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BAKING EQUIPMENT

by SL Savarick
OVEN THERMOMETER

I bake all my Polymer work at 300ºF (Polymer clay will start to burn at 325ºF). I work with different blends of Premo, Fimo, Kato, and Cernit. I have baked pieces that were white, ecru, pastel, and other light colors (all but Translucent) at 300ºF for over an hour (in one baking period), and sometimes with multiple bakes the total time a piece has been at 300ºF is well over 3 hours. I have never had a problem with burning or even browning of light colors. I have also found that for a strong piece, long bake times are necessary.(What's the rush anyway...<G>)

The KEY to baking at this temperature for long periods of time is to use a traditional mercury style (liquid enclosed in glass tube) oven thermometer and to know your oven. I check my oven every 10 mins until I know it is at 300º. I bake most of my work in my home gas oven (my gas oven is pretty consistant and does not spike once it hits the desireed temperature), but I do use a toaster oven when I teach, or if I only have a small piece or two to bake. I also check my toster oven every 10 to 15 minutes, but it, too, is pretty consistant (It's an Oster brand and I have never seen a more consistant toster oven with regard to temperature). A convection oven would also work at 300ºF (remember that even though a convection oven cooks food faster, the temperature is still 300ºF even if it seems hotter). When it some to Polymer Clay, 300ºF is 300ºF no matter if it's gas or electric home ovens, toasters or convection ovens.

THE KEY IS THE MERCURY (LIQUID IN A CLOSED TUBE) THERMOMETER
I have found that dial-type and digital thermometers can be as off as much as 50º, and if your oven is off and you thermometer is off then you can't truly know the temperature in your oven.

The only time I bake below 300ºF is when I bake translucent clay - then its 265ºF, although I have found that even for periods of over 2 hours AT 265º PREMO TRANSLUCENT AND TRANSLUCENT W/ BLEACH will not yellow or darken. I also insulate any translucent clay that has been previously cured if I need to rebake it to add additional work to a piece.

When a person comes to me for help with browning or yellowing when baking at higher temperatures, I KNOW they are using an oven thermometer that is NOT accurate.

©2003-SL Savarick

Thank you, SL. You can Email SL at slsavarick@earthlink.net .

BAKING EQUIPMENT TIPS
From Anna Gray
Tip: "I make baking racks for my clay beads. For that purpose I buy cheap aluminum baking trays in grocery and department stores (usually cost $3-6 per set of 3). Tall rectangular trays work the best. Using sharp scissors or wire cutters, I make notches in one side and pierce holes in the opposite. If beads are heavy, you might want to put something on the bottom of a tray to prevent a light aluminum tray from flipping over. A piece of a ceramic tile works good for this purpose. Make sure that suspended beads don't touch the tile. I usually bake my beads on Sculpey's Etch'n'Pearl sticks, though hardened steel wire would work just fine, too. The advantage of the sticks is that they make really polished holes, which are smooth inside and outside. That said, you wouldn't have to use your jeweler's file to smooth the holes after baking, should you want to string your beads on delicate cording."


From Jean LaFountain
Tip: "I have baked all my clays at about 290 degrees in my home oven, using an aluminum roaster (the kind you get at the grocery that says 'support the bottom') and a cover of heavy duty aluminum foil. I line the bottom with ceramic tiles (I use 2 6x6's) and bake for as long as I need, even the translucents, and I haven't burned a thing since I started using this system. As long as the aluminum foil is securely sealed at the edges, there is no smell when I open the oven door. I usually take it outside to cool and/or open. My toaster oven is sitting under my desk. It's so small!"



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