Buffing with the Dremel – part 1 | Cara Jane Polymer Clay Buffing with the Dremel – part 1 | Cara Jane Polymer Clay

Buffing with the Dremel – part 1

Posted on March 19, 2010

Having sanded and buffed a load of beads by hand last week I decided to try buffing with a dremel. I wanted to get a really shiny buffed finish and I had read that you could only achieve this with mechanical buffing. I only started sanding recently and have  been buffing by hand  on a tea towel . I have never used a dremel before, I am borrowing one from my parents.

I tried the dremel buffing wheel (sewn muslin one that comes with the Dremel) last week and managed to make some nasty grooves in my work. The surface was horribly dull and the grooves took a lot of sanding to remove. I then went and read up about buffing with a dremel. I found some good information at
http://desiredcreations.com/  and http://www.glassattic.com/. Seems that the stitching on the dremel buffing wheel makes it too harsh for polymer clay so something softer was required.

So today my Dad (it’s his turn to look after us this week, giving my mum a well earned rest)  and I sat down to try out buffing with the dremel again. I made a new buffing wheel from some polyester fleece fabric I happened to have in my sewing box. I cut some circles, about 7 cm in diameter and fitted them to the mandrel that you screw the regular dremel buffing wheel onto. I used 5 layers of fleece cause I couldn’t screw the mandrel together with more and didn’t stitch them together at all.

Fleece circles being threaded onto the screw for the Dremel mandrel
I tried it on one of the sides of the large bead I ruined previously and eventually it came up pretty shiny. It took quite a long time and it still wasn’t as shiney as I hoped. It wasn’t the miracle I was after 😉 I think perhaps it would be easier if I had a stand for the Dremel as I am having to hold clay in one hand and Dremel in the other.  I might have another go at making a buffing wheel stitching them together – look what this one looked like after just a little use.

I am currently sanding using 240, 400, 600 and 1000 grits (what I had available). I have just ordered a set of sandpaper with 10 different grits from 180 to 2500 grit!  I don’t imagine I would ever have the patience to use them all, or that it would be necessary but I will experiment a bit to see if I can start of with a smoother finish to buff. I am also off to investigate the best place to buy a rock tumbler from for my round beads – they are so hard to sand by hand!

My dad was convinved that waxing was the answer to sheen and applied the last dregs of our furniture wax and then some natural (clear) shoe polish to some of my beads (which he kindly sanded first – taking the skin of one of his fingers- ouch!). He applied the wax and then buffed it on a piece of fleece stretched over some wood (held in place with some staples). Then he continued buffing on the otherside of the wood with some clean fleece, the other side was now waxy fleece. It did come up looking pretty good but it was quite hard to tell (in my opinion, dad could see one) the difference between the with or without wax beads buffed on fleece.
Previously I had found a linen tea towel the thing that got me the best shine when buffing (from the limited selection of things I tried). Today I tried a buffing on linen and buffing on fleece to compare and the bead buffed on fleece was definitely more shiney. I have now cut a piece of fleece for my clay box.
So more experimenting is needed. I need to perfect (well improve would be a start) sanding, find a better way to mechanically buff to a high shine and  I want to try out some varnishes. I have only used the Fimo Gloss varnish on polymer clay and I am not that impressed with it. I would like to have a range of finishes at my disposal so I can choose how I want a piece to look. 
If you have any advice on buffing/sanding/polishing then please let me know it might help this part of my journey go a little smoother. 
Thank you for following me on this adventure with clay.


  1. Hi, Cara: I have tried lots of ways of polishing. I liked using a bench polisher with a jeweler’s wheel the best. The bench polisher I had was a cheapy so it died not long after I purchased it. I never had much luck with the felt or fleece on my Dremel. It just didn’t give me the shine I wanted. An easy and cheap and really effective way to polish with a Dremel is by using Anita’s Stitchless Cotton Sheet method, which is also found on Desiree’s site here: http://desiredcreations.com/howTo_TLDremelPolish.htm#cotton
    Just make sure to cut the circles larger than the recommend 2 inches. I think I used 3 inch pieces. You can cut a few out and try them on the sanding bit to see what size is best. Just remember that, since they are layered, the top circles won’t come down as far as the lower circles when you wire them on so adjust the circle size accordingly. I really like this!! It’s easy, cheap and works like a charm!!

  2. All the reading I’ve done says you should only use cotton muslin on the buffing wheel. I would think that polyester would be too harsh and leave (minute) scratches.

    As for a polish, I use Pledge Acrylic Floor Finish and I seriously love it. It’s available at smaller hardware stores (Lowes and Home Depot didn’t have it). I found it at a Truevalue Hardware Store, but you can also get it at Amazon.com. You paint it on in very thin layers with a cotton swab and the shine is amazing.

    Good luck with it. I’m thinking about getting a buffing wheel ‘cuz I’m tired of using a tea towel…

  3. OK so I will have a go at a cotton buffing wheel, thanks for the advice ladies.

    I am on the look out for some Pledge multisurface wax which is the current UK version of Future I believe. It should be on sale at my local supermarkets but I send my husband yesterday and he couldn’t find it (oh to be able to dash out and look myself). I’ll let you know how I get on

  4. If you use Anita’s Stitchless Cotton Sheet method, make sure to actually you a cotton (not polyester) sheet. I like it because there is no sewing of the little circles. You just wire it on. A buffing wheel on a bench polisher is easier though. The Foredom brand is wonderful, but expensive. I got a cheapy from Harbor Freight. It died after about 6 months. It would be nice to have the dremel holder stand thing so you have both hands free while using the Dremel.

    I think it’s really fun how you post your experiments, projects and results…very interesting to read 🙂

  5. Instead of sanding, I use those green scrubbing pads, cut into circles and put onto a Dremel mandrel like you have done with your fleece circles. Don’t make them too big or they will strain the motor too much. I also do this while my beads are still on their baking wire. There is also a form of sanding pad found at home hardware stores that is similar to the scrubbing pad, which lasts longer. Be sure to wear your safety glasses, because small pieces of the pad will fly off over time.

  6. I usually sand in a rock tumbler with little pebbles – this works fine as I spend a lot of time with cornflour getting everything smooth before baking. For anything that needs more work, I have an old electric toothbrush which I stick squares of sandpaper to with those little adhesive foam dots.

    I buff in the tumbler too, with a liner made of polyester fleece. A couple of days or so gives a satiny sheen. If I want more I use two or three coats of Klear, which is the equivalent of Future here in the UK. I hang beads on a bent piece of wire, dip into the Klear and hang on an old guinea pig cage. After a few minutes I go round with a piece of kitchen roll and soak up the drips on the bottom of each bead.

    I keep meaning to use my dremel-type tool to buff, but I don’t have anywhere to work with it at the moment!

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