Using Playing Cards to Measure Pasta Machine Settings

Pasta Machine Playing CardsVideo #426: A unique method to standardize thickness references for all brands of pasta machines.

Topics Covered In This Video:

  • Making a playing card thickness guide for your pasta machine.
  • There are a gazillion different pasta machine brands around the world, and each one measures thickness differently.
  • As an instructor, when I’m teaching a technique in a tutorial, it is very important that everyone uses the the same thickness, otherwise the cane design or the technique, may not work out very well.
  • A while ago, several polymer clay artists came up with the idea of using playing cards to reference their pasta machine thickness settings. It is a great idea since the card stock thickness of playing cards is pretty standard because of strict regulations in place in the casino and gaming industries.
  • To the best of my knowledge, it was Maggie Maggio and Sage Bray who originally came up with the playing card measurement idea.
  • In today’s video I demonstrate how to measure and record the number of cards that it takes to document the settings on your pasta machine.
  • Finally, we can now speak the same language… at least when it comes to determining exactly how thick our polymer clay sheets need to be for any given technique. No longer does it matter than your Pasta Machine Setting #5 is differnt than mine.

Question of the Day:

Have you already been using this pasta machine playing cards tip? And if not, do you think it will come in handy for you?

I look forward to hearing from you.

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.

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Looking forward to hearing from you!

Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor
  1. Sue F, 19 September, 2013

    I’ve labelled my pasta machines with a variety of thickness references including numbers of playing cards.

    I like the fact that the playing card method is accessible even to people who don’t use pasta machines, but it doesn’t come naturally to me. My brain still thinks in millimetres first, with descriptive terms like “thick”, “medium” and “thin” (etc.) second. Numbers of playing cards are a very, very distant third!

  2. Cindy Lietz, 19 September, 2013

    That’s funny Sue! I can’t say I think in cards thick, nor do I think in any of the measured thicknesses… I go by feel and then look at my machine and label to see how many cards thick it was so I can tell you guys. I am really glad though to have a standardized method that works world wide. It really makes it easier for the student and the teacher!

  3. Laura Flanagan, 19 September, 2013

    Good thing to know! If you don’t have a pasta machine and want to be able to roll out the same thickness, you can purchase something called graduated slat set. I have seen them on ebay as well as Rio Grande. They run about $16 or so. I have never used one but I thought I would put the option out there. Keep up the great tips, they are very helpful!

  4. Cindy Lietz, 19 September, 2013

    Hi Laura, I have seen the graduated slats that you speak of. I think they might be handy if you were doing larger flat pieces, but nothing beats a pasta machine for mixing clay and doing Teardrop Blends or Skinner Blends. Having one is well worth the few extra dollars. In fact I would consider the pasta machine pretty much an essential polymer clay tool. It will make your job much easier, faster and more consistent. I’d put one on the top of your to buy list, if it were me. (Just so you know, I waited a few years before buying one, and kicked myself all around the studio for not buying one sooner. I felt I was holding myself back by not having one.) :)

  5. Carol B, 19 September, 2013


  6. Bertha A., 19 September, 2013

    I first saw this in an article Sage Bray wrote for her magazine and it makes as much sense as anything. I know that when I see instructions that say something like “I used setting #2 on my machine” I think well, that’s helpful only if you also tell me what sort of machine you have!

    And hopefully playing cards don’t invoke the same sort of emotions as do the two main systems of measurements for thickness. Having a science background I am completely comfortable with the metric system but I frequently encounter people who are not, though I would think most would not find 5/64 of an inch easier to measure than 2mm. ;-) Playing cards are a physical standard that is commonly and cheaply available, in units that are easier to determine than tenths of a millimeter or fractions of inch.

    It is something I’ve been meaning to do but you’ve inspired me to break out my labeled and do as soon as return from my trip. :-D

  7. Cindy Lietz, 19 September, 2013

    LOL Bertha! Here in Canada we switched from the Imperial system to the Metric system when I was in Grade 10. By then, most of my thinking was in Imperial, but because the Metric system made so much more sense, I learned some of the measurements very quickly and forgot the other stuff I learned in Imperial.

