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Polymer  Clay Teacher's Primer

Sheeting and Processing Clay - Dan Cormier

Sheeting Fimo (non-transparent “00”) with Plexi roller and Pasta machine:
  1. Begin with well processed or half processed (food processor) clay
  2. Fimo needs to be eased into changes in shape and thickness
  3. Using a Plexi rod gently flatten clay flipping clay over at each pass to ensure movement of clay on both sides
  4. Gradually flatten to a thickness of clay only slightly thicker than the thickest setting on your pasta machine
  5. Think of this sheet as the #0
  6. Flatten one end to a fairly straight edge and insert at thickest setting
  7. Use one hand to crank and the other to feed and catch
  8. Beginning at thickest setting, gradually descent the thickness settings to the desired one
  9. With Fimo, the key is not to jam too thick a piece of clay into the machine’s rollers. Instead, ease into it putting less stress on the pasta maker, the clay and your body.
Other Topics Still Under Discussion:
  • Sheeting using Pasta Maker (Atlas or Tratoria)
  • Sheeting by other means--brayer, plexi roller, straight sided glass or jar
  • Sheeting differences between brands
  • Tool nuances - differences between pasta makers - recomendations on good machines
  • Sheeting to process vs. sheeting for project
  • Sir bubbles
  • Flat Sheets: Shaping balls, snakes, sheets
A Philosophical Break:

Summary of Generosity vs Territory
(After two hours of discussion on the topic “regarding keeping or releasing control of your techniques”)...
Tracy - Should we collectively decide on ethics?
Elise - No, we should take responsibility for our own protection.
Dan - and then, as a community, accept that we can’t all be generous all the time and that’s O.K.
Elise - better to have it come out in the open...and be gutsy about sharing your sense of integrity.
Margaret Regan - be clear about what you feel is your territory.
Bottom line
(when you want to keep your technique in your own hands)
“I’m not finished with it yet”
"I’m not ready to let go of it yet”
“I’m not ready to share that yet.”
Teaching Tips Cont'd:

Tools - Lindly Haunani
Tools for working with Polymer Clay can be found everywhere, whether they are manufactured, a found object, or “jury-rigged.” Depending on your sensibilities you may eventually accumulate hundreds of tools.

A basic tool kit would include something to cut with, something to roll with, something to make holes with and something to burnish with.
(* indicates the most versatile tool from each category)

Something to ROLL with:
1. Pasta machine you are willing to dedicate to art. While this is not a necessary handily rolls flat sheets and speeds conditioning
2. Solid Plexiglas rod*
3. Photography brayer (Plexiglas for dry mounting)
4. Straight-sided glass bud vase, wine bottle or glass

Something to CUT with:
1. In addition to clay cutting tools (see Marie Segal's Cutting Tools below), you will need a pair of scissors and an Exacto knife.

Something to make HOLES with:
1. This could be anything with a sharp point, a “true” square mounting. and of an appropriate size to correspond to your work.
2. Kemper aluminum pin tool*
3. Aluminum hat pins
4. Double pointed knitting needles in an assortment of sizes

Something to BURNISH with:
1. Teaspoon
2. Bookmakers/paper artists bone folder*
3. printmakers’ plate burnishers
MATERIALS - these are useful to have on hand:
  • Plastic baggies
  • plastic wrap
  • Tracing paper/parchment paper
  • Something to carry your work home in
  • Hand lotion
  • Paper towels
  • Skin barrier cream and/or non-latex gloves
Work Surface - Carol Shelton

A work surface can be the entire area in front of the artist and it can be used for a variety of tasks, from conditioning clay, to rolling out long canes, and to building objects. A small work surface is sometimes placed on top of a larger one in order to turn the piece being built, or in order to move it to the oven without much handling.

Different properties need to be considered for a work surface that will be transported. The following list of qualities should be considered in making a decision regarding the size and type of surface for use in the studio and off-site:

Ideal properties of a work surface:
1. Smooth (no texture or porosity) and flat (no bumps or depressions). Note: some advanced artists prefer to perform some functions on a textured surface.
2. Hard (does not mar easily)
3. Stays in place when working on it (heavy or taped down)
4. Impervious to the chemical in polymer clay or other materials used in conjunction with the clay
5. Cleans easily
6. Stain resistant
7. Clay adheres to surface temporarily
8. (Masking) tape adheres to surface temporarily

Additional desired properties of a work surface
1. Contains a measuring grid or is transparent so that a measuring grid may be placed underneath it
2. Large enough to accommodate most tasks to be performed on it

Desired properties of a portable work surface
1. Lightweight
2. Dimensions can be accommodated in luggage or other container used for transporting to work site.
3. All the properties listed under A.

Possible materials for work surfaces:
Glass, marble, Formica, Corian, Masonite, Plexiglas, matte board, Bristol board Note: The weight is greatly affected by the thickness of the material

Firing surfaces often are selected on the basis of requirements of the piece being fired. A list of possible properties is presented below.

Ideal properties of a firing surface

1. Surface has no unwanted effect on piece being fired
  1. Does not alter surface finish
  2. Does not change shape of piece being fired
2. Surface is safe to use in oven
3. Surface facilitates the firing process (e.g., evenly distributes heat)
4. Surface is sufficiently durable to last through several (numerous) firings
5. Surface or accoutrements facilitate the proper firing for each type of piece (e.g., beads can be suspended on a rod that prevents any unwanted pressure on beads and exceedingly soft and multi-dimensional items will not collapse during firing

A variety of firing surfaces can be used depending on need. Some possibilities include:
Bristol board, parchment, printer paper, glass, ceramic tile, non-stick baking sheet, cornstarch bed, polyester fiberfill bed, and polymer clay armatures for holding needles.
Cutting Tools - Marie Segal

Blades and Cutting Tools
There are many options and preferences here:
  • Tissue slicers
  • Scissors
  • Ceramic ribs (metal)
  • Wire
  • Saws
  • Exacto type blades
  • Wallpaper blade
  • Utility knives
  • Rotary type cutter
  • Non-serated paring knives
  • Razor blades
  • Ripple blade (food industry)
  • Flex blades
As with most things, the right tool will make all the difference in the world...
  • Consider application in making choice
  • Be aware when using potentially dangerous tools
  • Protect area or table being used to cut on
    Suggestions: Heavy cardboard, “cutting mats” plastic cutting mats, bread board, tile, glass (slick)
  • Make sure fingers are out of blade path
  • Prevent round tools from rolling off the table into lap or leg by pressing handle into lump of clay
  • Do not put blades in mouth
When cutting canes, let cane rest, or put it into the refrigerator
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