I have never liked making small beads because my OCD tendancies come out in full force when I try. I can never get the beads the same, exact size. That is a must for me. It would nag at me until I would end up destroying them if beads of a series didn't match perfectly. Another thing is that the holes always look ratty, and then there is the amount of sanding and buffing it takes to make them nice and pretty. All of you who know me know that I would have to sand and buff every one, and my fingers would be a bloody mess after finishing a bunch of 10mm round beads!
Several people have asked me lately to make small beads to match my pendants, so I need to try and figure out a way to make them and stay sane. Well, last night I had one of those "lightbulb-over-the-head", Aha! moments.
I realized I needed a better way of deciding how much clay to put in the bead roller (yes, a bead roller. Even I am not crazy enough to try to roll these by hand!) to get the same sized beads.
When I first started working with polymer clay three years ago, I bought every tool and gadget there was on the market, thinking I needed them all to be able to do anything. Most of them have never been used other than an initial trial run. Some of them I've sent on to better homes, some of them, frankly, I trashed in a "what was I thinking" Spring cleaning last year.
For my pendants, I work primarily with my stiff blade and two 1/8" thick plexiglas sheets, one 3"x6" and one 3"x3". I use the plexiglas sheets to smooth and refine the shapes.
The bead rollers, which I bought in every shape, have been sitting and gathering dust for 3 years. I can't even find the little skewer thingies you are supposed to use to make the holes. Who knows where they are.
Anyway, I picked an oval bead roller that makes beads about 1 1/2" tall and 1" in diameter. I figured I could handle that size in the sanding and buffing phase.
I used some scrap clay, rolled a snake and marked and cut it into sections. I put one section in the roller, but it wasn't big enough, so I smushed two together and put them in the roller. Yay! Good size, it rolled to nice little points on both ends, nice shape. Now, what to make the holes with? I never did find the little skewers, so I used a needle tool. Run it halfway through on one end, turn the bead around and go halfway through the other end, simple. Of course not. My nice, rice-shaped pointy-ended bead looks like a barrel, a misshapen pear of a barrel at that. I try making and rolling another, using the same sized "section" of clay. Not only was it a different size (how did that happen?), it was a different shape after I made the holes.
So I had two things to figure out: Why aren't my beads the same size and how can I make a hole that won't destroy the shape of the bead?
First problem was solved when I threw out the notched marker tool. I rolled a sheet of clay through the pasta machine at the thickest setting and use shape cutters to figure out how much clay I need for each bead. I am sure everyone who is reading this is saying "what an idiot, it's been done that way since the beginning of time practically", but it just now occured to me. I'm a bit slow on the uptake.
Anyway, I used a 1 1/2" circle cutter and two pieces of clay cut from a 3/4" circle cutter, which turned out to be exactly the right amount of clay for the oval bead roller.
The second problem of how to make perfect holes actually solved itself. I put the beads back through the roller and tried the needle tool again. Voila. I didn't have to go all the way through this time, the hole was already there, it just needed a gentle, little poke at each end. Nice, perfect little holes. Ah, bliss.
I think this says something about me, something deep I am probably not smart enough to comprehend, something about why I always make things hard on myself when there is a simple, easy solution that I refuse to see staring me right in the face? Yeah, I know. We are always hardest on ourselves, aren't we? But I like it that way, it makes the end result even more satisfying, and I learn lots of good stuff on the journey.
Now I don't hate small work so much, but I still don't know about those 10mm beads. We'll see.