Extruders allow you to squeeze a dough or clay through a shape, creating a log in a specific shape. There are several extruders marketed to polymer clay users, including ones by Makins, Walnut Hollow, Fimo, and Sculpey or Kemper. Newest on the market is an excellent extruder by Lucy Clay Tools from the Czech Republic. Their polymer clay extruder is called the Czextruder. Here’s my updated Czextruder review. (You may remember that I wrote about this before here and here, but they’ve updated item so significantly that I thought a fresh article was in order.)
The Czextruder Review (HD 2018 version)
As you can see in the above picture, the most current version of the Czextruder HD includes a tube, endcap, a “plug” with O-rings, the screw rod assembly (with top cap), a crank handle, a drill adapter and a “visual helper” (explained below). You’ll also get a cleaning brush, a small tin of lubricant, and a little wrench that you’ll need to attach the handle or drill adapter.
The metal parts of the extruder are zinc coated steel, with no rough edges. The screw rod is black steel. The parts are not fragile, and I can’t imagine how you could break them with normal use. They will rust, though, so treat them with the same care you give all your tools.
If you have the earliest version of the Czextruder (non HD), you can upgrade to this HD version with the robust rod by getting this update kit.
How to Extrude with the Czextruder
To use the Czextruder, you insert the “plug” into the tube. The plug, for lack of a better name, is a hard white piece of plastic with two O-rings. The end of the screw rod doesn’t contact the clay, instead, the rod pushes against the plug, rotating on the plug. This allows the screw rod to turn with little resistance and the clay itself doesn’t turn inside the cylinder. After you push the plug into the tube, you then add your clay to the cylinder. Then choose your disk and put it in the end cap. Now insert the screw rod into the other end and screw down the cap. When you crank the handle, the excess air will be pushed out, and the clay will start extruding through the shaped disk.
Using a Drill with the Czextruder
The Czextruder includes a special adapter that lets you use a drill. You just remove the crank handle (it screws onto the end of the screw rod) and screw on the adapter instead. The adapter fits perfectly into the chuck of a drill (it doesn’t have to be cordless, but it’s sooo much more versatile if it is). This means you can extrude with the power of the drill and save the wear and tear on your hands.
You can use any drill, preferably cordless and it really should be variable speed. The drill pictured here was bought specifically for using my Czextruder and LC Machine, but we also used it to build my deck. Here’s an example of a drill that would work nicely.
I find that cranking the Czextruder isn’t so hard, but holding onto the smooth tube is. The tube rotates with the drill, but you have to hold it still to extrude. So that takes some strength. I found that wearing a glove with rubber grippers on it helped immensely. But a far better solution is to put the tube into a vise. You can use any vise (being careful to cushion and not crush the Czextruder), but Lucy Tools does have some solutions to help with this.
The Czextruder LC Base
(Note: As of Feb 2019, I noticed that they’ve changed their products again and they’re not selling the LC Base any longer. Instead, you can buy the holders without the board. It’s called the LC Vise system, and the two clamps have magnets and attach directly to your work surface without a base board.)
The LC Base is a piece of “di-bond” aluminum/plastic sandwich board with holders (the company calls them a “vise” system) that let you screw the Czextruder into it during use, allowing the extruder to be held steady. Previous versions of the LC Base were much larger and needed to be clamped to the table with your clamp. But the new 2018 version of the LC Base has the wonderful “magnetic click system” that you might be familiar with from the excellent LC Machine clay roller series.
The new LC Base has four powerful magnetic pads on the underside. This allows you to stick it to unobtrusive metal plates that you leave on your work surface. This means you can put the LC Base away when you’re done and it doesn’t take up space. And installation is as simple as setting the base down. Easy peasy. It comes with four metal pads, but I found you only need two. You attach the pads to the table with the included double-sided foam tape. Because of this, you’ll won’t want to put this onto delicate wood or a painted surface. My laminate covered bench is just fine.
If you are using a drill to extrude, you can orient the LC Base parallel to the edge. It doesn’t have to be right at the edge, by the way. You could place this toward the back of your table as well, allowing the drill to be supported. Using the LC Base means you can run the drill with one hand and attend to the emerging clay with the other.
But if you will extrude using the crank handle, you’ll want to orient the LC Base perpendicular to the table’s edge so you can crank the handle. See what I mean here? When you’re done, lift and tilt the LC Base to remove it from the metal pads. It’s an elegant solution.
