Clay Extruder Cleaning and Maintenance Tips… Plus Project Ideas

Polymer Clay Extruder

“The extruder in my studio will now live next to the pasta machine.” ~Illaya

If you want your polymer clay tools to last, you will need to keep them maintained properly. This is certainly the case when it comes to your polymer clay extruder, or clay gun as some people call it. Listed below are 5 cleaning and usage tips for the Makin’s Professional Ultimate Clay Extruder Gun:

1) Use softer clay in the barrel. You can sneak in a little crumbly clay along with the soft clay for techniques like the one used to make Jupiter Beads. But a whole barrel full of hard clay, may end up breaking the plunger or stripping the threads on the screw handle.

2) To clean the barrel and plunger remove clay first, and then completely unscrew the plunger till it reaches the end. Never unscrew the handle without removing clay because it can cause a vacuum which could break the plunger. Undo the screw caps on both ends and slowly pull the plunger straight out of the barrel. Don’t tilt the plunger at an angle because the rod could get stuck.

3) Once the extruder is disassembled, clean the barrel on the inside with rubbing alcohol or a paper towel. A baby wipe will also work as an alternative. Check for clay stuck in the threads of the caps and on the extruder disks.

4) Clean around the black rubber o-ring on the plunger with a baby wipe or rubbing alcohol and remove any excess clay. Check for damage of the o-ring and replace it with the extra one that came with your tool if necessary. Rub a small amount of Vaseline or Armor All on the o-ring, wiping off any excess.

5) When replacing the plunger, insert it straight into the barrel and thread the top and bottom caps back on. Clean as a whistle and ready to get back into some extruding action!

Other Clay Extruder Resources and Technique Articles:

Do you have a clay extruder? If so which brand? What is good/bad about it? What is your favorite polymer clay technique done with an extruder? Are there any extruder techniques you’d like to see a tutorial on?

Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor


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Comments

  1. I love my extruder! It’s a Makin’s Professional Ultimate Clay Extruder Gun. I bought it last month. Before that I had a Sculpey clay gun that I barely never used because it was so hard to extrude with it…

    Jupiter beads and Mod Cane are my favorites techniques done with an extruder!

  2. We have the Makins Ultimate Clay Extruder as well. I too used to have a sculpey clay gun but after a couple batches of Jupiter beads it made sense to get the Makins Ultimate. I love mod canes. I also use the extruder now to make really textural background packing of canes. BUT my all time favorite use is JUPITER BEADS! I can’t get enough of the melding colors and crackling layers. They fascinate me.

  3. Thanks Cindy, this was an excellent and timely post. Just for listing here, would folks mind sharing what “soft” clays they use in the extruder successfully?

    Stripped more than a few threads of those non-Makin extruders. And dried clay, and bits of left over sparkly stuff extruded by accident is not fun. Though I can usually find something to do with it, LOL!!!

  4. I initially bought the silver thumb-press type extruder. Total piece of junk!!! It went into the bottom drawer and stayed there. Then I ran across something online about the green Makins extruder. Bought one with my 40% off coupon at Hobby Lobby and it hasn’t rested for very long at a time since. I love the retro canes, I love doing swirls and stems, borders, you name it! I also use it to pack my canes. Even after I started using the play-doh method for packing, I still use extruded snakes to fill in the areas between the petals. Makes a good tight pack without having to go through the tedious process of cutting, shaping and fitting individual pieces. I LOVE my Makins extruder!

  5. I have a Makin’s Professional Ultimate Clay Extruder on order. It’s my first extruder and can’t wait to start playing with it.

  6. I have the Makin’s Extruder, and it’s a love/hate relationship. Love it’s usefulness, hate that it’s made of aluminum. I’ve gone through three of them, the threads eventually strip, no matter how careful I’ve been with it or how much I clean it. I had one that broke the second time I used it!

    I heard a rumor that Makin’s is coming out with an extruder made of stainless steel to use with metal clays… even though I don’t use metal clays, I may invest in one of these, just so I don’t have to keep replacing my extruder!

  7. I have the Makins Professional Ultimate extruder and have not had problems with stripping threads. I use Premo clay. But, I have not used the small spaghetti looking discs. I make my “plug” to go into he extruder and then roll it in my hands to warm it up and make it thinner than the barrel before loading. The makes the clay softer. wonder if you can keep the clay soft by using a hair dryer on the outside of the barrel. i have never had problems with hard clay from previous projects. i never leave clay in the extruder.
    .

  8. Into the Dawn, love your site! That clay piece at the top of the page is lovely!

    What clay are you using? Might be a factor in the threads stripping.

    Anna, I like that tip about using the hair dryer to warm the barrel of the extruder and the clay inside. Going to try that with some FIMO. Might make a big difference, so long as the stuff just warms and doesn’t “cook.”

    Never had a problem with the Makins using KatoClay. But, I’ll bet if I used harder clays left over from years ago, it might be more difficult to use.

  9. Jocelyn– thanks so much, glad you enjoyed my site. :-)

    I’m using Premo clay, I don’t know, maybe I don’t condition it enough? I will have to be extra careful about that and see if it makes a difference. For a while, I was making lots & lots of “noodles” for 5 x 5 filigree tiles, and that was definitely hard on the extruder. Not doing that so much now, so maybe this one will last longer!

