How to make a faux ivory/bone pendant

I was introduced to a faux ivory technique in a Tory Hughes workshop shortly after she introduced to the world how to do faux techniques with polymer clay. In the early 90s? The fundamental technique takes advantage of the properties of translucent polymer clay, mimicking the striations seen in bone or ivory. If you do this right, people will have an extremely hard time telling this from the real thing.

It took me a number of years before I discovered a style of the faux ivory technique that I liked. It combines an antique ivory look with brass wire, nails, brass swivels and fidget beads.


    - 1 part white polymer clay (or 1 block)
    - 1 part champagne (Fimo), buff or beige color polymer clay (or 1/2 block)
    - 2 parts translucent polymer clay (or 1.5 blocks)
    - pinch of of very warm yellow (orange-ish) color clay
    - burnt umber or burnt sienna acrylic paint
    - 240, 320, 400, 600, 1000 grit wet/dry sand paper
    - X-acto cutting tool with #11 blade
    - bench polisher or Dremel
    - cotton or polyester felt polishing disc
    - tissue blade

    - wax paper
    - lucite or acrylic roller

    - clean bucket or dishpan
    - thin, baked polymer clay pieces


1. Mix together two parts white to 1 part champagne, beige, tan, buff color clay, adding a pinch or two of warm yellow to make the ivory color. You should now have equal amounts of ivory and translucent. (Do not mix these together.)

Wonder what "part" means? It means whatever measurement you care to use; size, weight, blocks, etc. For example, with the above recipe, have 3 blocks of translucent, two blocks of white, one block beige, buff, champagne or tan colored clay.

Or the part could be 1/2 blocks, or 40 grams...

For this project, use 1.5 blocks of translucent, 1 block of white, 1/2 block of beige, buff, or champagne, and a grape size pinch of yellow.

  2. Roll out the ivory color into a nice rectangular sheet. Roll out the translucent clay into a nice rectangular sheet. You could use your pasta machine, but it isn't necessary. Stack one sheet on top of the other.

3. Roll until stack is about half its height and double in length. Cut the length in half and restack. Note: the pattern must be alternating one ivory then one translucent.

Repeat the rolling to compress, then cutting and stacking until you can barely see the striping.


4. Create a stack that is about 0.75" - 1 inch tall, 2" - 2.5" wide and whatever length you get.

From the stack's end, slice 3-4 thick slices


5. Butt the slices together as shown in the diagram, to form one striped panel.


6. Place the panel in a sheet of waxed paper. Using the roller, apply gentle and steady pressure across the panel.

Trim away the rough edges and shape your panel with the tissue blade. Curve the blade slightly to give the panel a more natural shaped outline.


7. You could cut out a small opening in your panel. You could place pre-baked and/or raw clay pieces on the on the panel as well. You can also emboss, imprint with stamps, etc.


8. Smooth away fingerprints, unwanted marks, etc. You could place the panel on a curved surface if you wish to mimic the curvature of a piece made from a very large tusk or bone. Place in oven, bake and allow to slowly cool.

Baking will exaggerate the difference between the opaque and translucent clays. The striations will really stand out!


9. Etching: After cooling, you could etch patterns such as lines or coils into select areas of the panel using carving/gouging tools such as lino cutters or X-acto tools

Staining: Rub and smear burnt umber or burnt sienna acrylic paint into the panel, making sure to get paint into all crevices. This is highlight the etched lines and outline the areas surrounding any inlaid pieces as well as any tiny gaps or cracks in the panel itself. Before the paint dries, wipe off the excess paint with a dry paper towel. The paint will lend a sense of aging to the panel.

Rebake the panel for 10 - 15 minutes at 200 degrees to help fuse the paint to the panel's surface.


10. Sanding: Start with wet/dry sandpaper (approx. 220 grit), sand your piece under a stream of water or by frequent dipping into a bucket of water. Next, use grits 400, 600, 1000 and, optionally, higher grits. Let piece completely dry.

3M sells sanding sponges. These would be great for tackling complicated surfaces like these pendants. Click 3M sanding sponges for details.


