Black Streaks from Pasta Machine on Polymer Clay

Pasta Machine Black StreaksVideo #510: Those black lines on are one of the most frustrating problems that can happen with lower end pasta machines.

Topics Covered In This Video:

  • I get asked about those black streaks many times every week, so I know this is a very common problem with many clayers.
  • Originally I thought it was grease coming from the rollers. But that is not the case.
  • Those black lines are actually caused by scratches in the chrome plating on the pasta machine rollers, that is reacting with the chemicals in the polymer clay.
  • Basically the metal scratches are oxidizing which can leave a black residue on the metal surface.
  • The residue then gets transferred to the clay.
  • I removed the fins from the pasta machine to show you how the rollers work, but I have an older machine that can be taken apart. Don’t take apart newer machines because they may not go back together! You’ve been warned ;-?
  • Over time the rollers on the low end pasta machines get lots of scratches where the scrapers rub against them.
  • Scratches tend to be on the outside edges of rollers due to scrapers bending in the middle.
  • On the cheaper pasta machines/clay conditioning machines from Sculpey and Amaco, the chrome plating is low quality, and the rollers age and oxidize quickly.
  • I used to suggest cleaning with Rubbing Alcohol, but I think that actually that makes things worse.
  • Now my suggestion is to run some scrap translucent through your machine, which works to pick up up the black streaks. Then you can put your good clay through rollers.
  • Once clean, it takes a while for oxidation to build up again.
  • My theory on tools… a low end machine will do you well enough until you prove that you will use it enough to justify buying a higher end machine. In other words, buy cheap to start, then if you use it so much that it it breaks… buy the best you can afford at that stage.
  • My next pasta machine purchase will be the Atlas 150 – Wellness Series with Anodized Aluminum rollers that are guaranteed not to leave black streaks.

Do you have any suggestions for videos on tips, techniques or products you would like to learn more about? Let me know in the comments section below!

My goal is to help you to learn quicker and easier ways to bring up the professionalism in your polymer clay art.

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Looking forward to hearing from you!

Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor
  1. Dixie Ann, 17 April, 2014

    I have been lucky as I have never experienced any black streaks in my clay. My original Amaco machine I bought at Joann’s I was able to take the fins off so no problem there. I did use alcohol a lot to clean the scraper blades but it didn’t affect the clay. It is so nice of Cindy to give us links to the different clay machines. The one machine I never see a link to is the Dream Machine. While it is very costly, there is no other machine that matches up to it’s performance, size of clay sheets (10″ wide) and ease of cleaning.
    This machine is specifically made for Polymer Clay, not Pasta. The one big drawback besides the price is the people who make it have to have a minimum of 100 orders before they can start production so you could find yourself having to wait up to two years or maybe longer. One other pasta machine I have used is similar to the Atlas 150 which is made by Hamilton Beach. You can find this one in stores that sell Kitchen and baking supplies and it costs around $39.95 I don’t know if it can be taken apart as mine is just used as a spare if I should need one and I have not experienced black streaks with this one either. Cindy pretty much hit the nail on the head. Buy what you can afford first, then depending on your needs go from there. My very first clay machine costs $10 bucks at Joann’s on sale half price and it did the job for me at the time.

  2. Marion Rayner, 18 April, 2014

    Hi Cindy

    I can’t believe I’m the only one who uses an actual pasta machine, i.e. made for making pasta, it also seems unlikely that the makers would use inferior metal on their rollers since the machine is intended to produce food and any such black lines would make it ‘unfit for purpose’. I’ve been using my PM for over 10 years and never had the streaks you mention – unless I’ve put dark clay through it and forgotten to clean before using a light colour. Then it’s my fault. I bought my PM when the Kitchen Supplies shop had a sale, it cost £10 (approx $16), it has the fins you mention and is easy to take apart and put back together, one of the best investments I’ve made for working with polymer clay.

    Marion

  3. Jill V., 18 April, 2014

    Great advice, Cindy.

  4. Catherine Paul, 18 April, 2014

    Hello,
    sorry for my english, I’m french…
    I saw your video 510 about pasta machine black streaks.
    I would like to know if using another type of polymer clay, instead of transluscent, is OK to “wash” it ?
    Thank you for your tutos, they help me a lot.

    Catherine PAUL, Polycat.

  5. Cindy Lietz, 22 April, 2014

    Hi Catherine, thank you for your kind comment! You can use a light clay like White instead if you want, but if any white clay is left behind on your rollers, it will get into your good clay. I like translucent because it will not contaminate your clay colors. (Hope that translates well.)

