pig ornament

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Glassattic.com Another excellent source of Polymer Clay information.

The following polymer clay faq. is offered and used with permission by Jeanne A. E. DeVoto jaed@best.com
Copyright © 1996-97 Jeanne A. E. DeVoto

 2-Welcome to Polymer Clay
 3-Choosing & Mixing Clay
 4-Conditioning Polymer Clay
 5-Using a Pasta Machine
 6-Using a Food Processor
 7-Forming Clay Pieces
 8-Firing Polymer Clay
 9-Clay Pieces
10-Storing Polymer Clay
11-Canework
12-Using Stone Clays
13-Using Translucent Clays
14-Molding & Sculpting
15-Creating Surface Effects
16-Making Polymer Clay Jewelry
17-Safety & Cleanup
18-Equipment
19-More Information Sources
What are pasta machines used for?

The pasta machine is used by many clayworkers to roll thin sheets of clay, to give a crackled finish to metal leaf on clay, and as an aid to conditioning fresh clay.

What kind should I get?

Get the hand-cranked rolling type of machine, one with metal rollers - not the kind that works by having a motor extrude the dough through a plate. (The extruder-type machines aren't strong enough to work with polymer clay.) The most widely-available brand seems to be Atlas. Another brand is Pasta Queen.

If you want a pasta machine but don't want to spend the money for a new one, consider haunting a few garage sales or flea markets, where you'll sometimes find these machines for sale at bargain prices.

Can I make a flat sheet without a pasta machine?

You can use a rolling pin (or anything with the same shape, such as a smooth glass) to make a flat sheet of clay. Roll it out between two sheets of waxed paper to avoid having it stick to the roller.

To ensure the sheet is an even thickness, put a dowel to either side of the clay, resting the roller on the dowel. This will flatten the clay sheet to the thickness of the dowel you're using.

How do I use the machine to condition clay?

First, press the clay into a fairly flat sheet. (If the clay is too stiff to do this, you'll need to warm and condition it first.)

Feed your sheet through the machine at the thickest setting - on the Atlas, this is setting #1. Fold the sheet in half and feed it through again, fold-first. Repeat this three or four times. Then increase the setting to the next level. Continue feeding the clay through the machine, three or four times at each level of thickness, until you get to setting #5 or #6. By this time, the clay will be conditioned and ready to use.

How do I clean the pasta machine?

Normally, you shouldn't need to clean a pasta machine, although you may want to wipe off the rollers with a clean cloth (or run a cloth partway through the machine to make sure you get to all the roller surfaces). Some people use baby wipes to clean the rollers.

The metal flanges at the bottom of the machine sometimes trap bits of clay, which you can get at with a small stiff brush or toothbrush. Another trick is to run a piece of scrap clay through the machine to pick up any loose flecks of clay.

Never soak the pasta machine in water or put it through the dishwasher; doing so will ruin the machine.

Can I use the same machine for food and clay?

Unfortunately, not safely, because the clay tends to work itself into the crannies of the pasta machine where you can't remove it. It's safer to use a separate machine for clay.

Why is the pasta machine shredding my clay?

If your clay isn't soft enough already, running it through the pasta machine will shred it instead of making a nice flat sheet. If you're having this problem, you probably need to condition your clay a little more first. The softer brands of clay can be used in a pasta machine without preconditioning, but if you're working in a cold room, you may need to at least warm the clay first.

You may not be able to roll the stiffer clays at the thinnest setting at all. If you're having trouble getting a sheet as thin as you want, roll it through at the next thicker setting several times first, folding it in half for each pass, then try it at the thinner setting.

Do I need a food processor to work with clay?

The food processor is not a necessity for working with polymer clay, but many clay artists find it a helpful time-saver for conditioning and mixing the clay.

Can I use the same processor for food and clay?

This isn't a good idea, because it's very difficult to work into all the nooks and crannies of the processor bowl and make absolutely sure you've removed any trace of clay. If you want to use the same unit for food and clay, get a separate bowl and blade for clay use (and label them to prevent mixups).

What brand should I get?

Look for a unit with a strong motor, because chopping clay is tougher than most of the food jobs the processor is intended for. Various people have reported success with Black & Decker and Sunbeam food processors.

If you want a food processor but don't want to spend the money for a new one, consider haunting a few garage sales or flea markets. People often sell a used or extra food processor, and you can pick up a bargain.

Can I use a coffee grinder instead?

Sure. However, a coffee grinder has such a small capacity that you may find yourself frustrated when trying to prepare more than a little bit of clay. A coffee grinder may also be harder to clean clay out of than a food processor, making things difficult when you want to switch colors.

How long should I chop clay?

If you're chopping clay to condition it, try chopping in bursts of ten seconds or so for one to three minutes. This will warm the clay (from the friction) as well as chopping it into small bits.

Next---Using a Food Processor
pig ornament