Polymer Clay – Tools Guide
If you’ve made it this far through I’m guessing you may have already committed to exploring this hobby! So what are the different tools I can use for Polymer Clay? Personally I’d say if you can grip it, then you can use it as a tool! But lets explore some of the official ones you can use.
If you’re unaware of what this medium can do, please check the introduction page first and see if this is the right hobby for you!
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Tools and equipment which can be used
When I first started out with Polymer clay I was making jewellery, I didn’t use too many tools to manipulate the clay itself. The main ones I ended up using was a pocket knife, a pin and an old paintbrush. This had all the essential tools that I needed to produce what I wanted to! But as I expanded into the craft I started to expand my collection, It may be down to a habit now but the main tools I still use are a pocket knife, a pin and a clean paintbrush!
The below is a guide of what can be used, Some might suit you, some may not, It’s a bit of trial and error when starting. I’ve broken this down into various sections based on what you wish to do with the clay.
The below will provide you with a list of various cutting tools which can be used. You can use a non-serrated kitchen knife but once used on clay I would suggest not using this again on food. Even after washing!
This might stir up some rage in professionals to place this first but as I’ve already mentioned, one of the most versatile blades you can use for many crafts (Not just with Polymer Clay) is a trusty pocket knife. It seems a lot of people already own one of these and I like them because they’re versatile and strong.
Don’t get me wrong though! if you’re looking for finer and more precise detail I would suggest the next one on the list, but for a general all rounder I don’t think you can beat it!
If you go beyond “I need this chunk of polymer clay” to “I need to precisely remove this tiny piece here” the next stop will be a Craft knife.
When purchasing a craft knife they’re usually in a part of a set with multiple different blades and it can be a bit of a minefield between cost and quality. Reviews really do come in handy when picking the right one for you.
Personally when choosing one I always look at the handle, you don’t want a handle which is going to break after a few uses and depending how frequently you use one of these knives you would want one which has a comfortable grip, The last thing you want is a sore hand after spending a few hours using a tool!
From soft rubber grips to scalpel style knives, full metal handles to a mix of metal and plastic ones, there are a wide variety for you to choose from!
Some clay brands actually provide their own set of these in small packs. They’re long, sharp and flexible, and allow for a nice controlled cut for thin pieces of clay.
The design of these blades are more for straight down cuts, not dragging a knife across the clay. Just be careful when using these as the side which is for cutting and the side which is to apply pressure can get mixed up quite easily!!
The wavy blade is the same as the above but it also has an addition of a wavy effect. This can provide a different style of cut due to its unique corrugated design.
Think of a cookie cutter (Which if you’re using metal ones they can also be used for clay! Just don’t use them for food afterwards!)
From your standard circle and square to dinosaurs and flowers! There are a wide range of these available on the market with various shapes and sizes, when looking for these kinds of cutters though always look for the thinnest and strongest metal you can find. The last thing you want is to compress the clay rather than cutting it!
When selecting a work surface choose one which is non-porous and has no texture as this can be transferred to the clay.
There are several recommendations which you can use for this. Personally I use a granite table mat, it’s hard wearing and I managed to pick this up in a sale!
Providing it’s smooth (eg. ceramic tiles, sheet of glass etc…) you shouldn’t have any issues with clay transference.
Note: A cooler surface will be much better to use as warm clay can be too soft to work with. Marble/granite will be a good option but can be quite costly!
I would stay clear of any form of acrylic or wood surfaces, no matter how smooth they are, when using clay as it can adhere to it and cause issues when sculpting, In addition it can also cause issues with the surface itself due to the plasticisers within the clay itself! The last thing you want to do is damage your home decor while working with the clay!!
If you’re struggling to find a decent surface, Tape some Baking paper down to a flat surface. While it may need to be changed if you’re doing a lot of cutting, it allows you to use anything without the worry of getting clay transferred to the surface!
Different Shaping, Carving & Piercing tools!
If you can grip it, you can use it! There are a wide range of objects in the world which you can use for details or textures. Below is a short list of the wide range of tools on offer and what can be done with them!
If you’ve been looking around for tools for polymer clay I’m sure you have come across ball stylus tools. They vary in size from small dotting tools to larger balls for moving the clay around! I find the larger ones are good for making petals & the smaller ones for controlled details!
Each one has its own various use but depending on what you would like to do with the clay, I’m sure a need for one of these will become apparent as you start your own projects!
Exactly as it states in the title! These are designed to carve into the clay, Not like a knife though! You can use them to carve, smooth or even stab the clay for a unique pattern! The choice is yours! I find that these are quite useful to have in your inventory, especially with the wide range of selections available. Adding these to your collection I believe would be very beneficial for beginners!
I’ve placed this one together as it’s technically the same technique just in the two states of the clay, pre baked or baked!
If you wish to pierce the clay, you can get various “official” tools to do this with. I usually just use a pin/needle or toothpick though! It has the same effect!
As for drilling tools this is for baked clay. As the consistency of this clay is much harder and attempting to push a pin/needle through this could cause it to crack or even injure the user attempting such a feat… I’ve never done such a thing… Honest!
When I say drilling the clay I don’t mean get your high powered hammer drill out! You will need to go into the clay slowly and carefully to prevent any cracking. Pin vise hobby drills come in handy for this task!
These tools come in quite handy when wanting to smooth clay, blending seams or cause controlled indents within the clay. The rubber tips allow for greater control if you want to smooth areas on your project.
You can find various sizes and some variations with the firmness but a lot of them are very similar!