Die Cutting Polymer Clay: My First Experiments

I did some research into die cutting machines and chose the Silhouette Portrait. My research indicated that the Silhouette has the ability to cut quite intricate images. Not many devices have this ability. The Silhouette uses software to tell the machine what images to cut. It does not use physical shape dies. I really liked this feature, because I can cut images I designed. The reason for buying a die cut machine? I heard rumors people were cutting Precious Metal Clay (PMC) with a die cut machine. “Hmmmm, interesting”, I thought. “I bet I can cut polymer clay, too.”

portrait

Sound theory, but it took some experimenting to get it right. First off, when PMC dries it becomes somewhat leathery feeling and firms up. This is not the case with raw polymer clay. It can be down right squishy and sticky in the best of situations. The first cut I did was terrible. LOL The clay was pushed and pulled and dragged. A complete mess and the blade was packed full of clay.ย ย  After some thought, my solution was to place a piece of plastic deli wrap over the sheet of clay before I cut it. Plastic deli wrap is not to be confused with the waxed type of deli paper.ย  They are completely different. The deli wrap keeps the cutting blade from getting all clogged with clay and helps it glide over the surface of the clay, so you get a smoother cut.

This is the deli wrap

deliwrap

I also found that polymer clay does not like to release from tacky adhesive side of the cutting mat that came with my Silhouette Portrait machine. So don’t use that side. ๐Ÿ™‚ You can leave the protective sheet on the tacky side and use the back to die cut your clay, but I chose to purchase some inexpensive “cut your own” stenciling sheets to use to die cut my clay. They are made of the same material so they work great in my Silhouette.

Here is my first cut, the one I couldn’t get off the tacky side of the cutting mat. I destroyed the clay getting it off. LOL

istcut

Another issue I had was getting the clay sheet thin enough to die cut. Even using the thinnest setting on my pasta machine ( I tried both the Makin’s Machine and the Atlas Marcato) did not get the polymer clay sheet thin enough. I used a piece of the “cut your own” stenciling material to run through the pasta machine with the clay and Ta-Da, it was finally thin enough to die cut. ๐Ÿ™‚ I used the next to thinnest setting on my Makin’s Machine.

Here are the successesย  I have had so far die cutting raw polymer clay.

leafy pendants diecutfiligree

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14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Bridget Derc
    Mar 01, 2014 @ 07:58:47

    Interesting experiment. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

  2. ceenoa
    Mar 01, 2014 @ 09:09:14

    Sounds like it could have some interesting applications – brain ticking over …..

    Reply

  3. Janet
    Mar 01, 2014 @ 13:50:41

    This is great! Of course I don’t have a silhoulette, but I have been thinking of getting one!

    Reply

  4. Beth Petricoin
    Mar 01, 2014 @ 16:20:38

    Very cool Tonja, thanks for sharing! Do you think the silhouette would cut easily through plastic sheeting? I’m considering purchasing one for my recycled work, but wonder if I should save more and go for the really expensive silver bullet machine…

    Reply

  5. Mags Bonham
    Mar 01, 2014 @ 17:03:34

    I’ve been cutting polymer with a Cricut Cake machine – which was made to cut fondant – for several years now. Try using freezer paper between the clay and the sticky side of mat.

    Reply

  6. Donna Kober
    Mar 03, 2014 @ 09:47:40

    If it is thin enough you can cut it after baking.

    Reply

  7. Sheryl Koback Sharpe
    May 08, 2014 @ 15:52:16

    I am a total newbie…just received my first Silhouette yesterday and haven’t used it yet. Did you have to buy a special blade/holder to cut polymer like the one I’ve seen in many posts on cutting fondant/gum paste for cakes sold by deseretdesigns or can you use the original Silhouette blades/holder? I really want to be able to cut clay and similar materials but right now can’t afford the $85 for deseretdesigns special blade/holder. thanks!

    Reply

    • tonjal
      May 08, 2014 @ 23:08:51

      Hi Sheryl ๐Ÿ™‚ I have only done a little experimenting cutting raw polymer clay with my Silhouette machine, but I did not purchase a special blade. I used the one that came included. I rolled out the clay so it was VERY thin and placed in on a “make your own” stencil blank. I then placed the stencil blank onto the sticky side of the cutting mat that came with the Silhouette. I placed a sheet of deli film (it’s plastic, not waxed paper) over the top of the clay before I cut, because without it the clay collected in the blade and made a huge mess of the cuts. So far so good. I did just discover a great tip for removing the deli film from the clay after cutting. This tip came from a Lisa Pavelka lesson on CraftArtEdu.com. I am going to use packing tape to grab the film and pull it off the clay next time I cut. ๐Ÿ˜€ Will be soooo much easier that picking each piece off by hand. LOL (FYI: I have had no luck cutting baked sheets of clay)

      Reply

      • sheryl9166
        May 09, 2014 @ 00:59:19

        Thanks so much for your reply. I’m so excited to hear you didn’t use the special blade and can’t wait to do some experimenting myself. As soon as I do I will post my findings here to share with you and your readers. As we try different things and share our findings we will be able to find all sorts of new things we can do with our machines (and what not to do) as well as helpful tips and money saving tricks. Thanks again!!

  8. Trackback: Experimenting with Polymer Clay and Die Cutters โ€“ Polymer Clay
  9. Trackback: Cutting Polymer Clay - Hobby Down

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