Is water-based Varathane a good alternative to your craft store's polymer clay glaze?
Well, Varathane is a polyurethane sealant primarily for wood. It dries clear, is durable, and protects wood from scratches, dust, and dirt. It makes floors last for years. The water-based kind can be easily cleaned up with soapy water, and most kinds are low-odor.
But does it do the same for polymer clay? Does it make your figurines last longer? Does it stay on the charms, beads, or pendants even with excessive wear on the skin?
You may have heard about experts recommending Varathane, whether you are a newbie to polymer clay crafting or a seasoned veteran. Well, let's see why it has an edge over various other "glazes" that can be used for coating finished pieces.
What About Other Glazes for Polymer Clay?
Well, people assume that if something is high quality, then it's likely expensive. In a few cases, such as glazes designed for polymer clay, even expensive ones can be shoddy.
For instance, the Sculpey glaze costs a couple of dollars (or other currency) for one ounce bottle, which leaves you wondering what else to buy. Furthermore, some crafters have had bad experiences glazing their polymer clay pieces for long term wear. Besides, it isn't UV-resistant, thus turning pieces yellow.
A cheaper alternative would be Pledge FutureShine, but like the Sculpey glaze, it lacks a UV protectant. Most of the time your beads, brooches, or whatever would yellow, even in the early, early, evening.
Another economical glaze is DecoArt's Triple Thick. It provides pieces a good shine and a hard finish (It's so named that you have to apply it in thin coats.) But some crafters find it not that great for long-term use, although it's UV-resistant.
Why Most Poly-Clay Artists Recommend Varathane
Varathane (the one that is water-based as opposed to oil-based, as the latter tends to deteriorate your clay projects) is a UV-resistant polyurethane finish. This advantage makes it suitable for jewelry making and beading with the material. It works on all baked pieces of polymer clay brands, but quite a few of them (Kato Polyclay, for instance) need to be wiped down with rubbing alcohol.
Besides the resistance to yellowing, Varathane has an interpenetrating network (IPN). This allows the finish to be set into as well as on top of the surface of the baked piece.
Like all other glazes, it protects stamping rub-on foils and mica chips that are embedded in the clay, especially if the pieces are beads to be worn, cell phone charms, and such. It brings out the depths of the clay colors, especially if it has inclusions (such as glitter, mica powders, or even coffee grounds).
Where to Buy it and What Kind
Varathane can be found at most hardware stores. Look for independent retailers because some chain stores don't usually sell them. You really can shop online for it, so you have a wider range of options. They sell smaller cans as opposed to gallon cans if you are economical.
For best results, try looking for the gloss version. It adheres better than satin or semi-gloss, even without a rubbing alcohol wipedown on products made from certain brands of polymer clay.
(If you are using the other two, sand the piece slightly with 400 grit sandpaper, wipe with rubbing alcohol, or brush a specialty clay glaze - if you have the money - to allow either material to adhere better. Otherwise, daub the gloss finish with a makeup or stamping sponge for a matte finish.)
Some Locations to Find Varathane
How to Store Varathane
Most artists want to store Varathane in airtight containers such as baby food jars or film canisters. "To extend shelf-life and prevent contamination of your whole supply, don't work from the can," informs Polymer Clay Web, "Instead, transfer a small amount of the finish to an "easy access" container and make sure that the can is tightly sealed and properly stored."
Some polymer clay experts advise putting it into a bottle that is squeezable so that you have better control of the amount you're using. A squirt bottle or a cleaned-out shampoo bottle can work.
How to Apply Varathane
Some clay artists, including beaders and hobbyists doing just charms, dip their projects in the can and hang it to let the excess drip. However, the bottom would likely get an uneven coat, so they must keep an eye on the dripping and brush off the excess to make the bottom even.
The best way to apply Varathane is to brush it with a soft bristle brush in thin, even coats. "The thicker coat that forms from dipping can result in the finish peeling away, particularly in humid climates," noted Sarajane Helm. Use short, careful strokes to avoid air bubbles and wait for the project to dry for at least 2 hours between coats. Wash hands and brush with warm soapy water immediately after each use.
If desired, bake the dry glazed items at 200°F for 5-10 minutes to set., but no more than that to avoid burning. For the best shine, allow the baked item to cool or the wet-sanded and buffed item to dry before glazing.
Varathane is also compatible with water-based inks, paints, and powders. Mixing them can let you imitate faux enamel, stains, cloisonne, and other special effects. For instance, loose eyeshadow dedicated for crafting makes a good material to mix Varathane with, provided that it doen't contain any oils. Bear in mind that the material dries faster with inclusions, so it's advisable to work with small batches at a time.
It also acts as a glue if the things you want to glue with need to be preserved. Items include tiny rhinestones, beads, and other baked clay items. I suggest that you bake as above to set the glaze and help the item to adhere better.
That Girl Has to Agree with Most Poly Clay Vets - this Glaze is Awesome to Her!
Well, as long as it's water-based as opposed to oil-based, Varathane can be a good medium for glazing your polymer clay jewelry components, charms, and figurines. But you may want to see if it works for you or not. Maybe you have a strong preference for another glazing medium, but whether you use it or not is all a matter of taste.
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on April 05, 2015:
This was a great hub. It's very useful and informative and helpful as well. Voted up!
Ivy on July 08, 2013:
I have been using varathane, it works pretty well. I might be doing something wrong, but no matter how gentle and soft my brush is I keep seeing strokes. I bake it for about 5 minutes but they do not melt away. I will say, my items are normally applique pendants or detailed pendants and not smooth beads. Could that be a reason it is not coming out properly? I also prefer the matte look, but I have heard that the matte varathane does not stick as well. Any thoughts?
Rosa Lea Acerimo from Marikina City on February 23, 2013:
Thanks for the info. I will look for it in our local hardware store.
talfonso (author) from Tampa Bay, FL on February 23, 2013:
You can find them at Lowe's, Home Depot, or your local hardware store. If not, try buying it online on Amazon. I got mine from that site for $10.99 for an 8 0z can and I figured that it's perfect.
Rosa Lea Acerimo from Marikina City on February 22, 2013:
can you name a specific store where I can buy varathane. thanks!
talfonso (author) from Tampa Bay, FL on February 22, 2013:
Leilabarda - that's so true about the polymer clay glaze. Varathane is the best because it's UV-resistant and doesn't get too sticky. Thanks for the kind comment!
Rosa Lea Acerimo from Marikina City on February 15, 2013:
no question about, glaze definitely add not just shine but beauty in your creation. it also protects from dust and dirt and prolong the beauty. thanks for so many wonderful tips you have shared.