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Author Topic: PB - What tools do I need for polymer clay?  (Read 4962 times)


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PB - What tools do I need for polymer clay?
« on: March 28, 2011, 08:34:29 AM »
I have had lots of people asking me this question.

It's a tough one to answer - most clayers I know have boxes, no - rooms, full of tools. But if you press them, there are only probably about 5 that they use on a daily basis. Yet in most cases those 5 "must have" tools can be quite different for each person!

The point is - until you start claying, you never really know what tools will become your own must-haves.

You will already have lots of tools in the kitchen or craft room that you can use. Avoid anything plastic unless you know it is chemically compatible with the clay, any PVC based plastic won't be. That often includes any of the clear, rigid type plastics (except acrylic). Try leaving a shatter-proof ruler on some unbaked polymer clay and you will soon know about it. The plasticizers in the clay will soften the plastic ruler into a gooey mess. The same goes for the plastic pots that hold the mica powders!

CLAY TOOL MYTH: There is a myth that goes around in polymer clay circles that once you use a tool for clay, you can never use it for food preparation again.

This isn't quite so. It all comes down to how clean you can get the tool after claying with it. Something like a metal cookie cutter, or a glass baking dish with no dinks or scratches to snag ickle bits of clay would be fine after a good wash in hot soapy water. But a wooden chopping board or rolling pin, probably not so easily cleaned.

So you may already have lots of tools you can use. There are some that are universally loved for clay work, which I will go over below. But at first, you just really need something to cut and roll-out the clay. Depending on what you want to do, something to model or pierce the clay also.

1. Cutting blades - blades like the Fimo cutting blades (sometimes called "tissue blades") are an investment worth making. These very sharp, very flexible blades allow you to cut wafer thin slices from canes or sweeping long curves into clay sheets. The are not expensive and they last.

2. Roller. Dedicated clayers love their pasta machines for rolling clay sheets. But if you are just starting out, you may just want to get a hand roller and some rolling guides. The handroller should be acrylic - so it will not react with the chemicals in the clays. The rolling guides allow you to roll the sheet to a specific thickness, by resting the roller upon the guides.

 I have seen some projects advse people to use a drinking glass or bottle to roll their clay out - PLEASE DON'T do this! Glass is unpredictable and can break suddenly. Hands contain lots of delicate, important nerves and tendons. Acrylic hand rollers are cheap. I am sure you see what I am getting at ;-)

If your claying is to become serious - invest in a pasta machine. Ask around first - loads of people have unwanted ones you might be able to blag. Remember, if you use a pasta machine for clay - you cannot use it for food again, it has to become dedicated to your claywork, because it is next to impossible to clean inside and out without totally dismantling it.

3. Oven Thermometer - this is worth having because it will let you see if you are baking your work correctly. The dials on most ovens are quite inaccurate, so checking with an oven thermometer is a great idea. Especially if you want to sell your work, because then you owe it to your customers to ensure it is baked properly.

4. Piercing tools. If you will be beadmaking, you will need something to make the holes. Some people like the metal bead piercing pins or darning needles. I prefer good old wooden cocktail sticks. I like to make the hole before baking and have yet to find a tool that suits my purpose as well as this humble little tool.

5. Modelling tools. If you will be doing modelling or sculpture, you will need a selection of tools. Things like metal wax carver tools, dentail picks etc, old knitting needles etc all can be used.

6. Clay extruder. This tool is great for making extruded shapes of clay - use it for hair on models, components for canes, frames and bevels etc. There are several of these on the market. Choose one with a wind-down handle like the Makins clay extruder or the Walnut hollow ones. The old metal plunger type extruders are really hard to use with polymer clay, they are designed for much softer kinds of clay.

7. Baking and work surfaces. Glass pyrex dishes or metal cookie sheets can be used to bake the clay. Line with baking paper first. Ceramic tiles make great work surfaces - you can work on the tile and pop the whole thing directly into the oven for baking.

8. Paintbrushes - a variety of artist brushes are useful, for applying varnishes or powders and paints etc.

9. Cookie Cutters - fantastic for cutting out different clay shapes to use in projects, especially jewellery projects. Avoid plastic cutters unless you know they are compatible.

Those are just some of the tools clayers find useful.

« Last Edit: March 28, 2011, 08:42:33 AM by ejralph »
Emma from Sunny Sussex, UK
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