Cheap Pasta Machines for Polymer Clay – A Review

Learn how the craft clay machines differ from cheap pasta machines in this review.To condition, mix colors, and make sheets with polymer clay, it is immensely helpful to use a machine, such as a pasta machine. But commercial brand-name pasta machines can be expensive. Luckily, there are several brands of cheap pasta machine clones that are marketed to polymer clay artists and sold through craft stores. But are these cheap pasta machines for polymer clay any good? Are they a waste of money?

This is the second of a series of articles that I’ve written about the various pasta machines, clay conditioning machines, and clay roller machines that polymer clayers use. You can find those articles here:

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

About My Observations

I am just one person, and I’ve only worked with one unit of each of these brands. If quality control is inconsistent for a given brand, there will be great variability in the quality of one machine to the next. In that case, my results would surely contrast with what other individuals have experienced. I will do my best to share anecdotal evidence that I’ve gleaned from readers, in addition to what I have seen myself. But in the end, I can only report what I see and experience. I do know that for every person who loves a given product, another will hate it. This is true for everything! So keep this in mind as you read my pasta machine reviews over the coming weeks.

Cheap Pasta Machines

I’ll refer to these as cheap pasta machines because most of us do refer to them as pasta machines. However, these specific machines are not marketed as such. Today I am discussing the Sculpey Clay Conditioning Machine, the Amaco Craft Clay Machine, and the Makin’s Professional Ultimate Clay Machine. These machines are all typically available at craft stores and wherever polymer clay supplies are sold.

Other Cheap Pasta Machines

As with most useful products, there are a ton of cheap imitation pasta machines available on discount websites. Imported from China and made very cheaply, these pasta machines can be bought for very low prices with questionable quality. The number of these inexpensive generic machines is staggering, and reviewing them would be impractical if not impossible.

What They All Have in Common

All of these cheap pasta machines, both the no-name ones from China and these branded craft clay machines, have certain characteristics in common. All have parallel rollers that are adjusted with a knob on the left side of the machine. As you turn the dial, the rollers get closer together, allowing you to roll thinner sheets of pasta or polymer clay. They all turn with a crank handle that fits into a hole on the right side of the machine. And they all have a clamp that fits into another hole on the right side, near the bottom. This clamp is designed to allow you to clamp the pasta machine onto the edge of your work table. These types of machines do need to be clamped to a sturdy table for use. None of the machines in this class have removable blades, so they all suffer from “pasta machine poop”.

All of these machines have a slot behind the rollers, one on each side, that allows you to attach dough cutters (purchased separately). These are used to cut fettuccine from sheets of pasta. We don’t typically use these cutters with polymer clay, however. These slots can also be used to hold a flat metal sheet, called a sheet feeder, that allows you to easily feed sheets of clay into the machine. All these machines do have variation in the gap (sheet thickness) from the left to the right side of the rollers, at all settings, but none were more than a few thousandths of an inch.

Sculpey Clay Conditioning Machine

Read a review of the Sculpey Clay Conditioning Machine, one of the cheap pasta machines we use with polymer clay.Features

The Sculpey Clay Conditioning Machine is a pasta machine clone made in China and distributed by Polyform, the maker of the line of Sculpey clays. Its stainless steel rollers are about 5 1/2″ (140mm) wide. The supplied clamp can attach to tables up to 1 7/8″ (47mm) thick. The clearance under the Sculpey Clay Machine’s rollers is 2 1/4″ (57mm), which means your hands do hit the bottom of the machine as you grab the emerging sheet. The Sculpey machine’s blades are made from metal with a plastic edge and are not removable for cleaning.

The adjustment knob’s settings go from #1 to #9, with #1 being the thickest at 0.077″ (1.96mm) and #9 being the thinnest at 0.013″ (0.330mm). The knob’s numbers are pressed into the metal, quite faintly, and are hard to read. There is a faint indicator mark on the machine’s body that helps you know which setting you have selected. However, on my machine it is off by one, and the #1 setting is actually in the clear space before the numbers begin. The crank handle does fall out of the side of the machine with use, but I will say that it’s better than other brands. The socket, or hole, is deeper than other brands. The side of the machine only has a hole for a handle; there are no holes into which you can install a motor.

Performance

I found the overall build quality of this machine to be fairly poor (but not the poorest). The edges are sharp, and I was continually catching clay on the top edge of the fender as I fed clay into the machine. There is a distinct grating sound as you turn the handle.

