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Polymer Clay Plasticizer Quick Guide by GrandmaThunderpants Polymer Clay Plasticizer Quick Guide by GrandmaThunderpants
I get a lot of questions like "wtf my clay ate through my plastic case" or "why is my clay so soft!!" so I decided to do a quick little
guide going over what makes clay hard/soft and how to store it properly and keep it from going to goo!

I explained things the best I could using the knowledge I've gained in the past year or so working with polymer clays. If anything is grossly incorrect or if you have something important to add don't hesitate to comment. :D

MANY MORE TUTORIALS HERE: [link]

EDIT *Talty has some easy to understand tips on plastic picking in this comment here: [link] so check it out! :la:

It's also worth mentioning polymer clay can also strip the varnish/finish off wood! I work on a wood table, so I can tell you first hand that it does damage wood with a shiny finish.

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:icontenchibaka:
tenchibaka Featured By Owner Oct 2, 2013
i never realized this was an issue! i just use the same clear boxes i use for my glass beads ^^;; i have clay in for days or weeks at a time with no issue
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:iconedgeoffear:
EdgeofFear Featured By Owner Aug 25, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Super helpful! I lost some scrap clay awhile ago because it melted the plastic container and have been wondering why since! Thanks!
Reply
:icongrandmathunderpants:
GrandmaThunderpants Featured By Owner Aug 27, 2013  Professional Artisan Crafter
Happy to help! :D
Reply
:iconlostgryphin:
LostGryphin Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2013  Hobbyist Photographer
Very informative!
Reply
:iconbread-doh:
bread-doh Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2013
what if they will remain easily crack after kneaded(after leaching out the plasticizer with paper)? D:
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:icongrandmathunderpants:
GrandmaThunderpants Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2013  Professional Artisan Crafter
I'm not sure I understand the question? ^^;
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:iconbread-doh:
bread-doh Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2013
that it still can crack when i pull/deform it with moderate force, after the kneading process :c (no more gummy consistency)

well idk how else i should say it, but its that the clay has lost its pliability, but still rather soft. using super sculpey btw, and i tried premo that premo has smoother consistency, while switching to premo isn't preferable to me because i never had consistently satisfying result with polymer clay and i decide to use remaining clay, and that they're sorta expensive for my type of usage.

i tried using hammer to knead small chunks of SS firm with many drops of softener and they still never as good as newly-produced clays. i had not many choices, kept newly-bought clay in freezer, and its still more bad luck when i pick from the store because i live in the tropics(and i did put them on away from sunlight, cool floor)
Reply
:icongrandmathunderpants:
GrandmaThunderpants Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2013  Professional Artisan Crafter
I only suggest getting the plasticizer out if your clay is incredibly soft. There will be enough plasticizer left once you knead the clay again to keep it from cracking. I personally, wouldn't mess with Super Sculpey, as I love that harder consistency. But it sounds to me like your issues are with clay being too hard, not too soft? So if you clay is too hard, don't try to remove any plasticizers from it. You'll just make it even harder.
Reply
:iconkrystalfan-2:
krystalfan-2 Featured By Owner May 18, 2013  Student Artisan Crafter
This is very helpful, especially for first timers.
I have a question though when it comes to baking the clay. I've made two small sculptures and baked them for the time they needed. However, they have glaringly obvious cracks on them-in the face and one has a crack in the hair. Am I doing something wrong when baking them? I put them on wax paper and a cookie sheet and cook them in the oven (I find the toaster oven burnt my pieces horribly) and put the oven at the correct temperature. If you have any ideas, I'd really appreciate it (I want to make a larger piece, so I'd like to avoid cracks as much as possible).
Reply
:icongrandmathunderpants:
GrandmaThunderpants Featured By Owner May 19, 2013  Professional Artisan Crafter
I've actually had that happen once before... it's because the clay I used wasn't conditioned a lot before I baked it. It was just a small detail so I didn't think much of it, but it definitely had a few cracks. Was your clay hard/dry before you baked it?
Reply
:iconkrystalfan-2:
krystalfan-2 Featured By Owner May 19, 2013  Student Artisan Crafter
The first figure did have some older clay in him and the second one did sit out for a while before I baked it. I guess that explains the cracks in them.
I was worried that I was baking them wrong or something, but if its just hard/dry clay, then its an easy fix.
Reply
:icongrandmathunderpants:
GrandmaThunderpants Featured By Owner May 19, 2013  Professional Artisan Crafter
Yeah, I think that might be was causes it, but I'm not 100% sure on that. Let me know if it happens again with better worked clay and we can try to figure it out, haha!
Reply
:iconkrystalfan-2:
krystalfan-2 Featured By Owner May 20, 2013  Student Artisan Crafter
I will (if I remember XD).
Reply
:iconxtechnologiic:
xTechnologiic Featured By Owner Apr 27, 2013  Student Digital Artist
This is actually incredibly helpful. There have been so many times when I threw away clay because it was too dry and crumbly. Bittersweet, because now I know that was a huge waste, but there's a way to fix it in the future~

