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One View of Conditioning
by Dottie McMillan
The comments on the TV show that didn't tell people how to condition the clay prompts me to send along some of the newer thoughts on the subject. We have always been told that the clay has to be well conditioned to be strong. This included running it through the pasta machine from 10 to 20 times or doing it by hand by twisting stretching and twisting again.

Some time ago a number of us did some tests. We made some sheets that were very well conditioned and we also made some sheets that had been put through the pasta machine only once. Then we strength tested each piece. Surprise! The unconditioned clay re-test just as strong as the conditioned clay.

I made calls to a number of clay mfgs and people who should know about it's chemistry and asked about conditioning or not conditioning. I didn't get a single straight answer to my questions. It was almost funny how they sidestepped and gave me only vague replies. Why? I'll be darned if I know.

So what did we make of this? Well, I for one decided that some conditioning is necessary, if not for strength, at least for smoothness. It's also reasonable to think that remixing the chemicals in the clay before using it, is a good practice. It also warms the clay some and makes it easier to use. So what I now tell my students is to "condition" the clay until if feels smooth and soft. It's not the number of times you put it through the machine, it's the "workability" of the clay that matters.

Just some food for thought.

©2001-Dottie McMillan


From Debra Ann

Tip: "The NEVERknead will condition even the hardest polymer clay. It exerts 1/2 ton of pressure and is easy to use and faster than hand-kneading. Seriously, why hand-knead and put yourself through the pain and trouble and wasted time? The NK also blends colors FAST. I blended white and black to a perfect gray in 7 minutes. Just some thoughts!"

From Lacey Riles
Tip: "What I do if my clay is too hard is to get it into a ball and just roll it around tightly in your hands. It will create heat from the friction, and the clay will start to get softer (that's just what I do because I don't have a fancy food processor or any of that kind of stuff - haha!). But there are many more greater ways to do this. For example, you could put it in your bra (I know that sounds crazy) or under your arm if you're patient enough."

From Betty Beus
Tip: "Vaseline..... very little on your finger tips as you knead your clay will soften and make it pliable. If it is really hard and crumbly I take vaseline, rub it on the brick of clay then begin to rub it into the clay. As the clay warms from my hands it also softens. Keep adding tiny bits of vaseline until the clay begins to soften, then try the pasta machine. Never tried a food processer... Thanks for listening."

From Diane Manzi
Tip: "I use a mini food processer to condition my clay. I use all brands of clay and if it's hard and not soft when it comes out of the package I use the slicer and slice in to many small pieces(about a cup) I then put in to the mini processor and grind and chop alternately until it looks like tiny pieces. I then squirt a small amount (less than the tip of your forefinger) of hand lotion (any kind). I grind and chop again until those little pieces stick together, I remove the clay and run it throught he pasta machine several times until its blended. Also a great tecnique for mixing colors.(Do not mix too much hand lotion or the clay will be sticky. If for some reason you do, roll the clay out and let it sit a couple of days between 2 pieces of paper(that will soak up the excess hand lotion)I have been using this technique for over 10 years and it works really well!!"

From Retta
Tip: "Well, it may seem silly, but then again you all may already do this! My mother and I love to experiment with polymer clay, so to prime it we put it in our bras! Its nice and warm and by the time we set up to get's soft! Give it a try ladies, if you don't already do it, that is!"

From Marnie
Tip: "If you have really stuborn, hard, firm clay that wont go into your pasta machine and you really cant work with it then use boiling hot water pour it in a bowl the drop your stuborn clay in and let it soak with glad wrap over it for 2minutes. It works."

From Jade
Tip: "If your clay is even to the point of crumble, you can put small to even large pieces in a plastic baggie, put the baggie in an old sock and then HAVE AT IT with a rubber mallet. I usually do it on the smooth surface of my garage floor (a bumpy surface could tear the bag.) For larger pieces I usually double up on the baggies & socks if need be. WHAT A GREAT STRESS RELIEVER TOO : )"

From Lydia Russo
Tip: "When conditioning Cernit with a rolling pin,(sometimes the pieces are too big for my pasta machine) wiping the rolling pin with a wet, but not dripping, papertowel keeps the clay from sticking to the rolling pin. It also helps to wipe the tile/surface your are working on to keep the clay from sticking there."

From suelee
Tip: "I have a collection of very old classic fimo that was very difficult to condition in the first place but my little food processor, a few drops of sculpy diluent and some mix quick in combination has been very successful for me. According to the mix-quick directions you are not supposed to mix more than 1/4 - 1/3 the amount of your clay (perhaps more would weaken it?) but I have used both the diluent and mix-quick without losing strength. Remember, if it becomes too sticky due to overzealousness with the diluent you can "leach" your clay on paper (I used acid free card stock). It still needs lots of kneading and working but is well worth it and running it through the chopper warms the clay enough to make it easier to knead. Caution: do not over process as you can actually begin to 'cook' the clay with the heat generated by friction."

From Jeanna Carroll
Tip: "When clay is tough to condition(Classic Fimo) there are several remedies. Some suggest warming the clay by sitting on it or putting it under your arm, however, I'm too impatient! I like to put my tough clay either on a heating pad or microwaveable neck warmer in a baggie. During this time I intermittently squeeze it and try to make it workable. Works well. Some suggest cutting it into small pieces and putting it in the food processor. You can add diluent or glycerin to aid in softening. If it's just stiff, not crumbling, you can slice small pieces straight from the block and run them through the pasta machine. I have also heard of using your feet to condition tough clay. Supposedly clay responds well to pressure.(i,e. standing on it). Sculpey III is VERY soft. If it gets too sticky while you're working with it, take a break and pop it in the fridge."

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