Convert Your Existing LC Tile
The LC Base is new. But previous models, called the LC Tile, held the Czextruder but had to be clamped to the tabletop. You can convert your LC Tile to use the magnetic click system by ordering this conversion kit. It looks to me that you’d need to drill holes at the corners, but you probably already have a drill, making this an easy fix.
LC Machine Squirrel
The LC Machine is a polymer clay roller machine by Lucy Clay Tools. The Squirrel version is an LC Machine roller with an integrated holder for the Czextruder. It’s like an LC Base and clay roller in one. If you have a Squirrel machine, you just screw the Czextruder into the holders and attach a drill to the other end. You can lay the drill on the table. This allows you to extrude toward yourself. If you do a lot of extruding, this might be a good solution for you.
I do, however, find it to be sort of a pain in the neck to unscrew the tube from the holder every time you load the tube or change the disks. The threading of the holder can be a bit stiff when new. Make sure to lubricate it to make it easier. (See below for more info on the lubricant.) I also don’t like the way it knocks my knuckles when you turn the tube to unscrew it.
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Lucy Tools has received criticism in the past because the first version of the Czextruder wasn’t robust enough and the threaded rod would easily cross-thread, stripping it. The company quickly came out with a new Czextruder HD that uses a thick, black screw rod you see in the photos in this post. While this new version solved the stripping problems, one annoying issue remained. If you extrude all the way, expelling all the clay, you will jam the top nut into the top cap of the extruder. That can jam everything together, making it difficult to remove the cap and empty the extruder. The problems are prevented by just not extruding that far.
In early 2019, the company again changed this extruder a bit by adding a small hole in the cap. Just ignore it. But if you ever do get a jammed cap, the hole allows you to stick something in there to help unscrew the cap without slipping.
To remind people to stop extruding, Lucy Tools has produced a “visual helper” that attaches to the top of the screw rod. This is just a reminder, not a stop. You can still extrude too far, especially if you are using a fast drill speed. You still need to pay attention.
How to Get a Visual Helper
You can get the visual helper (it’s only a dollar or so) from the Lucy Clay Tools website. But be aware that shipping is costly as they send everything by DHL Express. So you will want to wait until you’re ordering something else to get the visual helper. In the meantime, just don’t extrude all the way!
You don’t NEED the visual helper, btw. It doesn’t actually do anything. It’s just visual. You could just as easily use a strip of red tape if you need a reminder to not extrude all the way.
Cleaning the Czextruder
After you extrude all the clay from the Czextruder, you just unscrew both end caps, flip the tube around (end to end) and put clay in the other end, reassemble, and keep going. Yes, you heard that right. You don’t need to clean the tube between each batch of clay. Especially if you’re working with a scrap clay technique, a little cross-contamination won’t hurt a thing.
The Czextruder is very easy to clean. Just unscrew the caps on both ends. The screw-rod end, since it never touched the clay, won’t need cleaning. The little plug with the O-rings and the design disk will have some clay on them, but you can just wipe that off with a baby wipe. (Don’t use a craft knife!) The tube will have a very fine layer of clay on the walls. This is removed brilliantly with just a few strokes of the brush. But hold it over a trash can while you do it, as little specks of clay will fly everywhere.
Using the Lubricant
Included with the Czextruder is a little tin of clear lubricant. This is not petroleum jelly! Use a thin coating of this lubricant to keep the O-rings supple and easy to clean. The instructions do recommend that you use the lubricant sparingly on all threaded parts to keep them smooth-running. (It just needs a dab, then run the cap up and down the threaded rod a few times to spread it around.)
The LC Disks
The Czextruder doesn’t come with any disks (dies). But there are 11 design sets available. (Set 14 is the most recent release. Sets 9, 12 and 13 were compilation sets.) The LC Disks are stamped out of painted metal. The round disks (sets 1-10) have nine design disks per disk, and the square ones have 13 designs. You will need to remove the small design disks from the disk before you can use it. There will be two little “nubs” on each side that need to be removed. Just use an old pair of nail clippers to nip them off.
One of the coolest things about these design disks is that some of them are designed to work with each other to form multiple parts. So in the red disk, you have a die shaped like a heart, and you have a die shaped like what’s around a heart. Just extrude a heart and two “surrounds” to get a square heart cane.
