So you’re new to polymer clay and are ready to buy your first pasta machine. Or you’re an experienced clayer tired of the problems with your current pasta machine. What next? What’s the best pasta machine for polymer clay? Is one better than the others? Are there any to avoid?
This is the final article in my comprehensive series of pasta machine articles. I started by discussing some of the most common pasta machine problems. Then I evaluated all the major craft, pasta, and polymer clay machines on the market. You can read those articles here:
- Pasta Machine Problems
- Cheap Pasta Machines
- Atlas and the Modified Atlas
- The Dream Machine
- LC Machine
- Summary – What Pasta Machine Should You Buy? (this article)
What’s the Best Pasta Machine for Polymer Clay?
I wrote this series because readers often ask me what’s the best pasta machine for polymer clay. I didn’t have a good answer because I hadn’t yet worked with all the machines. Like many people who are happy with their choice, I assumed that mine was the best. It is easy to say that “An Atlas is the Best Pasta Machine for clay”, or “The Dream Machine is the top of the line”. But you only know once you’ve compared. So I started collecting pasta machines and rollers. I bought the Amaco, Makins, Atlas 150, Atlas 180, Monafied Atlas, Imperia, and Dream Machine. I received the Sculpey Clay Conditioning Machine and the Lucy Clay Tools LC Machine for evaluation from their manufacturers. After using them in a variety of challenging situations, I feel more qualified to give my opinion. I hope you’ll find my observations useful.
There is no one perfect solution for all situations. Each machine has weaknesses (or features) that make it unsuitable for specific situations, and keep it from being my top and only pick. Also, I’m just one person, testing one machine of each of these brands. My opinions and observations might not match what another person with another machine sees. Regardless, I explain what I found, breaking it down in various ways. I give several scenarios and hopefully this will give you some clarity in choosing the best pasta machine for your polymer clay studio.
Summary of Pasta Machines and Clay Rollers
This cheap pasta machine clone is poorly made, the handle falls out, and is impossible to clean adequately. The rollers are 5 ½″ (140mm) wide. Users report that it breaks easily and what they buy from a craft store is often a broken machine that has been returned and put back on the shelf. I don’t recommend this machine unless you can buy it on a super good sale or with a coupon. Even then, I consider this a disposable machine. Use, break, and toss. Read my full review of the Amaco machine here.
Sculpey Clay Conditioning Machine
This is also a cheap pasta machine clone with 5 ½″ (140mm) rollers. It’s a big step up from the Amaco, but it also has sharp edges, grating noises, and poor durability. As with the Amaco, I don’t recommend this machine unless you can buy it cheaply on sale or with a coupon. It will probably last you longer than the Amaco, but it certainly didn’t hold up for me. Read my review of the Sculpey clay machine here.
Here’s another pasta machine clone available in craft stores, but this hobby-quality clay machine is much improved over the Amaco and Sculpey clay machines. While not as rugged and smooth as an Atlas (below), the Makins machine is quite functional. It has 6 ⅞″ (175mm) non-stick rollers and can be used with a motor (purchased separately). Some clayers complain about squeaking or poor performance, but generally this machine handles polymer clay quite nicely, including thin sheets. Learn more about the Makins in my review here.
Long the “gold standard” for polymer clay artists everywhere, the Atlas pasta machine is the most common answer to “What’s the best pasta machine for polymer clay?” It is durable, well made, and handles most polymer clay projects well. You can buy an optional motor, giving hands-free power. Atlas machines come in both a 5 ⅝″ (143 mm) and a 6 ⅞″ ( 171 mm) width model (the 150 and 180 versions, respectively). Unless you buy a modified (aka “Monafied”) machine, you will still find this machine difficult to keep clean. Read more about the Atlas pasta machines, including the “Monafied” machine here. You can also have an Atlas machine customized by Ed Street, who puts an acrylic base onto an Atlas machine and powder coats it in pretty colors.
Like the Atlas, the Imperia is a true pasta machine from Italy. It is extremely well made and durable, and found at a reasonable price. It doesn’t have as many thickness settings as the Atlas, but you can easily remove the blades for cleaning. You can buy a motor for the Imperia. The 5 ½″ (140 mm) wide version seems to be easier to find, but I believe a wider version is also made. Read my review of the Imperia here.
