Are you looking for a new pasta machine for your polymer clay endeavors? It’s a good idea, as many clay artists use these for conditioning their clay and being able to roll out sheets with even thickness. If you’re anything like me, you never even thought of this tool until recently, perhaps due to an article or other resource you were reading….no way did I know about these when I first started working with Sculpey.
I didn’t have access to the internet in the early 90s and I certainly didn’t come across any magazines (something like Polymer Clay Monthly – only craft stores locally might have carried these, of which there were none) either, so I never got exposed to that kind of insider knowledge.
You don’t know what you don’t know – and that’s OK. I know I thought well, I’ve gone this long without a pasta machine and done fine, so why would I need one now? Well, truth be told, you can always benefit from a new tool like this. Especially when you start to get into more advanced skills like crafting Skinner blends. Also, if you are prone to physically limiting conditions like arthritis, you will definitely want to be looking at one of these, no questions asked, so you don’t find your favorite hobby causing unnecessary distress! So lately I’ve been shopping around.
I’ve been to Home Depot, Lowes, Kroger (yes there’s lots of kitchen stuff here) and Wal-Mart. No dice. I was on Wal-mart’s website and saw a good deal on one that had been marked down and had a good rating. Unfortunately, it doesn’t say if it’s available at my locale (bummer – it used to tell you , otherwise you’d have to request a pickup or site to store delivery)
Anyway, we’ve got one craft store in my locale (a Hobby Lobby) and they do carry the Sculpey proprietary brand Clay Conditioner (it’s not called a “pasta machine -so it’s made exclusively for clay) But moving on, I wanted to read up on it to see what others thought.
Sculpey Clay Conditioner
The Sculpey Clay Conditioner is designed with 9 thickness settings you can adjust using the dial on the left. (9 is thickest, 1 thinnest), and a C-clamp for securing it (otherwise you’d have to hold it down on the base while rolling)
News wasn’t good on that one. Some people reported performance and loose part issues. The handle kept coming out (if you wrapped some tape around the end part where it’s inserted, it’s a stopgap remedy there) The handle is made to be detachable, so I don’t know if this is a major issue or not. A few reports mentioned that if you choose the thinner settings, the slab will show “ripples” or ridges. If you get ridges in the slab, the only way to get them out is to go over the slab with a piece of wax paper on top and use your acrylic roller to nudge them out. Also a few people mentioned the rollers getting scratched.
So this is the only one I could find locally. I thought it was over-priced based on other people’s comments on performance and reliability. so…this is a no. The one advantage is that if you have any problems, you’d have a 30-day window to return it, but still, I probably won’t be getting this one.
Amaco Clay Conditioner
The Amaco Clay Conditioner is another “entry level” model that I don’t think everyone was in love with either. But some people do. I may sound a tad biased as I have used clay under this brands and I wasn’t that impressed.
You can find it on Amazon – at the time of writing, the prices mentioned seemed reasonable for what this tool does, but it looks like all of the listings were for preowned, so you may want to check Blick too for a newer product.
Some people commented on the crank handle falling out (fortunately, this is an easy fix with some tape) and how well it worked was sometimes contingent on the thickness setting that was chosen. A few people remarked that “it squeaked and groaned something awful” Now for me, I fix squeaky door hinges with a spritz of some WD-40, but I don’t know if it will work with this unless you get into the gears otherwise it might ruin the clay.
Makins Clay Conditioner
This is a well-known brand and no surprise they enjoy favorable reviews on products. If I were going for a clay conditioner that’s not so “entry level” I would go with this one. It’s got good ratings, 9 thickness settings, and a 7″ wide path for insertion, and includes a handle that works with a (nice, but not necessary) proprietary clay motor tool which is sold separately.
The motor is attached on the side via a specific opening and can help make the process faster – some people thought the noise was problematic. The price is a little bit higher for this one than the Amaco, but I think you will be getting a more reliable product, that you will be pleased with.
You may also want to think about a real pasta machine instead of a clay conditioner. Since I love pasta and all things Italian this is a good subject for me to tackle. But I digress a little so on with pasta machines and the skinny on them.
The two top performers I’ve found as the Mercato Atlas and the Imperia. Also, the next runner-up would be the model made by Makins. This si an excellent company from what I understand. Both are made in Italy, the pasta capital of the world. Let’s start with the Imperia:
This mid-priced pasta maker is also enjoyed by clay artists. With sturdy, stainless-steel construction, it also includes a vice clamp and attachments. The thickness setting knob works a little differently – it kind of locks in place and you have to depress the tab with one hand and turn it with the other. There are 6 thickness settings, with 6 being the thickest and 1 the thinnest.
A few people had a little trouble with the knob at first until they got the hang of it, but otherwise, it turned out great.
The price point is a little lower than the Atlas. it appears well constructed. In general people liked this one and were fewer performance issues. I’d say it was second best after the Atlas.
I Saved the Best For Last…The Atlas 150
Long story short, the clay artists that I follow all LOVE this one. for good reason. It’s made well, from chrome plated steel, has 10 thickness settings and a c-clamp. 0 is the thickest setting and 10 the thinnest. Lots of people who own this have said it outperforms all their old “clay conditioners” hands down. It also includes 12 accessories for cutting which is nice too.
The few negative remarks (there will always be a few regardless) One person mentioned that they wished it was a little easier to clean. Some people got an “imposter”…so do your homework carefully and be sure you are getting an Atlas Wellness 150.
Of course, it does cost a little more than the “entry level” makers above…(At the time of writing you can grab it for under $100.) but this may be for the best, as it seemed to be the top performer.
So that’s my consensus….a pasta machine beats a “clay conditioner” hands down. I know what I’m going to be shopping for!
Oh and one last thing….you may wish you could use one of these for their original purpose, but don’t-even if you’re tempted. It needs to be “designated” for clay only!