With all the craziness, I forgot to mention it here -- but I taught this month’s lesson at Central Oklahoma's Polymer Clay Guild. Our topic was covering pens with polymer clay, and while I've put a few notes on the guild's site, I thought I'd go a little more in-depth here...
I really enjoy covering pens with polymer clay. It's fast, it's easy, and it's practical. It was one of the first polymer clay projects I did where I was actually happy with the results!
In this series of posts, I'd like to share some of the mechanics of covering pens. I'll start today with how to cover some basic pens with polymer clay -- including Papermate's Flexgrip Elite and Bic's Round Stic. Next, I'll discuss some of the more advanced options -- like using pen blanks and bamboo skewers. Even if you've never covered a pen before, I hope this series will show you that you too can cover a pen and be happy with your results!
Note: Since this tutorial's main goal is to talk about the mechanics of covering these pens, I've used a very simple one-color design. As with any polymer clay project, the possibilities for colors, textures, and design are practically limitless.
Find An Oven-Safe PenThe first step in covering a pen with polymer clay is to find a good pen. Not all pens are oven-safe, so here are a couple of options:
These are a couple I've tried. More options are listed on Glass Attic's pen page. And you can always do your own home test to see if your favorite brand is oven-safe. BUT I'd recommend baking it without the polymer clay first, so you don't waste a lot of effort if the pen gets distorted. (And of course, you'll want to keep a close eye on it, be ready to open windows for any fumes, etc.)
Take the Pen ApartThe outer parts of the pens I mentioned above are oven-safe, but that doesn't mean the inside parts are. You always want to remove the ink refill. (Imagine how messy it'd be if that melted in your oven!) Here's how:
- Papermate FlexGrip: Both ends of the Papermate FlexGrip pens can be unscrewed (and they're interchangeable, so it's no big deal if you put them back on the opposite end). Sometimes you have to use a little force (i.e., press as you turn) to get the silver pen tip off, but it will come off. After that's off, the pen refill should pull right out. I always leave the pen tip off, even though it's oven safe, because I think it's easier to work without it. It's your call on whether to remove the other end of the pen -- it's oven-safe, so you can cover it all as one piece. Or you can unscrew it, do something different to it & screw it back on later. It'll work either way.
Bic Round Stic: The Bic pen is slightly trickier – you’ll need a pair of pliers to take it apart. You'll use the pliers to grasp the bronze neck of the pen tip -- not the tiny pen tip itself. Then pull it straight out. Everything else is oven-safe.
Cover The Pen
- Roll your clay through your pasta machine til you have a sheet that's about 1.5" wide and the same length as the pen barrel. What thickness? Well, however thick you want your pen to be! I usually like a 4-5 setting for mine (where 1 is the thickest setting), but some people like their pens thick & chunky.
- Spread a thin layer of Translucent Liquid Sculpey (TLS) on your pen barrel. While this isn't essential, I do it because it seems like it makes the clay stick to the pen better while I'm working.
- Lay the clay on your work surface, and lay the pen on top of it. First, use your clay blade to trim the sheet's edges -- that way they're the same length as the pen.
- Next, use your clay blade to trim the bottom edge of the clay sheet. That way you’re starting with a straight edge.
- Gently use your fingers to pull the bottom edge of the clay sheet up onto the pen. Once the whole length of the sheet is touching the pen, start to roll the pen, pulling the clay with it.
- Here's the fun part -- once the starting clay edge meets the "ending" clay edge, pull back a little. You basically let the clay "kiss", then unroll it slightly. You should be able to see a very faint light line in the clay sheet where the edges touched. This is your cutting line.
- Use your clay blade to cut a straight edge along (or even slightly inside) this line. Slightly undercutting the edge (leaving yourself too little clay) is better than overcutting it (having extra clay) -- since you can always roll the pen til the clay covers the gap.
- Now roll and smooth the seam edge. Roll it on your work surface, roll it between your hands, whatever.
- Use your clay blade to trim the top and bottom edge. I usually hold the blade at about a 45 degree angle to the pen edge, then go around the inside edge, cutting off the excess clay.
- Bake the pen barrel. One handy way to keep the pens from rolling around is to fold card-stock into an accordion/fan shape, then rest the pens in the valleys. A bamboo stick or bead wire would also work for baking.
- Re-assemble the pen and admire your handiwork.