Curing Polymer Clay With A Heat Gun Not So Good

Heat Gun Polymer ClayVideo #324: Do you know how hot your heat gun gets? Or perhaps a more important question is… how hot does is not get?

Topics Covered In This Video:

  • Why using a heat gun to cure polymer clay won’t fully cure your polymer clay pieces.
  • How to see how hot your heat gun actually gets.
  • Difficulty curing for the proper length of time.
  • When a heat gun does come in handy… if you want to partially bake polymer clay in stages… or if you are doing specialty techniques such as my Deep Crackle Faux Raku Tutorial.
  • Why you will still need to re-bake your partially baked polymer clay projects, in order to fully cure your pieces for quality and longevity.

By the way, if you have a polymer clay question or challenge you’d like me to address in an upcoming video vlog, do post it in the comments below. I’d love to help you find quicker and easier ways to bring up the professionalism in your polymer clay art.

Oh and don’t forget to give these videos a Thumbs Up click at YouTube if you are enjoying them. The more Likes a video gets, the higher it rises in the searches. And that means even more people will be able to join in on this polymer clay journey of a lifetime.

Also, by subscribing to our YouTube Channel directly, you will receive notifications as soon as new videos are uploaded. To subscribe, click here… Baking Polymer Clay With A Heat Gun. The Subscribe Button is right near the top of that YouTube page.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor

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Comments

  1. Such GOOD advise. Cindy’s Polymer Clay Tutor site is well worth your time and money. She has made the mistakes so YOU don’t have to.!!!

  2. Merry Christmas, sweet Cindy, to you and yours! Thank you all for all the gifts you’ve brought me since I joined! They are all coming in quite handy. Cannot wait for more!

  3. Cindy: About those oven thermometers. Even in a full sized oven, it takes a long time for the thermometer to register the oven temperature. The oven’s own thermometer will register the set temperature while the additional device is way behind.

    I imagine your heat gun truly got that device hotter than the 210 degrees, but it just takes longer to register. The other objection to the heat gun (not) curing polymer clay is that you won’t get complete surrounding heat with the gun. The oven surrounds the object with the heat and would provide an even curing situation.

    Thanks for the video!

    • Excellent point Brenda! I suppose that the thermometer may have gotten higher if I had waited even longer, but that just goes to show you that if I was too impatient to wait any longer for it to get to temp. while it was sitting on the counter… just think how quickly I would quit ‘baking’ if I was holding the thing in my hand!

      There is no way anyone is getting a proper cure with a heat gun, unless they have some sort of mechanical way of holding the gun plus moving it over the clay so that the clay is baked evenly without burn spots. And you are so right about the heat surrounding the piece being impossible. And I bet it costs a lot more in terms of electricity use as well. It is a neat temporary way of ‘setting’ the clay, but not a viable way of fully curing it.

      Thank you for your comment!

  4. I would love to be a little bird in the corner listening to you experiment and film these techniques. You are very professional but sounded exasperated at someone suggesting you can fully cure clay with a heat gun. . Would have loved to see the out takes. I imagine you just wanted to blurt out, “This is the stupidest idea ever. Trust me. Don’t try it!!”
    I saw a You Tube video where raw clay was on a plastic ( yes plastic) shower curtain ring and held with one hand while the heat gun was operated in the other. They did not wear protective gloves, maybe to avoid catching their hand on fire. Also said if the heat gun was too hot for your skin it was too hot for the clay. Sometimes my hair dryer is too hot for my skin. LOL

    They did warn this was not a project for children— thank goodness!

    • You have no idea Anna! lol The kids will come into my studio sometimes wondering why I’m ‘talking loudly’ at my computer screen… and 9 times out of 10 its some rant about some video I’m watching on YouTube where someone is recommending clear nail polish as a glossy coat for their polymer clay charms… or how you can bake your pieces for 10 minutes in a EasyBake Oven!!!

      Just because you can shoot a tutorial video on your iPhone doesn’t mean you are suddenly an expert, people!

      It drives me crazy the mess that these innocent little videos cause in the marketplace. It used to be that if some sweet little girl (or Mom or Granny) was making something with wrong information and sharing how she did it with her friends… the only damage done was that a handful of people ruined a small amount of supplies… eventually quitting and saying, “Well that didn’t work!”

      But now with the power of the internet, the video goes out to a million viewers who then in turn ruin millions of supplies or fill the world with crappy looking projects.

      With all the information/inspiration, good and bad, that is flying around the Net at warp speed these days, it is becoming increasingly difficult to know which information to trust.

      I am hoping that with these PSA type videos, people will come to realize that I know what I’m talking about. I have years and years of crafting experience and product knowledge. And when new stuff comes to the market, I do lots of testing to make sure that what I think should happen with the product, is actually true.

