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Subject: How do I get polymer clay into a sheet of consistent thickness rss

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Can anyone tell me how to make a sheet of polymer clay (or magic sculpt) into a flat sheet with consistent thickness at every point on it. Meaning the entire sheet is all exactly 2mm thick (or whatever 2mm is just an example thickness).

The only way I can think to do this is make a frame out of 2mm thick glass/plastic/acrylic/wood and anchor that down somehow. Then fill that with clay, then roll out the clay and trim the top down until the thickness is consistent. I just want to be precise in thickness before I start to work with the newly formed sheet.

I tried cutting out of chipboard, but the razor made marks I was not happy with.

This is in relation to the following threads. I'm going to try a few different mediums and pick whichever works best. I'm even thinking of going with lasered acrylic, a local guy has a decent price on the custom work.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/867635/20mm-square-tiled...

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/866414/scratch-building-...

Again thanks for any help and suggestions you have for me.
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Sam Phillips Beckerman
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The standard way is to warm it up a bit by kneading it & then feed it thru a dedicated (no longer for food) pasta maker. Lots of crafters have them.
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James Bowyer
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Rolling pin with spacer rings?
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000I1ZXBC/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp...
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Sam Houston wrote:
The standard way is to warm it up a bit by kneading it & then feed it thru a dedicated (no longer for food) pasta maker. Lots of crafters have them.


This is what all the polymer clay artists I know use. You can adjust the thickness and they are fairly cheap to obtain.
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Andrew Sernekos
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The rolling pin with spacers does really work, but you can't beat a pasta maker for ease of use. Check ebay for a cheap one. When people get these as gifts they seem to only get used once

The only problem with the pasta maker is that you can only roll out a 4" wide strip. If you want it wider you need to go with the roller and spacer.
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If you could let us in on exactly what you are trying to create, and the size of the clay sheet you need, I'll ask my wife and I'll ask my aunt. Both are polymer clay artists.

Update: Consulted with my wife. Large sheets of polymer clay tend to warp and buckle during the baking process.
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Nice thick wooden strips along the sides and a rolling pin - that's what we made clay slabs with in college.
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Thank you everyone!!!

I'll try the spacers unitl I thrift a pasta maker.
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If you follow the links you can see what I am up to with it. The modules are around 10cm square (just shy of 4").
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minionhunter wrote:
Thank you everyone!!!

I'll try the spacers unitl I thrift a pasta maker.

I'm an advocate of the pasta machine method...not only does it give accurate, even thickness, but it also kneads and blends multiple colors (Sculpy vs Super Sculpey, for instance)together *extremely* well.

That said, Walmart has a large-sized rolling pin with different thickness spacer rings for about $10, and a smaller one for about $6 (check the craft baking section), so I have added these to my toolkit as well for when I don't feel like going through the setup for using my pasta roller.
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minionhunter wrote:
Thank you everyone!!!

I'll try the spacers unitl I thrift a pasta maker.



Pasta machine is 24 bucks at michaels and if you use a 40 percent off coupon from the internet, you get it CHEAP. Worth every penny I tells ya!
P
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If your worried about buckling & it's a flat surface with no relief, you can place some parchment paper over it & then place a glass sheet over the tiles when baking. Don't take the glass off until the clay is cooled. Works like a damn.

As for consistent thickness I use a pasta machine or spacers such as popsicle sticks in my own work all the time. If the clay breaks apart at the edges with a pasta machine you haven't worked the clay enough.
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Metal clay artists tend to use playing cards as spacers for rolling out sheets with an acrylic roller.

Should be easy to find the correct number for 2mm.

+1 for the pasta machine, I use one for polymer all the time. Sometimes they leave little ripples in the surface (because the rollers aren't perfectly aligned) but you can smooth that out with your roller without affecting the thickness too much.

If you do get a pasta machine, use playing cards to measure the thickness of the different settings on the machine (by seeing how many cards you can fit between the rollers) and write it down. trust me on this one, it'll save you loads of time.

For nice flat tiles: get a couple of smooth white ceramic tiles,(cheap, some places will even give you a couple for free if you ask) and some baking/parchment/deli paper. Make a sandwich - face-up tile, paper, clay pieces, paper, face-down tile.

And don't listen to the package instructions for baking clay. I bake EVERYTHING for an hour regardless of thickness. It won't burn if your oven temperature's consistent and it makes the clay much stronger. Do some test pieces first to check your oven won't incinerate your real pieces. A thermometer's a good idea too since many ovens lie about what temperature they are!

And final tip, avoid Sculpey III like the plague. It's soft and mushy and way to easy to distort, plus it's brittle when baked. Get a stronger clay like Premo Sculpey, Cernit, Fimo Classic, or Kato. They're more expensive but much less likely to break.
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Thanks Anna, I'm going to try Magic Sculpt initially for the tiles, but I'm going to switch to Fimo Classic when I start sculpting.

I'll check out the playing card thickness trick....
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As a note on Sculpey III, it is useful for blending with harder or grainy clays to smooth them out, make them more pliable, and hold finer detail. So I think 'avoid it like the plague' might be a tad extreme, but I agree that it is not a great medium when used by itself.
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dochogan wrote:
As a note on Sculpey III, it is useful for blending with harder or grainy clays to smooth them out, make them more pliable, and hold finer detail. So I think 'avoid it like the plague' might be a tad extreme, but I agree that it is not a great medium when used by itself.


