Monday, 24 July 2017

The Secret Life of Biscuits (A Tutorial of Sorts), Stone Pelicans and an Interesting New Glue. . .

Wood or Polymer clay?

Well, I've been horribly busy with a long discussed and procrastinated over DIY project - vis, Putting up false wood panelling in the hall of our house. False, because I am using MDF to make a series of 'frames', the inside of which is the plain wall. Paint it all and you wouldn't know that it wasn't all wood, and if you are careful, you can make it look like it's been there a long time. . .

You see, our house dates from circa 1780, but you wouldn't really know to see it on the inside apart from the proportions, nice high ceilings etc. It was messed about with a fair bit over the years, including being, what our local builder calls, 'farmerised', which is a process of covering over or ripping out old clay tile floors, likewise with old inglenook fireplaces, bannisters etc and generally getting rid of rustic charm or Georgian detail wherever it can be found and replacing with lino, plasterboard, york stone and strange wallpaper ;-) Something farmers seem to have got the blame for. Well, it was a farmhouse so I guess in this case farmers were the culprits. . . We are lucky in that the house wasn't totally trashed, and that the previous owner uncovered a nice tile floor and a previously boxed in inglenook fireplace when they bought the place forty years ago.

Our task, as we see it, is to pretend that none of the farmerising happened, and reconstruct a kind of faux Georgian-ish interior. Not making it a slavish restoration project as such, but more of a creative injection of charm and interest in line with our ideas of what might have been there before and what we would like to see, and all in line with a low budget too!

Work in progress, plus kitten

Anyway, the reason I am wittering on about it is that I am finding that my DIY excursions often have a the side effect of giving my ideas for beads etc. 
The MDF 'frames' I am making are joined together using something called a 'biscuit joiner'. This tool makes a groove in the piece of MDF or other wood you wish to join to another piece of same, in which you made a similar groove. Using the same tool set up the same means that your grooves should line up perfectly and be in exactly the right place for the two pieces to join up seamlessly by using a 'biscuit' which fits nicely in the two grooves. It works well, once you know what you are doing (I'm getting there. . .) These 'biscuits are like small, flat ovals of plywood, and are of a size and shape that to my mind could make a good template for a polymer clay bead/charm. (15mm by 19mm by 4mm)

size 10 biscuit - 15 x 19 x 4mm

Above is what they look like. You could view the following as a sort of tutorial or at least something to try if you come across a biscuit or two, (100 for about ten pounds online) follow along. . .
They are made of three layers, like plywood, and are maybe a bit thick, so I tried carefully splitting one down the middle with a craft knife/tissue blade. 

Split in half to expose nice wood texture and reduce thickness

I liked the splintered wood texture that resulted, so firstly I tried pressing that into a piece of raw polymer clay as a texture stamp, then cutting round it with a craft knife and baking the resulting shape. 
Once it was baked I decided to use the wooden half biscuit as a backing piece for it, so I stuck it, splintered texture side out, onto the back. Actually, I used the other half of the biscuit I split earlier as it had a slightly different texture pattern but the principle is the same. 
Then I had some fun treating the surface with alcohol inks, sanding it off, etc. It turned out looking cool, but a lot like wood. I wasn't sure if this was a good thing or not, or if it was what I wanted, as if it looked like wood I might as well not have used polymer clay at all ;-)

I painted the back too. I used acrylic inks this time, the coverage was better on wood than alc inks I found.

The real wood back of the faux wood bead

Following on from that my next experiment was to use a different texture instead of splintered wood, so I reached for my stack of digital photopolymer texture sheets and tried one of those. I used the same technique as before and the same half biscuit backing concept. It looked promising, and  after a bit of painting and distressing etc it looked really interesting. So I reckon there is quite a lot of scope for polymer clay experimentation here. . . 

Textured and treated surface

Talking of which, I had another idea and tried cutting the half biscuit in half again across the width, which gave me another nice couple of shapes which could be more of a manageable size for earring charms maybe. 
I tried another of my texture sheets, a simple, bold one this time, combined it lightly with the splintered wood texture on top of it, and then, after baking,  kind of wiped the two pieces gently across a blue stazon ink pad. I was pleased with how they came out too. I'll definitely try some more of those. . . And get a couple of different colour ink pads.

Half biscuits - textured and coloured

This post has been a bit long so I will keep the rest of this missive brief. . .

We found a pair of stone pelicans at our local antiques street fair at the weekend. They fit in nicely with our front door area and add a bit of eccentricity, not to mention a slightly gothic vibe too. Fun. They can keep a careful eye on any visitors ;-)

Stone pelicans in place above the door

As for the interesting new glue. The adhesive I was using to attach bits of moulding and dado rail to the fake panelling was new to me. It's a kind of two part epoxy stuff, but part one is a spray. You spray one surface, let it evaporate, then apply glue to the other surface, when pressed together they form a very strong, superglue type bond in about ten seconds. Brilliant. It may have polymer clay and jewellery uses. Not sure yet but I will keep it in mind.
Well, until next time,
Jon x


  1. They don't look too much like wood- they look amazing! I LOVE them. You really are a bead genius.

    1. Thanks Marina ;-) Your work is constantly inspiring . .

  2. Well what do you know ..I bought myself a bag of these exact things a couple of years ago with the idea of using them for beads.

    Your ideas just blew me away Jon! You have certainly made me think of digging them out and playing with them.

    I had thought of stamping them and using inks and paints. They are so light that I also thought that covering them with polymer clay wouldn't make much difference in weight just in size. I happen to use big beads often so that wasn't going to be an issue for me.

    Now I'm going to try your approach as well. That is once I dig them out and dust them off. I actually do know exactly where they are right at this moment. That's amazing for me!

    Before I looked at the pic of the hall work I had a good idea of what you were talking about from your description. Now I'm asking for an after pic once you are done. Great work Jon! I have this impression that you are a bit of a perfectionist? :0)

    Here I've finally pulled out a tool I purchased last fall and didn't get around to trying before the winter sales season set in. I've been having great fun at it...sitting down and madly working away while other ideas pop into my head as I go along. It's called a bangle weaver tool. A lady by the name of Kleshna does a number of videos on it. I believe she developed it. I'm presently working on bangle #4 and wondering which if my polymer clay beads I've got made would work on it. If you find the time have a look. I know it's not up your alley at present but it does spark the imagination!

    Love your new idea Jon! And very cute kitten.....

  3. How funny that you had the same response to these 'biscuits'! The bangle weaver sounds interesting. Bangles are things i have no clue about, so would struggle to know where to start making one. . . I'll post a pic when the fake panels are done. In fact we painted them today and they are looking good so far. I'm not proficient enough to be a perfectionist, but I like it when I get things right ;-)

  4. Love that you are honoring your home's roots-- so much easier to cheap out and go lazy but here in Vermont, even, not so easy to find craftsmen who know how to plaster a wall properly!But this old 1830s post and beam home of ours came through a major tropical storm some years ago with only a small bit of leaking down the old chimney. Great experimenting with the biscuits--love it when everyday objects inspire design!

    1. Thanks Christine, Your house sounds like a proper robust construction. We don't get tropical storms here thank heaven so our house won't get tested to that extent ;-)
      Glad you approve of my experimentation with everyday objects. very satisfying when it works. .