Atlas Pasta Machines for Polymer Clay – A Review

Learn all about the Atlas pasta machine as we use it with polymer clay. Learn about the modified Atlas as well.When working with polymer clay, one of the most important tools to help you with conditioning, mixing, and sheeting polymer clay is the trusty pasta machine. Now there are other kinds and brands of clay conditioning machines, both from the craft store and from polymer clay tool companies. But originally, pasta machines were all we had to use. This is the third in my series of reviews on clay conditioning machines and pasta machines for polymer clay.

Here is the lineup:

  1. Pasta Machine Problems
  2. Cheap Pasta Machines (Makins, Amaco, and Sculpey)
  3. Atlas and the Modified Atlas (this article)
  4. Imperia
  5. The Dream Machine
  6. LC Machine
  7. Summary – What’s the Best Pasta Machine for Polymer Clay?

Atlas Pasta Machines

Marcato, an Italian company, makes the Atlas pasta machines, which are actually designed to make sheets of pasta dough for lasagna and ravioli. It is the basic design of the Atlas that generic and cheap craft machines imitate. Unstable on its own, you need to clamp an Atlas to the table with a C-clamp that fits into a round hole on the right side of the machine. Also on the right is a hole where you insert the crank handle.

atlas-endplate
End plate of the Atlas pasta machine. The hole at the bottom is for the C-clamp. the round hole at the top is where the hand crank handle goes in. the two holes above and below are for mounting a motor.

Atlas pasta machines come in two size models, the 150 and 180. Those numbers roughly correspond to the roller lengths in millimeters. Aside from the roller length of the two variations, the two sizes are identical. Some people say that the 180’s longer rollers make for a less stable machine, but I have not seen any evidence of this being the case.  Marcato also makes a machine called an Ampia that is very similar but has noodle cutters integrated into the body of the machine.

Comparison of the 180 vs the 150 Atlas pasta machine.
Comparison of Atlas 180 and 150 machines. Note that these machines have their fenders removed (see below).

Atlas Pasta Machine Accessories

On the back of an Atlas pasta machine are two slots where you can install an optional cutting attachment for making fettuccine and linguine. These noodle cutters are essentially rollers themselves, which have blades cut into them, and each cutter also has a hole for the crank to be inserted. (You can use the cutters with polymer clay, by the way. They make nice, even strips.) Another optional accessory is a sheet feeder. It holds the sheet as it goes into the rollers, giving you a free hand to grab the thinner sheet as it comes out.

The Atlas pasta machines for polymer clay work best with a motor.
Marcato makes a motor for the Atlas called a Pasta Drive motor.

To use a motor with the Atlas machines, you merely remove the crank handle and attach a Pasta Drive motor. You’ll notice there are holes on either side of the handle hole. These allow pins from the motor to slot in, holding the motor stable. You can’t use a Pasta Drive motor with pasta machines that don’t have these extra holes.

The Pasta Drive motor has a chrome coated plastic housing made from a plastic that is not safe for polymer clay. Because of this, the clay from your hands can collect on the housing and it becomes difficult to remove. It doesn’t affect the function of the unit, but it can be ugly.

The switch of the Pasta Drive motor can get gunky with clay from your hands.
The housing on the Pasta Drive is made from plastic which gets marred from the polymer clay on your hands. This is difficult or impossible to remove, but it doesn’t affect function.

Atlas Pasta Machines for Polymer Clay

At some point, polymer clayers realized they could use pasta machines for sheeting and mixing polymer clay. Pasta machines are not perfect tools for use with polymer clay, however, and there are frustrations that arise such as rippled clay sheets and transfer of colors. But it’s still far better than using your hands and a rolling rod! Frustrated with the limitations that a pasta machine has for using with polymer clay, there is great demand for better designed clay conditioning machines. Both the Dream Machine and the Lucy Clay Tools LC Machine promise to address some of these limitations. I’ll be reviewing them shortly.

Atlas Wellness Pasta Machine

atlas wellness insigniaThe Atlas pasta machine now on the market is the Atlas Wellness. Available in eight colors or with a snazzy chrome body, this model is sturdy and well-made. It is nearly identical to earlier models of the Atlas pasta machine (more on those below), but has anodized aluminum rollers and plastic-edged blades. The company boasts that the term “Wellness” refers to the plastic blades eliminating metal shavings falling into your food. The Wellness model has black plastic on its crank handle and C-clamp. It is available in both the 150 and the 180 size models. The aluminum rollers are better for polymer clay because they don’t make black streaks on the clay like the steel rollers of earlier models.

