You have decided to make your next sculpture with polymer clay. Before you purchase your blocks of polymer clayclay, it is important to understand the nature of the medium and how to prepare it for further use.
Before using polymer clay for any project, it is important to condition it. What is conditioning? It is a process which prepares polymer clay so that it is ready to be used.
By conditioning the polymer clay, air is removed that maybe trapped in the polymer clay block and helps to mix the ingredients evenly. It further ensures that the particles in the clay are properly aligned.
Once the polymer clay is conditioned, it becomes much softer and malleable to work with. You can easily fold, cut or roll the clay according to your requirements.
The length of time to condition polymer clay will depend on a few factors such as the size of the block, the brand, how old the clay is, and the surrounding temperature.
Conditioned polymer clay will ensure its longevity and will improve its strength which means it cannot be easily crumbled or damaged.
So, now that you have understood why it is important to condition polymer clay, we will list down some of the most common ways of conditioning it which can easily be done at home.
Conditioning polymer clay with hand and roller
This is the most common way of conditioning polymer clay and the very first method taught to children to knead clay like a dough. You must have done it yourself as well!
Start by taking one-fourth of a block of clay and begin to roll it back and forth with your hand. Imagine you are kneading dough for a pizza.
In this way, the polymer clay will start to warm up and the edges will gradually smooth out.
When the polymer clay feels warm, roll it into a ball and then roll again to form a snake.
How will you know that the polymer clay is fully conditioned? Here’s a tip: when you form a snake, bring together both its ends and join to make a ring. If it does not break, split or crack, it means your polymer clay is conditioned.
Make sure to stretch and compress the piece of polymer clay. A minimum of five to seven minutes would be enough to make a piece of polymer clay soft and ductile.
Our polymer clay is made with the finest quality and therefore it is easy to condition with hand.
Now you can make use of a roller to flatten out polymer clay. We have polymer clay plastic rollers and acrylic rollers which are made to roll even sheets of polymer clay.
These rollers are transparent which makes it easier to see the piece of polymer clay underneath the roller.
They are easy to clean with water, soap, and baby wipes as well.
Using pasta machine to condition polymer clay
This is a very popular way of conditioning polymer clay if you think that conditioning with hand is time consuming and tiring.
First of all, cut only the required amount of polymer clay from the block which you are going to use.
Make sure the piece which you cut is narrow enough to go through the pasta machine.
To ensure that it fits, don’t forget to read the width settings on your machine.
Our polymer clay pasta machine comes in 6 adjustable thickness settings with a maximum thickness of 3mm.
Now gently fit in the piece of polymer clay into the machine. Make sure not to jam it and roll it through.
When the polymer clay comes out, fold it in half and put it through the machine again. Repeat the process a couple of times.
Remember, not to cut a piece of clay wider than the pasta machine’s width as it can get jammed and damage the machine.
Our polymer clay pasta machine is an efficient equipment to flatten out polymer clay and make even sheets. It comes with one handle and one clamp.
Techniques such as slab-working and marbling become easier and quicker with pasta machine.
Using food processor to condition polymer clay
Food processor works best if your polymer clay is old or has hardened with time. This means it won’t only be hard, but crumbly as well.
Take the piece or block of polymer clay and break it by hand into further pieces. Throw it into the food processor, place the lid, and pulse it.
The machine will break it down further into smaller pieces and warm it up.
This will make it easier to ball up the pieces together which you can do by hand as a next step.
Here is a tip: if the polymer clay is still very dry and hard, take a little bit of softer translucent clay and put it in the food processor with the old clay.
Pulse it again and you will notice that polymer clay has become softer than before and easier to ball together.
Remember, not to use the same food processor for food. It is better to use an old machine to condition your polymer clay.
Alternatively, a coffee grinder may also be used to condition small pieces of polymer clay. The only difference would be that coffee grinder will turn the crumbly pieces of clay into powder.
The powder can be gathered together to form a ball of polymer clay which will make it easier to work with.
Again, you can grind polymer clay along with a piece of soft translucent clay and it will clump together easily.
These two machines work great when you have to condition batches of colors together.
Here are a few tips which you can use to easily condition hard polymer clay:
The first and the easiest way to condition stiff clay it to mix it with some soft polymer clay.
A small amount of mineral oil added to hard polymer clay can do the trick as well.
Take a piece of polymer clay and warm it under low-voltage bulb for a few minutes while rolling and stretching it with your hands. This will warm it up and make it soft.
A mallet may also be used to flatten out polymer clay and align its particles evenly.
Cut your rock hard polymer clay into tiny pieces with a knife exactly how you chop vegetables.
You can add a second color by taking a piece of polymer clay and chopping it up into very small pieces. Mix it with your previous batch of chopped up polymer clay.
Now take your plastic or acrylic roller and roll on top of the pieces with medium pressure. Keep rolling until the pieces start to stick together.
When they start to stick, grab the pieces and form a ball with your hands. The warmth of your hands will make the polymer clay soft.
Hope these ways and some tips of conditioning clay will make your polymer clay models turn out exactly how you envisioned them to be!