Hard Clay? No Problem!
My Easy Blending Polymer Clay Tip No Special Tools Required
One of the things that every clayer struggles with at times is rock hard clay. Clay that does nothing but snap, break, and never get soft. The easiest answer to this problem is a food processor. But, you may not have a food processor and that’s okay.
Today’s polymer clay tip will show you how to become friends with your clay, warm it up, soften it, make it malleable again, and even blend it to perfect. In fact, with this easy polymer clay tip, you don’t need any special tools or machines. You only need your hands, clay blade, acrylic roller and pasta machine.
The first thing that any good clayer does is to choose your clay carefully. But what happens when that clay that you have picked is actually rock hard? Even though you would swear that when you bought it it was actually soft?! Not only does is crumble and not get soft when incubated (which is my special technique that I use to warm clay, I sit on it!), but it stays hard. Here’s a simple trick that will save you time, frustration, and effort. In the example shown below I am actually making my own color blend. So I will be showing you this technique with two colors of clay, as well as an inclusion. Here’s the basic technique: Cutting. Yep…you are going to cut up your clay.
Polymer Clay Tip – How To Make That Hard Clay Soft Again:
Take your rock hard clay and cut it up into tiny pieces. Pretend you are chopping vegetables. That’s all you’re going to do here, chop, chop, chop! (See upper left)
Add your second color for your blend and cut it up into tiny pieces on top of the first section. (See upper right & bottom left)
Before you begin to press this all together, add any inclusions that you have gathered and throw it on top of the pile. (See bottom right)
Now are you are going to do is grab your acrylic roller (or brayer) and roll on top of the clay with moderate pressure, over and over and over…until all the pieces begin to stick to one another. When the pieces begin to stick to one another, gently start to grab the pile and form it into a ball, adding the warmth of your hands and the heat of the clay will make it soft quicker.
Then, roll your clay into a ball and roll into a snake and back to a ball, and then a snake and back to a ball. Do this several times until your clay is soft. Then roll your clay through the pasta machine and you will get a really cool marble effect that you can use right away or keep running through the pasta machine until your own solid color emerges.
Let me know if this technique works for you too. Leave us a comment below.
Clay STILL too hard? Try this technique as well…
21 thoughts on “Hard Clay Blending Technique”
I’m trying to get my clay soft enough to make handprints that will be filled with plaster of Paris. But it’s so hard only the fingers have any definition. The palms just don’t make impressions. My kindergarten teacher used to make plaster handprints using this method and they were perfect. But she’s gone now and I just can’t recreate what she did. Any suggestions?
I would try using original sculpt. This should do the trick nicely for you. It’s inexpensive and super soft as well.
Mineral oil, which is clear, works well for softening clay. I was given this info by ClayCentral. Marie Segal. I bought clay in bulk and after a year it was hard. They suggested the food processor but chopping it would work. This is not a quick fix, but it was better than the trash.
Yes, mineral oil can be used in place of clay softener on many brands of polymer clay.
I scan read this on Pinterest and saw the word “food” – utterly convinced the mixer clay was canned tuna fish!
How bad would that clay smell! X
Thank you so much for your help with baking cracks my project was to thin and baked to long, your tips helped so much and I love the softening tricks. you are pretty awesome to help so much. thank you again for so many great ideas, Cyndy
Because I have problems with my hands, I use a small food chopper to break up the clay and then add mineral oil just a few drops at a time. When the clay begins to hold together I take it out of the chopper and roll into a ball and then run it thru the pasta machine multiple times. This does not affect baking time. I have done this for years. BTW I read the ingredients on the clay softener liquid that you can buy and guess what, it is only one ingredient – MINERAL OIL.
Thanks for joining us here Apral! Both these tips have been shared on the blog on other posts as well. Mineral oil is dirt cheap and yes it is what clay softener is made from. I still suggest placing it in a smaller container so as not to make a mess when using it however.
I had read at another site to put the clay into a sealable bag and then place it in hot water. Another suggestion was to put it in the microwave on low until it warms up. They also suggested to keep from transferring colors to apply hand lotion onto your hands and then they will be less likely to get gummed up.
I’m not sure where you read this at, but these two claims are absolutely false. You should NEVER put polymer clay in the microwave or into hot water. It can begin to cure the clay and then you will only make it harder. I would NOT recommend this at all.
Investing in a food processor is worth it! Check at Good Will.
It sure is Allyson! I have a whole post dedicated to just that here on the site too. Thanks for the reminder!
Thanks for the tip! I’m dealing with an artificial elbow, which gave back minimal strength on a permanent basis. (Better than nothing!) When dealing with hard clay like this, what can I do to reduce strain on my whole arm, beyond making sure clay cutters are sharp?
Do you have a food grinder that you can use? A food chopper will help to condition your clay and break it apart into tiny little bits for you.
I like the idea of cutting the clay up in small pieces,but hurting hands make it difficult to work with.
So,I put clay in a baggy,either sit on it or hold in hand to warm. So much easier to work with.
***One of my tidbits is to use the pre-packaged eyeglass cleaner tissues to keep hands cleaner before & during sculpting. Or I keep a small container with cotton balls lightly saturated with alcohol. I enjoy reading what others suggest. Happy Crafting…Smiles.
I LOVE the alcohol soaked cotton balls idea. Very nice!
I bought a box of baby wipes and use them to clean my hands between colors and I also run them thru my pasta machine. Works very well and gentle on your hands.
Too much for my hands anymore but good to know. Thanks for sharing. Hugs!
I have arthritis in my hands too, so I feel your pain. But when I blend bright colors and have rock hard clay, I don’t want to add TLS as it gets too gooey and sticky…then to try and make it a “usable” material – yuck! So this is my solution.
Besides learning how to make hard clay soft again, I learned something else … I thought Clay artists purchased each color separately. I never thought about mixing two colors together to come up with a new one all your own – I like that!
Thanks Jill! I rarely will use colors straight from the package. Anyone can do that and I like my colors to be unique and one of a kind, non reproducible blends. To me, this is just one other reason that my sculpting (and even Parker who is a custom blend) is special.