  6. Debra M, 18 April, 2014

    Thanks heaps I was having trouble with streaking on my new machine so I’ll give this ago.

  7. Kay Burns, 21 April, 2014

    Hi Cindy,
    Thanks for tips ,my machine has got those fine scratches ,not getting black streaks yet !!
    At least now I know how to prevent them Thanks, very helpful as usual.

  8. elaine faulks, 25 April, 2014

    Calling all the inventors who read this blog. We need a “pasta machine” that has clear acrylic rollers. With “scrapers” more like flexible fins. Probably made from silicon

    This machine would be easy to take apart and easy to clean We could see at a glance if any clay was stuck inside
    ( Who invented the first pasta machine? It seems to me the design hasn’t changed in years.) It was obviously made to make pasta, and does a good job for that purpose.

    Now we need a PM especially designed for polymer clay, and could you also make the rollers 10 inches wide please. Also not as expensive as the “Dream Machine” and with a few thicker settings.
    Thank you.
    Well you never know CINDY, somebody clever could be reading this, go to his/her workshop and come up with just what we need……..cheers xx……..

  9. Cindy Lietz, 29 April, 2014

    Hi Elaine, you are right, you never know who is watching…

    There was a lot of discussion a long time ago about what everyone’s wishes were for better pasta machine were. Here is a link to the old post about taking apart the machines (can’t do that anymore with most of the machines now) and the problems people were having with them. It has literally been years and people are still have the same issues with these darn machines!

  10. Debra M, 10 May, 2014

    Thanks for this great tip, I was having so much trouble with black streaking.

  11. Marianne V, 17 May, 2014

    I appreciate your videos because you do a good job of addressing one topic in a few minutes, clearly and concisely. I also appreciate your sense of humor. Those black streaks happen to me, too, and now I understand what is causing them.

    I have a question about how you chose Premo over Fimo. I’ve used both and cannot choose between them. I’d appreciate your guidance. Thanks!?

  12. Cindy Lietz, 17 May, 2014

    Thank you so much for your comment Marianne. I really appreciate hearing that from you!

    As far as why I chose Premo over Fimo, is basically because of the colors. Premo is based on the artist pigment palette, which makes color mixing predictable and easy for me, since I have experience mixing paints and it translates quite nicely. I also love the strength and consistency of Premo which can be used for any technique that you could possibly want to do in polymer, which is another reason why I have chosen it. Fimo is a great brand though, so if it is more available to you, it is an excellent choice!?

  13. Elsie Haynes, 26 October, 2014

    Hi Cindy, I’m just getting started in polymer clay and I really appreciate your tutorials.

    I purchased the Atlas 150 pasta machine after seeing your you tube about it. Out of the box, mine leaves faint ripples in the clay. You don’t notice it so much straight on, but at an angle as the light hits it. The ripples are very uniformly 1/4 inch apart. The handle seems to turn smoothly, but the gears do make a clicking noise as I turn the clay through. I spent time conditioning the clay before running it through and made sure to roll it to less than 2x the thickest setting n the pasta machine before putting it through.

    I’ve never used a pasta machine before. Is this normal? It is still better than hand rolling, but if mine is defective, I need to return it asap so they will take it back. Thanks for your help (and the videos)

    Elsie Haynes

  14. Cindy Lietz, 28 October, 2014

    This is normal Elsie, especially on the thicker settings of machines with a lot of settings. The machines that have less settings don’t need to spread their gears as far apart to get all the sizes, so they don’t jerk as much as they roll.

    You can try holding the clay and pulling a little as you roll… that can help. You can also roll one direction then the other, it smooths out the wrinkles a little. The next settings down won’t be as bad so you can just use those and double up your clay if you need it thick. You can give your sheet a tug to pull out the ripples or you can just roll them out with a brayer after if you have to.

    Don’t return the machine though… the next one will probably do the same thing. Mine does. It is still the most lovely machine to work with though. Best I’ve ever had!

  15. Elsie Haynes, 29 October, 2014

    Thanks Cindy. I am considering sending it off to that company that replaces the plastic tip blade for the metal ones. Basically, just to make the cleaning easier. I’ve only used it for a week, but can already tell that switching between dark and light clays can be an issue (got a little blue in my white). Have you talked with anyone who’s tried it?

  16. Cindy Lietz, 04 November, 2014

    Hi Elsie, I have found that a simple wipe with a cleaning wipe keeps this machine super clean. The clay doesn’t seem to sneak in behind the scrapers at all. But if you want to ‘Monafy’ your machine by having Mona Kissel swap out the blades for removable ones, I hear that it is a great thing to do. Just haven’t found it necessary for myself yet.

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