    I use Celsius when I talk about water boiling and freezing temps but Fahrenheit when I cook. I use millimeters when I measure beads but inches when I measure wire. Etc. Etc. Let’s just say my brain is a little muddled over which one to use!! :D

  8. Tante Sherry, 19 September, 2013

    I remember you telling us this a while back and I must say it is still the best way out there – I wish everyone that makes tutorials would use this card system instead of #1 on your pasta machine… thanks for bringing this tip to even more people Cindy:) I wish all teachers would use this standardized way – would make life easier…

  9. Gemma G, 19 September, 2013

    Let me tell you I love your channel because of your kind of videos (what works and what not, comparisons, tips…) Very useful!

  10. Veronique N, 19 September, 2013

    Thank you, for your quick answer and solution to my member login issue today. This is always a pleasure to see your work and learn with you.

    Have a nice day
    Veronique from France

  11. Dixie Ann, 19 September, 2013

    Cindy I love the playing card standard thickness in referring to clay. It sure makes it a lot easier since we started using it. I use a Dream Machine, the numbers on it range from #1 to #10 and the #1 setting is the thickest which is also thicker than the #1 setting on a standard Sculpey Pasta Machine. It takes 11 playing cards to fit through this #1 setting where the one you demoed only uses 8 cards. That is quite a bit of difference. With the playing cards I never have to guess anymore. I am hoping to see this standard set across the board just like your teardrop blend you taught us which I now refer to as the Lietz Teardrop Blend.

  12. elaine faulks, 20 September, 2013

    I picked up a pack of 4 sets of playing cards in the” dollar store” a few years back. I used them as little mats when making metal clay pieces.
    As all the cards are numbered what I did was stick the amount of cards together with super-glue and put the corresponding pasta machine setting number on the top i.e. 4 card thickness = 4 of hearts.( As I do not have a label machine) Then just wrote with a sharpie the pasta machine number on front of cards. Saves shuffling cards. So now they are clipped together with a bulldog clip from 2 card thickness to 9 card thickness. Suppose if I had to go higher I would use the King Queen and Jack at front for 10, 11 and 12, but I only have to go to nine. They hang up on the clip and people always ask what kind of game I play with them? Well it’s not Poker. …….cheers xx………….

  13. Brian T, 16 May, 2014

    Brilliant idea – making up card stacks of the various thicknesses, with the “index” card on top of the stack and the corresponding machine setting Sharpie’d onto it.

    If you use the stacks themselves as rolling guides you’d need two of each stack, of course, but sets of cards are so cheap at the dollar stores this isn’t any problem.

  14. Dixie Ann, 20 September, 2013

    Hi all, this is kind of off topic but need some help in using Ultra Dome. I love this stuff but everytime I use it, I make sure there are no air bubbles and everything is clear when I place the light fixture over it. I still get little air bubbles when the resin is set and am getting frustrated. I use a candle lighter and pass it over the piece to make sure there are no bubbles visible and have even left it under the light for longer than 25 minutes. Should I be letting it set for awhile before I cure the resin? Sometimes I get lucky and a piece will come out perfect with no air bubbles but more times than none it doesn’t. Any help or suggestions would be very appreciated.

  15. Jocelyn C, 22 September, 2013

    Dixie, I only worked with the Ultradome twice, but I found that by using a very thin needle (seed bead type) and dragging it very slowly up and down then sideways through to the bottom of the the Ultradome, it released a lot of bubbles, which I then torched.

    I think your idea of letting it sit for awhile is good too.

    The first batch had a few bubbles, but, as I slowed down and used the thin needle in both directions, torching as I went, the second batch came out almost bubble free.

  16. Cindy Lietz, 23 September, 2013

    Hi Dixie Ann, most of that bubbling that happens later is because of other issues rather than the resin. It can be air that is trapped on the sides or underneath your piece trying to get out. It can be the air that gases off of glue that is still dying. It can also be a reaction to a foreign material like oils on the metal bezel or container your putting the resin into or a few other things that may forever be a mystery. I now have found that if you let your piece sit for a bit before curing (in addition to dealing with the other possible issues I mentioned) so that the second set of bubbles can come to the surface, you can pop the bubbles with a lighter again without much issue. Hope that helps! Let us know if this solves your problems!

  17. Cecilia K, 23 October, 2013

    My mashine only takes six cards. Either it doesn’t produce gorgeous thick sheets of clay or my cards are not the right size (I have a fimo mashine).

  18. Dotti Merritt, 21 March, 2014

    I have been making p.c. Bracelets on a metal base. They are about 10mm thick, and am having a hard time figuring out length of time to bake. Lots of errors here!!!! I’ve listened to several of your tutorials (love them) but I don’t have any playing cards, could you tell me in mm’s?