Really, thank you for this~ Huge, huge help!
Reply
:icongrandmathunderpants:
GrandmaThunderpants Featured By Owner Apr 27, 2013  Professional Artisan Crafter
So glad I could help! :D
Reply
:iconfuturistichedgie:
FuturisticHedgie Featured By Owner Feb 9, 2013  Student
Wow amazing info
Reply
:iconcharmed-ravenclaw:
Charmed-Ravenclaw Featured By Owner Dec 31, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
You have been featured here: [link]
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:iconevanescentideas:
EvanescentIdeas Featured By Owner Nov 1, 2012
Thank you so much!! This was incredibly helpful... thank you! :D
Reply
:icongrandmathunderpants:
GrandmaThunderpants Featured By Owner Nov 1, 2012  Professional Artisan Crafter
Happy to help :D
Reply
:iconthegingerbreadshack:
thegingerbreadshack Featured By Owner Nov 1, 2012
Thank you for those helpful tips. :)
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:icongrandmathunderpants:
GrandmaThunderpants Featured By Owner Nov 1, 2012  Professional Artisan Crafter
Glad it could help you! :D
Reply
:icon8alnitakkaleids8:
8AlnitakKaleids8 Featured By Owner Aug 24, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
Great Info :-)
Reply
:icondhampyre-damnedone:
dhampyre-damnedOne Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2012
It is generally advisable to avoid extended contact between raw (uncured) polymer clay and hard plastic containers. Some plastics will react with the plasticizer in the clay (the thing that makes the clay soft and pliable). This can create a gooey mess that ruins both your clay and your container. Some people report that polymer clay can have a similar reaction to plastic wrap. Plastics that have a recycling number of 2, 4, or 5 are usually fine for storage. (Look at the bottom of the container for the recycling logo-a triangle formed by arrows. The recycling number will be in the middle of that triangle.) If you're in doubt, you can always run a test, as long as you aren't worried about ruining the container. Just put a bit of clay in the container (or wrap it in the plastic), and in a day or so, you should know if it's going to work. (Don't use it if the clay has stuck to or eaten away at the plastic-that's your indication that it's not a compatible blend of plastic.)

[link]
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:icondhampyre-damnedone:
dhampyre-damnedOne Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2012
Just a little tid bit about storage to help with those type of questions. :)
Reply
:icongrandmathunderpants:
GrandmaThunderpants Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2012  Professional Artisan Crafter
*Talty wrote some good tips too here: [link] which has a bit more detail :la: Thanks for adding input too!
Reply
:icondhampyre-damnedone:
dhampyre-damnedOne Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2012
You're welcome!
Reply
:iconvaguelycreepy:
VaguelyCreepy Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2012  Student General Artist
Interesting, and handy. However, I have some questions - you covered the consequences of undercooking, but what exactly happens if you over-cook it? You said people want to avoid "burning," but what is that exactly? Is it just charring, like anything else, or does it destroy the material somehow, or what? And how long does it usually take before it will "burn"? Also, how long does it generally take something that was underbaked to fall apart?
Reply
:icongrandmathunderpants:
GrandmaThunderpants Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2012  Professional Artisan Crafter
When it burns the colors turn very dark and yes it can turn black/brown in some spots. Think of it like burnt toast, if you try to bend it, it will just snap. Burnt clay becomes brittle. And how long it takes for it to burn depends on the thickness of the charm/figure.

How long it takes for something underbaked to break just depends on what it is and what you're doing with it. There's no exact time estimate for it.
Reply
:iconvaguelycreepy:
VaguelyCreepy Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2012  Student General Artist
Okay, I see. I think I have just a few more questions, if you don't mind:

When rebaking a cooled piece, is there a length of time you'd recommend trying first before increasing or decreasing it to get better results?

Might it be a good idea to bake a "test piece," just an extra lump of clay, along with your actual piece, so you have something you can poke and prod and stress to get an idea of how well the real piece baked?

Have you ever had any trouble storing the Sculpey Clay in its original box? Like, just leaving it on a shelf in the package it comes in?
Reply
:icongrandmathunderpants:
GrandmaThunderpants Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2012  Professional Artisan Crafter
In my personal experience it doesn't matter when you rebake a cooled piece.

