Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Blu-Tack, Sticky Tack, Poster Putty--The Magical Art Material

What’s made of polymers, mineral oil, mineral fillers, and pigment and can be baked in the oven? Nope—it’s not what you think. It’s blu-tack, a substance sold worldwide under many brand names. We’ve probably all used it to stick posters to the walls of dorm rooms and apartments, but did you know it can be a polymer artist’s best friend (OK, second-best after the real thing itself)?

To clean blu-tack when it gets dirty, just knead and stretch, knead and stretch; it’ll clean itself.

 1,000 Uses? Well, a Lot Anyhow

For Housekeeping

  • Roll blu-tack between your hands often to pick up lint, junk, especially when working on white or light-colored clay.
  • Roll a lump of blu-tack to a point to pick up bits of lint, stray glitter, pet hair, etc., that have landed on the clay (as long as they're not embedded).
  • To replace lost container caps. I’ve had a blob of blu-tack on a tube of white acrylic paint for several years, and the paint is still good
  • To prevent messy spills when transporting your supplies, put a bit of blu-tack inside the cap of your liquid-clay bottle or stretch a rope of it around the spray opening of your Armor-All bottle.
  • Use blu-tack to pick up spilled beads.

For Sculpting

  • When baking in stages, adhere the piece to the tile with blu-tack to hold it immobile while you continue to work on it.
  • Hold 2 (or more) small tiles together with blu-tack when a sculpted piece needs to hang off the edge—for example, the legs of a figure in a sitting position.
  • When using Kemper cutters, sometimes using the plunger to push the clay out will leave a depression in the clay. To avoid that, touch the cutter to a piece blu-tack (or even push it into the blu-tack slightly); the blu-tack will grab the clay piece, and you can retrieve it from there.

For Caning

  • Use blu-tack on cane ends for less waste in reduction.
  • Put blu-tack under a cane to keep it from getting a flat side when you slice.

For Bead-Making

  • Use blu-tack to hold skewers or wires in place when curing beads on a baking tray.
  • Use your old, dirty blu-tack to hold toothpicks upright when freshly varnished beads are drying.

For Jewelry-Making

  • Use blu-tack as a stopper on the end of a bead wire as you’re stringingTo open a split ring, stick a small lump of blu-tack on your table and embed the split ring in it with the opening on top. Stab a sewing needle between the coils of the split ring into the blu-tack. This will open the ring and hold it open while you insert a finding, etc., between the coils. Then you can grasp the opening of the ring with a round-nose pliers, remove the needle, and rotate the finding until it moves freely in the ring.   
  • To attach a crimp cover over a crimp bead on a bead strand, stick a small lump of blu-tack on your table and embed the crimp cover in it with the opening facing up. Grasping the bead strand on each side of the crimp bead, place the crimp bead in the open cover. With the blue tack still holding the crimp cover in place, hold your crimp pliers perpendicular to the table and squeeze the crimp cover gently to close it. 
For Sanding
  • When sanding a flat object (or a flat side of a contoured object), you can spare your fingernails by using a lump of blu-tack to hold the item. This works well for sanding lentil-bead halves. Patricia Ritz of Boston shared a great tip: "I took the protective plastic covering that you find on most wide solid deodorant sticks, put a bit of blu-tack inside it, and voila! I get a good grip on the plastic piece, the putty gets a secure grip on the lentil half, and good contact is made on the sandpaper!”

    Non-Polymer Uses

  • Use blu-tack to remove labels from CDs and plastic surfaces
    Use it to hold stereo speakers on speaker stands (from my husband, Stan)  
  • Use it as an eraser when drawing.
  • Place blu-tack invisibly under or behind objects you want to photograph to support them and hold them in position for the best lighting effects, etc.

    Other Blu-Tack Resources

  •  Here's a catalog of uses from Australia (where they use blu-tack even more than in the US).
  • A list of uses compiled by blogger James Ward, who admits, "I like boring things."
  • There's even a whole Flickr group on the creative uses of blu-tack.