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Fix "Bad Clay" - Don't Throw it Away!

Posted by JoAnne Mattingly on

When you buy clay from the internet,

you run the risk of getting a hold of "bad clay".  Polymer Clay that has been sitting in a box somewhere for who knows how long.  Or just a batch of clay that is unbelievably hard that the person on the internet would like to get rid of. 

So you buy it and it crumbles up into a million pieces and generally, a pain in the posterior?  Do you sigh and throw it away as a loss?  Do you beat it with a hammer hoping to soften it up a bit?  Or do you go out and buy clay softeners to hopefully do the job for you.


 I all but jumped for joy when I purchased a large order of clay on Ebay.  The price was so good and it gave me enough clay to be able to work non-stop for a couple of months! 

However, when my order came in, my heart dropped.  The clay was rock hard.  It was one of those no returns type items so I was stuck.  I had to find a way to make it work. 

I had seen plenty of videos on how to condition clay, but I don't  think that they had ever seen clay that could be used for hockey pucks before!  I honestly didn't want to go out and buy softener, I had already spent enough money on this madness of mine and wanted to figure out a way to make the clay workable on my own.  I had heard of using baby oil to soften clay, but in this case, it seemed to roll off of the hard little blocks and wouldn't work into the clay at all.  Not to mention messy.

So I tried first to chop it up smaller so it wouldn't hurt my hands when trying to roll it and soften it.  I told you, it was hard, bad clay!

I patted, rolled, pounded and cussed

at it for quite a while.  I knew not to use the pasta machine as it would have only shredded it all the more and would have made even a bigger mess.  Then I hit on a plan.  I had recently purchased some off brand clay that turned out to be super soft and sticky,  It was barely usable.  I decided to add a bit of this clay to the pebbles to see what would happen.

With the use of the softer clay, I was finally able to condense everything into a log and began the process of trying to warm and soften the clay.  This didn't come easy as you can imagine.  The clay just didn't want to become workable, but I kept at it and ended up with some pretty blue hands and clay that was finally workable. 

As you can see in the last 3 photos, the clay was in the first, still to hard to go through the pasta machine.  A rule of thumb, if the clay breaks when you fold a log, don't put it through the machine as it will most likely shred on you.  After a few more times of rolling and folding I was able to fold it in half without breaking.  Then, finally after rolling some more, I was able to fold it into fourths and now had a workable batch of clay.  Whew!  It was a lot of work, but I was able to use every last bit of that "bargain" clay.  It actually worked out very nicely in canes since it was still very firm.  I only had to make sure that I used only that brand of clay in my canes as any other clay I had would be so much softer that it would move too fast in the cane when reducing.  But that is for another article.

The point is, don't throw away bad clay.  A little elbow grease and a bit of softer clay to start the process will save most clay from the trash,  And it wouldn't hurt to buy clay that is fresher.  If possible, ask the person you are buying from, how old is the clay.  And for you own piece of mind and ease to your hands, pay a little extra for the proper product to begin with.  While I did save money, the time loss trying to make the clay workable needs to be factored in. 

Good luck and feel free to comment and like this article.  JoAnne

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