How to Condition Hard and Crumbly Clay

Have you ever sliced into a block of polymer clay only to have it crumble in your hands? This has happened to me many times already most likely because I’ve stumbled upon some very old clay. But I am not the sort of person to throw anything out, so I’ve had to come up with strategies on how to condition my hard and crumbly clay.

I’m sure other clay crafters will also have their own preferred way, but for today, I’m sharing my personal favorite ways of “reviving” my hard and crumbly clay.

The first is the classic way which is just to just condition your clay. I first use my own fingers’ warmth and then pass the clay through my pasta roller. I normally set my roller into the thinnest setting just to really press the crumbs together. My test to see if the clay is already conditioned enough is to roll it into a ball or into a log.  The pro of doing this method is you’re not actually adding anything to your clay. The con is that it will take a bit of time as well as some effort.

The second way that I like to do is to add a bit of soft translucent clay. This will make it easier for the dry, crumbly clay to stick together. Run it through the pasta machine again until the clay doesn’t come apart. Note that there will be a very slight color difference when we add translucent clay. The pro of using this method is that it takes less time to condition the clay. The con is if you are very specific in color, you might not like the subtle change in color. Another con may be that the clay may turn too soft. If this is the case, simply put it into the fridge for a bit so that the clay can be easier to handle.

The third way, and my current favorite method of softening clay is by hitting it with a hammer or a mallet. I have a small craft hammer, and I use this whenever I work with super hard clay. I cut my clay up, put it inside a plastic bag to keep all the crumbs together and then I just pound on my clay until they stick together. The pro of using this method is that again it takes less time to condition your clay, which is ideal for someone like me who has wrist problems. The con is that you have to get a small hammer, and you also have to have a surface that you can hit repeatedly.

And the last way is to hit the clay with the hammer, but also to add a little bit of liquid Sculpey. As I hit the clay with the hammer, I fold in the clay with the liquid sculpey. This just speeds up the process of softening the clay. The con is that some of you may not have liquid Sculpey, so it’s another material that you need to have on hand. Another con is similar to adding translucent clay, you may find that there is a slight deviation in color. The pro is the time that it takes to condition the clay is cut down.

I hope that this inspires you to keep even your oldest clay. Happy crafting!

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