Ditto. I tend to mix sculpey III and original sculpey. Takes a lot of work to get colors blended, but I like the palm massage I get out of it.


silverleaf79 wrote:
And don't listen to the package instructions for baking clay. I bake EVERYTHING for an hour regardless of thickness.


Wow. I'm no expert, but I certainly haven't baked anything longer than 30 minutes. Most of my stuff are only half-an-inch thick, at most ... and I don't have a lot of thin stems anyway. Most of what I've made are things like beads and small chess pawns.

Something that I read elsewhere, and I don't know if it's true: after baking, I immediately submerge the clay into an ice bath. Supposedly helps with whatever crystalization process.
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I over bake my stuff all the time, & multi-bake as well but what I do is tent them with tinfoil. After I take out the sculpts I immediatly quench them in ice water, this makes for a really solid product. Also if your using any translucent clay this will make them clearer less milky.
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So what kind of ovens do you all use and what temp do you bake at?

The pro miniature sculptors I've listened to say to use a halogen oven, but you could use a house oven (just your baking clay in it).

I can find toaster ovens at thrift stores for $6-10, but the low setting on them is 150 deg. Is this too hot?

I would prefer to buy a cheap toaster oven if that will work.

One of the reasons I'm using Magic Sculpt to start is that I don't have to bake it.

I also need to find a place to get some plate glass, I tried to flame polish mine and it just cracked and I'm not using the other pieces with sharp edges.
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I use a toaster oven myself. They're cheap as I buy them at the thriftstore. You have to tent your clay though as the elements are very close to the clay & can burn it. If you tent them with the dull side out side, no burning or darkening. I bake my clay at about 270 & about anywhere from 30 mins to an hour depending on the thickness. The general rule of thumb is 20 mins per 1/4 inch or so. If you use metal armatures (which I do for some of my sculptures) they will bake faster. The tinfoil tenting is REALLY important for long baking. As for glass I scour the thriftstore for it, you can also go to a window glass store, sometimes they'll even just give you their waste pieces or they'll sell em cheap.
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minionhunter wrote:

The pro miniature sculptors I've listened to say to use a halogen oven, but you could use a house oven (just your baking clay in it).


You're talking about two different types of 'clay' here.

Pro miniature sculptors generally use epoxy putties like Kneadatite ("green stuff") or Magic Sculpt, which cure on their own and are simply accelerated by the heat; the halogen oven provides direct heat to speed up the hardening process so that they can move on to the next bit of the sculpture.

Polymer clays like Sculpy need the heat to harden at all. You probably won't get the benefit from the halogen heater, and my guess would be that baking at a moderate temperature for a longer period of time is probably actually preferential.
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Bichatse wrote:

my guess would be that baking at a moderate temperature for a longer period of time is probably actually preferential.



Agreed. I use supersculpy mixed with sculpy III. The III gives it some opacity (I use elephant grey). Without it, you just can't see your defects until you prime the piece as the pink clay is sort of see-thru. Bake it long and low. 200 about an hour. then leave it in the oven to cool down on it's own, over the course of the night to prevent cracking. Altho at this thickness, it may not matter. I know some of my pieces that were inches thick had this issue. By letting the oven cool down naturally, it eliminates this problem.

I read some of you do an ice bath, maybe it works fine on thinner pieces.

Here's some of my sculpy-work: http://velikan.tumblr.com/

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Bichatse wrote:
minionhunter wrote:

The pro miniature sculptors I've listened to say to use a halogen oven, but you could use a house oven (just your baking clay in it).


You're talking about two different types of 'clay' here.


The ones I'm talking about use Fimo Classic or Fimo Classic + Fimo Quick mix. Check out Aragorn Marks. I know a lot of others use green stuff, but that seems too short of a working duration for me.
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Phil of Mars wrote:


Here's some of my sculpy-work: http://velikan.tumblr.com/



Cool work, I have that aluminum wheel thing, I got it for $0.99 at a thrift store, but I have not figured out to do with it yet.
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minionhunter wrote:
Phil of Mars wrote:


Here's some of my sculpy-work: http://velikan.tumblr.com/



Cool work, I have that aluminum wheel thing, I got it for $0.99 at a thrift store, but I have not figured out to do with it yet.



LUCKY! Those things are around 30 bucks.
You sculpt on it so you don't have to touch the piece to rotate or move it to the oven. Since it's aluminum, it can withstand the heat of the oven. If you put the whole stand in there, you have to sit it on a hotplate or something when you take it out. So pop the top off and sit the stem between the rungs in the oven to bake. Then when you take it out, you can put it back on the stand to cool anywhere and move it around without gloves.

BTW: greenstuff is AWFUL unless you plan to learn to use it for a career. Sooo sticky. magic sculpt is much easier to work with starting out.
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Phil of Mars wrote:

BTW: greenstuff is AWFUL unless you plan to learn to use it for a career. Sooo sticky. magic sculpt is much easier to work with starting out.


Seconded like anything!

I can't actually think of any advantages green stuff has over magic sculpt. After I discovered the latter I abandoned the former almost entirely.




It's kind of interesting to see someone using Fimo of all things for miniature sculpting. The open time isn't an issue for most people 'cause you just mix up a small quantity at once; the existence of tricks like the lamp oven is testament to the fact that most miniature sculptors want the putty to cure faster rather than more slowly! I imagine that if Aragon Marks uses such an oven he probably gets away with it because the pieces are so small, though, rather than that it's a good idea for polymer clays in general.
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