In the beginning, this machine performed well. I was actually quite impressed! Clay rolled through smoothly and I didn’t have any trouble making thin sheets, even with #9, which is the thinnest setting. But somehow things have changed. Now when I run a sheet of clay through the machine at any setting thinner than #4, the sheet chatters badly. These fine accordion folds make it impossible to use this machine effectively. I have examined the blades and mechanism, and I can’t see what’s wrong with it.

My Opinion

I had high hopes for this machine to be a good inexpensive option for the occasional clayer or newbie. It’s cheap enough that you can replace it easily if it breaks. But the fact that I can’t get a flat sheet anymore after a mere month of use is a deal breaker for me. Maybe I got a bad machine and this is not typical, I don’t know. It would get you by in a pinch, but I’m wary this could be an indication of a more widespread problem.

Amaco Craft Clay Machine

Read a review of the Amaco Clay Machine, one of the cheap pasta machines we use with polymer clay.Features

This cheap pasta machine clone was made in China and is distributed by Amaco. The Amaco Craft Clay Machine has steel rollers that are 5 1/2″ (140mm) across. The clamp, which has sharp plastic edges, can only fit on tables 1 5/8″ (41mm) or less. I couldn’t fit it on my countertop work surface and had to use a clamp instead. The clearance under the rollers was only 2 1/8″ (54mm), which did feel quite close. The Amaco machine’s blades are made from a galvanized steel, quite cheap in appearance, and are clipped into place with spring-action wires. The blades sit tightly against the rollers and create a terrible grating sound when you turn the handle. The underside of the machine had metal dust particles where either the blade or roller is wearing down.

The adjustment knob is reverse from most brands of pasta machine. The settings go from #1 to #9, with #1 being the thinnest at 0.038″ (0.965mm) and #9 being the thickest at 0.101″ (2.57mm). The numbers on the knob are pressed into the metal and have no coloring or paint to make them more visible. There is no indicator on the machine, so it’s really pretty impossible to be sure what setting you have it on. You could make your own mark with a Sharpie, however. The handle fit very loosely into the socket and fell out constantly.  You cannot use a motor.

Performance

The build quality of this clay machine is very poor. All the metal is sharp and it just plain feels cheap. The rough blades scrape the face of the sheet of clay at all settings, leaving drag marks. But I do have to say that it did make good sheets for me. I get no chattering with this machine and even the thinnest setting gives a flat sheet. However, note that the thinnest setting on this machine isn’t really all that thin. The thinnest sheet on the Amaco is three times the thickness of the thinnest sheet on the Sculpey machine.

Readers report that this machine is sometimes broken when they buy it. I have a feeling that craft stores will just re-shelve broken machines when they are returned, and that means the stock in a store might be full of used, broken machines. Based on the poor quality, I expect this machine would not be terribly durable. But the one that I have, which not terribly pleasant to use, does work fairly well for most things.

My Opinion

Although the Sculpey machine is a nicer machine, the Amaco performed better for me. If you use a coupon to get this at 40-50% off, or if you’re in a claying emergency and you need to buy a pasta machine immediately, I can see where this machine might have a good place. Do inspect inside the box first, and make sure it’s not a used machine. This might also be good if you need to have several machines for students to use. But I can’t see where this would be a wise investment for creating a quality claying tool kit. The Makin’s (below) is exponentially better for not a whole lot more money.

Makin’s Professional Ultimate Clay Machine

Read a review of the Makins Clay Machine, one of the cheap pasta machines we use with polymer clay.Features

Just as with the other two craft store pasta machine options, the Makin’s Professional Ultimate Clay Machine is also made in China. But this one isn’t identical to the no-name imports. The Makin’s Clay Machine has teflon-coated non-stick rollers that are 6 7/8″ (175mm) wide. The clamp and handle have lovely green plastic on them (not that icky yellow). The clamp fits a 1 3/4″ (44.5mm) table. The handle does occasionally fall out with use. The clearance under the rollers is 2 3/8″ (60mm). I was surprised to find that the blades are metal reinforced black plastic, which makes sense as metal would scratch the roller coating. The blades cannot be removed for cleaning.

The adjustment knob’s numbers are a bit hard to read, but legible, and are pressed into the metal. Unlike the others I’m reviewing today, the Makin’s machine does have an indicator so you can easily see what your thickness setting is. The settings go from #1 to #9. The thickest setting, #1, is at 0.1″ (2.5mm) and the thinnest, #9, is at 0.021 (0.53mm).

The Makin’s machine does have extra holes to attach a motor. The motor, available separately, has a green housing and is substantially less noisy than the Marcato Pasta Drive (the motor for the Atlas machine). The Pasta Drive motor does not fit onto the Makin’s machine, however.

