Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Tutorial: How to Cover Test Tubes with Polymer Clay

These test tubes covered with polymer clay didn't turn out perfectly, but they did well enough that I know what to do differently next time, and they're super cute.

You will need:

  • glass test tubes. I have quite a collection for our homeschool, although they often find themselves diverted to other uses, often to propagate our wandering jews and lavender (random aside: I took a half-dozen cuttings from my lavender plants this fall to propagate, and for the first time ever, all six failed! I can't imagine what I did wrong. Had the plants already gone dormant, do you think, and that caused it? Were the cuttings that I took too woody? Is it possible to have too much rooting hormone on a cutting? If you have any insight, please let me know!)
  • Sculpey. My kids both LOVE super-soft polymer clay, and we've had a lot of luck with Sculpey. In fact, Syd has requested that I again purchase this exact set the next time I'm in a craft store and have a coupon burning a hole in my pocket. I will, but first I'm going to make her use the luster dust and food flavoring that I've already bought her. Y'all, my kid might be a craft supplies hoarder.
  • Sculpey tools. You can get by with an x-acto knife and a toothpick, although over the year or so that the kids have gotten into Sculpey, I've collected a few tools recommended for working with polymer clay--this cutting set, some dental picks, a plastic rolling pin, etc.
  • glaze. This is optional, but it really does make a world of difference in the look of your finished piece, and it's supposed to strengthen it some, too.
*I use Amazon Affiliates for these product links, which means that I get a small commission from purchases made through clicking them. I use my Affiliate commissions to buy kid stuff, craft supplies, and fencing lessons!*

1. Clean and dry the outside of your test tube, so that the polymer clay will adhere well. Use rubbing alcohol or vinegar, although if you use alcohol, make sure that you dry it completely, as rubbing alcohol will dissolve the polymer clay.

2. Roll out a very thin sheet of clay, then wrap it around the test tube. Cut off the excess, then use your fingers to smooth the clay and rub away the seams.

3. Use more clay to embellish the clay-covered test tube. Have fun with it!

I really like how Syd sculpted a flat bottom as a stand for her test tube. It worked perfectly!
4. Bake the clay-covered test tube. Follow the instructions on the package of clay. Don't worry about the test tube--it's made to be heated!

5. Let cool, then glaze. Both of the mistakes that I made with this project came after the clay was heated and then cooled. With Syd's creation, I cracked the top of her test tube by trying to force a clay stopper that she'd made onto the test tube. I guess the clay expands a small bit when it's baked? Lesson: if you want a stopper, cut down a wine cork. With my creation, I'd sculpted a groove around the rim of the test tube to make a place to put a wire noose, so that I can hang it. Again, I used too much force twisting the wire tight, and I cracked off the clay above that groove. Lesson: be SUPER gentle with the finished project. Clay is brittle! Hemp twine would have been a better choice.

I don't totally know what to do with these pretty test tubes. Syd is using hers as a bud vase, and right now I've got mine hanging from my desk lamp, as it's the perfect size to hold the black pen that I like to use for check writing and envelope addressing, but I'm very, very open to more ideas for how to use them, if you've got any!

The next thing that I want to make is this octopus tentacle, although I want to glue the tentacle to the cork, glue the cork to the bottle, add an eye pin, and wear it as a pendant. I wonder if it would look even more awesome if I poured resin around the tentacle, as well?

P.S. A message from Syd: "Hello. My name is Sydney. I'm a Girl Scout. Do you like cookies? So do I! You can buy some Girl Scout cookies for you, your friends, and family by asking my Mom for my Digital Cookie Shop link. This year, there is a new cookie called S'mores. It is a graham cracker cookie with marshmallow filling and chocolate. It is all-natural ingredients. If you would like to donate that cookie or the seven other types we sell to Operation Cookie Drop, which donates those cookies to the soldiers, click this link (Mom note: Every $4 donation buys one box of Girl Scout cookies for active and retired American soldiers, and patients in military hospitals)."

Additional Mom Note: Throughout Girl Scout cookie season, I'll be offering the bottom of each blog post to my kids to craft a sales pitch. They don't call Girl Scout cookies the world's largest girl-led business for nothing! Especially after last year, when the girls in my troop got to experience what amazing things they could do with their cookie profits (more on that in a future cookie pitch, I'm sure), they are on fire this year. They've got big goals, they know exactly what they want to do with their profits, and my challenge is to continually find opportunities for them to stretch their marketing, budgeting, goal-setting, communication, visual design, and math abilities. Just as I did in the past two years, I'm looking forward to watching them visibly mature in so many different ways in the next two months.


Tina said...

Those look fun! Michigan State University has a thrift store and I have many times considered purchasing some of the old lab stuff. Now I have an actual reason too!

Could you build the test tube into a...scene... to use as a pen holder? Hmm, you could use them to collect items from trips and use the clay to decorate the outside to fit the trip/items collected? Use them to store beads?

I'm a little out of practice with making things useful, but I am happy to be getting back to it!

julie said...

Ooh, yes!!! Half of our furniture, at least, came from our university's surplus goods store. Our giant couch, my desk, the kids' desk, the chair that the kids use at their desk, the platform for our bed, my favorite chair, the gym mats that the kids use with their aerial silks rig...

The rest of our furniture is from IKEA.

Tina said...

I have only been in a few times, because I never go to campus so I never think to go there. Although I did score one of those awesome and gigantic school mail sorter things. I LOVE it!

And as far as IKEA, I am happy/sad that we don't have one near by. I'm sure we'd have way more stuff than we already do.