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Basic instructions for Polymer Clay

  • 18 Feb 2018 7:45 AM
    Message # 5742482
    Deleted user


    Thanks so much to all my students who joined me for the  buttons classes. As promised, here's a very basic description for use with an explanation of tools. Please remember that every package of clay has the manufacturer's individual instructions that you should adhere to. I look forward to seeing your creativity in clay emerge! - Barbara McGuire 

    Clay: Polymer clay is readily found in craft stores across the nation. It is recognized as colorful blocks of modeling material. It is basically PVC polymers with a plasticizer that keeps the clay malleable. It is cured by baking in an oven at a relatively low temperature, which may differ according to brands. The clay requires conditioning, which means kneading or processing the clay into a malleable consistency for stretching. This can be done at the same time as color blending. Some clays are softer than others. Some clays stretch better than others, and some clays distort easier than others. Each brand has their own color palette, and colors can be mixed to create unique variety. Please note that any choice of material is a personal preference as all the clays are good for indicated purposes.

    Popular Brands in reference to Caning :

    Premo – very user friendly, conditions well, excellent color and consistency. Relatively soft clay and responds to temperature change and handling, may require some setting or refrigeration to firm. Canes store well.

    Sculpey – Student grade clay, very soft (color may blend during slicing), suitable for use in teaching children, but will not hold distinct definition.

    Fimo Classic – Very firm clay, requires substantial conditioning but excellent caning properties once conditioned. Fimo ‘holds the line’. Has a ‘spring back or resilience that is beneficial to moving parts back and forth. Crisp definition.

    Fimo Soft – Easier to condition than Fimo Classic, but less crisp and intense.

    Kato Polyclay – firm clay excellent for caning, strong, durable. Challenge to condition.

    Cernit- known for its illuminating quality, Cernit is fairly soft for caning.

    Pardo Art Clay– strong, durable, flexible, easily conditioned. Imported.


    Pasta Machine – each pasta machine will vary in the number assignment to the width of the rollers. Look for a machine that produces very thin sheets. My favorite is Atlas.

    Pasta Machine Motor- worth the cost, you save effort, and having hands free is priceless.

    Work surface – tile, acrylic sheet, marble, tempered glass, smooth Formica, card stock paper. I prefer tiles because they are mobile and I can bake them in the oven. Sometimes it is advantageous for the clay to stick to the work surface. At times when the clay should be easily moved around, such as building with thin sheets, I use matte card stock paper.

    Polymer Clay Blade: extremely thin long blades, one flexible (for curves) and one rigid (for straight cuts and slicing.

    Roller – acrylic brayer or roller. Clear so you can see through it and if there is any contamination on it.

    Craft knives, embossing tool, needle tool, bone folder, carving tools, shaping tools – any ‘clay’ tools that will help to manipulate shapes.

    Set of mandrels or tubes. This is for making shapes, holes, smoothing etc.

    Cutters, punches, templates, etc. for making shapes.

    Oven – usually a convection or toaster oven that has been ‘designated’ for clay use. This is because the material (plasticizer) that keeps the clay soft burns off in the curing process and should not be mixed with food use. The oven should be in a ventilated area.

    Oven thermometer. This is the most overlooked tool – but essential. Even a slight dip in temperature can result in a loss of strength in the finished piece. Cooking at too low of temperature can cause crumbling and cooking at too high can cause burning. Keep the temperature accurate according to the manufacturer’s suggestions.  It is also recommended to line several tiles on the oven racks to help regulate consistent heat. Use tin foil tented over the work to avoid scorching when a small oven is in use. Many toaster ovens ‘surge’ and make the clay items vulnerable to scorching.

    400 & 600 grit wet sandpaper – for sanding and smoothing finished pieces.

    Buffer. – for polishing sanded work. Clay can be drilled, carved, sanded and buffed after baking.

    Deli wrap or wax paper – for storing canes. Some wraps will disintegrate over time, so choose a wrap that does not react to the clay. I recommend a soft plastic bead organizer, Never store clay in hard acrylic or expose  clay to hard plastic (such as a computer).


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