Thursday, January 8, 2009

Baking polymer clay

How to bake your polymer clay pieces
Part 3 of a series, a Handmade Pilipinas post
Read Part 1 here. Read Part 2 here.

All the information below is protected by the Creative Commons license.
Creative Commons License
This article by Angeli Sobrepena is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

Baking polymer clay is an exact science. You need to know the right way to bake your creations if you want them to last a lifetime.

Why does polymer clay need to be baked?
Polymer clay is made of Polymer Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) and liquid plasticizers. These plasticizers are what make the clay pliable. To harden the clay, the plasticizers need to be burned off, thus the need for baking.

What happens if you do not bake the clay properly?
The number one mistake most newbies make is under-baking the clay. When polymer clay is exposed to heat, even if not at the right settings, it still hardens. However, not all the plasticizers are completely burned off, leaving some parts of the piece raw. This mistake is not immediately noticeable. After a few months or even years, however, the chemicals left in the half-baked piece will begin to "eat" the clay. This makes the piece crumbly.

How do I make sure I do not under-bake the clay?
Make sure you bake at the right temperature, for the right duration. Always follow the baking instructions indicated in the polymer clay package. Remember, the baking time indicated is always the minimum.

What equipment is used to bake polymer clay?
Polymer clay needs to be cured at an exact temperature for an exact period of time. That said, you can use whatever equipment that produces heat, as long as it consistently gives out heat at the exact baking temperature for the right duration. Below is a rundown of polymer clay brands I use (and trust) and their baking temperatures (in degrees celsius) and times. Different brands have different settings, so always check the package instructions.
  • Premo - 130C, 30 minutes minimum
  • Cernit - 101C to 132C, 5 to 20 minutes, depending on size
  • Fimo Classic - 129C, 30 minutes minimum
Your best bet is to use a regular oven used to bake food. It has a temperature control knob and a timer - all you'll ever need. The oven I use I've owned for years. I bought it for P1,600, but now it retails for P1,700 to P1,800. There are cheaper models you can buy, but I chose one with the convection fan.

Can I bake polymer clay in a bread toaster?
If your bread toaster has a temperature control knob which allows you to set the temperature at exactly 130 degrees celsius (or whatever setting your clay requires), it's fine. But if your toaster only has a simple low-medium-high heat knob, it's hard to keep the temperature at the right setting for the right duration. Unless you tweak your baking method using only your bread toaster, chances are your piece will turn out half-baked (hard outside, but still crumbly inside) or burnt. Why not save time, effort, and clay by using the right equipment early on, right?

Why is proper baking so important?

Polymer clay is plastic, so it's supposed to last forever. But when you do not follow proper baking procedures, you'll end up with a disposable piece. When a polymer clay piece is half-baked, the clay inside still has some plasticizers that can leach or eat your piece, making it crumbly a few months or years after. On the other hand, when you over-bake the piece, the plastic will burn, giving off toxic fumes that will harm you and the environment.

This is Part 3 of a series, a Handmade Pilipinas post
Read Part 1 here. Read Part 2 here.

For more information, join our workshops! Email me at angelisartbeads@gmail.com.

All the information above is protected by the Creative Commons license.
Creative Commons License
This article by Angeli Sobrepena is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

6 comments:

Sarvesh Bagla said...

Here is the another website www.kplintl.com Chemical Export Company which is specially for Bulk Chemicals, Bulk Chemical Suppliers, Bulk Chemical Supplies, Sourcing, Importers & Exporters of Bulk Chemicals.

luthien said...

hey angeli,
chanced upon your site while googling polymer clay :) i'm just learning how to play with polymer clay :) having problems with the baking process here ... it seems 30 minutes is just not long enough ... man! i'm just thinking of my electricity bill!! lol!! you have a really pretty site here :))
hugs,
luthien :)

smak said...

hi. you have a nice site. i'd like to ask if you know where i can get this plasticizer? and if it's also what is used for decoupage? been on the look out for so long without luck. would be grateful for any lead. many thanks and keep it coming.

Shanarun said...

Thank you -this is great information. I tried baking my clay for the very first time. I decided to bake it again. After the 2nd bake, I am still able to bend it... Question: How firm is it supposed to be?

Anonymous said...

I am having the same problem,,,I bake a project and bake it and it is still pliable but the additions that I add to it and bake,,it is hard not pliable,,I have baked this project 4 times and the wings of my butterfly are still pliable..what am I doing wrong,,I am baking at 275 for 20 minutes,,,so I think it should have baked hard after so many bakings,,,I would appreciate an answer to my problem,,thank you for your time and kindness,,take care God bless you and your loved ones,,,Cassie

Slac said...

hi angeli,

what's the brand of your oven? how come its so cheap? i want one of those!!!

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