Putting air dry clay in the oven…good or bad idea? If you’re trying to expedite drying or wanting to make it sturdier, the thought may have occurred to you. But should you?
I know this question gets asked a good bit so I want to answer it with this post. And I know what you are thinking. Isn’t this contradictory? After all, air dry means it just needs open air to dry, right? Absolutely. But the truth be told there may be times when performing some oven time may be a good idea.
In general, most self-hardening clay projects take a period of 2-4 days to fully cure. Although you may have some variations between this, depending on your environment. For instance I live in a very humid environment and things can dry pretty quickly. If you live in a more arid climate, it can take longer.
The temperature, too, is a factor. Chilly locations may take longer. I always notice when I paint something in the winter (although we do have very mild winters where I live) it does take longer to dry than spring and summer.
The real reason to ever bake a project made from self hardening clay is to speed things along. It should be undertaken very carefully and a good idea to wait until day one before attempting.
First thing to do is to carefully arrange your art project on a sheet of parchment paper. be sure you use parchment and not wax as I have made this mistake once – it wasn’t something to do with clay, but anyway, I lined something with wax paper in the oven and a few minutes later I smelled something scorchy, and I was like “uh oh!” so I had to get it out right away. Parchment paper has an opaque look to it and can handle lower oven temperatures below 300 degrees.
Place it in the oven and set the temp for a low reading about 200 degrees. Don’t preheat the oven. It’s very different from its polymer cousin in which you do need to preheat the oven. So always start with a cold oven. Set the timer for a small amount, like 20 minutes.
Also, do not close the oven door, keep it cracked slightly. When the timer goes off let it cool…you may want to leave it be for awhile before you remove it.
You have to be careful doing this as expedient drying is what can lead to cracks forming in your project. It may happen with this method, in which case you may have to mend any you see by creating “slip” (a mixture of raw clay and water) and apply it to fill in the fissures.
If you use a better brand of clay it can make a difference in how strong the project turns out. I like the brand Das and find it much better than some of the “entry level” brands out there!
If you don’t see cracks, great! You may be fortunate enough to not have this problem, but again, the brand you use can have some effect on this. Afterwards, examine it for thorough drying – it should be lighter in color than when you first started working on it. You may notice that some areas are darker and some light, this is a sign it hasn’t dried for certain.
You’re now free to get on with the finishing process, whether painting it, or application of a protective finish.
So yes, this can work, if you need to speed things along just a hair. Good luck to you and let me know how it goes!