  Hand Sanding Notes: Proper sanding can be a bit taxing and demanding on your patience, but vital if you want a great high shine finish after buffing.

  • You need learn how to identify which grit to start with for any specific item. For really rough clay surfaces, you may need to start with 120 - 240 grit. If you've gently smoothed the piece with your fingers before baking, you may be able to get away with starting at 400 grit.
  • But regardless of the grit you choose to start with, you should step up to the next grit size, then the next, then the next. Don't skip more than two grits in the lower grit range, at least not until you've had lots of experience with the various outcomes.
  • Here are the grit sizes I've found with 3M wet/dry papers: 80, 100, 120, 200, 240, 360, 400, 500, 600, 800, 1000, 1500, 2000. It is very important to stay within one brand of paper. Don't mix brands.
    • If you have trouble finding the higher/finer grit wet/dry paper, try an automotive parts supply or automotive paint supply shop.
  • And you must make sure to thoroughly sand the entire surface with that grit before stepping up to the next grit. One easy way to tell is to coat the piece with a thin layer of acrylic paint of a contrasting color before sanding at that grit. When you can't see any paint remaining, you've thoroughly sanded at that grit level. But yes, you'll need to "paint" in between each grit level.
  • One final thing, it's best to wet sand polymer clay. It keeps the dust in the water and away from your eyes and lungs, and it also helps keep the sandpaper free of buildup. If you add a bit of liquid soap or bubble bath to the water, it also helps to extend the life of the sandpaper.

11. After the final sanding, rinse the panel to remove and residue, wipe the piece with a clean paper or cotton towel, then polish it.



  Buffing polymer clay

Buffing can be done with a bench buffer like the ones you can get from Foredom OR you can use a hand held rotary tool such as a Dremel with a cotton or polyester felt buffing wheel.



  Buffing Notes

Regardless of whether you use a bench lathe buffer or a Dremel-like tool, the buffing wheel rotates at a very high speed. There are several things you should do to produce a wonderful shine, help improve safety and prevent problems.

  • Wear safety goggles. Buffing with a high-speed disc produces a fine particle spray as the wheel's surface slowly wears away.
  • Make sure to get these out of the way: long hair, necklaces, scarves, cords, strings, or ties or anything that could get grabbed and wrapped around the spindle.
  • In relation to the wheel and the direction of its rotation, hold your piece below the wheel and in the area shown in the diagram (the safe polishing zone).

    If the wheel grabs your piece, it will snatch it from your hands and fling it. Let it. If flung, it will fling safely away from you, if you've held your piece in that area.
  • Move your piece towards the spinning wheel gently, slowly, smoothly, as in slow motion. Slowly gently reposition your piece, turning, rotating.... Slowly, gently, smoothly pull your piece away when you are done. Don't, under any circumstances, make quick, jerky motions. The wheel will grab and fling your piece when you do.
  • Keep the piece slowly moving underneath the disc. Don't allow the disc to buff on one spot for too long. A high speed buffer can quickly heat up a small spot on a polymer clay piece causing a dull smear instead of a high shine.
  • Don't bob the piece toward and away from the disc. That is a good way to cause the wheel to grab and snatch the piece from your hands.
  • If the piece is snatched from your hands, more than likely the disc will leave a dull scrape mark on your piece. You may need to sand and buff that spot again.
  • Try not to touch any freshly buffed areas with your fingers. Those areas will be warm and soft and will easily take fingerprints.
  • Only buff with powered tools when you are alert and able to fully concentrate. If you're tired or distracted, you will have many project flings, damage and woes.
  • If you're wondering, there are three types of buffing discs you can use; muslin, cotton and polyester felt. Yes, both muslin and cotton are cotton products, but the cotton disk is usually much softer and produces a much higher shine.

    If you choose to make your own polyester felt wheel, make sure you use polyester, NOT wool. Click Make Your Own Buffing Wheel to learn how.




Have a great polymer clay day. ;-)


Last update to this page: 26 Aug 02. Send comments, questions or suggestions to Desiree McCrorey.