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Polymer Clay FAQ
Prepared by Arlene Thayer

Assistance Provided by:

Lynn D. Troldahl Hershberger, Artist and Teacher of Polymer Clay, for submitting the "Polymer Clay Brand Comparison", lynnH@voyager.net

Dorothy L. McMillan, Polymer Clay Artist and Noted Author, for submitting "Clay Conditioning", VBCM28A@prodigy.com

Becky Preston, Polymer Clay Artist, for submitting "How to Attach "Clay" to Glass" rebecca955@aol.com

Sherry Bailey, Polymer Clay Artist for tips and suggestions, slbailey@acs.bu.edu

Note: This document is always under development, send all submissions via e-mail to sincereleigh@delphi.com.

What is polymer clay
Where can I get it?
What can I do with it?
What can I NOT do with it?
What tools do I need?
Is it safe?
What is the difference between the brands of "clay"?
How is it prepared for use?
How do I make simple beads?
How do I attach "clay" to glass?
How is it cured?
What are the different finishes?
What is the best way to store the "clay"?
What are some of the items that can be made with polyclay?
What are canes?
Can I use adhesives
What findings are best to use?
What about molds?
How can I uses powders?

What is Polymer Clay?
First of all, Polymer Clay is not true clay found in the earth. It was first developed in 1930, in Germany. It is made from PVC, polyvinyl chloride...the same family of plastics that make up the plumbing in your home. It is mixed with a plasticizer and color pigment is added.
Polymer Clays are available in many colors, including neon-dayglow, granite textures and translucent.
After preparing and shaping, the "clay" is baked in a conventional oven at low temperature for a period determined by the shape and thickness of the design. There is no shrinkage, and colors remain true through baking. The finished product can be sanded, drilled, polished, painted.
Properly stored, unbaked polymer clay has a very long shelf-life of upwards to two years. The shelf-life can be prolonged by storing in the refrigerator or freezer.
Question List

Where can I get it?
Craft stores, discount stores, and mail order. Look under artist's supplies. There are several brands available and the differences will be discussed later. FIMO is manufactured by Eberhard Faber in Germany, Cernit is manufactured by T+F GmbH of Dreieich, Germany, and Modello is made by Rudolf Reiser, of Nueremberg, Germany. Sculpey III and Pro-Mat are made in the United States by Polyform Products Company.
Question List

What can I do with it?
Beads, jewelry, figurines, pens, pictures, dolls, miniature furniture, simulated gems, boxes, vases, sculptures, picture frames, etc.
Polymer clays can be incorporated with other materials, i.e, plastics, metals, wood, fabrics. It can be mixed with powders, glitter, metallic leaf and anything that will not melt when baked.
Question List

What can I NOT do with it?
Polyclay by itself will not support heavy objects. You cannot make items with appendages unless those appendages are reinforced with wiring or supporting base material.
Do not leave your unbaked polymer clay exposed to the sun for any period of time or it will bake. Avoid making items that young children can place into their mouth. Do not make items that will come into contact with food.
Question List

What tools do I need?
It is entirely possible to make an item from polymer clay using only your hands and your oven. Your HANDS are your most important tool for working and conditioning polymer clay. But, there are many tools available to make working with polymer clay easier. The following is a list:

  1. Most important, is an OVEN - either your kitchen oven, or you may use a toaster oven that you can set in another area, such as garage, patio or someplace away from the living area of your home. If your polyclay accidentally burns, the fumes can be quite nasty, not to mention, your oven will need a thorough cleaning. A small toaster oven purchased at a discount store for under $20.
  2. The tool that should be renamed the Polymer Clay Conditioner is the PASTA MACHINE, not the extruding type, but the roller type. The price can range anywhere from $40 down to below $20 when on sale. It is an indispensable tool for conditioning and rolling thin sheets for wrapping (see how to condition). Purchase one that can be secured to a table top.
  3. An optional tool, the FOOD PROCESSOR is gaining favor for conditioning polymer clay. Try to find one at a discount store or yard sale. Do not reuse the same food processor for food. The clay needs to be softened with a few drops of mineral oil to take the strain off the machine (see conditioning instructions).
  4. Glass, tile or Plexiglas WORKING SURFACE. Glass surfaces can be purchased at a kitchen store. Some are rough on top, but the other side is smooth. Remove the skid-proof feet and turn. To keep from sliding, reglue the feet to the rough side. Large ceramic tile sections can be purchased at a discount store or a tile store. Look for a smooth surface and attach rubber plugs to the underside to avoid sliding. A glass table top can be used or any smooth surface (polymer clay can ruin some wooden surfaces). Clean thoroughly before using that surface for food preparation.
  5. CLAY EXTRUDERS are handy for making uniform shapes to incorporate into canes, hair or wherever a preformed shape is needed. Clay must be well-softened and warm to extrude with ease. Clay guns are also available at craft stores.
  6. BRAYERS or ROLLERS are handy for flattening the clay if you do not have a pasta machine. They are helpful for making square logs.
  7. An X-ACTO KNIFE is useful for cutting shapes and trimming.
  8. For fine slicing of canes, the TISSUE BLADE is a must. Long blades from replaceable craft knives can also be used.
  9. A PIERCING TOOL is necessary for making holes in beads. Substitutes may be darning needles or toothpicks.
  10. Disposable or dedicated OVEN PAN. One that will fit into the oven and support the FLORIST WIREs necessary to bake the beads. Cover bottom of pan with parchment paper when baking flat pieces.
  11. Some other useful tools are small PAINT BRUSHES for smoothing, a RULER for measuring, SHAPE CUTTERS (the smaller the better) and any shaping tool suitable for earth clay work.
  12. Another tool, especially designed to aid in sizing is the TEMPLATE. This TEMPLATE will give you the ability to achieve success and greater satisfaction in your attempts to make the designs in the many publications available. If you make beads and jewelry, it will give you accuracy and consistency in ball sizes. You will also be able to duplicate your work from the suggested clay to a clay of your choice or to the clay that is available in your area. If you cannot locate this TEMPLATE, please contact by email, diana-crick@mindlink.bc.ca and she will help you.
    Question List
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