Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sealing paper beads -- which method is best?


A previous post described my new favorite tool for creating paper beads. The next step is to seal the beads with some kind of protective varnish. I tried 3 different sealants.

Method 1: ModPodge

The first thing I tried was painting each bead with 2 coats of ModPodge, mostly because it was just sitting there on my worktable. One of the trickiest parts was figuring out how to dry the beads. Thinking I was being clever, I stuck the pins in an old cardboard salt cylinder.
Sometimes what seems like a good upcycling idea isn't. The cardboard was too hard and pushing the pins in became a bloody mess. I switched to a foam block, which worked much better.

Pros

  • Beads get covered evenly.
  • Little danger of damaging the beads.
  • You can sit at your worktable. 

Cons

  • It's time-consuming.
  • The inside of the bead doesn't get coated.
  • I'm not sure how well the ModPodge protects against water or wear-and-tear.

Method 2: Spray sealant

I found a can of clear fixative in my garage, and I thought I'd give it a try. I hung beads on a fishing line and went outside to spray them. Then I stood around for awhile, looking for a place to hang the sticky line. For round 2, I created a simple drying rack using bamboo skewers and a foam block. It made it much easier to both spray and dry the beads.

Pros

  • It's fast.
  • There's little chance of damage. 

Cons 

  • It's hard to cover the beads evenly.
  • The inside of the bead doesn't get covered.
  • The varnish is flammable, so you have to go outside.
  • You have to find a place to hang the beads.

Method 3: Varnish dip

For this method, I followed the detailed instructions written by Johnnie at Savedbylovecreations. I threaded the beads on fishing line with weights at the end, submerged them in water-based varnish, and hung them to dry.
This time, I figured out how to hang the drippy wet beads before I dipped them. I cobbled together this hanger out of bamboo skewers, pants hangers, and a wire stand. The contraption hangs in the outside stairwell in my backyard. It works fine, unless it rains, which it does often. Way too often.

Pros

  • Beads are covered evenly.
  • Varnish covers both outside and inside of beads.
  • If you dip the beads twice, they turn out very glossy (I used semi-gloss varnish here).

Cons

  • This is the messiest method, but as long as you stick to water-based varnish, cleanup is easy.
  • The beads stick together so ends can get damaged.
  • The varnish is pricey (smaller cans are cheaper, but I don't think I could have fit the beads in).
  • It takes several hours or more to dry, depending on the weather.
  • Damaged bead
  • This is subjective -- the varnish makes the beads feel processed, not natural, which is one of the things I like about paper beads -- they feel organic.

Results

Here's what the beads look like. I've put them side by side, so you can decide for yourself which you look like best.

ModPodge vs. spray fixative

Varnish dip: one coat vs. two

Right now, I'm "sticking" with the dipping technique. I'll search for ways to minimize damage to the bead ends.

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