5 essential tools for polymer clay makers
Are you looking to start working with polymer clay? This material can open up a whole new realm of possibilities when creating handmade jewelry designs. To make sure you have the best experience possible when working with polymer clay, it is important to have the right tools. Here are my 5 (or so!) must-have tools for the polymer clay maker.
I can't live without my Atlas 150 pasta machine! Rolling out clay by hand can be time-consuming and may get inconsistent results. That's why many polymer clay artists and makers prefer using a pasta machine. The Atlas 150 is a popular beginner's choice because it is sturdy, durable, has adjustable thickness settings and is easy to use right out of the box. There are some more expensive machines specifically designed for polymer clay, which are also an option to explore. With a good rolling tool, you can condition clay and create uniform sheets of clay quickly and easily.
It is very important to get precise cuts when making polymer clay jewelry. This will reduce work later when it comes to sanding and buffing!
Most polymer clay makers have a wide collection of clay cutters in different shapes, sizes and patterns. As the popularity of polymer clay jewelry has risen, there are more and more options available for unique cutters. I have several Etsy shops I support that have high quality and unique cutters.
For fun retro designs, check out Echo Stone Designs. For florals and nature themes, I love TouchofGlassbySandra. For funky shapes, my go-to is ShapedCutters. For great basics, I support Artisan3DPrint. Most of these shops are based in Canada, but there are many other options that ship worldwide!
Another useful tool in my kit is a tissue blade for cutting straight, controlled lines. Overall, having a good selection of cutting tools will make the process of creating polymer clay jewelry much easier and efficient.
I keep things simple and bake my clay in my home oven using a leftover tile from our basement as my working base. I have tested many different temperatures and baking times, so it's important to see what works with your oven! I bake my pieces at 260 degrees fahrenheit for 30 minutes.
There are other options, such as using a toaster oven or a dedicated polymer clay oven. All of these are suitable options depending on your budget and the space you have available. My only recommendation is to make sure you test your temperatures using your oven to see what works best. Properly baked polymer clay should not change colour and should remain flexible when cooled.
There are a lot of different tools that can be used to shape, sand, and buff polymer clay. My two most important tools are a battery-powered rotary tool with several attachments and simple nail files with a variety of grit.
After baking your clay, it is a must to clean up and sand off any rough edges. This is the most labor-intensive part of the process and often the part most polymer clay makers hate! It takes a lot of time and practice to get a nice clean finish, but it's important (especially if you plan to sell your creations).
My number one top secret tool for finishing polymer clay is acetone. It's affordable, readily available, and does a lot of heavy lifting for refinishing the surface without a lot of effort.
You can apply acetone to a cotton swab and gently brush the surface of your clay piece. It will remove lint, dust, fingerprints, and leave your clay with a matte finish.
I buy my 100% acetone from the drug store - it can be found with the nail polish products.
That's the list! Overall, my advice to any new polymer clay makers is to try new things and see what works for you. Polymer clay is a super interesting and versatile material. Part of the fun of being an artist is exploring new techniques and ways to work.