Condition Polymer Clay Properly, Using A Pasta Machine

Conditioning Polymer Clay

Vid #002: Trapped Air Bubbles is a Common Problem That Can Happen From Improper Use of the Polymer Clay Pasta Machine:

Most polymer clay needs to be conditioned before you use it. The reason for conditioning is to get the plasticizers and pigments evenly mixed throughout your piece of clay. And the pasta machine is one of the best tools for accomplishing this task.

However, a pasta machine mistake I often see is to have a closed fold of clay as the last edge to pass through the rollers. This makes it difficult for air in the fold to escape. The result is that small air bubbles can get trapped in the clay.

Instead, make sure that any folded edges travel through the rollers first. Or said differently, the last edges of clay to pass through the pasta machine should be loose ends.

And that’s just one of several tips I have up my sleeve on how to condition polymer clay properly.

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The full version of the Conditioning Polymer Clay Properly preview video shown above, is included in my Polymer Clay Bead Making Fundamentals Course [SEE Video #2 of 39]. In it I discuss important information about how to use the pasta machine for conditioning polymer clay, as well as how to tell when your clay is fully conditioned.

  1. Cindy Lietz, 29 April, 2008

    There are several pasta machines on the market to choose from. I’ve been quite happy with my Amaco brand.

    Cindy Lietz’s last blog post..Bead Hole Drilling for Polymer Clay Jewelry Projects

  2. Katina, 24 August, 2008

    I just bought a pasta machine and have not had a chance to use it yet. What other ways can you use the pasta machine with your polymer clay besides conditioning and skinner blends?

  3. Cindy Lietz, 24 August, 2008

    Katina, you can also use pasta machines for making flat sheets of clay.

    If you run a flay sheet through the machine along with a texture plate, you can texturize a sheet at a consistent thickness. Remember to spray your sheet with water first so it won’t stick and that some sheets may be too thick for your machine.

    Cindy Lietz’s last blog post..A Polymer Clay Tutorial About Adding Fimo Cane Slices to Round Beads

  4. Andrea Dimmick, 26 August, 2008

    I’ve just found a site seling Eberhard Faber[Fimo]pasta machines at a much lower cost than Amaco/Atlas,is this one any good?

  5. Cindy Lietz, 27 August, 2008

    Andrea I have never seen that machine here in North America, but I was looking at it online and it looks real cool. It is nice and wide, has 7 thickness settings and will even cut the clay in strips.

    Since it is made by Fimo my guess that the quality is there. It is also quite cheap and would be worth taking a risk on, especially if the store you buy it from will accept returns if it is not good.

    If you do buy it, let us all know how it works for you. I am sure that lots of other clayers in the UK and elsewhere are interested in knowing whether it is a good machine or not.

    Cindy Lietz’s last blog post..Blue Flower Earrings – A Jewelry Making Project Using Premo Sculpey

  6. Eliana, 04 March, 2009

    I have just started using polymer clay. I bought a pasta machine at a hobby store, and it’s a piece of… What kind of pasta machine should I buy? I don’t want anything fancy, but I want something solid enough so that it won’t fall apart. Thank you. Eliana

  7. Cindy Lietz, 05 March, 2009

    Oh that’s too bad Eliana! I have an Amaco that has held out quite nicely and was only $21. The next machine I will buy will be a Makins Professional Ultimate Clay Machine which is in the $45 range which has had excellent reviews. I wouldn’t worry about any high end machines, they are probably not worth it for you.

    Hope that helps!

  8. Melanie, 10 August, 2009

    I, too, bought the Amaco pasta machine at a hobby store.. Actually, it was Michael’s. I’ve had it for a little over two hours and it already busted on me. I’m a little handy so I tried fixing it myself. It’s going back in many pieces. Maybe you were one of the lucky ones who bought one before they were cheaply made, Cindy. I knew this would be a waste of money because I looked at it in the store, but I had to get one because the rolling pin was too much of a pain. I’m on the hunt for another cheap brand that’s cheap in price, not quality!

  9. Cindy Lietz, 19 August, 2009

    I have had excellent success with my Amaco pasta machine. Although it is not high-end $20, I find it is a good enough machine to start out with without too much expense.

    You need to make sure the clay is not too hard before you try to roll it out. Never force a large clump into the rollers or it will push them out of alignment. The handle is almost always loose, but a little tape on the end that goes into the machine will keep it from falling out. If it is treated well, it should last a couple of years. (Maybe you got one that wasn’t put together right?)

    This should be enough time for someone to know whether or not they used it enough to warrant buying a better machine. A good mid-range machine is the Makins Professional Ultimate Clay Machine at about $40 machine + $80 motor. The Dream Machine is a high-end machine for the professional clayer at $195 machine + $375 motor.

