Baking Polymer Clay:
It is essential to bake polymer clay to cure it - it won't air dry no matter how long you leave it (only Air Dry Clays set like this). You will need to bake your beads or creations in a regular domestic oven or a convection toaster oven (not a microwave). Once baked you can rebake as many times as you wish to if you want to add more to your creation but the important thing is to have an accurate temperature in your oven. Your baked creation will be a matte finish and if you do want it to be shiny you will need to either sand & polish (see finishing techniques section) or apply a lacquer or glaze that is designed for polymer clay.
Equipment & Tools:
Oven - If you are doing a lot of baking consider investing in a Convection Toaster Oven - lots of brands are available & they aren't expensive. You can then bake it in an area of your house that is well ventilated and avoid any potential damage to your home cooking oven which can occur with prolonged use of polymer clay (build up of plasticizer eats into the metal parts and builds up on the walls).
Oven Thermometer: (Essential!) A small hanging oven thermometer that hangs from a shelf in your oven that will ensure you are baking at an accurate temperature which is the most important thing to know about baking. Often oven dials are quite different to the inside temperature so having this extra thermometer allows you to keep it accurate.
Use either a metal or glass baking tray for your work - you can line it with stiff cardboard or paper to prevent the clay sticking onto the tray and picking up the texture or designs on the tray itself. Suspend beads on metal or bamboo skewers (pierce before baking is the easiest) - with bamboo and metal skewers remove baked beads from them while still warm as otherwise they can 'bond' to the skewer and be impossible to remove. We sell Pro Bead Racks which are metal racks with small bead pins that can be used to pierce the beads and also bake them on.
Foil: Aluminium foil makes a good tent for over your tray to help avoid burning due to spikes in oven temperature. Just loosely tent it over the tray without having it touch the beads or models.
Look on the package of polymer clay you are using for the recommended baking temperature and stick to it closely (brands will vary but on average they bake between 120-150 deg Celsius. You will also find a recommended baking time which is also important. You can however bake for longer than the recommended baking time and even double or triple bake so long as your temperature is accurate and not too hot which can burn the item. Underbaking causes your beads or models to be brittle and breakable so ensure they are baked at least the time recommended and for longer if unsure.
When I bake my beads I bake them on average for 30 - 45 minutes at the recommended temperature and then let them cool slowly in the oven after it is turned off.
Other Useful Tips:
Bake in a well ventilated place to avoid breathing fumes (not toxic but still not good to inhale).
Monitor your oven as it bakes - check oven thermometer during baking
To help avoid cracks in your work let the baked beads or models cool slowly - either let them cool inside the turned off oven or remove and wrap in a towel or light blanket to cool slowly. Cracks can be due to thermal shock, or can also be due to the clay not being conditioned enough or air being trapped inside the piece that has to escape.
If your colours darken after baking this is normal especially for colours such as blues, purples, reds & greens. To counteract this add some white to the colour when conditioning it which gives the shade a lift and counteracts the darkening.
If baking odd shapes beads or models you can bake them on a piece of polyester or cotton quilt batting (from haberdashery or craft stores) - this acts as a cushion and support.
You can also create a little zig-zag folded paper or cardboard stand for your small creations and sit them in each of the little v-shaped channels.