The Atlas Wellness has 10 thickness settings on the knob, ranging from #0 (thickest) to #9 (thinnest). The numbers are well-marked. I measured the thickest setting on my 180 at 0.100″ (2.54 mm) and the thinnest at 0.011″ (0.279 mm). The rollers of the 150 are 5 5/8″ (143 mm) long and the 180’s rollers are 6 3/4″ ( 171 mm). The clearance under the rollers is 2 1/2″ (63.5 mm) and the clamp can accommodate up to a 2 1/4″ (57.2 mm) table thickness. I found the #0 setting to have an audible ticking sound (as with all pasta machines), but it was nearly silent on the #9 setting.

The thicker settings of the Atlas Wellness do leave wide horizontal ridges (as with all pasta machines). I did get wide rippling at #6 and thinner with soft clays and with #8 and above with Kato. All clays and all thicknesses displayed scraping on the face of the sheet to an extent. This wasn’t substantial, but can cause clay to build up on the blades.

Older Atlas Machines – Good with Polymer Clay!

Because pasta machines are sometimes purchased as a gift and never (or rarely) used, they often show up at thrift stores, garage sales, and auction sites. These older Atlas pasta machines have metal blades and steel rollers. I also think they seem to be more sturdy than the modern Atlas Wellness, with a smoother action. If you can find one of these gems, snap it up! The steel rollers can cause streaking on light-colored polymer clay (more about that here).

These older Atlas machines have yellow plastic on the handle and clamp. Also, their numbering system may vary greatly. Some machines have 7 settings, some have 9. Both my 150 and 180 machines have identical measurements to the Atlas Wellness. Not sure if the pasta machine you have found is one of these older, better machines? You can tell by turning one over. On the underside, you can find the date of manufacture and you can see what the blades are made of.

You can find the manufacture date of your Atlas pasta machine by looking on the bottom.
The manufacturing date of Atlas pasta machines is found on a plate on the underside.

Because I’ve worked in polymer clay for many years, I have both a 150 and 180 Atlas from 2002 and 2003 respectively. These machines function beautifully and have very little trouble with rippling or chattering polymer clay sheets, even at thinner settings. I have used (and abused) them so much, however, that the horizontal ridges are now showing at multiple settings. I may go back to using them, however, because they don’t have any scraping on the face of the sheet. This is just my experience, of course, and yours may vary.

Removing the Fenders

You may notice that the pictures of my Atlas pasta machines look different from what you see elsewhere. This is because I have removed the “fenders” for ease of cleaning. The fenders are covers on the machine, similar to the fenders on a car, fitted in front of and behind the rollers. They serve no functional purpose. Removing them allows you to reach the area behind the blades of the pasta machine. Yes, polymer clay can collect there and find its way back out to be deposited onto sheets of another color (usually white…sigh). If enough clay collects, it can even push the blades away from the rollers, allowing your clay sheet to go round and round on the rollers.

Comparison of Atlas pasta machines with and without the fenders.
Comparison of an Atlas pasta machine with (L) and without (R) the fenders. (Just for you Carol!)

You can remove the fenders yourself and I do recommend that you do this. Take pictures as you go, so you have a reference if you get confused. To do it, remove the screw holding the right-side panel and the screw holding the rubber foot plate underneath. Then loosen (but do not remove) the nuts holding the machine together. Loosen them just enough so that you can pop the fenders out and remove. Replace and tighten the nuts and screws, replace the side plate, and you’re good to go.

Now you can reach that area behind the blades. Use a tool to reach in there and scrape out the collected clay. Be careful, however, to avoid nicking the blade or scratching the rollers as this will ruin them.

Modified Atlas, aka “Monafied” Atlas

Remember how I said that pasta machines aren’t designed to work with polymer clay? Well Mona Kissel is a polymer clay artist who has developed a way of modifying Atlas pasta machines to make them work better with polymer clay. The modification involves replacing the blades with an all-metal blade that can be removed quickly and easily by removing just a single thumb-nut per blade. You can remove the blades, wipe them down, and return them in about a minute. You do not need to unclamp the machine to do this.

Here is my “Monafied” Atlas 180. Note how you can see those brass thumb-nuts under the right side? Those are the nuts that secures the blades.

Here you can see the underside of the modified Atlas pasta machines for polymer clay.
The “monafied” Atlas has thumb-nuts which secure removable blades. You can easily remove them for cleaning.

Mona Kissel modifies Atlas pasta machines for polymer clay, and here is one of the mods.

And here is what the blades look like once they’re taken out. It’s hard to see the details with all the reflections of chrome, so click to make the pictures bigger if you need to see more detail.

Blades removed from the modified atlas pasta machines for polymer clay.

Mona and her husband will modify your Atlas (both the Wellness and older models), or they can sell you modified machines. There are more details on their website. They will also leave the fenders off the machine unless you prefer to leave them on. The machine pictured above has had its fenders removed.