And yes! Test pieces are great ways to see how long to bake something or what you clay will look like when cured. Clay darkens in the oven naturally, and when it comes to working with translucent clay testing is very important to make sure you've got exactly the color you want.

And I've never had trouble with it when left in it's original packaging. I keep mine stored just stacked on a table and it's never done anything strange.
Reply
:iconvaguelycreepy:
VaguelyCreepy Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2012  Student General Artist
Er, on the first one, no, what I meant was "How long would you recommend rebaking a piece for, as a starting point?" Like, try rebaking for five minutes, and then if it's still not done, rebake for longer, or just rebake it for another fifteen minutes, or what?

And I guess this probably should be obvious to me, but will a rebaked piece burn more easily than an unbaked one?
Reply
:icongrandmathunderpants:
GrandmaThunderpants Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2012  Professional Artisan Crafter
Ah, sorry for misunderstanding. :)

Yeah, in my experience it burns a little faster so just give it little sessions of 5-8 minutes. Baking properly isn't too difficult from the start, so you should be okay after a few test runs until you're comfortable and confident with it.
Reply
:iconvaguelycreepy:
VaguelyCreepy Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2012  Student General Artist
Okay, cool. Thanks for all of the answers, and for the guide. I'll be sure to put it to good use soon. :)
Reply
:icongrandmathunderpants:
GrandmaThunderpants Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2012  Professional Artisan Crafter
No prob! <3
Reply
:icone-dantes:
E-Dantes Featured By Owner May 22, 2012
This is soooo useful that I'll run to read your other tutorials! :D

Really, well explained and well done. I'm begining with the clay so I need as much info as I can get ;P
Reply
:icongrandmathunderpants:
GrandmaThunderpants Featured By Owner May 22, 2012  Professional Artisan Crafter
Happy to help! :D
Reply
:iconsilverscythes:
Silverscythes Featured By Owner May 15, 2012
Wow! I had no idea about ANY of this, super cool! Thank you so much for putting this all together! :D
Reply
:icongrandmathunderpants:
GrandmaThunderpants Featured By Owner May 15, 2012  Professional Artisan Crafter
Thanks! I'm happy to help :D
Reply
:iconmaddiganrose:
MaddiganRose Featured By Owner May 14, 2012  Student Photographer
Wow, thank you!
Reply
:icongrandmathunderpants:
GrandmaThunderpants Featured By Owner May 15, 2012  Professional Artisan Crafter
Happy to help :D
Reply
:iconchat-noir:
chat-noir Featured By Owner May 13, 2012  Student Artisan Crafter
Wonderful and informative! Great job! :+fav:
Reply
:icongrandmathunderpants:
GrandmaThunderpants Featured By Owner May 13, 2012  Professional Artisan Crafter
Happy to help! :D
Reply
:iconann-mclaren:
Ann-McLaren Featured By Owner May 13, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Your deviation has been featured in my journal this week. [link] :hug:
Reply
:icongrandmathunderpants:
GrandmaThunderpants Featured By Owner May 13, 2012  Professional Artisan Crafter
Thank you so much! I really appreciate it. <33
Reply
:iconcocoru:
Cocoru Featured By Owner May 12, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
EXTREMELY HELPFUL. It's frustrating when my Sculpey is too soft and I end up making way too many fingerprints or dents which I keep trying to smooth out. This tutorial is going to save me a lot of time and issues! =D
Reply
:icongrandmathunderpants:
GrandmaThunderpants Featured By Owner May 12, 2012  Professional Artisan Crafter
Happy to help! :D
Reply
:iconimperfectkawaii:
ImperfectKawaii Featured By Owner May 12, 2012  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
Wow! Thankies for the wonderful write up and tips :heart:
Reply
:icongrandmathunderpants:
GrandmaThunderpants Featured By Owner May 12, 2012  Professional Artisan Crafter
I'm glad to help! <3
Reply
:icondevaly:
Devaly Featured By Owner May 11, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Wonderful guide.

Maybe this info will be helpful to someone........I keep my scrap clay in a simple pencil box I bought at Walmart for $1 (pink top, clear bottom). I roll it into a ball and literally press it against the top and leave it there for weeks. It doesn't harm the plastic at all. I fill the bottom with packages of clay that I've opened and only have a little left. I use tape to close the packages back up, flipping a small strip on itself at the end to make it easier to lift the tape when I need to. Eliminates the cost of extra bags, and keeps the color names with the clay.
Reply
:iconheros-shadow:
Heros-Shadow Featured By Owner May 11, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
It'll also take the finish off wood.

I've learned that mistake more than once. :I
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