Clay machines

During my courses and at the discussion I am often asked how to choose the right Polymer Clay machine.

Let´s have a look at them and analyse how they differ.

I will start with parametres that are going to be described with every particular machine. It deals of important information for all those intending to get a clay machine. Simply focus on following parametres and avoid pointless difficulties and claims.

1.Overall construction – cheaper variants often have distorted surface, scuffed or sharp-edged rollers – you can easily cut your fingers.

2.Reinforced bottom part is quite important: it prevents machine rollers from distortion in case you are conditioning larger volume of clay or when the clay is tough.

3.Thickness settings – the opening between rollers indicates results of your work. If you want to make thin stripes the 3 mm opening is useless and vice versa: if you are creating thick stuff, thin settings are not essential. Let´s make a remark here: machines intended primarily for pasta production (belive me that „clay machines“ are just their renamed variants with no special qualities) and their thinnest settings do not often correspond to the thinnest setting for Polymer Clay. So, if your machine jams the clay, it does not have to mean it is a wrong machine. But its thinnest setting is too thin for Polymer Clay. This may happen when conditining particularly sticky clay like Fimo or Premo – this clay sticks to the rollers and tends to crimp.

From my personal experience, 6 thickness settings is enough.

4.Material of handle and table clamp – the handle is usually plastic. Its disadvantage is short lifespan. Polymer Clay etches plastic and if the handle falls on the ground (which often happens to the beginners), it is „dead“. The table clamp works similarly – its plastic screw tends to break down due to frequent screwing – it either slips or breaks down.

Finally, I just want to mention to all readers that no machine lasts forever and resists to anything. It is a common matter that Fimo crafters change machines from time to time. More information on how to use machines and keep them working are in the article of how to maintain machines we are working on ...

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Following part deals with particular machines. Please remember, I tried out all the machines described below personally and worked with every machine at least for several weeks.

1.Let´s begin with the cheapest ones I tried out. You can get them at e.g. TV shops. They cost around 500 Kč.

Parametres:

Roller length: usually between 135 -150 mm

5-7 thickness settings

Material: handle – metal, table clamp –plastic

Description: These machines last either for a few hours or forever:-) I had three machines like this: the first one for several months and the second and the third one broke down within two hours:-) They often jam when turning the handle, which is due to soft material of the gears inside the machine. If you put larger volume of clay or tough clay into the machine, gears recede one from another and do not fit in as they should. The machine usually jams at the thickest setting and the process goes on until the gears get damaged.

Conclusion:
+ „low“ price (it is relatively low because it increases with every new machine...if you have three in one year like me)
- frequent defects: the machine jams when turning the handle, poor quality of its construction (e.g. sharp-edged surface which can easily cut your finger), plastic accessories (handle, screw of the table clamp) are etched by the clay, the machine often falls down on the ground and gets damaged.

2.ATLAS CLAY MACHINE- this machine of Italian production is very popular among Fimo crafters, mainly in the US. It is a high-quality and resistant machine .

Parametres:

Rollers length: 150 and 180 mm

9 thickness settings

Accessories: metal + plastic

Description: the machine is really well constructed. I am convinced this is one of the best machines in the market. 9 thickness settings is a plus. Even thin settings work well, rarely may crimps appear. The bottom part is reinforced – its sheet in the middle part is raised. The machine is produced in design colour variants.

A motor replacing the handle is produced for Atlas machine as well. So, you can use both your hands.

Conclusion:
+ 9 thickness settings, the machine is reliable, it rarely makes crimps
- the producer does not provide a warranty if you use the machine for Polymer Clay work; plastic accessories; the model of „180 mm“ and design variants are quite expensive

3.IMPERIA CLAY MACHINE - this machine of Italian production is very popular among Fimo crafters, mainly in the US, Great Britain and France. It is the oldest machine in the world and has been manufactured for thirty years. The producer is proud of having all its components and the machine itself made in Italy (not in China, as they highlight).

Parametres:

Roller length: 150 mm

6 thickness settings

Accessories: metal + wood (for handle grip)

Description: the machine is very well constructed. I am convinced this is one of the best machines in the market. Its bottom part is reinforced with a footrest in the middle. The wooden handle grip is perfect – it neither etches Polymer Clay nor breaks down due to falling on the ground. The machine is equipped with a metal table clamp. Crimps may sometimes appear at the thinnest setting. I think this machine has the best proportion of quality to price. Number of complaints versus number of sold articles is incomparative (only minute amount of goods is returned).

A motor replacing the handle is produced for Imperia machine as well. So, you have both your hands free and only press the button... When buying the motor together with the machine in a set you get it for a favourable price.

The variant of Restaurant exists next to the classic Imperia machine – it is a kind of a giant among machines. It has 10 thickness settings (its gear evenly moves on, does not fit in another gear), thus the number of settings is multiplied – the thickest setting is double compared with common machines. Its price is higher needless to say but it is worth buying for those who work with Polymer Clay on daily basis.

Conclusion:
+ the machine is reliable; good proportion of quality to price; wooden and metal accessories; reinforcement preventing rollers from deformation
-some people complain about short rollers and number of thickness settings; sometimes crimps appear at thin settings

4.MAKIN´S CLAY MACHINE- this machine is constructed directly for Polymer Clay use, made in China

Parametres:

Roller length: 175 mm

9 thickness settings

Accessories: metal + plastic

Description: I find this machine is quite controversial. It was the first machine (after the cheap variants) I tried out and it worked very well. I used several pieces, also at my courses, and everything was perfect. However, after problems with production in China, something has changed (maybe the supplier or the production technology) and since then the machines made troubles. The problems consisted in rollers that were set far one from another and the gears did not fit in at the thinnest setting, and the machine jammed. This used to happen very often. Makin´s has made a technological change, so new machines will be launched soon. I expect them to be fully functional. The new machine will have long rollers, more thickness settings and the thickest opening will be wide enough for pendants, etc. Moreover, the machine will have non stick surface, which I find arguable – although some people appreciate it , my experience is that the clay is more sticky. It can happen mainly when working with soft clay. Personally, I could see no difference between clay adhesion to teflon or to standard rollers.

Conclusion:

+ 9 thickness settings, long rollers
- many complaints, plastic accessories

5.STAEDTLER CLAY MACHINE – the youngest machine, in production since 2011, its construction copies some components of quality Italian machines, wide rollers.

Parametres:

Roller length: 175 mm

9 thickness settings

Accessories: metal + plastic

Description: the machine is well constructed. People can appreciate its 9 thickness settings, however, when using the thinnest three settings, the machine does not work properly and can make crimps. The bottom part is reinforced with a footrest, as well as Imperia machine, which keeps the rollers stable. This machine is quite expensive, its quality to price is not directly proportional.

Conclusion:
+ 9 thickness settings; wide rollers; footrest
- thin settings do not work properly; frequent defects; expensive; plastic accessories

Well, maybe my article has made your decision-making (in terms of clay machines) easier, maybe more complicated. Nevertheless, I hope my knowledge and experience will help you to familiarize with them...

I am sure there are machines in the market I have not tested. Do you know any exceptionally quality, perfect and amazing one not described above? I will be glad if you share your experience with me and I will range it in my offer...

Please remember that this article is based on my subjective experience and opinions of my friends and acquaintances working with Polymer Clay:-)

Petra Nemravka



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