I've had some people ask me how you can get shiny beads without having to sand and buff. There are finishes you can use like Future (an acrylic floor polish) or Varathane, both of which we have experimented with, but we still prefer to wet sand and buff (with a dremel) each piece by hand.
Some pieces, however you cannot sand and buff so you need to use another method. For instance, when you use mica powders or metalic leaf, you must seal them afterwards so they do not rub off. In these cases I prefer to use another method and that is sealing it with a liquid polymer clay. I found with this method you need to use liquid Kato since you need a heat gun for the last stage and the other liquid clays (Fimo or Sculpey) will not work in the same way as they cannot take the high heat and do not go as crystal clear as the liquid Kato. I've been busy making some signature beads to finish off some of our jewelry pieces so decided to use this method and show you the process at the same time.
First you form your beads -- whatever style or shape you prefer. For the beads I'm making here, I have taken metallic colored clays and add a slice of our signature cane to each bead. Pierce your holes in the beads. I always make my holes (or at least a guide hole for drilling afterwards) before firing and in this case it will be easier to handle your beads for the finishing stages.
You can texture your beads if you like. I like to add a design on the other half of our signature beads so while still on the piercing tool, I stamp it by pressing down with something smooth to flatten the bead slightly. This changes the shape of my bead (which I like) and gives them a swirl pattern on the one side.
I generally stop at this point and bake my beads and sand and buff after firing but in this case, I decided to add some more detail. I just use the tip of my finger and lightly dust some mica powders onto the raised area of the beads to make the swirl stand out more. I then bake these beads for 20-30 minutes at 250 F to set the mica powders.
After the beads have cooled, I lightly brush on a very thin coat of liquid Kato onto each bead. The key word here is "thin". You just want enough to coat the bead and mica powders but not more than that or they will drip. Preheat your oven again but this time at 275 F and when hot, place your beads back in to bake for another 20-30 minutes. You might want to place some tin foil over top as a tent to prevent your beads from burning. I also place my bead rack onto a ceramic tile when baking for more even heating and for the final stage after they are baked.
before the heat gun after the heat gun
When the beads come out of the oven they can look a little dull (see the left photo). That is where the heat gun comes in. I just take the heat gun and while the beads are still hot, just flash over them for a few seconds (turning to get all sides) until they go shiny. Make sure the beads are over a ceramic tile to protect your table surface from the heat gun. The photo on the right shows the beads after the heat gun process but they don't show up too well in this photo so here they are finished.