      Plus since there is no way I can know everything about every product out there, I want this community to band together to test and share their knowledge with each other in an encouraging, supportive and ‘thirst for learning’, environment.

      So that when you learn something at the PcT Site, you can trust that the information is correct and won’t lead you down the path of frustration and the ruining of innocent (and expensive) supplies!!

      **Stepping off soapbox now.** :)

      • Needs to be said, Cindy. Bless folks for having fun and trying a craft in the video arena, but, it takes a toll on those folks who are really trying to learn a new craft and is so frustrating when misinformation is everywhere on the web.

        Glad you decided to do this for an occupation, that’s for sure. LOL!

      • ** Borrowing Cindy’s soapbox **

        While it’s a problem of much smaller degree, I’ve always found it interesting that the most readily available manufacturer information generally doesn’t give the best results either.

        The most obvious example is the nominal baking time specified on polymer clay packaging. I guess they’re trying to make the clay seem easy and quick to use, but all the brands I’ve tested have required curing for much longer than specified to reach their maximum strength. The specified time might be OK for solid-ish items like round beads (and even there, longer curing gives a harder product which will be more durable and take a higher shine), but not for thinner pieces that do not have any other support.

        It really annoys me that Sculpey III, which over here (Down Under) is often marketed at children, is the weakest polymer clay which is not helped by the super-short baking directions on the packaging. Sculpey III will never be particularly strong, but it is less weak with longer baking. I’d think children would be more upset to have their creations break than adults would be (most of the time, anyway! ;D).

        Another example is the standard toaster oven that seems to be the expected norm for curing polymer clay. To an engineering type it’s quite clear that such devices require precautions or modifications to deal with the proximity of the heating elements and temperature fluctuations, but you see them labelled and branded as polymer clay ovens, and time-limited to less than necessary for optimum curing too. Even if a proper polymer clay specific oven is out of the question (understandably), there are slightly more expensive benchtop ovens that give better results with polymer clay (greater temperature and time ranges; indirect elements or convection heating; better insulation; increased volume), and it would make more sense to brand these as polymer clay ovens… except that they cost more and there’s such an overriding focus on the lowest price these days. By all means have inexpensive alternatives, but if something sounds like it’s intended for a particular task at least make sure it can do it well!

        It would be nice if the polymer clay manufacturers and the polymer clay tool manufacturers truly helped you get the best results, and not just “OK” ones.

        ** Stepping off the soapbox now **

  5. Thanks for the tip Cindy. I only use my heat gun if I’m partially curing my clay. I know that my work looks so much more professional because of the teaching on this site. BTW, love the frosted rainbow necklace Cindy. It looks so fresh and summery when I’m buried in snow here in Upstate NY, LOL!!

  6. Obviously, the people who make those You tube videos and use a heat gun have not read the instructions on the polymer clay packages. It says to BAKE, it does not say use a HEAT GUN! So many do not read the instructions and then if they do, decide their way is faster and better regardless of the end product. It takes time, patience, research and good old logic to produce a finished product. Cindy you have it all. I can’t believe the amount of information I have learned from your video lessons and they have been worth every penny. With your expertise and knowledge I have been able to step up to the next level and take my PC art in the direction I want it to go. No where else can you find the kind of education in polymer clay and associated art at such low affordable rates.
    Anyone who is just getting started or wants to really step up with their art should seriously consider getting all your video issues because it’s a small price to pay for
    such a huge education. Happy Wonderful New Year Leitz Family!

    • Holy Cow Dixie, what an amazing thing to say! It has been incredible getting to know you. You are a tremendous asset to the community and we are lucky to have you here as part of our sweet polymer clay family. Thank you for all your support. Not just to us, but to all the members who have had the benefit of your kindness and knowledge. Have a fabulous 2013! Let’s learn some great stuff together!

  7. I haven’t seen any of those videos that advocate curing polymer clay with a heat gun — probably fortunately, judging by Anna Sabina’s comment above, because I wouldn’t be as polite! — but maybe they’re the result of people seeing a normally-unsuitable technique used in a very specific set of circumstances by someone who properly understands the properties of the clay, and then extrapolating it well past those specific bounds or even thinking it can be used generally.

    While I totally agree that you can’t cure polymer clay properly with a heat gun in most circumstances, I also think that if you have the right tools and materials AND know what you’re doing, there are some circumstances where it should be possible to get a satisfactory result even if the polymer clay won’t be as strong as if it were cured by regular baking.

    I’m thinking of Cynthia Tinapple’s turned wood bowls with decorative polymer clay inlays, or other items where a thin layer of polymer clay is used on an object that is too large to fit into a regular oven.

