Posted by: cassymuronaka | May 31, 2009

Softening clay

I’ve been hearing a lot of talk lately about the “new and amazing” way of softening hard, uncured polymer clay: to smash the hell out it, with or without a mallet.

At the risk of sound like a cranky old geezer — but here goes anyway — I watched Marie Segal and Z Kripke do this almost 15 years ago.

It’s true that banging on the clay will make that clay easier to condition. And I certainly mean no disrespect to the folks who have just figured that out, necessity being the mother of invention, and all that.

But, people, people, people, get yourself a mini food processor. You aren’t going to make much more noise using it than you do hammering on a stubborn block of clay, and your body will thank you for it.

Besides, that’s why God invented 20-percent-off “Bed, Bath and Beyond” coupons.

I use various brands of polymer clay and all of them age and get harder with time, but they do so at different speeds. Some go to concrete very quickly, but my experience has been that as long as you don’t accidentally allow it to bake in a hot car, the clay is good indefinitely. I’ve got clay that I won at a raffle during the first Ravensdale conference in 1996 and I am still throwing that stuff in the food processor. And I recently broke up a piece of Promat, a clay that is no longer produced and which dates from the Cro-Magnon age of polymer clay, just to see if I could make it usable. The answer was Yes.

Mini food processor and results

The food processor technique is easy, and I certainly did not invent it. Cut the clay into coarse chunks (large pieces of clay will burn out the motor). Add a few drops of mineral oil, Sculpey Diluent, or one of the liquid clays. Pulse the clay until you have divine, easy-to-condition bits of clay. After that, store the processor in your polymer work area and dedicate it only for use with clay.

A nice little benefit of pulsing away in the food processor is that the clay also gets warmed up quickly. And that makes it more malleable, which means a quicker trip to High Art.

In Olden Tymes, when polymer clay artists primarily were creating millefiore canes and having to massively condition what is now known as Classic Fimo, everyone quickly found out that there was going to be a real time delay between unwrapping a new pack of clay and actually getting to make something with it. But a large number of crafters today are only used to working with the softer clays which require little or no conditioning. I think there is a tendency to give up on hard clays too quickly, or to think that a bad batch accidentally was purchased.

To those people I say, get yourself a mini food processor.



  1. […] Softening Clay […]

  2. One reason I avoid using my processor is the amount of work involved in cleaning it up afterwards (ie up in the nooks and crannies of the bowl) Any hints for easier cleanup?

    • I just usually use a palette knife to scoop out the leftovers. Honestly, unless you are processing the color white, whatever is left in there really doesn’t affect the next clay color you are breaking down. A few pieces of the color you processed before the current one you are processing will just get blended up with the new color, and I doubt that you’ll notice any difference.

      I’ve gotten pretty sloppy with the food processor in the last few years. Also, if you have thrown in a bit of mineral oil or Diluent with the clay being processed, the clay tends to clump together pretty well because of the stickiness. I find I don’t have much in there when I dump it out of the processor and onto your work surface.

      But if you want a cleaner bowl, I’ve used rubbing alcohol wipes out the inside pretty well. I hope this all helps.

      We all probably need a separate pasta machine and food processor for white clay!

  3. I spray it with 90% isopropyl alcohol and wipe with cheap, rough paper towels. Quick and easy.

  4. It does work a treat, but after only two batches the plastic of my processor has disintegrated and the bowl is now held together with duct tape……maybe some are made with a more polymer-friendly plastic but l don’t know how you’d tell!
    This one will have to be thrown out after the next batch.

  5. Mine also disintegrated. Only use it as a last resort. Yes need 2 of them. One for white and one for colors.

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