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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.

The Basics

Find An Oven-Safe Pen

The 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:
  • Papermate FlexGrip Elite penPapermate FlexGrip Elite. I get mine at Office Depot and they cost about $0.75 each. If you can find them, the Papermate Flexgrip Ultras work great, too.
  • Bic Round Stic penBic Round Stic -- white, not clear. These are cheap and easy to find.

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 Apart

The 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:
  • FlexGrip pen, taken apartPapermate 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.
  • Using pliers to take apart a Bic pen
    Bic pen, taken apartBic 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

  1. Sheet of polymer clayRoll 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.
  2. Spreading TLS on penSpread 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.
  3. Trimming side edgesLay 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.
  4. Trimming bottom edgeNext, use your clay blade to trim the bottom edge of the clay sheet. That way you’re starting with a straight edge.
  5. Pressing bottom edge of clay sheet onto penGently 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.
  6. Notice the faint white line where the clay touchedHere'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.
  7. Cutting the clay to fitUse 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.
  8. Rolling the pen to smooth the seamNow roll and smooth the seam edge. Roll it on your work surface, roll it between your hands, whatever.
  9. Trimming the pen tip openingUse 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.
  10. An accordion baking sheetBake 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.
  11. Finished pensRe-assemble the pen and admire your handiwork.
That's the basics... In the next post, we'll talk about some more "advanced" pen options...


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference How To Make Polymer Clay Pens: The Basics:

» Video: Covering a Bic Round Stic Pen with Polymer Clay from CraftyGoat's Notes
Here’s another video that goes along with my basic pen covering instructions. The video is 4.5 minutes, and it shows how to cover a Bic Round Stic pen with polymer clay. Background “music” courtesy of my doggie.... [Read More]

» Polymer Clay Pens: Intermediate Projects from CraftyGoat's Notes
We’ve “covered” the basics of pen-covering… now let’s take it to the next level. Pen making kits are more expensive and involve a little more work than your more basic pens, but the nicer results may make it worthwhile. Tr... [Read More]


I am having trouble baking the pens. They bend and curl and melt and break through the polymer clay. What am I doing wrong? Thank you.....SAM

Sam, This is happening because your pens are not oven-safe. Are you using one of the two pen brands I mentioned in the post? If so, it may be that the formulation has changed and that brand is no longer oven-safe. The other possibility is your oven temp is set too high. Since many internal oven thermostats are off by quite a bit, verify your temperature setting with a second oven thermometer before you place your project in the oven.

If you're using a different brand of pen, one that might not be oven-safe, it's always a good idea to do a test run in the oven before you add your clay. It'll still melt, but at least you won't have put a lot of artistic effort into the polymer clay portion.

It appears that BIC has changed the construction of their basic round stic. The tip is now plastic instead of metal. Does anyone know a source for the original style? I am not having good luck with the new ones.

Nancy, I hadn't realized BIC changed their construction until you & one of my guild members mentioned it. I don't know of a source... although when PaperMate changed their FlexGrip Ultras a few years back I managed to stock up on quite a few of the old style by looking on places like Amazon, eBay, etc. You might need to ask some very specific questions of the sellers to be sure you're getting the ones you want. But as many of the old style as they produced over the years, you have to imagine there are quite a few still out there.

Still, with the BIC change (and my rapidly dwindling stockpile of FlexGrips), I suspect it's time for me to look for -- and blog about -- more types of cheap pens that work well. Thanks for the comment!

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CraftyGoat's Notes is all about sharing polymer clay tips & tricks that have worked for me. (And even a few that haven't!)

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