Celtic Bowl Tutorial

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.

Deep Cut Blade & Ratchet Blade with caps removed

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.

Left – Chomas Engraving Tip. Right – Fine Embossing Tool

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

SUPPLIES

Clay

  •  One package each of Sculpey® Souffle` polymer clay in Pistachio and Sculpey® Premo polymer clay in Green

Tools

 

Preparing the Design

Fig 1

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.

Fig 2

Once you are at the size you want you can Ungroup and Release Compound Path until your 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.

Fig 3

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.

Fig 4

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.)

Fig 5

Now select the Red Line Color. Create a Custom Material Type for the Clay Cut function as above. Settings are: Tool = Deep Cut Blade=1  Platform = 6   Speed =4  Force = 3. Fig 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

Fig 6

1.  Condition each package of clay and roll out to about 1.0mm thick (#5 setting on most clay conditioning/pasta machines). Cut each sheet into a 5” square. Fig 6 

Fig 7

2. 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.

3.  Place the cutting base into the Curio. Place the Deep Cut Blade into the left side holder (red circle) and the Fine Embossing 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 

Fig 8
FIg 9

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.

Fig 10

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.

Fig 11
Fig 12

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 

Fig 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 piece of air conditioning filter. Fig 14

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 fiberfil or paper towels to prop the form so that it doesn’t roll around.

Fig 15

Fig 15 & 16  

Fig 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

Fig 17
Fig 18

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

Fig 19

An alternative to the wet/dry  sandpaper are 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 sand paper. Fig 19

Applying Antiquing

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 other 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.

Front bowl was formed on a Fat Daddio Hemisphere Bowl. The rear bowl was formed on a large round light bulb.

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 mags@magsbonham.com.

Thanks!

Mags

 

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Cut it out!

I mhopsake and sell an awful lot of hop inspired jewelry and beer related accessories. Hops are what make beer taste like beer. My DH is a home brewer and we are entrenched in the craft beer scene in Vermont and Asheville, NC. What started as a lark to wear at beer festivals has become a serious piece of my business. So much so that I couldn’t keep up with the demand just using aspic cutters to make the beads.hop-ears-surg-06

My DH said that there had to be another way. And he was right…..as always. I started with the Cricut Cake Cutter. It was meant to cut fondant and that’s about the same consistency of raw polymer clay. And it worked for awhile. I switched to a MAC and they decided not to support that OS. I was able to cobble along with a half broken PC laptop while desperately looking for another option.

We searched around and found a professional cutter  – the Silver Bullet – that looked like it could handle the raw clay. And it does. It’s BIG and powerful and able to cut, etch, carve, andsilver-bullet-pic2 all kinds of wonderful things on all kinds of media. It was a huge investment.But something that we needed to do.

About the same time Alison Lee at Craftcast.com found out I was cutting raw polymer on a digital cutter. She asked if I could do a class using the Silhouette Cameo with polymer. She already had several classes using the Cameo to make projects from paper and metal clay. Her base had the machine and she wanted to give them something else to do with it.  I wasn’t sure if I could get it to work with polymer. I googled and didn’t find a lot going on with polymer. There were just a few instances and in all cases the clay had to be very, very, very thin.  cameo-pic

I had a friend come over who was using the Cameo with metal clay. We tried everything. We could get it to cut, but it left ‘smoosh’ marks all over the clay. The only way it would work was if the clay was really, really thin. I didn’t think that would be every useful. Then the DH poked his nose into the studio to see how it was going. Hair was being pulled out at this point and there was a lot of swearing. We recapped the problems and he looked it over. Then he very casually said -“why don’t you take the cap off the blade?” Yet again…. he was right. That was the secret.b-u-blade-2
It was the cap that was causing the ‘smooshing’.
With that gone we were now able to cut thicker pieces of clay that were more usable. But the Cameo still had a limit to the thickness it could cut. Mostly because of the layout of the machine that was meant to cut paper, card stock, and vinyl.

I was able to create a version of my Fantasy Flower Garden necklaces for the class. (The image at the top of the page is a bridal version of that collection). I even used the Silhouette Studio Software to design the flower shapes, colors, and layout of the piece.

I continued to experiment with the Cameo to create other projects. I made some ornaments and some what-not bowls.

 

About a year later Silhouette announced a new machine  – the Curio. It was built to handle a variety of media in different thicknesses. It has adjustable platkey-82forms and a dual tool holder. By now I was on Silhouette’s radar and was able to score a machine early on for testing with clay. It worked great. I could cut much thicker clay and could even use special tools to carve the raw clay.

My next class on Craftcast took advantage of those properties. I taught my recipes for faux gemstones and ivory. Then we created a box using the faux ivory and the Curio to cut out spaces to inlay the faux gemstones and carve designs on the lid and sides of the box.

Last year I connected with Terri Johnson who organizes the All Things Silhouette conferences. I did presentations at two of the conferences last year and will be participating this year. The conferences are held outside Atlanta, GA  – June 10-11 and November 4-5. Terri puts on an A+++ event. Lots of great people sharing lots of tips and techniques. Since I never got these machines to use them for the purposes they were intended I learn quite a lot at these events. lol

I host a PC SILie Lovers group on Facebook. The ‘files’ section has lots of documents that cover the settings I use to cut different thicknesses of clay. There is a lot of useful information there. But the best way to learn the tips and tricks is by taking the Craftcast classes.