Customized Atlas by Ed Street

In addition to having the blades modified by Mona Kissel, there’s another service you can have done to your pasta machines. Ed Street will strip your machine, tune it up, send it off to be “Monafied” and then powder coat it in custom colors. Then he’ll put a new acrylic base on it. The acrylic base is really nice because it’s smooth and you can easily wipe the clay crumbs from it.

Ed can modify your Atlas pasta machine, or he can sell you one directly. You can learn more from Ed Street by visiting his website. I chose to have my machine blue (of course) and raspberry to match the purple walls of my studio.

By the way, you will still have to use a clamp to hold this to your table if you use a handle to crank the machine. But if you use a motor, the wide base holds the machine stable. That means you can use it anywhere on the table. And if you live near the sea where the air can cause your tools to rust, the extra protection of the powder coating will give you years more life to your machine.

Atlas pasta machine modified for polymer clay by Ed Street.

My Recommendation

I will write an article at the end of this series that gives my overall recommendation for getting a clay conditioning machine. But if you want to stick with an Atlas, I recommend that you get an older (pre-2008) machine and then remove the fenders. This is often the cheapest route as you can find these machines on ebay or at thrift stores quite cheaply.

If you like the way the machine works, but want to have removable blades, I recommend sending the machine to Mona Kissel for modification. If you can’t find an older Atlas machine, then I would buy a new, modified Atlas from Mona. The ability to clean the blades quickly and easily takes this machine to a higher level.

The next review in this series is the Imperia pasta machine from Italy. Find out what makes it different from the Atlas.

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28 thoughts on “Atlas Pasta Machines for Polymer Clay – A Review”

  1. Charlotte Firbank-King

    I heat one of those cloth warmers for relieving muscular aches in my microwave, the ones filled with wheat or Styrofoam balls, and put my clay in plastic bag then warm it for a minute or less. Works well. More comfortable than sitting on lumps of clay LOL.

  2. Like a dummy I took my Atlas Pasta Machine apart and now I can’t figure out how to put it back together! Does anybody know of a tutorial that can help me with this?

  3. Thank you so much for your articles. They are of great help.

    I recently bought an Atlas Wellness 150. The manual says it can produce 4.8 mm thick sheet at ‘0’ setting, but clay comes out a lot thinner, around 2.5 mm at best (which is close to what you measured). What is the reason for this difference? Is it possible to make thicker sheet at all?

    Thank you in advance.

    1. It has to do with how the machine is made. I’m not familiar with the inside workings enough to know if it can be altered easily. I tend to think not. Why are some different? Perhaps it’s due to different tooling (forms) over time. Another factor is that rolling pasta is not the same as rolling polymer clay and pasta has spring-back that polymer doesn’t. Maybe pasta would be that thick? I am just guessing on that one. But I do know that different clays will roll at different thicknesses, even when the same setting is used. But it’s not going to be that much different.

  4. Is there a difference between ‘maker’ and ‘machine’? I’ve found presumably older models of the 150 but they’re called ‘makers’, rather than ‘machines’.

  5. Ginger, Thanks so much for sending this article! Actually, it was this article in the newsletter: https://thebluebottletree.com/best-pasta-machine-polymer-clay/
    So, I do have a question – I want to get an Atlas 180 since I’d like to make wider sheets. Do you happen to know if the (older but in fine shape) motor I got for my Atlas 150 would work for an older 180? How about in a new Altas Wellness 180? Thank you in advance!

  6. Hello again,
    I just got my Atlas today and I knew it was vintage but didn’t know the exact year until today. The date on the bottom says 3/94. Is this a good one do you know? I guess I’ll find out but wanted your thoughts. Thanks!

  7. I’m so darn happy I stumbled upon your page here! And I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for such awesome information!! I’ve just purchased a vintage Atlas for $25. on EBay. I couldn’t be more excited for it to arrive!! Again THANKS !!!!

  8. Chimge Altankhuyag

    Hi Ginger, thank you very much for sharing all your experience and knowledge.

    I’m new in claying, and considering to get a pasta machine, preferably an Atlas. I see there are 2 possibilities,

    1. Find an older (pre-2008) machine and remove the fenders.
    2. Get a newer version (Wellness) and modify it.

    However, I still wondering a couple of thing here. It said that ‘ If you can’t find an older Atlas machine, then I would buy a new, modified Atlas from Mona.’

    Does it mean that, the older machines are not able to be modified?
    The modified one is easy to clean due to the removable metal blade. If the new ones only to be modified, do the older machines have already an integrated removable blade? Or, it’s easy enough to clean it when you removed the fenders?