The Dream Machine
The first professional quality rolling machine designed for use with polymer clay, the Dream Machine has loyal fans. With 9 ½” (241mm) wide rollers and very sturdy construction, this machine is made for processing and sheeting a lot of polymer clay at one time. You can buy a motor separately. The Dream Machine’s blades can be removed for cleaning. You can’t make paper-thin sheets, though, and the newer models seem to have problems with rippling the clay as it rolls through. Read my review of the Dream Machine here.
Brand new on the market, the professional level LC Machine is completely different from any other clay machine on the market. It comes in two models, the Squirrel and the Elephant, both with 7 ½” (191mm) wide rollers. Both models have lots of clearance under the rollers, removable blade assemblies, and a bolted-on handle that won’t fall out. A motor is not available at this time, but you can use your own cordless drill to power this machine. The 2:1 gear ratio makes this machine easy to crank. The thickness setting system on the LC Machine is vastly different from the other machines on the market, and can go from zero to ½” thickness. Read my review of the LC Machine here.
What Kind of Clayer Are You?
Okay, that was a recap of how each of the machines lines up. But what are your needs? Here are my thoughts on what’s the best pasta machine for polymer clay artists of various styles and types. Which one of these clayers is most like you?
You don’t work with polymer clay seriously and you have no idea if this is something that you’ll stick with or not. But you’re tired of using a rolling pin and you want to see what a pasta machine will do for you.
Recommendation: Try to find a cheap pasta machine at a thrift store, discount store, or on ebay. It might be worth a try to get an Amaco or Sculpey machine, but use a coupon or wait to find it on sale. By the time it breaks, you’ll have a better idea of your claying path and what kind of a machine you’ll want at that point.
You love working with polymer clay but you don’t do a lot of sheeting. You tend to do more sculpting than making skinner blends. It’s important to have a pasta machine for mixing colors and conditioning, but you still want to have all your options open. You work mostly with Premo or Sculpey III. Without a lot of money to spend, you don’t want to waste money on something that needs to be replaced right away.
Recommendation: The Makins Clay Machine is a great starter machine. It won’t do everything and it’s certainly not a high-end tool. But it will serve you well for a couple of years, and in the meantime, you can save up for one of the better machines.
Growing a Habit
You love polymer clay, are realizing that you’re a bit addicted, and you are pretty sure you want to have a nice pasta machine for a long time to come. But now, you’re short on funds and can’t afford a lot of expense. You do all sorts of polymer claying and you need to be able to make thin sheets and smooth blends because you do (or want to) make canes. Versatility and options are your biggest needs at this point.
Recommendation: If you buy the Atlas Wellness 180, you can enjoy it as a great claying machine now. Remove the fenders so you can clean it more easily. When you’re ready, you can send it away to be modified by Mona Kissel. And you can always add a motor at a later point. This way you have lots of options and no large cost up front.
Yeah, yeah, go ahead and say it. You’re a polymer clay addict who wants good quality tools with as much versatility as possible. You want to be able to do hands-free work and control loooong skinner blends. You often work with translucent and/or white and can’t afford to have dirty blades messing up your work. But you just can’t justify the huge cost of the professional machines.
Recommendation: Head over to Mona Kissel’s website and buy a modified Atlas Wellness 180 with a motor.
You mix and condition a lot of clay into wide sheets. You might be doing production work and you need a machine that can handle anything you throw at it. Since you often use Kato, you’re tired of your old Atlas bogging down from the strain.
Recommendation: The widest rollers are on the Dream Machine. But you’ll also love the LC Elephant or Squirrel.
Livin’ Large with Limits
Okay, the LC Machine sounds great, but you don’t have the space for a Squirrel. Or you might have physical limitations and can’t be dealing with cranking a machine. Thin sheets don’t matter to you, and money is no object. You need solutions.
Recommendation: If you need a professional level wide-bodied machine with hands-free motor, the Dream Machine is your best bet. Do get the “elevators” for increased clearance under the rollers. This combination will set you back nearly a thousand dollars, so it’s not for the faint of heart!
Gotta Have it All
You want to be able to make everything. You want thick sheets and thin sheets. Wide sheets and narrow sheets. You are particular about your work and you want the ability to have a meticulously clean machine. Your dedicated studio has the room that you need to have the solutions that give your the claying power that you want.
Recommendation: Who says you need just ONE pasta machine? Get the LC Squirrel or Elephant. And get the modified (aka “Monafied”) Atlas Wellness 180 with a motor. This gives you a powerful machine for when you’re “livin’ large”, and also a smaller machine for small projects and thin sheets. You’ll be able to clean both machines easily and pretty much all your pasta machine problems will be a thing of the past.