Storing LC Disks
Although these little design disks are steel, they don’t stick to magnets well. When I wrote my first Czextruder review back in 2015, I found these inexpensive coin storage books for storing extruder disks. It’s since been shared all over the clay world as a great storage option. These coin books are made of vinyl, with vinyl pages. Each little pocket has a tiny flap to hold the die in the pocket, so they don’t fall out. It’s a great way to see what you have and find the right disk. Each book is about 4″ x 6″ (11 x 15 cm), so they’re small enough to fit into the box in which you keep your Czextruder.
Other Extruder Disks and Dies
The LC Disk dies are a standard 5/8″ diameter and therefore work beautifully in many different brands of extruder such as Makins and Walnut Hollow. And that also means that you can use other commercially available extruder dies with the Czextruder. If you’re upgrading from one of the other extruders to a Czextruder, rest assured that your disks aren’t going to sit idle. You’ll still be able to use them.
I was thrilled to find that yes, my Makins extruder dies work just fine in the Czextruder. And that means, of course, that the LC Disk dies will work in your Makins extruder too! Yes, if you’re dying to have the design disks but don’t want to splurge for the Czextruder, you can purchase the disks only.
There are more extruder dies on the market, too. Cynthia Tinapple has two sets of quite complex designs. The designs are particularly unique and work well to create the complex ethnic style designs that Cynthia has favored.
Quilted in Clay
Jennifer Patterson has a line of jewelry based on quilt designs called Quilted in Clay. And she sells the extruder disks that create the specific angles and shapes that she uses in creating these quilt canes. You can find them in her Etsy shop as well as a tutorial explaining the process.
Hollow Core Extruder Dies
These deserve a separate post, but for now, know that you can extrude ANY shape with a hole in the middle of it. Yes, you can extrude polymer clay tubes. To do this, you need these core adapters by Makins. I took one look at these and wondered where they’ve been all my life. Seriously.
Tips for using the Czextruder
- Get a 1/2″ wooden dowel that’s longer than your extruder tube. You’ll need this to push the “plug” to the right location inside the tube. If you leave too much air between the plug and the clay, this will be expelled during extruding and cause an interruption in the design. Your favorite six year old will giggle about intestinal gas analogies.
- A Czextruder XXL will hold about 3/4 of a block of clay.
- You can use two extruder dies to get an even more specialized effect. Use one shape to partially block another one, allowing you to extrude part of a design.
- Use nail clippers to remove the little spurs on the sides of the dies.
- You need a variable speed drill with a reverse feature to use the drill attachment. Don’t drill too fast and slow way down at the end, so you don’t jam the lock nut into the cap.
- Baby wipes are great for cleaning clay from the extruder parts.
- The extruder is pretty useless without the little plug with O-rings, so make sure you keep it in a safe place. Replacements can be purchased, but who needs the hassle?
- Clean your O-rings and lube them before storing your extruder. Take care of them; they’ll last much longer. Also, remember to lube your screw rod.
Where to Buy a Czextruder?
If you’re in the US, you can buy the Czextruder from Amazon, or you can order directly from the US version of the Lucy Clay Tools website. If you’re in Europe, order from the European version of the Lucy Clay Tools website. I believe you might be able to order from Amazon in your region, as well. It’s worth a look. If you’re in Canada, look at the Etsy shop of VanIsland Jewels. If you’re in Australia, the best choice is to order from 2Wards Polymer Clay. They carry a full line of Lucy Clay Tools products, and they’re a great supplier for other claying needs as well.
Is the Czextruder the Best Extruder?
If you’re new to extruding, I suggest you start with a Makins extruder. It works perfectly well, and you will be pleased with it for limited use. It won’t hold up to heavy use, though. The Walnut Hollow extruder is also inexpensive but can be hard to use. But if you break extruders easily or do a lot of extruding, I think the Czextruder is the best option. It’s a wonderfully made, sturdy, durable, and functional tool that I’m glad to have in my studio. It’s also quite a bit larger than the other models. If you need a durable extruder, the Czextruder is worth every penny. If you’re in the market for a new extruder, don’t even hesitate. Get this.
Czextruder Pros: Extremely durable, large capacity, can use a drill or crank, easy to clean, replacement parts available, optional magnetic clamping system.
Czextruder Cons: Expensive (but worth it), design disks are an additional cost, can get jammed if you’re not careful.
Disclaimer: Lucy Clay Tools provided the Czextruder, LC Disks, and the LC Machine featured in this review. But I’d still feel the same way about it regardless. Also, the links to Amazon in this review are affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage if you order through them. But as always, please order wherever it makes the best sense for where you live.