  10. Margaret, 22 February, 2010

    Cindy, Love your tutorials!

    Is a pasta machine the best device to soften clay? Which one do you recommend?

    What is the softest clay on the market, the sculpey?

  11. Phaedrakat, 23 February, 2010

    Hi Margaret,I can try to answer some of your questions, if you like. 1st, in the article above, Cindy mentions that the Pasta Machine is one of the best devices to condition clay. This is what most people use. The Food Processor is another tool that helps with conditioning, or softening, clay. This article, Tools for Softening Clay Quickly, has information about them*. It also has tips about things you can add to your clay to help soften it faster, especially when conditioning really stiff clay. (Sculpey Dilutent is one; you can find more in the article & comments below it.) The article also has links that point to even more informative posts. Or, if you haven’t already tried it, you can use the search box at the top left of the page to find articles on any topic. Type in a keyword or two, like “pasta machine” and you’ll get a list of articles with loads of information on that subject.

    2nd, in the comment above yours, Cindy mentions the pasta machine she owns & recommends (and the one she’ll buy if she ever needs a new one!) I have the same one she has now, (Amaco) and have had few problems, although others have. It is inexpensive, you can buy it at Michael’s (or your local craft store) with a coupon for under $20. You can also buy online. The Italian-made Atlas 150 pasta machine by Mercato is probably the most common, although the price is higher. You can get these at most of the big online clay shops, like The Clay Store or Polymer Clay Express for around $50.

    3rd, Sculpey III IS one of the softest clays, but it is also among the weakest. Unless you need a really soft clay for some reason, your best bet is an all-around, easy to condition, yet strong clay like Premo Sculpey. (If you’re looking for a super-strong clay for precision caning, you might want Kato or Fimo Classic.) This article has info on choosing a clay: Fimo Clay, Premo, Sculpey – Which is Best?

    There is a link in that post about Sculpey III — you should take a look if you’re planning to buy this clay. It can break! When reading these articles, don’t forget to read the comments below them, as they often provide even more info, tips and tricks.

    *Note: The videos on this page, & the one the 1st link goes to, are now a part of the Polymer Clay Basics, or Fundamentals Course. If you don’t already own this tutorials pkg, it is a wonderful way to learn everything about getting started with clay. Cindy demonstrates all the tricks and tips on how to condition, bake, and finish your clay pieces, as well as many other topics. (There are also links to this course at the top of the page & by the video previews.) I hope this helps you! :D

  12. Cindy Lietz, 23 February, 2010

    Phaedrakat is AWESOME!

    Thank you so much Phaedrakat, for providing such thorough and in depth help like this!

    @Margaret: If you are interested in reading what others have said about my Polymer Clay Beginners Course (the one that Phaedrakat refers to in her previous comment), the link by my name will take you to a page where I have posted customer reviews.

  13. AgeAvakian, 15 April, 2010

    I have had my Amaco pasta machine going on five years now and it has been an excellent choice. No problems ever.

  14. Phaedrakat, 17 April, 2010

    @AgeAvakian: Me, too. I’ve had mine for about that long, maybe a bit longer. (But, I had it stored for a few of those years, during my back surgeries.) Still, it’s a good machine. Apparently, some of them aren’t though. I think it’s a matter of getting lucky/getting a good one.

    I just added another pasta machine to my tools — the Sculpey Clay Conditioning Machine that JoAnn’s carries. It was on sale for $10, so how could I pass that up? I figured I can do light colors with one, and use my favorite one for everything else! That way, I don’t have to freak out about my white clay like I usually do, trying to keep it pristine… I haven’t taken the new machine out of the box yet though, as I’m re-doing my craft area so I’ll have more space to work. I’ll let you know how it goes with this new one. If it’s as good as the Amaco I already have, I’ll be thrilled!

  15. Barbara Huddleston, 17 October, 2010

    Hi, I’m having trouble with my Premo clay sticking to the rollers of my pasta machine. I could understand if the clay was too moist, but it isn’t. At times it’s too dry. Cindy’s clay always comes off in nice sheets, mine has to be peeled off at times. I’m at a loss since I wasn’t have trouble before. I tried putting talc on the rollers, but that wasn’t very effective. Any ideas? Thanks. Barbara

  16. Phaedrakat, 20 October, 2010

    @Barbara Huddleston: Hi Barbara, I’m wondering if your pasta machine is clean, or if there’s something wrong with the scrapers, perhaps? You’re saying everything was working correctly before, and now your clay is sticking to the rollers, regardless of your clay’s consistency (soft or “dry”.) Are you keeping your pasta machine clean? Do you wipe it down with paper towels & alcohol? Does the temperature make a difference? (Is it warmer in the room, making the clay stickier?) If you haven’t been cleaning your machine thoroughly, check out this post about Cindy’s Pasta Machine Cleaning Tutorial.