  10. My first extruder was the Sculpey and it was very hard to squeeze clay out of. Then I transformed it using a Cox chalk gun that moves it’s self along by squeezing the handle. It worked very well. Then I got the ultimate makins’ extruder WOW. Has anyone heard about the Bullens wullens adapter to fit a drill and the ultimate clay gun? I went to that site and even left an e-mail but have not gotten an answer. Lynn

    • @lynn watts: I have found the some information posted online for the Bullens Wullens power drill adapter that can be used with a Makins extruder.

      aboutus.org/Bullenswullens.com

      Bullen’s Wullens
      Centerburg, OH
      United States 43011
      Tel: 740-625-5554
      Toll Free: 800-565-7290

  11. Dear Cindy, I don’t know if this idea will help any of your clayers that like me have arthritic hands.

    Clay Extruder Handle Adapter

    My husband who I must say is very supportive, thinks I am a little crazy but this works. The picture shows you how I make do with what I have – a piece of broom handle and a plastic cotton reel. I will buy a piece of plastic pipe when I go to town (32 miles round trip) so only once a week for me. If anyone has something better I would love to hear.

    Clay Extruder Handle Adapter

    I am a very new member but already have learned so much. A massive thank you all.

    Ritzs
    .

  12. @Cindy G: I never did buy one of those silver Sculpey Clay Guns. I have trouble with stiff hands and I knew I’d never be able to push with my thumb. Lucked out and got the Makins first. Quite glad, since it works so well!

    @Melinda: Those Jupiter Beads are fun aren’t they! Glad you’re enjoying using your new extruder.

    @Jocelyn: I use Premo in my extruder with no problems. It seems to be soft enough and is a good strong clay to work with.

    @Arlene: There sure are many different uses for an extruder, Eh? I use my Makins for cane backgrounds too.

    @Katina: I think you are really going to like it!

    @intothedawn: I’ve never stripped the threads on mine, but I do work with pretty soft clay and try not to force the clay out too fast. The stainless extruder may be a good idea for you. They have a smaller chamber and are about twice the price, but it they should be very durable.

    @Anna: Love the blow dryer idea! That should work great!

    @lynn: I haven’t heard any fresh news about the Bullin’s Wullins adapter lately. For those that don’t know it’s a plastic adapter that you attach to a power drill and your plunger handle on your extruder. Don’t know if it is good or not, since I haven’t tried it myself.

    @Ritzs: Wow! A Massive THANK YOU for this fantastic idea! There are so many readers who will really appreciate this simple yet effective idea since so many suffer with strength issues in their hands. I am having an increasingly difficult time with my hands and may need an adaptive tool like this myself soon. I’m sure the group here would love to see follow up pictures once you are able to get a hold of the plastic pipe that you spoke of. Thanks again for sharing your idea! If you have any more information about making adaptive tools for Arthritic hands, please do pass them along!

    ** Some time ago, Cindy E. made a fun comment about an extruder that you needed to be an Olympic Athlete to use LOL. The “Makins Clay Extruder” link by my name above will take you to that story if anyone wants to read it :-)

  13. Ritzs, a very special thanks to your husband for inventing such a wonderful tool and to you for sharing it in a pic. I cannot wait to do this to my Makin Extruder. Cannot tell you how big the smile is on my face, since I love extruding and the repeditive turning does affect my hands. Think I’ll be able to spend a lot more time doing it thanks to you both!

  14. Ritz, one idea I am thinking about, preparing to assemble this to use is that I might put some of that rubber or foam grippy stuff around the threads on the reel to make it more plush and easier to grip. Maybe moleskin would work?

    Or am I misunderstanding the process? Does the thread on the wheel help to grip? Or does your hand need to stay loose on it and let it spin?

  15. Jocelyn I just used the cotton reel as it was the only thing i could find that would go over the piece of broom handle, the reel spins on the the broom handle i just left the old cotton thread on it but anything to help the grip would be good.one day i will make a posh one. but for now i am getting fairly good with this one

  16. Ritz, I love it, and am into saving my cash for treats. Right now I am using an antique huge nail to pound into a piece of sturdy beautiful round driftwood on the cement door pad out back, and have the thread reel in my supplies. I’m a tryin’ girl, ahahaha!

    Just think the thread would end up cutting my hands, which are bad enough anyway, lol! Thanks, appreciate you taking the time to answer and explain it to me better. Cannot wait to crank this baby up with some new Premo and see what it makes.

  17. I’ve been using an extruder but, every time I try to extrude a graduated rainbow colour string, the string doesn’t come out like a rainbow. It comes out like the colours are encased within the string not rainbow… if you know what i mean?

    • @Jennifer Baker: Hi Jennifer, I think I understand. In Cindy’s Mod Cane video, different colors of clay circles are assembled into a log, and placed in the extruder. A cool length of clay comes out, which you can use to make a cane. If you notice in the video preview, the outside of the extruded lengths are blue. Here’s why: when you load the clay into the barrel of the extruder, the color placed at the top, or next to the “die end,” is the one that covers the outside of the extruded part (blue in this case.)

