Mokume Gane Tree Topper Tutorial
In Early December, 2004, I posted a question regarding
creating a tree topper to the various Polymer Clay Lists.
(Surprisingly, Glass Attic had loads of information about making ornaments, but
no information about making a tree topper!) I asked for links to tutorials
and "inspirational pictures". Well, I received input from a few polymer
clayers, but was not referred to any links. Thus, I decided to create a
tutorial as I worked on my own tree topper, in part, to help fill this void.
Approximately 4 oz. (2 Packages) Translucent clay (I used
1 block of Mokume Gane
Manila File Folder or Card Stock
Double-sided tape, "regular" tape, or Glue and Paper Clip or
Star Cutters (various sizes) and/or Paper Template
Mica Powder or Glitter (Optional)
Pasta Machine (Optional)
Tissue Blade and Exacto Knife (or craft knife)
Oven to fire piece; white paper, manila folder or polyester
batting to fire piece on
||Cut a corner off of a manila file folder. (Or, fold card
stock in half, and cut off the corner.) Make cut in an arced
||Roll manila file or card stock into a cone shape. Secure
with double-sided tape. (Or secure with glue. Clamp or
paper clip to hold in place until glue has dried. Or secure
with whatever type of tape you have handy.) Trim bottom of
cone so that cone is desired height and will stand up on table.
(Height of cone should be approximately the same height as you want
your finished topper to be. Additionally, cone should be
approximately the same height as your large star cutter or paper
template.) Leave a small hole at the top of the cone if you
want to poke a small light through the top later on.
||Condition 1 - 1.5 packages of translucent clay. (The exact
amount of clay you will need depends on the size of your cone.)
Roll out using a roller or pasta machine. If using a pasta
machine, roll out at the thickest setting.
||OPTIONAL: Sprinkle some mica powder (in the color of your
choice) or some heat-safe glitter on your clay sheet. Fold in
half and roll/run through your pasta machine several times until it
is blended into your translucent sheet. (I used Silver mica
||Cover your cone with the sheet of clay, trimming sheet as
necessary. Clean out top hole, if necessary, with the tip of
your exacto knife.
||OPTIONAL: Use small star cutters (in various sizes) to cut star
shapes in your cone. Remove star cut-outs and set aside for
use in another project. (The cut outs will allow light to
shine through your cone. If you want, you may also poke tree
lights through the cut-outs.) I used both a mini-star cutter
and Kemper star cutters in various sizes.
||Condition the rest of your translucent clay. Roll out to
approximately third-largest setting on pasta machine. (Or use
roller to roll sheet a little thinner than you did for the cone.)
Cut pieces of mokume gane from the block and apply to sheet of clay.
Roll onto clay sheet with roller, then put through pasta machine at
#1, then #2, then #3. This sheet should be large enough to
place your star template or large star cutter on, as you will be
using this sheet to make your stars for your topper. You will
need one of these sheets for each star. (You may make two
sheets, or one sheet large enough that you can cut two stars.)
||Place star template on mokume gane sheet and cut around it.
Or, if you have a cutter in the right size, cut out star with
(Since I do not own a star cutter this large, I searched through the
clip art on my computer for a star. I sized this star to my
desired height (approximately 6 inches), using my graphics program.
I then printed out the star and cut around it to form my template.)
||Remove extra clay from around your cut out. Carefully
remove your star from your cutting surface. (I use a
clay-dedicated offset spatula for this step.)
||Using the remainder of your first mokume gane sheet, or using a
second mokume gane sheet, cut out a second star. Save the
scraps from the sheet.
||Flip your first star over. Carefully place your cone on
the star. Put your fingers inside the cone to press the cone
on to the star. Carefully remove cone and star from your work
surface. (Again, I used my offset spatula.)
||Lay your second star, face down, on your work surface.
Attach the second star to the cone, as you did with the first star.
Be sure to line up the points of the two stars, as closely as
||Using your blade or exacto knife, cut away the portion of the
clay cone from between the two bottom points of the star. Trim
any jagged edges, and gently smooth with your finger. Flip
over and repeat on other side.
||Cut small pieces off your mokume gane sheet scraps. Use
these pieces to fill in any spots on the cone that may show.
(I filled in around the sides of the top points of the star at the
top of the cone.)
||Reinforce the back of any protruding star points with scraps of
your mokume gane sheet to give your star extra strength.
Smooth any placed you added scraps with your fingers to blend.
||At this point, place your cone on top of a bottle. (I put
my cone on top of a small glue bottle.) Reshape the star with
your fingers, where necessary. Also, blend and smooth star
with your fingers, where necessary. Let star sit on bottle
overnight, to allow raw clay to better fuse together. Before
firing, check star. Blend any spots that need it.
Reshape if necessary. If any cracks, holes, or "bare spots"
are apparent, use small pieces from your mokume gane block to
cover/fill in. (I use the handle of my exacto knife to roll
any small pieces to roll small pieces of mokume gane on to the
star.) When star is shaped/covered to your liking, take off of
the bottle, lay star/cone on its side on a piece of white paper, a
manila file folder, or polyester batting, and fire according to the
For maximum translucence, place piece in a cool oven, begin timing
when the oven reaches temperature, and allow piece to completely
cool down in oven. Alternatively, you may dunk the hot item in
an ice water bath when you remove it from the oven after firing.
(Be aware that the "ice water dunk" method may warp your star.)
Since I use Premo clay and an air-convection oven with an auto-shut
off timer, I placed my piece in a cool oven, set the timer for 35
minutes, and took it out about 2 hours later.
||When piece has cooled, carefully remove manila cone from center.
Place tree topper on top of your tree.
||Here's a shot of my Christmas Tree, with my brand-new, hand-made
Mokume Gane Star tree topper adorning its top. (Note that this
tree has been decorated with hand-made, polymer clay ornaments,
including translucent mokume gane stars and hearts.)
|I hope you enjoyed this
tutorial, and that it will inspire you to create your own polymer
clay tree topper. If you prefer, you may make this tree toper
with opaque and/or metallic colors. You may use other shapes
if you do not care for stars. Any left over scraps from your
mokume gane sheets can be used to make
fan pulls. If you need
instructions on how to make a mokume gane block, please see my
Ocean Mokume Gane Tutorial.
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