Performance

The build quality of the Makin’s Clay Machine is not like that of the cheap pasta machines. It isn’t quite as nice as an Atlas, but it doesn’t have sharp edges and a cheap feel. It easily handled clay of all types on all thicknesses. I saw no substantial rippling, no chattering, streaking, scratching, or black streaks. There was clay debris (the infamous “pasta machine poop”), but that is true for any machine where you cannot remove the blades for cleaning. This machine, however, had a terrible squeak – no, more like a screech – that would wake the dead and even my teenager on chore day. I did not take the machine apart to see if it could be oiled. It functions beautifully, but that screech is awful.

My Opinion

This is a solid, all around, good option that is a step above the cheap pasta machines and polymer clay machines on the market. I love that the non-stick rollers don’t attract clay and the sheets are ripple-free. This can often be purchased with a coupon (that’s how I got mine), so your investment isn’t huge. I don’t know if the screech is a deal-breaker because it might be just this machine. Does anyone else have an issue with it? In short, I like this machine, and I think it would be your best bet of these three.

Up Next

Next I’ll review the Atlas pasta machines, talk about the difference between the 150 and the 180, and how the Wellness differs from earlier models. I’ll talk about the modified Atlas and discuss its merits.

Credits: Thanks to Polyform for supplying the Sculpey Clay Conditioning Machine for this review.

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31 thoughts on “Cheap Pasta Machines for Polymer Clay – A Review”

  1. I wish this set of articles were around a couple years ago, but alas we have them now! Thank you!
    I bought a Sculpy conditioner for my first machine, and like you it started out great, however shortly thereafter things went all wrong and I couldn’t get a useable piece of clay. I did write the corporate office, explained my experience and concerns and without question or even replying to my letter, sent me another machine! I was delighted and thought I was good now. Unfortunately, the same thing happened. So I asked a couple clayers who are well known in the industry, received a little advice and decided that I would try and find an older model Atlas.
    Talk about a major difference. It was smooth. I could get thinner sheets. And yes I get streaks no matter how much I clean it. I recently bought an inexpensive motor for it. It doesn’t fit ideally, I’m going to have to build something to make it solid. But I can do it.
    I’m anxiously awaiting your continued articles on the subject. Because at some point I would like to get a wider and deeper machine. So which one will it be?

  2. I got an Amaco once, and it was scratched inside and the squeal from using it was insane!
    The handle kept falling out, and when I tried to change the size, it would ‘stick’ – so this is probably HUGE evidence of “they put broken machines back on the shelves”

    So I took it back to exchange.
    This time I looked in the box, inspected the rollers, used it as best I could at the store.
    Took it home and within a week of daily, easy use (I have a NeverKnead so I use that for conditioning), it was squealing, the rollers were angling from | | to \ / no matter what thickness I put it on, and then the knob refused to go back to a ‘resting’ position when I changed the thickness. I couldn’t find the receipt to return it, and now I cant even give the thing away.
    In short. I hates it. lol

  3. Christl Pelikan

    As always, Ginger, an excellent article, thank you so much! As I had mentioned on Facebook, I have my Atlas 180 deluxe model, made in Italy, for at least 14 or even 15 years, never took it apart, never gave it a real good cleaning, just wipe the blades with paper towels or baby wipes. I do use it a lot and never ever had a problem of any kind. I did have to replace the electric motor once in 14 years. I also own a Makins which screeches so badly I put it back into the box and threw it into a closet. same with the Makins electric motor, it was so loud, it scared me to run it, I thought it would blow up! I have an Atlas 150 which I am not happy with, because between number 4 and 5 there is such a huge difference, it practically tears the sheet of clay, I hardly ever make it to 6 or 7. I am curious to read about the professional Pasta machines or machines designed particularly for Polymer Clay. Keep up the good work, Ginger, you are very, very much appreciated!

  4. I first bought the Sculpey and it put ripples and lines at all settings. I am disabled and knew that having a motor would allow me to spend more time creating without pain. I recently purchased the Makins with the motor. I love it! Perfect sheets, no ripples,no lines and so far no screeching. The motor is loud but it isn’t headache loud. My dream is to win the lottery and purchase the new Lucy machine. It is just way way above what I can afford.

  5. Lots of fantastic information that everyone has shared here. Thank you SO much for contributing your experiences and observations. I’m glad to know they weren’t too far from what I observed. New readers will surely learn so much more by reading the comments…what a great resource you guys are!

  6. Ginger, thanks for wading into this deep pool. I think you provide honest and objective information, as exhibited by this first article on conditioning machines.