    While I haven’t tried making such pieces myself, my thoughts are as follows:

    * Such items can’t be baked in their entirety. You could tackle things by baking the polymer clay parts separately, sanding them, fitting them, then sanding and finishing the complete piece, but it might be difficult to get seamless patterns that way with some designs.

    * Since the polymer clay is supported everywhere it is less important that it reaches its maximum strength, although it still needs to be cured enough that the materials are all bonded and that the clay will not break down over time.

    * Also, since the clay is thin and the item to which it is applied will help maintain the temperature once it itself has been heated sufficiently, being in a totally enclosed “baking” environment isn’t absolutely critical. You’d still want some kind of mechanical aid for holding the heat gun, and ideally for holding/moving the item being cured too, to get things to that state, however.

    * Some heat guns definitely get hot enough to cure polymer clay. I’ve never used a craft-type heat gun, but have a hardware store/paint stripping style heat gun instead which gets much hotter: nominal temperature at the nozzle is 300C/570F on the low setting, and 500C/930F on high. It’s hot enough to easily “caramelise” liquid polymer clay on the low setting (a fun hollow bead experiment!), and with such a heat gun the problem would not be getting hot enough, but determining how far away from the heat gun the polymer clay should be to avoid burning while still being in the upper range of allowable temperatures for the clay (which helps strength).

    * Some polymer clays have a shorter curing time at a higher temperature, e.g. Kato which has a nominal curing time of 10 minutes at 150C/300F. I normally cure Kato for significantly longer than that to maximise its strength, but it indicates that complete curing from a chemical point of view, if not necessarily for maximum strength, can be achieved in much less time than, say, an hour (noting that this refers to the curing time for a particular section of an over-large item that can’t be baked in its entirety; the time required to cure all the clay on such an item would obviously be some biggish multiple of this!).

    * Taking all of that into account, if I were to try applying a polymer clay inlay to a wooden bowl that I couldn’t fit into my largest oven, I’d start by determining the distance from the nozzle of my heat gun for the air to be at 150-160C/300-325F (for Kato; I’d probably try a candy thermometer instead of an oven thermometer for faster response). I’d set up a vise to hold the heat gun, and I’d position heat-proof bolsters to hold a clayed section of the bowl at the determined distance from the heat gun (I’d be curing the clay in sections; I’d probably stick a candy or oven thermometer nearby too so I could monitor the temperature during the process). I’d use a thin layer of Kato for my inlay, applying it over heat-proof glue, and I’d give it an initial all-over but incomplete “fixing” with the heat gun, i.e. holding the heat gun in my hand and moving it around so that the clay is partially cured all over. I’d then put the heat gun into the vise, position the bowl on the bolsters so that one part of the clay is in the heat gun’s target area, and let it go for 10 minutes (Kato). I’d then rotate the bowl on the bolsters to bring an adjacent section of clay into the heat gun’s target area, give that another 10 minutes, then rotate again, and so on until I’d gone all the way around the bowl… which would undoubtedly take a long time! (Ideally something would rotate the bowl continually within the heat gun’s target area, but I don’t have anything suitable for that.)

    Anyway, as I said, I haven’t done this myself (yet! :D), but from an engineering perspective it SEEMS possible — although fiddly and very time-consuming — to cure polymer clay adequately with a heat gun in certain VERY SPECIFIC circumstances … but it’s definitely not something you’d want to do normally, or if you had any other practical choice!

    • Thank you Sue for all this incredible detail. I am aware that Cynthia uses a paint stripper for curing her polymer clay embedded bowls, hence the little mention that it was ‘technically possible’ providing you had a tool that would hold the right temp, had a mechanical process for holding the tool and a way of mechanically moving the piece so it would bake evenly and properly. (All of which she does.) And I agree that her situation is VERY specific, in regards to materials she is working with… the thickness of the clay, the size and material of the projects she is working with and the surrounding support of her design. As long as there is no chance of uncured clay breaking down the cured clay, then strength for her is not an issue. I also agree that she knows what she is doing. The problem is that anyone that isn’t a ‘master’ of sorts who sees that information, would not understand the materials to that level, and would then take that information and use it in a different situation, that would definitely NOT work for them.

      The videos I was referring to, had nothing to do with Cynthia’s however. They were actually ones (and there are a few) where the person was recommending the baking of charms and small sculpted pieces, by waving a heat gun (or blow dryer if you don’t have a heat gun) over your work sitting in a little dish or just on the counter on a cookie sheet. These videos are intended for other beginners, which IMO is a disaster or at least big disappointment, waiting to happen.

