HELP: My Polymer Clay is Rock Hard

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Hard Clay Questions Answered on KatersAcres Blog

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Your Questions Answered

[dropcap]I[/dropcap] have recently been receiving several questions sent to me privately from some of my readers.  I try to answer all questions as quickly as they come in.  Feel free to ask me a question anytime and I will answer it directly or here on the blog.

Since this is the first time I have reposted an email that has come to me, I thought it best not to use the name of the person who sent the email.  For this reason, I have “named” the letter and the person who wrote to me in the letter.

Hard Clay Questions Answered on KatersAcres BlogHard Polymer Clay

I received this letter last week regarding a lady’s difficulty with hard polymer clay.  There are lots of easy and quick answers for this question and some that are not as easy to answer…so I will start with the most basic to quick tips to help anyone who also struggles with this same issue.

Having very hard polymer clay can be a multi-symptom problem.  It can have a wide variety of reasons, some that I may not even be aware of.  The first thing I would ask is where do you buy your clay?  This is an important question.  Why?  Because often times clay is shipped in large semi-trucks with thousands of other items.  Those trucks are not cooled and if it is too hot in the compartment of the semi, the clay can begin to partially cure during shipment.  How do you avoid this?  When you buy clay, give the package a squeeze.  Make sure that the clay is malleable while in the package.  It should give and squish slightly before you purchase it.  Do not purchase clay that is hard…sometimes this does mean that it has been partially cured.

The second easy solution comes down to brands of clay.  The softest of all brands of polymer clay is by far Bake Shop (though I do NOT recommend this brand for intermediate to professional clayers & artists).  In my experience the “hard blocks” of clay that I have gotten have often been Sculpey.  My favorite brand of clay is by far Premo for its’ ease of conditioning and softness, yet while remaining firm enough to work with.  You can read this article for a description on brands of clay and their softness ratings.

If the problem you are having is NOT one of the problems listed above, you can do several things to soften your clay.  I have written several posts on softening your clay…but I have other tips as well.  I will give the links to the other posts at the end.

Make It Warm

The easiest way to fix hard clay is to warm up your clay.  So how do you do this? There are several easy ways to do this. The method that I use the most often is to “incubate” my clay.  In order to do this properly, you must first believe that you are a duck…sitting on your eggs.  Yes, that’s what I mean.  You are going to sit on your clay.  Other things you can do are to wrap a warm (not hot) rice pack around your clay to warm it or set it in towels on a heating pad.

Chop & Pound

When all else fails you can chop the clay up into tiny bits, as demonstrated here.  Feel free to take out all your aggression on your clay. Hit it with your acrylic rod, put it in a baggie and smash it on the counter, hit it with a hammer, or anything else you can think of.  A lot of people will also use a food processor, TLS, or Clay Softener to help aid the softening process.  Here’s an excellent article by MagicByLeah on using a food processor to make hard clay workable.

Feel free to buy a twin to the food processor I use on Amazon, or any of the above products on Amazon, where I am an affiliate.

I hope that some of these answers have helped to answer your question and solve your problem! Let me know how it goes.

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Do You Have a Question?

Is there something that you struggle with while working with polymer clay? Let me know, I’d love to help you & answer your questions here on my blog too.

Thanks for joining me today,
Happy Claying,

14 thoughts on “HELP: My Polymer Clay is Rock Hard

  1. I put my clay in my bra for 10 to 15 minutes! Lol!

    1. I know lots of people who do that … well, ladies at least. :-p I sit on mine Carissa!

  2. I live in a cold and dry climate too! (Wyoming) I found that for me, Premo works the best. My Kato and Pardo where sadly just crumbly and hard. I saved them for the summer though in hopes that I can use them when the weather warms.

  3. Hi–I am new to the clay–and made the mistake of buying some–(a lot of 20 pieces) that was “used”. It was described as “well kept”, but when I got it–it was / is rock hard, and no amount of warming has done it any good–in fact the small piece I tried to work with crumbled into powder.
    The situation was resolved–money refunded happily, and I was told to not return the product.
    After looking at it for a time, and wondering if it could be saved and used, I am in need of some advice as to if there is a way to do that with the clay in the condition it is in–I hate to waste anything.
    Your help would be most welcome.
    Thanks, Julie

    1. Hey Julie!

      It sounds like your clay has cured due to heat exposure. Clay is very sensitive and even being kept in a car on an 85 degree day can mean that your clay will partially cure. You can always chop the clay finely and use it as an inclusion – you’ll get some awesome results this way. In fact I have purposefully cured bits of clay to grind up and add as inclusions before!

      1. Hi Katie,

        You mentioned that you cured clay and grind it up… I was wondering what did you use to grind it? Do you think an electric coffee grinder can work for this?

        Thanks,
        Olga

        1. Hi Olga,

          I actually use a cheese grater to do it! I tried a coffee grinder and found that clay that was cured and ground in a coffee grinder got TOO fine and turned almost into a powder like substance. But it depends on what you are looking to do with it.

          1. Thanks Katie.

      2. Katie, I wish I had read your post about using old clay for inclusions!!!! What a great idea. I’m new to poly clay. I felt I was missing something by throwing away the old clay, even after trying my best to revive it, but I didn’t think,of this. BRILLIANT! Now I wish I had all that old clay back.

    2. I hate to waste anything too, and ployclay is not that inexpensive! I had about thirty packets of clay that were about 25 years old, that I got from a friend. I put one pack in a baggie, added some baby oil and bashed it with a heavy rubber mallet. It seemed to work. I tried it with another pack and this one just kept crumbling and really gunked up my pasta machine badly. I decided that they probably had partially cured by being exposed to heat somewhere over the years.In the end I chucked them all in the trash as it just was not worth the time and trouble to try to fix them! It was a real pain to clean my machine. Sometimes its better to just buy new. You can try the hammer method. You can tell if its working as the clay will hang together and remain plastic. If its not, then it will keep cracking and crumbling no matter what you do. Hope this helps!

  4. I tried to get tutorial for the pansey cane from pinteret it was there one day. Went back the next day to print insturction it was gone Please send them to me .

    1. The Pansy cane was not my tutorial, it is someone else’s tutorial. The Pinterest link is here: http://pinterest.com/pin/51650726948938339/

  5. […] often because I don’t let any clay go to waste.  I even use that old, “unusable” hard clay!  This being said … my clay slabs that I roll through my pasta machine, often have […]

  6. […] Please be sure to check the links provided, for additional information on how to properly and fully condition your clay.  Once all your clay’s conditioned, make sure you have the colors picked out for your base. […]

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