Many people are interested in incorporating polymer clay into their jewelry but may not know where to start.
To get started the first thing you need to know is that polymer clay, such as Premo by Sculpey, or Kato Polyclay, are very well suited for jewelry because they are strong, easy to work with for the wide range of techniques we use, and come in a host of colors suitable for mixing or using right from the package.
The best way to get started with polymer clay is to get some and start playing with it to get the feel for it. Roll it, twist, smoosh it. Mix a few colors. Experiment with opaque colors, and with the pearlized colors containing mica such as gold, silver, and copper.
Basic tools include an acrylic roller rod (looks like a rolling pin without handles) or a clay-dedicated pasta machine, a couple of sharp clay or tissue blades, and a needle tool or bamboo skewer for making holes. You will also need a good work surface such as a tile, which will hold the clay still while you work on it, but will release the clay when you need to pick it up. An oven thermometer is essential and DON'T rely on the built-in one in your oven no matter how new or high-tech it is. Heat spikes are death to polymer clay, and you need an unattached thermometer to monitor temperature. Add a few colors of polymer clay, and you can get started making basic beads and focals.
If you are going to make lots of beads, you will eventually want to have a bead rack which comes with pins to pierce the beads and suspend them during baking so they won't have flat spots. Until you are ready to invest in a bead rack, you can rest your beads on polyester batting for baking and they won't get flat shiny spots on the bottom.
If finger prints are going to make you nuts, you will want some disposable latex gloves. If you don't care much about fingerprints, this is optional.
For finishing your beads, you will need wet/dry sand paper from the automotive paint section of the hardware store. You will want 400, 600, 800 and 1,000 grit at the minimum. Some artists also use 1,200 and even 1,500 grit papers for final finsishing. Eventually you might want to invest in an inexpensive tumbler to sand large quantities of beads while you spend your time doing something other than sanding by hand.
For buffing you can use denim, as in an old pair of jeans, to get a nice sheen. A rotary tool with a muslin wheel will be nice later on but is not necessary in the beginning.
If you want your beads really shiny, you can coat them with 2-3 coats of a sealer such as water based Varathane or Future Acrylic Floor Finish (lately renamed to Pledge with Future, still the same stuff). Artists have also had good success with Diamond Glaze or resin. Not all sealers are chemically compatible with polymer clay so be careful here. Some seem fine at first, but later they can react and get sticky or gummy, or can peel off.
For cleaning up, baby wipes can do a good job of rubbing residue off your hands, wiping down blades, etc. My preference, though, is to use something containing petroleum distilate because it's much faster and more thorough in cleaning. WD-40 fits this category. So does Orange Glo Furniture Polish (smells good, too!) Just be VERY sure to follow up with soap and water to remove any remaining cleaner.