      So… with your help and others, I hope that we can set the record straight for everyone out there who wants to have success with their polymer clay projects, by sharing with them information that is based on experience and extensive knowledge of the materials.

      Thank you again for all your help in making this a more knowledgeable Polymer Clay World!

  8. Hi All
    Speaking of other methods people use to “cure” their polymer clay — while messing around on the computer yesterday I came across an ad for a “melting pot” (the type used for UTTE – UTEE ???) anyway I was so shocked to see they added ‘use to cure your polymer clay’ Wow – talk about bad info out there on the web :/

    • Sherry, I have that melting pot and I too was a little wary when I read that. I have used the melting pot to melt the Utee on an already baked piece of polymer clay and it worked really well. Any runoff of the embossing powder dripped into the melting pot and I could use it again. I then tried another piece by placing it on a tile and sprinkled the embossing powder directly on the piece and then melting it in my oven. It is a little messier that way because you have to scrape off the tile and clean it. So for anyone who wants to use embossing powder and has a Utee Melting Pot this is the least messy way to do it. The Pot does heat up to 300+ degrees so it only takes a low temp to melt the power. However, now you have my curiosity aroused and I am going to take a scrape piece of clay and try to bake it in my melting pot just to see the results. I will make the clay a little thicker than 1/4″ and bake it at the Premo recommended temp of 275 degrees and see how it turns out. This will be fun, I’ll let you all know what happens. :)

      • Hi Dixie Ann
        Did you ever get a chance to experiment with your melting pot? BTW – sorry I missed this earlier – It’s been a loooong weekend at our house (sick hubby… – bless him – no fever this morning so off to work he went, with my words “wash your hands every chance you get” ringing in his ears – poor baby…. any way I sure hope all you guys avoid the bugs that are out and about this season.

        • Hi Sherry,
          I am done experimenting with the Utee Melting Pot by baking a piece of premo polymer clay 2.75 inches Long, 1-1/8″ wide and 3/8″ thick at 280 degrees with the lid on for 60 mins. It really did a great job! I was really amazed and I can honestly say that it did just as good if not better than my oven. Now I am going to try some thin and thinner slices and also bake some translucent to see how dark it will get. I baked a piece of Mokume Gane that was part of a wood cane and there was no discoloration at all. So far their statement that you can bake Polymer Clay in a Utee melting pot is absolutely correct. I will let you know how the translucent comes out. We might have just found a minature little oven for our clay pieces.

          • Oh my DixieAnn that is so very cool!

            I’m always waiting til I have a tray full of beads (or more recently color chips and sample slices of my canes) before baking – but that has led to more than one getting messed up while waiting. Nice to start the day w/ good news :)

          • Have to dig mine out, not sure I remember a lid. That is why I thought yours was different than mine. And I forgot it had a temp
            controller.

  9. Just adore this thread. Where else on the web can you find this type of information, detail, sharing and interacting. I feel rich, being a member of this community to have this bank of information at my fingertips.

  10. Hi KaronKay,
    If you google UTee Melting Pot Photo it will take you right to a YouTube video that shows it being used. Lots of things you can do with this pot!

    • lo and behold! It is the same as mine! I forgot it had a temp control on it. I have not used it in several years. But I do know where it is, Thanks Dixie.

    • Love learning new techniques, but the UTEE example above shows me again how grateful I am for Cindy’s methods, procedures, and products. Both of those resin pieces did not come out very well, and she just shrugged it off. Not making me super confident that I should purchase all needed to do this tute, though after a few tries and I lot of effort, I probably could master it.

  11. I ended up on this thread due to my interest in using regular embossing powders, UTEE, Fantasy Film, and clay altogether and had to pipe in and say this: I, too, am forever grateful I found this site because I know I can trust it. Cindy does incredible work (and Doug and their family, too). I’ve spent hours on YouTube only to end up saying “wait…..what?!?” I laughed when I read Cindy’s post on here that just because you can make a video doesn’t mean you should. It reminded me of a few hundred (thousand) videos I’ve started to watch on YouTube followed by hitting the back-button. :-)

    So Cindy – thank you!!

    • Thank you sooo much for saying that Karen! Right now with the crazy overflow of information on the internet, I have come to realize people need help sorting through all the crap. It is so frustrating to not know what is good info and what is bad. I hope to be that voice that you can trust in your polymer clay journey.

      I don’t claim to know everything, but what I do share is tested and done to the best of my abilities. What I don’t know, I will learn but I promise not to lead you down the wrong path. And if I ever did (accidentally), I would apologize and make the necessary course corrections until the info was right. Working with polymer clay is supposed to be fun… not frustrating.

      I am so glad that you have found us and that we are here having fun with polymer clay together! Thanks again for your comment!

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