    Thank you in Advance, Dotti

  19. Cindy Lietz, 28 March, 2014

    Hi Dotty, I bake everything I make with Premo clay for 1 hour at 275F no matter the thickness. And as far as the cards go, you can pick up a deck of cards for $1 at the dollar store… it is much easier than trying to measure the difference thicknesses of a sheet of clay. As a last resort, a piece of cardstock should be pretty close to the thickness of a playing card… close enough anyway. If you have more baking questions, just type ‘baking’ into the search box at the top of the page and you will find the info you need. Thanks for commenting!

  20. Doreen Neilley, 06 June, 2015

    Howdy, Cindy’s Groupies! (And I include myself in that, absolutely!)
    I just found something at Fire Mountain that they sell for polymer artists to use for rolling out clay. They carry sets of acrylic slats which are 6 inches long. These slats come in sets of 2 each of 6 different thicknesses: 0.25 mm, 0.5 mm, 0.75 mm, 1 mm, 1.5 mm, and 2 mm (1 to 8 playing cards thick). The thicknesses are different colours, so it is easy to match the pairs. The price is showing as $US14.86 for if you buy 1 to 14 items (remember, Fire Mountain discounts on how many items you buy, not how many of each).

    Sometimes my pasta machine doesn’t want to cooperate to roll a flat sheet. I can see these being useful. And cheaper than buying knitting needles, even at WalMart!

  21. Alexa M, 23 August, 2019

    So happy to have found your YouTube channel, what a gift you are!!!!

    I did your card trick after ordering the Sculpey conditioning machine you showed, but I need 1/4″ thick clay and it was about 17 cards and the machine doesn’t go anywhere near that, I think it was only like 8 cards.
    Do you know of any machine or way to easily get an even 1/4″
    Many, many thanks!!

  22. Cindy Lietz, 26 August, 2019

    Hi Alexa, you can stack the layers to get the thickness you want. If you need 17 cards thickness and it only goes to 8, you can do two 8’s and one 1. Or two 5’s and a 7. Whatever thicknesses your roller will do, that ads up to what you need. Alternatively, you can stack 17 playing cards on each side of your piece of clay and just use an acrylic roller to get the height you want. There is no need to feel restricted by the “abilities” of your pasta machine.

  23. Lorie Lindsey, 01 January, 2020

    Hello. I have been watching your videos and am starting to learn about clay. I really want to learn to make earrings. I just watched your video on thickness. What do you think for earrings ? I would really appreciate any help you can give. thank you so much for your time .

  24. Cindy Lietz, 02 January, 2020

    Hi Lorie, As far as thickness goes for earrings… anything goes. Polymer clay is very light so even fairly thick polymer clay is still wearable. You always want to keep under 1/2″ thick though, or you will get cracking. Paper thin pieces work as well, if you use a good strong clay and properly bake it. Watch all my baking videos and the ones about good brands. I also have lots of full tutorials on making polymer clay earrings that you may want to check out. Just type earring tutorial into the search box and you should be able to find the info you need. Good luck!

  25. Lorie Lindsey, 02 January, 2020

    Thank you so much

  26. Sue Butin, 15 October, 2020

    viewed your standardizing your pasta machine setting video. However, I don’t even know if the pasta machine is working.
    Craftman brand. The dial doesn’t seem to engage properly. How am I supposed to turn the dial? Can it go off the track? I try to adjust the width, but it sometimes adjusts, but sometimes doesn’t.
    Can’t find any way to contact the company.

    which machine do you recommend?

  27. Cindy Lietz, 19 October, 2020

    Hi Sue, I haven’t used the Craftman brand, but if it is like most pasta machines, you need to pull the dial out before turning. There is a hole on the back side of the knob and a pin on the machine that sits in that hole so it doesn’t move off the setting when rolling the clay/dough through it. As far as good machines, I recommend the Atlas Machine (my Amazon affiliate link). Or if you have more money a Modified Atlas.

  28. Allison P, 27 October, 2022

    Hi! Thanks for the tip! What number of cards do you usually use for making earrings? Thanks

  29. Cindy Lietz, 27 October, 2022

    Hi Allison, if you use a good brand and bake your polymer clay properly, then it will be strong enough for earrings at any thickness that you want. That being said, the standard thickness being used by earring designers right now are between 4 and 8 playing cards thick.

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