing the Force up or down.
Cutting the Bowl
1. Condition each package of clay and roll out to about 1.3mm thick (#4 setting on most clay conditioning/pasta machines). Cut each sheet into a 5” square. Fig 6
Cut two 5.25” squares of Reynolds Freezer Paper. These will act as a carrier for the clay. Putting raw clay on the cutting mat will make a huge mess. DON’T do it. Attach the freezer paper – wax side up – and then place the clay on the freezer paper. If your mat is losing its ‘sticky’ you can use painter’s tape to tape down the edges. Use your hands to smooth out any air bubbles and adhere the clay to the mat. Cover the clay with a piece of Patty Wax or parchment paper and roll from the center out with the rubber brayer to get rid of any air bubbles. If the blade catches an air bubble it can pull up from the freezer paper, stick to the blade and ruin the cut. Fig 7 Make sure that your clay is placed on the same part of the grid as it is on your Design page. Since I originally wrote this tutorial I have found a better option for a carrier for clay on the Curio. Craft Chameleon makes a plastic template material that has the holes for the Curio base already cut for you. It is a frosted plastic so you can place it over the cutting mat and still be able to see the grid. I set up the cutting base with 2 of the #2 platforms, a Craft Chameleon plastic template, the cutting mat, and finally, another Craft Chameleon plastic template. These templates are very inexpensive and I usually buy 5 – 10 at a time so that if I ruin one by cutting too deep I will always have another one handy. The clay adheres very nicely and also releases pretty easily. Just make sure you don’t have any air bubbles between the clay and the mat. I usually place a piece of scrap cardstock on top of the clay and use a roller to help adhere. But check again by running your hand over the clay surface after you remove the card stock.
3. Place the cutting base into the Curio. Place the Ratchet Blade into the left side holder (red circle) and the Fine Embossing Tool or Chomas Engraving Tool into the right side holder (blue circle).
4. Double check the settings and send to the Curio to do it’s thing.
5. Remove the excess clay and then place the clear plastic wrap over the top of the clay. Smooth it tight and then carefully pull up each corner of the freezer paper from the mat until the entire sheet is removed from the mat using the clay blade to help if necessary. Once it is removed from the mat you can pull the freezer paper off of the back of the clay. The plastic wrap will keep it from stretching and help you layer the pieces later. Fig 8
6. Now we will cut the base layer of the bowl. Go back to the Design tab in the software. Remove the top layer off of the mat and bring over the base layer that you put aside earlier. Open up the Send tab and double check the settings. Fig 9
7. Secure the other color of clay to the mat as instructed above. Then send the file to cut. Remove the clay and freezer paper from the cutting mat. Remove the freezer paper from the clay and place the clay on a square of patty paper or parchment paper.
8. Retrieve the engraved layer with the plastic wrap attached. You are going to hold on to the plastic wrap to position the clay over the base layer. The design is not perfectly symmetrical so you will need to turn the bottom layer around to find the “sweet spot” where everything lines up. Fig 10
9. Press the two layers together to attach them and remove air bubbles.
Curing the Bowl
1. Preheat your oven to 280 degrees. Always use an oven thermometer to test the heat. Let it run for at least 30 mins. before you put your piece in.
2. Choose your shaping form and place the “bowl-to-be” onto the form centering it as best as possible. Gently press down the edges of the clay to the form. Take your time going around the bowl adjusting and gently nudging the clay into place. Fig 11-13
3. Once it is secured you can use something to texture the outside layer to get rid of fingerprints and other boo-boos. I’m using a piece of air conditioning filter. Fig 14
4. If you are using your kitchen oven you will want to place your piece inside a covered vessel. Check Goodwill or garage sales for a cheap covered roaster that you can dedicate to your clay baking. You can also use disposable aluminum pans that you clip together with a binder clip. If you are using a light bulb as your form then you can use polyester fiberfill or paper towels to prop the form so that it doesn’t roll around.
Fig 15 & 16
5. Bake for 40 mins.
6. Allow the piece to cool and then gently pop it off the form. Usually, all it takes is a fingernail slipped between the form and the bowl.
Finishing the Bowl
Sanding the bowl
Now we need to finish up the bowl by sanding and then accenting the engraving lines. Souffle clay has a nice sueded finish to it. It’s not a clay that you want to sand to get a shiny, high gloss finish. However, you can get some ‘shiny’ spots on the clay from the form that you use to shape it, especially if you used a light bulb or a glass object. We need to get rid of that and any rough edges from the blade. Sanding polymer clay is best done with wet/dry sandpaper. Sanding blocks and sticks for nails are good to use to clean up edges and when they wear down you can wrap sandpaper around them. Fig 17 When you are using wet/dry sandpaper you want it to be nice and flexible to get into grooves and curves. let the sandpaper soak in water for at least 5 minutes. Use 400 grit sandpaper to sand off any sharp edges, shiny spots on the inside of the bowl, and any clay crumbs in the engraving lines. Fig 18
An alternative to the wet/ dry sandpaper is 3M Radial Sanding Disks. I like these for the inside of the bowl and the engraving lines. However, if you use these dry then you want to make sure and use a dust mask. The blue disk is the closest to 400 grit sandpaper. Fig 19
Once the bowl is all sanded to your desired finish you may want to accentuate your engraving lines. In this example, I used an opaque gold alcohol ink by Viva Decor. However, it has been discontinued. There are many alternatives out there and you may already have something similar in your stash of supplies. I also like Golden’s High Flow Acrylics for antiquing. But you can use acrylic paint or another antiquing medium. I like to use a very fine line paint brush and/or a very small metal ball stylus to keep as much medium in the lines and not on the surface of the bowl. Once you get all the lines accentuated you can go back and clean up any stray spots with a Q-tip dipped in alcohol. I like these pointed tip cotton swabs. They let you be a little bit more accurate at removing the stray marks. Fig 20
Antiquing Your Bowl Video
Once the medium is totally dry I I go back in with either 600 grit wet/dry sandpaper or the pink 3M Radial Disks and sand off any excess medium that still remains. Then I apply some ArmorAll Protectant Spray to the bowl and let it sit overnight. The ArmorAll has a similar chemical composition to the polymer clay and it will soak into the clay to give it a soft sheen. The next day I wipe off the excess and buff with a dry cotton cloth.
I have a Facebook Group for polymer clay and the Silhouette machines called PC SILie Lovers. There is a Files section that contains lots of info about settings and other tips. Members share their accomplishments and questions.
I have classes available on Craftcast.com. Although she works in different mediums, Cindy Pope’s classes on Craftcast are very helpful in learning the Studio software.
For guidance on using the Cameo, Curio, and the Studio software I usually go to the Silhouette School Blog. Melissa is a real pro and you can usually find that she has already answered your question on her blog. There is also a Cutwork Bowl Tutorial that I did for the blog last year.
I hope you enjoy this project. I’d love to see your bowls on the PC SILie Lovers Facebook Group. If you have any questions, please reach out to me in the comments or at firstname.lastname@example.org.