Tumble sanding clay

I’ve just had a comment with some questions about tumbling clay from Elen. (Hi Elen)

 The main question is “What are sandpaper chips, and where do you get them from?”

The quick answer is: Chips are small pieces of sandpaper and I make my own.

I sand using 600, 800, 1000, 1200, 1500, 2000, and 2500 grits of wet/dry sandpaper.  Small items (beads) are sanded using a vibratory tumbler (not a rotary).

This is how I do it:

1.  Take a piece of sandpaper and place it back side up on a surface.  Place the tumbler bowl top down on top and trace around it.  Cut out the resulting circle.  Fold the circle in half and then half again.  Cut about halfway up the fold line, forming an X in the middle of the circle. 

2.  Now take a second sheet of sandpaper and cut 2 strips from it the long way.  These strips should be just a little less wide than the height of the tumbler bowl.

3.  Take the scraps from cutting these pieces and cut them into chips no more than 1/2 inch X 1/2 inch.

4.  Place the long strips of sandpaper inside the tumbler bowls along the side.  Place the round piece in the bottom of the bowl.  The X allows the center part through and the rest will wrinkle and fold a bit .  It’s not going to be pretty so just force the circle sheet down as best you can. 

5.  Place a layer of beads in the bowl and sprinkle some sandpaper chips over them.  Add another layer of beads and then more chips.  I normally do 2 layers.  The bowl should be 1/2 to 3/4 full of beads and chips.

6.  Add water to just cover the beads and chips.  Tumble for at least 6 hours.  I’ve gone as long as 12-14 hours with no ill effect.

7.  Repeat with each sandpaper grit in order from smallest to largest.

 When the paper looks used up and worn out, I cut it up into more chips and add them to the mix.  Then I cut a new circle and sides for that grit.  Eventually you’ll have too many chips.  Just toss the extras in the garbage.

It’s a bit of a pain to separate the beads from the chips but it’s less of a pain than sanding beads by hand for a week solid.  Let the sandpaper and chips air dry on a towel and once dry put in a ziploc bag til the next time you need to sand.

Why a vibratory tumbler and not a rotary?  A vibratory is more quiet and better for not round shapes.  I can’t keep it in the same room as me as the vibrations give me a headache but one room away is fine.  (It lives in the kitchen right now).

Where do I get those grits of sandpaper?  Automotive supply stores, automotive paint stores, Walmart’s automotive section may or may not have them, or my personal favorite – Ebay.  You don’t have to use all of them.  If you can’t find the higher ones, you can skip them.

Here’s some links to some Ebay sellers.  I’ve not bought from these sellers personally (I bought mine a few years back and that seller is gone and I still have plenty of paper left).

Impressions in Polymer Clay by TJM – check the The ODD -itty Shop category

Joe’s Custom Pens – check the Pen Making Tools & Supplies category

Designs by Adolia – check the Sandpaper category

18 Sheets of Wet & Dry Sandpaper; 6 Grits 800 to 2500

Hope this answers your questions Elen 😉

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Published in: on August 14, 2007 at 1:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

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