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c. Indispensable Tools

  • Pasta Machine:   A good quality, Italian made Pasta machine (Atlas, Imperial or Mercato brands are best) is my most indispensable tool - used to help with conditioning clay, mixing colours, producing "Skinner Blends" (shaded sheets of clay), rolling even thickness sheets of different sizes, for creating fine striped loaves.  I couldn't work without this!
    Tip :   Keep your pasta machine clean by wiping with alcohol regularly to clean, and removing built up clay from inside machine.  Do not however take machine apart!  I use cotton buds, and a needle tool with a alcohol drenched small cloth to poke up inside machine to clean.
  • Pasta Machine Motor:
    Motors are available which fit to the pasta machines - these take the hard work out of rolling clay, and great for people with arthritis or shoulder injuries.  I did without this for about 8 years, but since having one I would not want to go without it again!  Not essential but very nice if you are doing a lot of clay conditioning and rolling.
  • Clay Slicing Blades :
    Essential for cleanly slicing clay - especially for slicing canes into beads or thin slices.  Plasticiser builds up on blade after use, so wipe with Isopropyl Alcohol, or a 'Wet One' between uses.  Blades last longer if kept clean, and oiling lightly after use helps prevent rust build-up.
    • Thomas Scientific Tissue Slicing Blade - a super sharp blade made for laboratory dissection.  Is somewhat flexible so can be used to cut gentle curves.  Tip:  Paint with nailpolish on top edge to help prevent cutting with blade upside down and causing damage to yourself!
    • Stainless Steel Tissue Blades - Similar to the basic blades but made from Stainless steel which lasts approx. 3 times longer than the Thomas type which does rust over time.  eg. Kemper, Nu-Blade
    • Flexible Tissue Blades - similar to above, but a bit longer and a bit more flexible for sharper curves.   eg.  Nu-Blade or Sculpey Super Slicers
    • Ripple blades   - also available which can be used to create special effects, eg. Great for Mokume Gane slicing
  • Brayers :   Acrylic/Perspex Brayers are best as clay doesn't stick to them.  A cut piece of tube is great for general rolling of clay sheets, compressing layers together, and to assist when reducing larger square shaped canes.
  • Work Surface:   I use a sheet of clear acrylic under which I put a large sheet of graph paper which guides me when cutting canes or sheets of clay to size.  You can also use a laminated  board, marble or glass surface.   Some people even use paper taped to the table!
  • Needle Tool:
    I use this tool for poking holes in beads before baking - insert into bead with a spinning motion.  You can make one for yourself by embedding a darning needle into a piece of clay and baking it.
  • Pin-Vise/Hand Drill : This is a small hand-held manual drill vise which holds a variety of small diameter drill bits - use for drilling tiny holes in baked polymer.
  • Dremel Minimite Drill:   If you're going to get serious about bead-making or polymer clay you may want to invest in one of these small drills.  I use mine for drilling holes in baked beads but you can purchase tiny muslin buffing wheels to polish your beads (we stock those)   A drill press also allows you to stand the drill upside down leaving hands free to hold the bead or piece as you drill with greater control and safety.  Note:  Use safety glasses & mask when drilling.
  • Variable Speed Buffing Wheel :   Another luxury for the serious clayer.  Used at low speed with a soft muslin buffing wheel, brings up a high gloss on polymer clay pieces.  It is best to hand-polish piece first using wet-dry sandpaper starting at 400grit and moving to 600, 800, and even 1000 before buffing.  The Foredom Variable speed buffing wheel is very good, and is available from some jewellers tool suppliers.  Note:  Use good quality dust mask and safety glasses when drilling, and beware of flying clay objects when buffing!
  • Cookie & Canape Cutters:  Lots of different sets are available from specialty cooking shops which can be used for cutting shapes from clay.  (One use is a short-cut when making a Star Cane - cut lots of stars using a star cutter, stack and compress, then do the same with the background colour, and cut one side open to insert the centre star shape)  Kemper Brand cutters are also useful - they make a range of different size cutters with plungers to help remove clay plug.
  • Pearl Ex Mica Powders:  These metallic powders can be applied to unbaked clay using your fngertip to create metallic effects - just apply sparingly, rub in well then bake your clay and afterwards varnish with a good quality polymer clay varnish or Pearl Ex Varnish.
  • Varnishes:  Not essential for all clay work but if you want a shiny finish then one of the polymer clay vanrishes will do that for you.  Alternatively consider sanding & polishing for a more natural shine.
  • Bead Rollers:  These handy little rollers allow you to roll consistent sized beads in a range of shapes & sizes with accuracy!
  • Lots more tools now on the market - texture sheets, measuring tools, moulds, stamps and lots more! 

Products related to this article:

TL3257  Acrylic Brayer w/Metal Handle - 10cm wide
TL3257 Acrylic Brayer w/Metal Handle - 10cm wide
T-12 Clay Wavy Slicing Blades - Per blade
T-12 Clay Wavy Slicing Blades - Per blade
35055  Makins Professional Ultimate Clay Extruder Gun
35055 Makins Professional Ultimate Clay Extruder Gun
BDRILL  King Miniature Hand Craft Drill w/12 Ass Size Bits
BDRILL King Miniature Hand Craft Drill w/12 Ass Size Bits
T-38  Kemper Circle Cutter Set (5pc)
T-38 Kemper Circle Cutter Set (5pc)