    I am surprised more information wasn’t given about the difference from one side of a machine to the other. I have observed people in classes (using a variety of different machines) and the variation from one side of the machine is pretty dramatic. You see it in the resulting clay being sheeted – it has long sides or tongues, even when it’s not being pulled. I would love for you to address this issue in your articles on these machines. We know this occurs, and Jana Roberts Benzon advocates a tiny c-clamp on the side opposite the dial to increase the tension to help alleviate this issue. Hope that makes sense.

    Thanks again for your diligence in providing such great information!

    1. I did include that info, Joey. In these particular machines, the gap from right to left was no more than a few hundreths of an inch off. If you always put the sheet through in the same orientation, you will certainly get a longer “tongue” on one side, but that’s easily remedied by just flipping the sheet every other pass. This is an issue present with all pasta machines and I was planning on addressing it in another article as it is a serious limitation in other machines I’ll be reviewing.

  7. Thanks for your reviews, comments, and patience with wading through wads of clay. i’ve been teaching various polymer classes for some 20+ years, and presently own 10, including an early Dream Machine. I concur with everything you said. The Makin’s is not available in stores in the metro Washington DC area, and I was surprised to read that they’re still around. There were rumors that the whole company was going under not too long ago. There are still a lot of exceptionally horrible Sculpey machines around, identifiable because they’re usually very cheap (and no bargain at $12), and the box doesn’t mention the stainless steel rollers.

    I also strongly encourage students to take a trip to the hardware store to purchase any of the variety of “C” clamps. They are inexpensive, and can be adjusted to fit almost any table. I love your website!

  8. I had a cheapo machine I bought off Amazon when I first started with clay. Back then I really abused my machine and put huge chunks of clay through it and it soon developed nasty black streaks and got wonky. I got an Atlas machine after that and was/am very pleased with it. The only issue was that the model I had didn’t fit with the motor so I had to buy another one with the right configuration.
    I bought a Sculpey machine to take to a workshop because it seemed lighter and I wanted to try it out. I didn’t like it at all! The lighter weight made the machine feel a bit flimsy. And the fact that the settings numbers on the side of the machine didn’t match up to the knob position really annoyed me. I’ve chucked it in my loft and haven’t looked at it since.
    I hadn’t looked at the Amaco machine because it seemed too similar to my Atlas, AND I plan to get a Monafied Atlas 180 soon. But I’m super interested in the fact that the Amaco motor is quieter than the Atlas one. I live in an apartment and I’m sure me neighbors can hear my Atlas motor moaning and wheezing very clearly! So I don’t use it at night. If the Amaco motor is quieter, I’m definitely going to get that! I heard the Dream machine motor at a workshop and it was even more screechy than the Atlas!

  9. I like my makins, it works well. I did have a problem and the store would not exchange it. It looked like it had been damaged. I got in touch with Makin and they fixed it and were wonderful.

  10. Very good review to help beginners know what to look for (and hear) with that first machine! I will refer to your comments when teaching beginners.

  11. I just bought the Makin’s a few months ago to replace an over used Atlas. It doesn’t make an screeching noises. Good thing, too, because if it did, I would have to either get rid of it, or get rid of my cat, who doesn’t tolerate strange noises.

  12. Thanks for this, Ginger! I am putting the Makin’s machine on my Christmas list. I bought an Amaco machine when I first started playing with clay and used it until I joined my guild. Once I saw what other machines could do, the Amaco’s days were numbered. I now have a used Atlas, with a second sitting and waiting until my studio is set up. My problem is the handle. At this point, I have three machines and only one handle! And it’s broken!

    I’m really looking forward to your next review!

    1. As Ginger mentioned in the beginning of this article, reviewing the LC will be the fourth installment in this series of pasta machine reviews.

  13. Another great review for the benefit of the pc community. I’ve had my Makins machine since I first started working with clay over 10 years ago. It wasn’t subject to heavy use initially because I wasn’t doing much polymer clay work until a few years ago. It has never screeched at me (knock on wood that it doesn’t start now that I’ve written that) but the green plastic on the handle cracked earlier this year. Considering what I paid for it and how long I’ve been using it, it’s held up fairly well. But it might be time to get a new machine. I’m looking forward to the rest of this series.

    1. If you are not ready to get a new machine yet, try just replacing the handle. I replaced mine with an atlas handle and it works great. Just need to wrap the part that sticks into the machine with tape or something else to tighten up the grip.

  14. claire maunsell

    Since I appear to be the queen of cheap machines, I can testify that they work just fine if you clean them regularly with the fenders removed. My first was the Amaco which worked fine for me for 8 years, but I recently retired it because I was harder on it than any of my others because of being new to clay and careless with it..