What Features are Most Important to You?
Obviously, we want to get a machine that’s as feature-rich as we can afford, but which features matter the most? If you are looking for a specific feature, what machine is best for that? Pick your most important features and see if any machine stands out as the best pasta machine for polymer clay.
- Hands-Free Claying – Atlas with motor, Dream Machine with motor
- Easiest Cranking – LC Machine
- Thinnest Sheets – Atlas, Makins, LC Machine (with plastic sheets)
- Thickest Sheets – LC Machine
- Widest Sheets – Dream Machine and LC Machine
- Easy to Clean – Monafied Atlas, LC Machine, Dream Machine, Imperia
- Working with Sticky Clay – Makins
- Working with Stiff Clay – Dream Machine and LC Machine
- Travelling to Workshops – Makins
- Upgradable – Atlas (buy now, have it modified later, then buy a motor later)
Seriously, Ginger, out with it. What’s the BEST pasta machine for polymer clay? Hmm. I now have nine polymer clay machines here in my studio. If I were pick just one to keep and get rid of the rest, which would it be? I have mulled this over for at least a month, and I don’t really have an answer. It depends completely on what I’m doing. I will probably continue to use my modified Atlas Wellness 180 with motor for most of my everyday claying. Unless I’m caning. Or needing a big, wide sheet. For that I’ll probably continue to use my LC Machine. I think I will use both of these machines almost exclusively. Except for going to workshops, because I’ll probably take my Makins for that. Hmm…decisions, decisions! Thanks for following along on this pasta machine series. I hope it’s all so much more clear now. And now…on to other things!
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Disclaimer: While I bought most of the clay machines with my own money, I did receive the LC Machine and the Sculpey Clay Conditioning machine from their manufacturers. That doesn’t change my opinions, though. As always, I am not a representative of any company and try my best to give you honest and helpful information and advice.
32 thoughts on “What’s the Best Pasta Machine for Polymer Clay?”
I am very new to polymer clay made two things… I bought a used machine after realizing my arthritis didn’t like conditioning… learned that it was plastic blades which was busted so assuming used by a clayer previously…. in researching I found your site… I can’t afford $150 so went looking and found an all metal one for $59 with that 20% coupon lol PL8 used tonight and oh so much of a big different experience…. thank you
What is the difference between an older Atlas 150 and the ones that are currently made/sold?
You’ll find the answer to that in the article that’s specifically about the Atlas.
Hi, so glad I came across this blog post. I have a question that might seem a tad ridiculous but thought I should ask anyway. So here goes, in my research about thicknesses for durability and bake times its mostly recommended that you cut your pieces to bake, in my case earrings, at 1/4in or 6mm. The pasta machine I have only goes to 3mm and most of the ones Ive seen only seem to go to 4mm. Now I’m just incredibly confused which machine to buy or if I should just keep using a rolling pin with bands. Many thanks, Rae 🙂
Pasta machines are made for making pasta, so they don’t make thick sheets. The only machine on the market that makes thicker sheets is the Lucy Clay Machine. So most of us just stack sheets to make them thicker or roll them out using a rod and guides. And you can make your earrings whatever thickness you like. It’s up to you. There are no rules or standards.
I have talked to many different clayers, lastly at Clayathon (sponsored by the Philly PC Guild)which is a large polymer clay retreat of about 125 people. Some views there were rather different from yours. No one I talked to liked the LC machine since they couldn’t get a consistent thickness of the sheets and had too many settings to deal with..I was surprised after reading your review and glad I didn’t get it. I tried all the other machines listed. My favorite by far is the dream machine. Easy to use with the handle and fantastic with the motor. Also easy to clean. Since I have hand problems it has kept me being able to still clay. My favorite for traveling is the Makins as you say, works well and much lighter to travel with.
I do want to add I love all the testing and comparisons you do and have found it useful. Thank you.
These things are, of course, personal. And we all have different needs and experiences. I can only tell you my experience and report the experiences I’ve collected from others who have shared theirs. In addition, it helps to be aware that people often have opinions about products that they haven’t actually used extensively. There is no one best machine. I will say, however, that the Dream Machine that most people at Clayathon are using is not the same as the ones I received. There were three production runs, the first two being problem-free. The batch I dealt with was rife with problems and does not perform as well as the ones you’ve tried.
