The only time to use a full size kitchen oven for baking polymer clay, would be if you make enormous dinosaur beads :-)
There are so many reasons why a toaster oven is the preferred polymer clay tool for baking Sculpey, Fimo and Premo beads over your regular size, home baking oven. These are the main ones:
- Small – less cost to operate than a large oven.
- Less power consumption is better for the environment.
- Cheap – I got mine free from a friend who was throwing it out. But you can also buy them second hand and even new at clearance places for next to nothing.
- Portable – Can bring it to your craft room or studio.
- Separate from cooking oven – Some people are concerned that the fumes from baking polymer clay could contaminate food.
- Quick to heat up and cool down.
But there are also a few problems you should be aware of when using a toaster oven to bake Sculpey and the other polymer clay brands (Premo, Fimo, etc):
- Because the oven is small, it tends to cool off quickly and therefore has to reheat to get back up to temperature. This can cause ‘spikes’ in temperatures where the oven gets hotter than it should for short periods of time causing scorching. To avoid this it is important to tent your beads to protect them from the heat hitting them directly.
- When tenting your beads with folded parchment or office paper, it is important to check and make sure the paper does not touch the element. Although the baking temperature is very low and the paper will not burn if tented properly, it still can catch fire if you let it touch the element. Be sensible! Be careful!
- The polymers in the clay need to be baked at their given temperatures for 30 minutes per 1/4 inch of thickness in order to fuse together and cure. Because of that, the fluctuating temperature can be a problem. To compensate, you will need to bake your beads for a longer period of time to ensure proper curing. I am also finding this to be true for the bigger ovens, so this isn’t really a downside for using a toaster oven. The ovens that hold their temperature most consistently are the convection ovens. But they are expensive and many polymer clay artists can’t justify the added cost.
- Partly because the oven dials are so small and that they are never that accurate, the temperature you think you are setting your oven at may not be the actual temp. inside. As with any oven it is important to use an oven thermometer to make sure you are getting the temperature just right. Always check the baking instructions on the polymer clay packaging. Sculpey III, Premo and Fimo all bake at different degrees. Sometimes even different colors within the same brand can even bake differently, so make sure to read the package instructions.
- There can be ‘hot spots’ in the oven. Test your oven to see if there are any spots that are hotter than others by moving your thermometer around and checking the readings.
- Work in a room that is well ventilated. Just because a toaster oven is small and you can put it anywhere, don’t set it directly in front of you while you are baking beads. Although the clay is non-toxic to work with, the fumes from burnt clay can be harmful so you won’t want to be breathing them in.
- The cheaper the better. The expensive toaster ovens with all the bells and whistles aren’t worth the added cost. In fact many have self-cleaning features that tend to ‘spike’ the temperature even more than the cheaper models.
So when you are learning how to bake Sculpey polymer clay in your toaster oven (click the link for even more bead baking tips), make sure to work in a well ventilated room, watch the oven temperature carefully using an oven thermometer, and carefully tent the beads to protect them from scorching. Your beads will turn out beautiful and strong every time.