S is for Scratches (AtoZ 2016)

One of the things that I really wish that I could get complete control over is the scratches (and I’m including fine cracks in that grouping) that appear in the beads after I fire them. Technically they are there before I fire the bead and I just can’t see them, but it’s the not being able to see them that really drives me insane.

Not there before firing. There after firing. Every. Bloody. Time.

And, the annoying thing is that I can see them before I even oxidize the bead, oxidizing just brings out even more scratches. I’ve tried buffing them out (with my burnishers and a buffing wheel attached to a dremel). Nothing.

Scratches are caused in two ways: working with clay that is a bit too dry, so it forms tiny cracks as you shape it, and filing the beads to shape them or get rid of sharp edges, where the file causes tiny grooves. As I mentioned, it’s hard to keep the clay perfectly moist, and you pretty much have to do some kind of shaping. So cracks and grooves, and therefore scratches, are inevitable. The key is to get rid of them as best you can before you fire.

To do that, after the bead is finished and the clay is dry, you can dip a brush into water and lightly run it over the bead to moisten the top surface and basically have the water loosen up enough of the metal clay that it fills in the small cracks. Great in theory, but, it only works to a certain degree. There’s a fine line between smoothing the surface and changing the shape. And, if the entire bead is wet, it’s hard not to leave fingerprints in the bead as you are trying to smooth it out!


The worst was, of course, my hawk skull. Even before oxidizing you can see the larger scratches, but the darkened surface really picks up those tiny ones that would otherwise go unnoticed. Honestly, I just didn’t really pay that much attention to the scratches because I didn’t think that they would show up that much and I was also a bit preoccupied with making sure that I could wear it at all. I don’t mind so much with the hawk skull, but I certainly learned to pay more attention to the scratches after that! And, yet, I still end up missing some scratches before firing. For some of my other beads, I feel like the scratches detract from the design. In others, I deliberately choose designs where the scratches don’t matter, like my eyeball bead. My Julbock is the only bead where I purposefully accentuated the scratches.

The good thing is that I am getting better. The scratches on the hummingbird wing are the only noticeable ones on that bead. I guess I overlooked them because I was trying to get the body smooth, which I did a decent job of.

There’s one way to eliminate scratches that I wouldn’t recommend: melt the bead when you are firing it. The tip of the other wing of the hummingbird is completely smooth because of it!

Have you ever been in the situation where just can’t seem to master something no matter how hard you try and try? What have you done to get past it?


    1. LOL, I haven’t tried making fondant, but I have a friend who really loves making cakes and took a cake class once. She knows how to do fondant, but still doesn’t like it! I just don’t really like the taste of it. Although I can’t say that I’m very good at icing cakes with regular icing either; I’m glad that my kids are still young and don’t care yet about my artistic talent for their cakes :D

    1. Honestly, I’m sure that most people can’t even see the scratches. But you always notice your own mistakes and not others’, right? :) I came pretty close to being scratch-free on the hummingbird. And I think that the bead I made before Christmas was pretty scratch-free, too. So I am getting better!

    1. I have tried wetting the surface to try to smooth it out and then letting that dry. Basically,the idea there is that the water will pick up small particles and deposit them in the cracks it will essentially smooth itself out :) It helps for larger cracks, but not those really tiny ones. But, you can’t put any other sort of glaze on, it would melt in the heat of the fire (it does actually flame for about five to ten seconds or so when I torch it) and would probably affect the sintering.

      Good luck with your book!

  1. From here and through the picture, the scratches don’t look too bad, but I’m sure you have a different view.
    Have I ever been in a situation where I couldn’t master something? All the time. Took five years to get a novel out the door, and am pulling my hair out every writing day, not to mention just regular stuff, aside from writing. I just tell myself I’ll do better next time.
    We’re human, it happens.

    1. I think that at this point, the first thing my eye does is look for the scratches and cracks since I am so aware of them! But, I suspect that most other people wouldn’t even notice them. The only one that really bugs me now is my GPS bead, but I have an idea to try and fill those ones it :)

      I don’t think that it is bad that you took five years to put a book out – many people would give up before then! I admire anyone who gets their writing out :)

  2. Certainly with your Hawk piece I think the scratches actually add to it!

    If you find out how to handle clay without leaving nail imprints I’d love to know!!

    Mars xx

    1. I usually don’t have a problem with nail imprints, but I do get fingerprint imprints from holding the bead :) Maybe because I’m working with small pieces my nails never really get in the way?

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