I bought a second Atlas machine. It has only 6 settings. My first one has 9. I planned to give one to my granddaughter but not sure which one I should keep. Ideas?
Thank you so much for this detailed review of clay conditioning machines. I went with the Altas 180 with the add-on motor and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it! Your articles are so good. Any time I have a question, I know I can come to your site and trust your recommendations.
Go Inside And Clay
I’m not sure if my previous comment posted, but want to save you the trouble. As you wrote, Makin’ is clearly the better choice while not that big of a difference in price. Please forgive the trouble and thanks again for your great info and inspiring articles.
I’ve had a very disappointing experience with the Sculpy conditioning machine. The dial fell out a couple of weeks into working with it, clearly made cheaply, but I did not expect that badly.
I can not afford the wonderful machines I’m drooling over in your article. However, Polymer Clay Superstore has the following, https://polymerclaysuperstore.com/collections/on-sale-now/products/clay-conditioning-machine
It’s not cheap for me, but I’m at least hoping it’s an upgrade from the previous, if only by being made stronger. Will be most grateful if you could share your thoughts about it, while you might not have tried it…I’m hoping you’d be able to tell better than me. Many thanks for your work!
The “improved” machine in that link is actually the Sculpey clay conditioning machine and is the same one I reviewed here: https://thebluebottletree.com/cheap-pasta-machines-polymer-clay/
I was not impressed. Definitely go for the Makins.
Thank you for this great article. I have had my Atlas Wellness for a couple of years after having a cheap for many years. I love this!
Thank you so much Ginger for your totally honest in-depth review of all of the machines! It was VERY helpful, as I have used a few of the cheap ones. I am sitting next to the Amaco cheapy right now. Glad I’m not crazy that the rollers are not parallel! This is disappointing so I am looking into other options. You have a great website here.Thank you!
I am a new polymer clay artist. Well, more of an explorer in new territory at this point. I can’t find words to tell you how grateful I am for this article.
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I’ve been working with an Amaco which has been driving me crazy. Thank goodness I found your pasta machine reviews. After window shopping on the net and finding out how expensive new ones are, I remembered that I had another pasta machine tucked away somewhere. It’s an Atlas Marcato dated 01/63 (at least those are the only numbers I can find) with the noodle attachment.
There are no other holes that you mentioned in your review other than the hand crank hole, so my question is, can I purchase a motor for this particular pasta machine? Thanks.
The Atlas motor will require the holes. In years past, you would order a new side plate for an Atlas pasta machine that has the holes. I have no idea if you can still get them, though. Maybe check with the Marcato company themselves? There are also motor that clamp onto the side of a pasta machine that don’t require the two extra holes. Have a look at Imperia motors. They should work.
Thank you so much for all the time and effort you put into these articles Ginger. I think I’m becoming addicted to playing so have asked for vouchers for Christmas to help me save up for a new pasta machine with a motor as I have limitations using my arms for too long. The information you’ve given us is so useful, I’m very grateful. Blessings to you and yours. Ps I saw your video from your visit to the UK, I had no idea there were any polymer clay guides or that we have activities in Europe. Thank you for that. I also feel as if I know you a bit better now. It is a great video, thank you.
What a lovely thing to say, Val. Thank you! Yes, the UK (and much of Europe) has an active and thriving polymer clay community. There are guilds and groups and workshops and really, so much to explore. Get in touch with the British Polymer Clay Guild and they’ll be able to get you to a group that’s local to you. (Of course in the UK, nothing’s TOO far away.) Merry Christmas!
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Thank you, Ginger, for this series! I enjoyed reading the individual articles and especially this summary. I like my Imperia and have tentatively put the LC Machine (Elephant) on my list. That or the Monafied Atlas, depending on how the LC team addresses the issues people are having with the first run of the machines.
I keep thinking a motor would be nice but I’d want it to be quiet. Like a sewing machine or quieter. (*lightbulb moment*) Like a treadle. I wouldn’t mind pedaling if that turned the rollers and keep both of my hands free to handle the clay. Hmm… (*lightbulb off*)
Now that IS a lightbulb moment! I would not mind pedaling in order to get rid of the noise, either!
