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   The Polymer Clayspot
       Polymer Clay FAQ

The Polymer Clayspot:

Welcome to Polymer Clay
Choosing & Mixing Clay
Conditioning Polymer Clay
Using the Food Processor
Using the Pasta Machine
Forming Clay Pieces
Firing Polymer Clay
Finishing Clay Pieces
Storing Polymer Clay
Using Stone Clays
Using Translucent Clays
Molding & Sculpting
Creating Surface Effects
Making Polymer Clay Jewelry
Safety & Cleanup
More Information Sources
What are pasta machines used for?

The pasta machine is used by many clayworkers to roll thin sheets of clay, to give a crackled finish to metal leaf on clay, to make a continuous blend of two or more colors, and as an aid to conditioning fresh clay.

What kind should I get?

Get the hand-cranked rolling type of machine, one with metal rollers - not the kind that works by having a motor extrude the dough through a plate. (The extruder-type machines aren't strong enough to work with polymer clay.)

The most widely-available brand seems to be Atlas. Another brand is Pasta Queen. (Look for a machine made in Italy; some clayworkers have reported quality problems with Atlas and Pasta Queen machines made in China.) If you want a larger machine to make bigger sheets and process larger amounts of clay, check out the Belpasta Trattorina pasta machine.

If you want a pasta machine but don't want to spend the money for a new one, consider haunting a few garage sales or flea markets, where you'll sometimes find these machines for sale at bargain prices.

Can I make a flat sheet without a pasta machine?

You can use a rolling pin (or anything with the same shape, such as a smooth glass) to make a flat sheet of clay. Roll it out between two sheets of waxed paper to avoid having it stick to the roller.

To ensure the sheet is an even thickness, put a dowel to either side of the clay, resting the roller on the dowel. This will flatten the clay sheet to the thickness of the dowel you're using.

How do I use the machine to condition clay?

First, press the clay into a fairly flat sheet. (If the clay is too stiff to do this, you'll need to warm and condition it first.)

Feed your sheet through the machine at the thickest setting - on the Atlas, this is setting #1. Fold the sheet in half and feed it through again, fold-first. Repeat this three or four times. Then increase the setting to the next level. Continue feeding the clay through the machine, three or four times at each level of thickness, until you get to setting #5 or #6. By this time, the clay will be conditioned and ready to use.

How do I clean the pasta machine?

Normally, you shouldn't need to clean a pasta machine, although you may want to wipe off the rollers with a clean cloth (or run a cloth partway through the machine to make sure you get to all the roller surfaces). Some people use baby wipes to clean the rollers.

The metal flanges at the bottom of the machine sometimes trap bits of clay, which you can get at with a small stiff brush or toothbrush. Another trick is to run a piece of scrap clay or a baby wipe through the machine to pick up any loose flecks of clay.

Never soak the pasta machine in water or put it through the dishwasher; doing so will ruin the machine.

Can I use the same machine for food and clay?

Unfortunately, not safely, because the clay tends to work itself into the crannies of the pasta machine where you can't remove it. It's safer to use a separate machine for clay.  - Safety tip!

Why is the pasta machine shredding my clay?

If your clay isn't soft enough already, running it through the pasta machine will shred it instead of making a nice flat sheet. If you're having this problem, you probably need to condition your clay a little more first. The softer brands of clay can be used in a pasta machine without preconditioning, but if you're working in a cold room, you may need to at least warm the clay first.

You may not be able to roll the stiffer clays at the thinnest setting at all. If you're having trouble getting a sheet as thin as you want, roll it through at the next thicker setting several times first, folding it in half for each pass, then try it at the thinner setting.

If the clay seems to be sticking to the rollers, try laying it between sheets of waxed paper and running this "sandwich" through the machine. Or brush the surface of the clay very lightly with talc or cornstarch, then running it through the machine.

 Next: Forming Clay Pieces

Jeanne A. E. DeVoto
Copyright © 1996-97 Jeanne A. E. DeVoto