    I now have a Makins (which I bought half price with a coupon) which I use for all my coloured clay. Recently I picked up a cheap pasta machine in a Toronto kitchen store for 26 (Canadian $ we’re talking here) to use exclusively for white clay. It’s main attraction (apart from the price) was that it included the fettuccine and spaghetti separate cutter/roller attachment which I have found wonderful to cut perfectly parallel strips from veneer sheets. Love this..
    ..
    Also, I got a great tip from Kathy Kephart Weinberg from the Detroit guild when I was teaching there. She repairs pasta machines that have been abused by people like me!

    If you impatiently ‘bung’ through vast wads of clay through your pasta machine, you may soon wreck it if you do it on the most open setting. If you do this on setting 2 or 3, your machine will stand up to the abuse much better because as the rollers get closer, the cogs inside are more engaged with each other. On setting one, the cogs are engaged just by the tips and are therefore much more prone to braking if you force lots of clay through. Of course, when she showed me one stripped down, it was like a light went on in my head!! Probably also explains the lines on clay sheets as you roll thinner and thinner sheets – the cogs on cheap machines are not precision made…

    1. Yes, my Makins has also developed that AWFUL screech. I actually took it “almost” all apart, and sprayed with silicone. It is a tiny bit better, but I could never bring it to my Guild meetings or use it at night!

  15. Good info. I’m not a ‘tester’ so I appreciate your efforts to inform us.

    I have had a Makins as my main machine for probably 3-4 years. I have never had a screeching noise at all. I did get the motor and have had that in use constantly for years also. That however has been a problem. The motor ‘hangs’ in the hole where the handle goes and the weight and constant rotations caused it to become loose from it’s fittings after about a year. My husband was able to tighten it. A couple months ago it suddenly came loose from it’s moorings and rotated like a top until I could shut it off. He’s a mechanical guy so he has disassembled it and it runs, but I haven’t tried to attach it to my machine and run clay thru it yet. There is a lot of strain on the machine with thick clay, so I’m not surprised this happened. It has been a reliable motor for several years that I have run a LOT of clay thru it. The problem with it is the design. Any motor that just hangs from a couple of holes with small pins isn’t good. there is too much weight and stress to keep it from moving while working. It should have a stand or holder to the side of the pasta machine that supports the weight and movement. Other than that I love my Makins and miss it greatly when traveling with my sculpy machine.

  16. I have been using the Sculpey machine daily for about 4 months and I have not had any chattering at all. I did not know about any other machines as this is my first one but I am more than happy with how little I paid for it on Amazon. I do also have the grating sound but mine isn’t loud or annoying, and I have been cleaning the “poop” out with a wooden skewer but plan on removing the fenders because I want to be able to clean it a little better. I love your idea about getting another cheap machine so I can separate my lights and darks just like my laundry! Thanks!

  17. I am on my fourth Makins and have used both Amaco and Sculpey. I like my Makins and have never had the screeching sound on any of them. I use a motor with mine and love it. I keep an Amaco on hand in case of emergency.
    I purchase mine at Munrocrafts.com when I need a new one. If you purchase $200.00 worth of stuff you get 50% off. So the Makins only costs around $35.00, which isn’t a bad deal. Then I get a bunch of clay and supplies as well!

  18. I have a Makins machine, and have been using it for several years. It worked well and smoothly for some time but the plastic ‘knob’ used for turning the clamp broke very early on and I have to use pliers to tighten and undo it. Gradually the screw threads are being damaged so I don’t know how long it will last. Also a screw came adrift inside so one ‘foot’ came off and the body isn’t held on to the base at one side so it moves about when I turn the handle. I can’t see a way to safely take it apart so haven’t been able to do anything about this.
    I intend to replace it when I can afford to so will be interested to see what you recommend as a ‘best buy’.

    1. I had an Amaco but wasn’t very happy with it. It was my first machine and didn’t know much about them. I realized soon it was pretty cheaply made and didn’t meet my expectations. I bought a Makins and it’s doing good so far. I’m donated my Atlas to a Women’s Program I manage and will do the same with the Makins as I’m almost ready for an up-grade. I do get a screech but not that often. Thanks for the review, waiting for the next!

  19. I have the Makins machine and it seems to handle whatever I through at it…but as with yours it screeches like a banshee! I use a small rubber spatula that I shaped in a hot skillet, to clean out the “poop” and it seems to work very well. I have very little residue on my scrap “pooper scooper clay” after I use my little tool.

  20. I got the Amaco machine for about $10 with Michael’s discounts. It’s not consistent enough for finished work, but is fine on the widest setting for conditioning clay. I noted this in my Michael’s review. At that price you can’t go wrong.

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