This is an amazing ,comprehensive review, and I commend your thorough series. My experience in 30+ years of claying is totally consistent with yours. I do have an early dream machine, which I love. I have 10 machines (because I teach, and they really get abused), and also stand with the Atlas for consistent performance. I have tested the “new” Sculpey machine (which can be hard to find since stores want to unload the old) which states “stainless steel rollers” on the box. It is a slight (very slight) improvement over the “old” model. I always buy C Clamps from hardware store, and don’t bother with the useless ones that come with the machines. Tip for teachers: I used to set up the machines to have everything ready for class, but discovered that setting up the machines, and puzzling out which way to clamp them to a table was a very useful experience for people new to claying. I LOVE your website. Thanks so much, Susan
Thank you for such a comprehensive review! I have an old, yellow-handled Atlas, a Makins and the LC Elephant and have come to much the same conclusions.
I love the Teflon rollers on my Makins and have a motor for it. (I’d add it to your Hands-Free category.) I haven’t used the Atlas much because of black streaks on the clay and clay sticking. I haven’t Monafied it or bought a motor for it, though I think both are good ideas.
Here’s a plug: I offer a free tutorial on CraftArtEdu on how to partially disassemble the Atlas and Makins to clean them quickly and easily.
I like the ease of cleaning Elephant. I love that they listened to users and designed it that way. I like the metal fence to make narrower sheets. I like that it’s a solid, quality, precision tool that should last for years and years. It makes clay sheets that are FLAT—no ridges—and it makes much thicker sheets. There’s some difficulty with thinner sheets, stickier clays and other minor things, but there are workarounds. It’s a brand new, first edition. It was intentionally designed differently than pasta machines, so it has a little learning curve.
My husband has been working on making Elephant hands-free by rigging it up with an electric drill. You have to be careful with it going too fast. The wooden handle speed control he made works well. We tried adding a rheostat, but it wasn’t slow enough. I ordered a Foredom variable speed foot pedal and will see how it works.
Thanks for all your hard work, Ginger! It’s greatly appreciated!
It’s often been asked…how many knives do you have in your kitchen? More than one, I dare say. And each has a specific task to do. So why not have more than one conditioning machine for clay? I hesitate to call them pasta machines anymore. As our selections and choices of tools grows, so can our vocabulary. Thanks for such a diligent comparison and for being so objective, Ginger. Awesome job.
Unfortunately, what terms I have to use when writing articles often has more to do with what people are searching than what I would, personally, say. If I didn’t use the words “pasta machine”, then google searches would never find this post.
I was really chuffed when you announced that you were going to do this survey of the various polymer clay machines on the market. Thanks so much for this series!
I have two thoughts further to the points you mentioned above.
I inquired a couple of years ago about having my Atlas “monafied”, but the response was that doing this from Europe would be highly expensive, quite time-consuming and very cumbersome in the logistics – I came away with the feeling that this service was really intended for North Americans only.
As a beginner, I find that learning to take apart and reassemble a pasta machine, in order to have reliably clean clay, is an obstacle to settling down and trying out different techniques (and potentially becoming an addict :)). While I dislike the high price, I finally decided that the LC Elephant – a tool, with a high “cleanability” factor – would be a valuable support on the learning path. Not a solution for most, I realize, but perhaps a thought for some readers.
That’s interesting Natalie, thanks for commenting. I suspect that the problem with modifying the machine is that it IS cumbersome to deal with US international postage rates. They have gone up so far now that the postage for a package of that size would cost almost as much as a pasta machine itself would. I know that many US vendors have stopped shipping overseas at all because customers are (understandably) shocked at the rate quoted and sadly assume they’re being scammed.
And there would additionally be customs issues to be dealt with on both sides.
Thank you for all the work and effort you put into this series of articles Ginger. I especially love the types of clayers you have listed here! I so fall into the addicted category. I’m most definitely getting my Atlas “monafied” and I will be getting my SHARK tool soon. I’m still debating between the Atlas 180 and the Lucy Elephant. I really like the range of things I can do with the Elephant, but I have an Atlas motor already that would work with a new 180. And I like using the motor when I’m making a bunch of Skinner blends. Decisions, decisions…
Speaking of motors, I realize this might not be an issue for most people, but I think it might be worth noting that the Atlas and Dream machine motors are LOUD! Not sure how the Makins compares, but for folks claying at night where noise is an issue, the Atlas motor is not an option. I heard the Dream machine motor at a workshop once, and it sounded like an engine was dying!
I remember you saying that about the Dream Machine motor. When I’ve heard them, I had the opposite observation…that they were rather quiet by comparison. Yes, the Atlas motor is a noisy beast! And I didn’t mention about vintage Atlas machines like yours, too. Totally a keeper!
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