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I want to make beads out of polymer clay. Is it a better idea to form the holes before baking, or drill them after? (I'm concerned about weird shrinkage or other effects around the hole during baking, affecting the size.)

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Much simpler if you do it before.

You will always deal with some shrinkage with polymer clay, so just make sure that the hole is a bit larger than you will need it. If you are really worried, try a couple of samples and measure how much they will shrink. But it is fairly minimal, so unless you need an exact fit, it is nothing that major.

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