To Quench or Not To Quench – Is It A Wives Tale?

Quenching Polymer Clay - Polymer Clay TutorVideo #640: I used Premo translucent polymer clay to test for strength and clarity… watch the video to see my results.

Topics Covered In This Video:

  • Quenching Polymer Clay right out of the oven… into ice water… is this something you should do… or not?
  • I used to think (because people had told me), that plunging hot polymer clay into a bath of ice water would give it strength and improve clarity to with translucent clays.
  • Today’s test will show whether or not that is actually the case and whether it makes a difference at all.
  • There has been some discussion around this topic that claims the quenching process is just a wife’s tale. Let’s find out.
  • I have two sets of test samples… one was left to cool naturally, and the other is plunged into ice water while it was still hot.
  • Each sample set has two different chips of Premo White Translucent rolled to an 8 playing cards thickness, and the other to a 1 playing card thickness.
  • All of the samples were baked at 275F for 1 hour.
  • I tested both sets of baked samples (the quenched set and the non-quenched set), to see if there is any difference between the two… with regards to clarity and strength.
  • Visually, both look identical. Both of the thicker pieces have an identical yellowish hue with low translucency… and the thin samples, both have an identical whitish shade with my translucency test. I would say that these results are typical for translucent polymer clay, in general.
  • Next, I tested for clarity by placing thin samples against a text background, to see how well you could see through theĀ  translucent clay. The quenched clay and the non-quenched clay were identical. No improvement there… with quenching.
  • Hmm… starting to think this quenching thing really is a wives tale!
  • Then I tested the thicker pieces for improved clarity… no difference there either.
  • The samples were then tested for strength. All the samples were bent, folded and torn (well.. I tried to tear them), to see if quenching improved the strength… there was no discernable difference in strength between any of the samples tested.
  • My conclusion… save your ice for Iced Tea or Iced Coffee, because it doesn’t make a difference… except I suppose if you need your clay cool in a hurry!

Do you have any suggestions for videos on tips, techniques or products you would like to learn more about? Let me know in the comments section below!

My goal is to help you to learn 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. Fran V, 12 March, 2015

    Dear Professor Cindy,

    Thanks as always for your great research projects! It is so difficult to compare different peoples’ opinions and experiences without knowing exactly what they did so we can know if we are comparing water and oranges. This is a great service you provide for the PC community, and for our little community in particular.

    I have been intrigued by this issue for a while (but did I test it myself? unh unh). Easier to depend on Frau Professor Doktor Lietz.

    One question about your process here. When I have heard people say to quench the translucent in ice water, they usually say drop it immediately in the water bath as soon as it comes out of the oven. Your examples were sitting out of the oven for at least a minute, I would guess. Do you think that would make a difference, since the clay actually cools pretty quickly? Am I being picky here?

    thanks again,

  2. Cindy Lietz, 12 March, 2015

    Hi Fran, it was a little tricky to get them into the water without first doing the intro, but they did come straight from the oven, and Doug started filming, and they sat on the hot steel rack until I popped them into the ice water. I have thrown them straight into the water right at the oven, but to be honest I never noticed any difference… hence the reason for this test. You should try the test yourself… you probably won’t notice much difference either.

  3. Jocelyn C, 12 March, 2015

    Cindy, bless you for thoroughly researching this technique. To be honest, I have run tests for years, keeping translucent based mokume gane made bottle/jar caps samples. Out of each batch, some I keep unquenched, and some of the exact same caps from the same day, I immediately quench is ice water. My humble results prove there is a difference, and I have done hundreds of sample tests.

    Yes, I am obsessed with bottle and jar caps. ROFL.

    First, the quenched jar tops, whether plastic or metal based, never pop the veneer off the cap. Suction? Second, there is a positive difference in the level of clarity and depth of the mokume gane veneers when quenched.

    I expect to see this more pronounced, and possibly provable in pictures, once I obtain the JoolTool and your training.

    My hand sanding and buffing efforts are pitiful, lol.

  4. Cindy Lietz, 12 March, 2015

    Hi Jocelyn, I was wondering if the examples you speak of are from the old formula translucents with the Phlalates in them? Unless you have a much more decerning eye than me, I honestly have not been able to tell the difference between my pieces where I threw them in the ice water right away, and the ones now where I don’t bother. This test sure didn’t show a difference.