      To understand what is happening with you, it would help to know how you loaded the clay for your rainbow. How did you load the colors into the barrel of your extruder? Did you assemble little circles of color, a skinner-blended log, or what? Also, is it just one or several colors on the outside “encasing” the extruded length?

      To avoid having just one color on the outside of your “string”, the clay at the tip (where the die goes/clay comes out) needs to be multi-colored. Or at least, the circles of different colors have to be very thin at the top. Well, I hope I helped a little. If not, leave another comment, as well as the answers to the questions (how you are loading your colors, how many outside colors on string.) Then, we can troubleshoot further. Good luck!

  18. Thank-You June for the info, it will come in handy . Thank-You for your kindness in placing the info on this blog. We as a BIG Family here appreciate every bit of advice and help given.

  19. I have sent email and phoned and left message for Pat at Bullens Wullens in an attempt to purchase one of the adaptors they developed for the makins extruder. Have yet to hear back from them. I was really intrigued when I saw the video clip of this adaptor in use… over a year ago. Still am interested though I’m more than a bit frustrated at this point.
    If anyone does have luck getting through to BW I would REALLY appreciate hearing how you were able to do that.
    Meantime I love the broom handle adaptor…will definitely try this. THANK YOU FOR SHARING YOUR INGENUITY.

  20. The info June gave is correct. Also try 2 order by credit card, use the number June gave,if using PayPal send an e-mail request that includes ur e-mail address for ur PayPal acct.and mailing address and then he will send u a PayPal money request, 2 order by personal chk. send 2 Bullens Wullens @ 5711 County Rd. 13 Centerburg, OH 43011 (B sure 2 include ur mailing address.) (He accepts MC, Visa, PayPal, and personal check). If u have any problems or do not understand what I have printed out here 4 u, type n his e-mail address and ask him ur questions and he will get back 2 u. I hope this helps. This is the info I used and received the adapater, it is $25.00 and that includes mailing 2 U.S. if out of U.S. he will give u more info.

  21. why is larry’s e-mail not showing up? nobody can contact him for the adapter without his e-mail address. I do not understand when someone ask for help I thought we were suppose to help if we could?!

  22. Lynn, Thank you for 1. your prompt reply and 2.noting the price of the adaptor.
    I actually have the contact info…it is what I used when I phoned. I just never heard back from anyone. Therefore didn’t even know how much the adaptor would cost…just that I wanted one lol.I have noted that there website has been “under construction’ for some time now…maybe they didn’t get my emails or hear my phone messages for some reason? I will try once more with bullens but first I think I’ll give the broom handle a try.

  23. @lynn watts: As you can see Lynn, the information you provided for Arlene was helpful. The reason the email address you tried to post did not show up, is because of privacy rules I have set for this blog. You will notice that emails don’t show up in any of the posts or comments at this site. This is for everyone’s protection and to keep the Spambots away. Spambots are little automated programs that run around the internet harvesting email addresses where ever they are posted. Whenever you publish your email address online, or anyone else’s for that matter, that contact information is guaranteed to be added to many, many different spam lists that will fill up your inbox with all those crap messages that no one wants to see. Everyone can actually do their part to help combat spam be simply not posting your email address anywhere on the internet, ever. And don’t think you are fooling those little automated spambots by spelling out the word “at” instead of using the universal email @ symbol. The bots know better than to let a simple trick like that fool them.

    @Arlene Schiek: I published an article about email deliverability a while back (see link by my name), which has some information that may explain why you have not heard back from the Bullen’s Wullens company. The title of the article is: You Didn’t Return My Email Message – Unfortunate Misunderstandings

  24. Just watched the wonderful tree cane after having lots of frustrating days trying to get back online.

    Over a week without the PCTutor was making me very grumpy so to see part 2 (at last ) was worth the extra wait.
    Well Cindy, now I know I am truly addicted, as was getting withdrawal symptons and even shouted at my little dog!!!!! How sad is that??

    Loved the double speed shots of your hands building up the little logs, (well done Doug) and the finished cane is amazing. Think this is going to be one of my favourites (after the pirate cane) which is just the best………………. Cheers xx

  25. Hello Cindy & Doug:

    I have a wood cutout in the shape of a bottle. This is going to be a plaque to hand on the wall. I have been looking for some type of extruder trim to finish the edges but to no success. I was wondering, and I have never used polymer clay in my life, if one could make an extruder to frame the wood plaque I made. They say from the tutorials that I have been watching, that this stuff hardens and is flexible so it might work as a trim.

    • Hello James, you should be able to make a frame using an extruded piece of polymer clay. You would need to use a strong clay like Premo and just make sure it is soft enough too extrude. The Makin’s extruder is a good one and it has many dies included that should work for you. Your wooden piece needs to be able to be baked in an oven at 275F for you to cure it though. I have a tutorial where I add clay to a laser cut wood ornament. Although I don’t make an extruded frame for it, it does contain many tips for working with polymer clay and wood. Here is the link, if you want to take a look: Laser Cut Wood Ornaments Polymer Clay Tutorial

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