Wednesday, 22 February 2012

The Tool Kit: getting started with polymer clay

The tools you will need for working with polymer clay are determined by what you want to make with it.  If you're on a budget, and just want to try the clays out, many of the tools can be found around the house.  Once tools have been used with polymer clay they should not be used for preparing food.

When the polymer clay first comes out of the packet it can be quite hard. Warming the clay will soften it and the easiest way to do this is to wrap it in cling film and wear it your pocket for 20-30 mins.  Take care not to overheat the clay (such as leaving in direct sunshine) as it will begin to cure (harden) and become unusable.  Some clay manufacturers have made softeners to blend with the clays and liquid polymer clays will do the same job.

A Non-porous Surface
Rolling polymer clay on a ceramic tile
Most importantly you will need a non-porous surface, such as a ceramic tile, on which to work.  Polymer clay will not adhere itself to the surface of the tile and modelled items can be left in situ while they are baked in the low temperature of the oven.

Rolling Clay

A polymer clay blend created in a pasta machine
A rolling pin is essential and a suitable option may be difficult to find in the home.  The smooth, none porous material of acrylic is ideal for the purpose, do not use wood as clay will stick to it.

If you are going to do a lot of work with polymer clay, a most valuable tool is a pasta machine.  Feeding the softened clay through the pasta machine ensures evenly rolled sheets of clay which can be used to create blends or to make canes (find out more about these techniques from the Fact File).  The pasta machine makes light work of conditioning clay for detailed modelling.

A Sharp Blade
When working with canes and millefiori, it is very important to have a sharp knife with a fine blade so that you can make clean cuts without dragging the clay out of shape.

Adding Detail
A doll made from polymer clay by Sue Heaser
Detailed modelling can be achieved with the point of a darning needle or a thin knitting needle.  The needle can also be used to pierce the hole in beads (see how to make a simple polymer clay bead from our Fact File).

Do not use a sharp ended needle or pin as they will tear the clay rather than smooth and shape it.


Crafty Chris said...

Thanks for the tip with the tile didnt know they could go into the oven.
Chris x

George Weil said...

Hi Chris, I've baked on a ceramic tile a few times as the clay bakes at a relatively low temperature there shouldn't be any problems with this method. You can sandwich flat pieces of clay between two ceramic tiles to bake it. As the surface of the tile is so smooth you may get shiny flecks on the clay. This can be overcome by placing baking parchment either side of the clay. Kind regards Allison

Crafty Chris said...

Chris x