    Now the other thing you mentioned about the jar tops not popping off after being quenched, I have not tested that one myself and have no idea whether there is a reason for that. I would love to see those pieces you have done and see what you are seeing.

  5. Jocelyn C, 13 March, 2015

    Cindy many are from old era clays, many from mixed types of clays, and many are from straight recent Premo or Kato clay. Did I date and note specifics on each one, no way. But I did keep them separate, quenched and unquenched.

    Unfortunately, until I train on the JoolTool with your tutes, no one is going to see anything. ROFL.

    But once I do, I promise I will send you proof. If I win the Lottery, there might be photographic proof.

    I will admit that Multiple Sclerosis can play some whacko tricks with your vision….but I just went and looked again under grow lites with a magnifier even, and I swear, I can see the difference.

    I do agree that your tests prove what you say based on the examples and samples you used.

    I will continue to quench half of the output.

  6. Ginger Davis Allman, 12 March, 2015

    YES! Thank you so much! We can finally put this one to rest. I’ll be sharing this video every time the subject comes up, and now we’ve got proof, as you’…CLEARLY shown! ;)

  7. Cindy Lietz, 12 March, 2015

    Thanks Ginger! The subject has come up many times and I don’t want to just blindly believe something unless I know it to be true. There are a few more of these kinds of practices that I need to test in the future. If you’ve got anything that you’d like me to test in a video, make sure to give me a shout!

  8. Natalie Herbin, 12 March, 2015

    Thank you so much for this testing… I was always wondering if it did or did not matter if I used the bath… I always tried to digit with the translucent but sometimes I could not remember if the item had some translucent clay or not.. Now I can stop worry about that thanks to you!!

  9. Cindy Lietz, 12 March, 2015

    You are very welcome Natalie!

  10. Dawn B, 12 March, 2015

    Thanks Cindy! This was an issue of some debate in my Guild back in CO. As for myself, sometimes I did quench (or dunk) and sometimes I didn’t. I don’t think I really noticed any difference either.

  11. Margaret H, 13 March, 2015

    Thanks Cindy. Since I’m new to polymer clay I had wondered about this. So glad you clarified it so that I’m not wasting my time with ice water.

  12. Patricia N, 13 March, 2015

    If you leave it as is yes it will flatten out but if you fill it and put a back on it it should be fine. You have to re bake it of course. The video is on MO CLAY YouTube. Mine was pretty enough but I need lots of practice.

  13. Doug Lietz, 13 March, 2015

    Just wanted to link to this Facebook post that Binky Melnick initiated regarding this quenching topic… and in particlular… there was a few comments posted by Susan Wener that are worth noting…

    Susan said… “This is per my son (the Materials engineer)… In the lab, ice water baths are used to slow down polymer reactions. It does not strengthen the bonds nor make them weaker. Unless there are air bubbles trapped with the clay, it should not cause the clay to crack/break. Otherwise, the process of rapid cooling is neither helpful nor detrimental as long as the clay has cured/heated to the proper temp for the proper length of time. I personally prefer to let items cool naturally.”

    And she followed up with a response to Ed Street by saying… “my son is a metallurgist but has had extensive experience with polymers prior to choosing metals. While polymers can appear to be ceramics and some metals react like ceramics, metals and polymers are two distinct substances at the molecular level so how they react to cold is also quite different.”

    You can see the entire conversation here.

  14. Jocelyn C, 14 March, 2015

    Great info, Doug. Appreciate the share.

  15. Kathay Iskrzycki, 15 March, 2015

    Sorry I have one last question when baking a bangle bracelet I have read to use a soda can, well that seems small for some people can you suggest something else to use? thanks again your the best….

  16. Jocelyn C, 15 March, 2015

    Before you recycle your glass jars, test for one that’s a good fit and use that as your bracelet mold. Most jars are tapered at the bottom, so if you place the bracelet 3/4’s down, you should have no problems slipping it off when warm after baking. If you want to be extra safe, wrap the jar with parchment paper.

    If you use glass, always start in a cold oven and allow it to cool in the oven. Most taco jars are great, and last forever.

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