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.