    You mentioned that Cindy’s clay always comes off in nice sheets…but she leaches her soft clay (and moistens it if it’s too hard) so that it’s the proper consistency for the technique she’s using. It doesn’t just happen automatically. Forgive me…I don’t know how much experience you have, and I don’t want to insult you by asking “basic” questions! So could you give us a bit more information…like do you clean your machine, condition your clay, leach it if it’s too soft? Knowing more will–hopefully–help us figure out why you’re having this problem.
    Good luck, Kat Riverside, CA, USA (Where are you from?)

    P.S.: If you just started working with polymer clay, you should check out Cindy’s Polymer Clay Basics Course (link at top of the page.) It has lots of fantastic videos…a great way to get started without making all the “normal” beginners mistakes. It will get you on your way to making beads and other fantastic creations quickly!

  17. Kim J, 22 January, 2011

    Thanks for all the helpful information! My son works with polymer clay and we recently bought an Amaco clay conditioning machine from Michael’s here in Calgary, AB, Canada. Unfortunately we have had no luck using it. It doesn’t seem to matter how thin the clay is, it does not go through the machine. We are using Premo Sculpey clay, as well as other brands. Only one of the rollers moves – is this typical? The other roller appears to be fixed. Even at the largest setting (9), the clay is not drawn into the machine at all. We are out of ideas – would you have any suggestions?

  18. Cindy Lietz, 25 January, 2011

    @Kim J: Kim there is something wrong with the pasta machine… and you should try and take it back if you can. Both rollers are suppose to move. My guess is there is a broken or loose part inside and the gears are jammed. Hope that helps you. Glad to hear you and your son are working with polymer clay. it is a very creative and rewarding endeavor!

  19. Kim J, 30 January, 2011

    Cindy, just picking up your reply now – thanks! Unfortunately we are past the “return date”, however as we paid under $20 for it (50% off coupon at Michael’s), I’m not too upset. Was just getting frustrated by how it was not working! Will have to purchase another, perhaps better quality, machine now that I know what it should do :)

  20. Monica Z, 27 February, 2011

    Help me, please. In our country (Slovakia), there is a problem to choose a good pasta machine for polymer clay. I would like to buy a Makins Professional Ultimate Clay Machine . But I don´t know, if it is good product. I read good reviews, but a lot of bad reviews. What´s your opinion? thanks.

  21. Cindy Lietz, 01 March, 2011

    @Monica Z: Boy figuring out which pasta machine to buy is a difficult thing. One day I hope to be able to work with a manufacturer to create a machine that is specifically for polymer clay, is easy to clean and is a decent price. But until then, we will have to settle for what is out there.

    The Makin’s machine, might be a good way to go. I have heard it has improved since its first design. But you need to be careful not to force hard clay through it, since it will strip the gears and they won’t guarantee the product if you have used a different brand than Makins Air Dry Clay in it like most of us do.

    I have an Amaco machine and a Sculpey Machine that have been going for years. I have been very careful with them, and although neither one is perfect and they are difficult to clean, the price is good and they do an OK job.

    There is also a pasta machine available out there that is over $600 with the motor that was supposed to solve all the typical problems but I am hearing rumors that there are problems with those as well. And at that price, you could buy 20 of the Amaco machines and throw them out when they break!

    There must be some way to get a decent machine. It is not like it is that complicated of a thing. Anyway, I hope that helps you a little bit. :-)

  22. Monica Z, 02 March, 2011

    Thank you very much for your reply. today, i have decided to buy the Makin´s machine, although I use only Fimo and Cernit.. i will write you, if it was good step:-))

  23. Victoria Fain, 17 July, 2014

    Hi. I am very new to polymer clay. I am trying to figure where I am going wrong while using a pasta machine. I watch tutorials and people always skip the part about conditioning with the pasta machine. All of the tutorials have these sheets that are big enough to work with. I tried to do a skinner blend and when I put my clay in to condition it what came out was really really narrow. Ultimately each clay was really narrow. I ended up with a piece less than a half an inch. I really would like to know how to how to fix this. Thank you for your help.

  24. Cindy Lietz, 17 July, 2014

    Hi Victoria, welcome to the polymer clay world! The problem you are having with your blends getting too wide and short is really common. Watch this video, it will help:

    Is Your Skinner Blend or Teardrop Blend Getting Too Wide In Your Pasta Machine?

    For most questions you will find the answer already on this blog. Just use the search box at the top of the page and you will find the info you need, lickety split!

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