Mini Food Processor For Mixing and Conditioning Polymer Clay

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Food Processor for Polymer Clay blending the clayWhile I love sculpting with polymer clay, the process of mixing and conditioning clay can become quite tedious and sometimes painful. This is especially true when conditioning clay for sculptures rather than miniatures for a number of reasons:

    • The process of conditioning a few ounces of clay by hand, or even a pasta machine, is VERY laborious and time-consuming.
    • Light/flesh colored clay has a tendency to attract anything and everything of color, from lint to dust to clothing fibers. (the longer it takes, the more crap becomes embedded in the clay)
    • While a pasta machine is faster than mixing by hand, it gets really messy and sticky if you try to soften the clay with a liquid sculpey or other softener.

I’ve discovered that working with softer clay is easier when it comes to the fine detailing as is required for the face of a fairy or baby. Since the pasta machine gets too messy I wound up doing this part by hand. This is less than fun when dealing with hand injuries or arthritis. (I injured my thumb while on military deployment)

Since the old process is still useful, let me give you a quick comparison to help you appreciate my new discovery.

The Old Process For Mixing Clay

I chose random clay colors for the purpose of this demo.

  1. Select the clay that will form your newly mixed color combination
    Food Processor for Polymer Clay preparing the colors to blend
  2. Slightly condition each individual color and cut/shape into flat sheets to fit the pasta machine.
    Food Processor for Polymer Clay condition the indivudual colorsFood Processor for Polymer Clay shape individual color to prepare for pasta machine
  3. Condition the individual colors by running through the pasta machine again and again till you get a smooth and minimally cracked sheet.
    Food Processor for Polymer Clay condition in pasta machine
  4. Stack sheets of different colors to run through the pasta machine
    Food Processor for Polymer Clay stack colors to be mixed Food Processor for Polymer Clay blend again and again
  5. Run the stacked colors through the pasta machine again and again

Food Processor for Polymer Clay blend colors in pasta machine 

and again

  Food Processor for Polymer Clay fully mixed and conditioned ball of polymer clay

till you have a single uniform sheet with no streaks or individual colors visible

If doing this by hand, simply substitute ‘mix by hand’ for the pasta machine. I also recommend rolling into snakes and twisting the colors rather than working simply with ‘sheets’.

Overall, this process is simple, straight-forward, and ideal for mixing small pieces of clay. However, this can take the better part of an afternoon when mixing clay for a larger sculpture like my 3-inch bunny (images to follow)

Old vs New Method For Mixing Clay

Food Processor for Polymer Clay compared to pasta machine

Enter the Food Processor

Food Processor for Polymer ClayI’ve heard a number of sculptors mention using a food processor for mixing clay and finally decided to treat myself. I purchased the Proctor Silex 1-1/2-Cup Food Chopper on Amazon (affiliate link) for under $20.

While the capacity is just 1 – 1.5 cups, it’s enough for the volume of clay required for my ‘large’ sculptures. My magical creatures are usually just a few inches tall in total.

Does It Measure Up?

I decided to break in the food processor with camera in hand. Here are the results of my very first experiment:

Preparing The Clay Recipe:

Since I’m planning to sculpt a July Fairy Baby I chose a mix of Sculpey Living Doll, Premo Translucent, and some TLS (traslucent liquid sculpey) for a super-soft mix.

Food Processor for Polymer Clay preparing clay recipe

I broke the clay into medium size pieces and dropped them into the food processor.

Food Processor for Polymer Clay clay chunks in pasta machine

Power On… WOW!!

Food Processor for Polymer Clay blending the clay Food Processor for Polymer Clay chopped into tiny bits

Let’s just say that my mind is 100% blown. I’m watching these chunks of clay get smaller and smaller, and so well mixed. While the clay isn’t fully conditioned or blended together, having tiny chunks of distributed color will be so much easier to condition bit by bit as the sculpture comes along.

I added a few drops of TLS and mixed some more. I’m glad I added this at the end because the resulting mixture looks really sticky. I suspect the clay would not have broken down as easily if I added the TLS at first.

Food Processor for Polymer Clay clay and tls mixed together

And the Very Best Part:

Total Preparation + Mixing Time = TWO MINUTES

Level of Pain To My Injured Hand = ZERO

Now in case you’re wondering ‘but the clay isn’t conditioned, it’s only mixed’ that’s fine. Even when I prepare a large batch of mixed clay for a sculpture, I still condition every bit by hand right when I’m about to use it. However, conditioning a piece of clay the size of a small bug is pretty simple compared to clay the size of a small bird.

So instead of cutting small chunks off a large mixed block, I plan to simply scoop up a small handful of mini-chunks, squeeze between my fingers for a few seconds, and go!

Foreseeable Benefits:

The most important and obvious benefit to this method is TIME. This saves me AT LEAST an hour in the sculpture preparation process. Reduction in time also reduces the amount of dust, dirt, lint, fibers… that will get embedded in the clay.

A personal plus is the reduction of pain. The food processor takes the strain off my hand which allows me to sculpt for a longer period of time without aggravating my injury.

At first I considered also storing the clay in the processor since it comes with a lid. However, in reply to a helpful blog comment I now realize that the clay will corrode the processor. And so I quickly transfer the clay from processor to dedicated Pyrex container and clean up with baby wipes.

I suspect the plastic will discolor easily, and so, while I am in love with my new toy, I am dedicating the processor to mixing only light/flesh color clay. I use strong colored clay like reds (most staining) in smaller quantities and will stick to the pasta machine for mixing those. Who knows, maybe I’ll splurge on a second one and dedicate to colors.

Do you have any other fun tricks to help reduce time/pain in the sculpting process? If so I’d love to read about it in the comments below.

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  1. says

    What a great idea! And I bet if you needed another one for darker colors you could just buy the plastic bowl part and use the same engine. Most companies have replacement parts for broken parts so no need to buy a whole other machine. I actually just ordered one because I already see how the hard clay + old hands are going to be a problem! Thanks for the idea and test results!

    • MagicByLeah says

      That’s a great idea Rhonda, hadn’t thought to get a second for darker colors. The entire machine is small and cost under $20 so I don’t think it would be too much hassle to purchase and store a second one.

  2. Helen says

    Hi Leah
    I am delighted with this information. I am new to polymer clay. I suffer from M.E. So pains and aches in muscles in hands and arms is par for the course. I have a food processor in the kitchen in a press doing nothing. So now you have inspired me to use it in a very useful way saving me time and pain. Thanks for the tip. Also I find your videos very thanks again.

    • MagicByLeah says

      Thank you Helen 🙂 My hand pain is nowhere near what you’re describing but even so the food processor really helps. Just make sure you never use it for food afterwards. Depending on what you make it helps to include a few drops of liquid clay or softener to help make the clay softer overall

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