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

  1. Cindy Graveline, 15 August, 2009

    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. Melinda, 15 August, 2009

    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. Jocelyn, 15 August, 2009

    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. Arlene Harrison, 15 August, 2009

    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. Katina, 15 August, 2009

    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. intothedawn, 16 August, 2009

    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. Anna Sabina, 17 August, 2009

    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. jocelyn, 17 August, 2009

    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. intothedawn, 17 August, 2009

    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. lynn watts, 21 August, 2009

    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

  11. June Frederick, 10 May, 2010

    @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.

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

  12. Ritzs, 23 August, 2009

    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.


  13. Cindy Lietz, 23 August, 2009

    @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 :-)

  14. Jocelyn, 23 August, 2009

    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!

  15. Jocelyn, 04 September, 2009

    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?

  16. Ritzs, 04 September, 2009

    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 day i will make a posh one. but for now i am getting fairly good with this one

  17. Jocelyn, 04 September, 2009

    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.

  18. Ritzs, 04 September, 2009

    let me no how it goes i would love to be a fly on the wall, lol

  19. Jennifer Baker, 02 April, 2010

    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?

  20. Phaedrakat, 04 April, 2010

    @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!

  21. lynn watts, 10 May, 2010

    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.

  22. Arlene Schiek, 20 January, 2011

    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.

  23. lynn watts, 22 January, 2011

    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.

  24. lynn watts, 22 January, 2011

    is his e-mail for any questions or problems u may have.

  25. lynn watts, 22 January, 2011

    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?!

  26. Arlene Schiek, 22 January, 2011

    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.

  27. Cindy Lietz, 22 January, 2011

    @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

  28. Elaine Faulks, 15 December, 2011

    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

  29. James T, 15 February, 2014

    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.

  30. Cindy Lietz, 18 February, 2014

    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

  31. Marie Gorski, 22 November, 2015

    I recently purchased the Walnut Halloween extruder which I love but is still hard for me to crank. Do you know if the drill bit adapter that is made for Makin will also work with mine?

  32. Cindy Lietz, 23 November, 2015

    Hi Marie, I really don’t know if it would fit the Walnut Hollow Extruder…. I think probably not though because the handle is designed so differently. I think the adapter you are speaking of is called a Wullins Bullins… if you Google that you should be able to find more information on them.

  33. Jocelyn C, 23 November, 2015

    Hi Marie! Use the search box and add the “name of the extruder and drill” for more information. There is a handmade handle that makes cranking easier for the Makins model, and lots of info on using a drill to speed up the extruding process with the Walnut and Lucy models. Thanksfully, think you’ll find happy hands in your future, lol!

  34. Kristina G, 07 April, 2016

    bought a steel silver extruder cap fell off now looking at makins extruder. The previous one I admitted defeat last night and had to bin it, after an hour of saying to myself it wont die on me I wont be beaten and cleaning it with various tools. Set it all up again felt hopeful the steel top flew across the room and so I binned it in a huff. I was so looking forward to making some nice pieces the sad thing is some people had bought the cheap steel one their works wonderfully for 2.50 I was unlucky, but having said that I have kept the metal discs im sure they will be of use. now have my eye on the green makins extruder im on a hunt I would like a pasta machine but two in one go is nearing 20.00 gbp yes pasta machines are the creme de la creme here and nowhere sells a cheap one under 10.00. not even thrift stores now!
    im going to keep my eyes ears open and hope one does end up on ebay cheap. I did have one but it was used so much and when moved home of course it decided to grow feet and vanish in the removal van.. ( dont ask me how!)

    I really must get an extruder now…ive seen so many great ideas in books how to use them that I know it will be of great use to my creativity. ps your site is wonderful keep up the good work!

  35. Marilyn Loperfido, 17 May, 2016

    I am need an experienced opinion on what extruder is best to use.

    I currently have the green Makins one, but the clay comes out a bit rough on the sides when I do the “Mod Cane” with the square disc. Is it simply that I am not wetting it first, or do you think it is the result of the extruder?

    Do you like to use one that uses a drill and adapter?

    Input would be greatly appreciated

  36. Cindy Lietz, 17 May, 2016

    Hi Marylin, I have owned three extruders (four if you include the crap Sculpey one), and the best hands down is the Lucy Clay CzeXtruder HD XXL. It is expensive but worth every penny. It is the heavy duty extra extra long one and it has a handle plus an attachment you can put your drill onto to make it a power extruder. Do a search on it at the top of this page and you will learn more about it.

    The ripped edges of your cane is actually caused when you push firm clay through sharp corners, like squares, stars that sort of thing. If you push soft squishy clay through, you will get a lot less tearing on the edges. It doesn’t matter that much on techniques such as a mod cane though. Those rough edges will get lost in the pattern, when the extrusions are stacked and reduced. For something where you want to bake a section of extruder clay, for those extruder flower beads, you will want to use softer clay.

    (Oh btw if you are interested in buying the LC CzeXtruder use the turquoise Lucy Clay Tools button ad at the top of the page that will take you to VanIsle Jewels. Diane Bruce gives wonderful service!)

  37. Diane Bruce, 24 May, 2016

    Hi Marilyn,

    The Lucy Clay Tools extruder is very well made and will probably be the only extruder that you need to purchase. It is made of stainless steel and is very sturdy. All of the extruder dies that are made by Makin’s and Walnut Hollow are compatible with the extruder.

    I give Cindy’s students 10% off in my Etsy shop. The coupon code that you can use for 10% off is: THANKYOU!

    Just use it when you checkout if you decide you would like to purchase something.

    Diane Bruce

  38. Chrissie F, 25 May, 2016

    Marilyn, I could not recommend any extruder better than the Lucy Tools brand.

    My first extruder was the Walnut Hollow; it was fine but tiring when doing a lot of extruding with the windy handle so I bought the silver Makins and a Bullens Wullens adapter so I could use it with a drill. That worked fine too but then the Lucy Tools extruder came on the market. I bought the small extruder first and then the XXL with the LC Tile. I no longer need to use the drill to extrude as the XXL with the tile to hold it is easy as can be to use. The Lucy extruders are well made and robust. I think mine will last me for the rest of my life!

    I will second Cindy’s comment about Diane of Van Island Jewels. Diane is a stand out for excellent customer service. I wouldn’t think of shopping anywhere else for Lucy Tools. And hey, you get a ten percent discount too which never hurts :-)

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