    Thanks again, Chimge 🙂

    1. The only difference between a pre-2008 Atlas and a Wellness is that the Wellness has plastic-edged blades and aluminum rollers. Their “cleanability” is identical. All Atlas machines can be modified by Mona Kissel. You can send her your machine to be modified. But you can also buy a new Wellness from her that is already modified. All Atlas machines, modified or not, and Wellness version or not, will benefit by removing the fenders because you can dig the clay out and clean them more readily. But you can’t fully remove the blades unless you take the machine apart (or unless your machine has been Monafied). The reason the older Atlas machines are preferable is because the blades are all-metal and they tend to handle thinner sheets better. (Plus they’re just more solid somehow.)

      1. Chimge Altankhuyag

        Thank you for your quick reply and thorough explanation. I’ll try to find an older Atlas and then modify it later 🙂

        By the way, I loooove to read your posts and tutorials, they are just awesome 🙂

        Chimge 🙂

  9. I Couldn’t thank you enough for writing this and helping me choosing the right machine. Pasta machine are backbone of most the clay work we do and we really want one which suits us. Thank you Ginger!!

  10. Hello, i’m pretty new working with polyclay,.
    I have a problem with my pasta machine, i’m using fimo polyclay and the clay always stick on the roller and come up with brittle and ripped clay after rolling it..
    if i use sheet of paper to cover the clay it will stick on paper and hard to peel off..
    can you give me any tips how to blend smoothly thin and not ripped??
    Thankyu

    1. Most pasta machines will have sticking and the sheet will ripple and tear if you’re trying to make thin sheets. Start with thin slices of clay on the thickest setting of the machine. Keep folding and pressing the clay until it is quite soft, then make a thinner sheet. Polymer will easily stick to paper, especially if you are using Fimo Professional. Try using plastic sheets instead, such as the sheets used for making transparencies or the kind you can use in your printer.

    2. Remember that Atlas never designed these pasta machines for anything other than very soft flour and water pasta dough. Polymer clay, which is relatively firm compared to pasta dough, puts a lot of stress on the scraper blades, so the softening of the clay is vital to not damage your scraper blades.

      Thoroughly conditioning clay is so important to your work, and affects how well your work cures in the oven. I had the pleasure of attending a workshop with my favorite guru of clay, Marie Segal two weekends ago. Marie reminded us that we can either sit on a package of clay to warm it up before we cut slices to roll through the pasta machines, or place the unopened packages into our bras to warm them up with our body heat. Several of my clay friends have done that for years, and it truly works well. Sitting on a couple of packages at a time, will warm them up nicely within about 15 minutes. Taking a 2 ounce package, and slicing it into 4 thin slices, will make them approx. the size of your widest pasta machine width setting. Repeated passes through the pasta machine, each piece folded in half and passed through again and again, will soften this warmed clay nicely. I store all conditioned clay sheets in plastic deli wrap sheets.

  11. Carol FosterHall

    Thank you so much, Ginger! (And yes, the photo of the fenders/no fenders was terrifically helpful). Time to send one of my Atlases off for modification!

  12. Thank you for this review, Ginger! It addresses everything I’ve been curious about regarding the older pasta machines (I have 2 “finds”) and how to adapt them. You really do provide wonderful information to the claying community, and I appreciate it so much!

  13. I’ve mentioned this before, but I do love my Monafied Atlas. It’s worth every penny to have the peace of mind to know that I can thoroughly clean all the stray clay off the blades after every project.

    I keep eyeballing the new LC clay machine, but phew, those are pricey! For now my Atlas is working out great for me.

    Thanks for the wonderful review, Ginger.

  14. Thanks once again for a great article. I just purchased the Atlas 150 from Mona Kissel, and am waiting for it to arrive. I am so excited after reading your article because you have validated what I am understanding about the machine. I purchased the Makins machine with the motor and am so disappointed with it. Worked fine for awhile and then the motor started coming off, the last time it actually started flipping itself over before I turn it off. It holds a lot of clay that I can’t get to clean and it shreds the clay at thicker settings and makes holes at thinner settings. The one good thing about it is the handle has never fallen out, and the clamp holds fairly well. Sorry to make this so long, but wanted to add my experience with the Makins.

  15. Hi, thanks for this review, I’m looking forward to reading more. I am in the UK and I was lucky enough to get an Atlas 150 Wellness machine for £1.00 from a garden party ‘thrift’ stall a couple of years ago, it had actually been marked up at £2.50 but nobody wanted it! I have to admit though that I still haven’t used it as I have a ‘cheap’ pasta machine which I am still using. I keep promising myself I will only use the Atlas for white clay, but I haven’t got around to it yet as making things with polymer clay have had to take a back seat for quite a while now. Thanks again. Linda x

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