The Atlas is not the only name-brand Italian pasta machine that works well with polymer clay. Another brand is Imperia. It’s sturdy, well-made, and has scraper blades that are very easy to clean. Here’s the fourth in my series of pasta machine and clay conditioning machine reviews.
- Pasta Machine Problems
- Cheap Pasta Machines (Makins, Amaco, and Sculpey)
- Atlas and the Modified Atlas
- Imperia (this article)
- The Dream Machine
- LC Machine
- Summary – What’s the Best Pasta Machine for Polymer Clay?
Imperia is a brand name, and like many brands, they do have several models of pasta machines. There is a machine (the Titania) with integrated cutters and there are larger, professional models of a very different design. But today I’m talking about the basic “Imperia Pasta Machine” that you’ll see available in many kitchen supply shops. I’ve seen this same machine advertised for prices ranging from $37 to $90, and it is often bundled with the motor for an even more expensive package deal. I purchased the one in this article for $37 from Amazon quite recently, but I see now that the price has gone up to $45.
Imperia Pasta Machine
The general design of the Imperia is similar to the Atlas (crank on the right, thickness dial on the left), but the details are quite different. This is not a clone of the Atlas. Like the Atlas, the Imperia is heavy-duty and well-made with no rough or sharp edges. It is also made in Italy. Unlike the Atlas Wellness, the Imperia doesn’t come in fancy colors and is a very nice, shiny chrome. The Imperia arrives packaged with the cutter and sheet feeder attachments and includes a wooden-handled crank and an all-metal C-clamp.
Underneath the rollers, there is no open space. Instead, you’ll find a wedge-shaped piece of chrome metal that diverts the emerging sheet toward the front of the machine. I found that this made it easier to clean up clay crumbles because they didn’t end up all over the table. The sturdy clamp allows you to attach this to tables up to 1 7/8″ thick.
The steel rollers of the Imperia pasta machine are 5 1/2″ (140 mm) long. They have a slightly brushed surface that does work to keep the clay sheets from sticking too much.
The crank handle fits into a hole on the side of the Imperia but unlike all other brands I’ve seen, the slot it fits into is plastic. There is a metal reinforcement, and I don’t think that it is going to strip out. But the presence of plastic here surprised me. And when I took the machine apart to see how it worked, I found that the gear mechanisms are also plastic. Now that doesn’t mean it’s weak, necessarily. There are plenty of strong plastics out there. But this is the one worry I do have about this machine.
Imperia Thickness Settings
The Imperia has a different type of thickness selection knob than other pasta machines. Instead of a knob that you pull out and turn, this one has a button (lever?) that you push while also turning the dial. Being used to the more usual design, this one was awkward for me at first. But it functions well. There are only six thickness settings and they are the inverse of the Atlas. #1 is the thinnest at 0.011″ (0.28 mm) and #6 is the thickest at 0.081″ (2.1 mm). The thickest setting isn’t as thick as I’d like in a clay roller, but the thinnest one is fine.
The numbers on the knob itself are on the end and therefore very difficult to read if you have the machine’s crank end on the edge of your table.
The thickest setting did show wide horizontal ridges on the emerging sheet (as do all pasta machines). But I didn’t really have much trouble sheeting thin and thick sheets with the Imperia. I didn’t get wide ripples or chattering like with the cheap craft machines.
Imperia’s Plastic Blades
Pasta machines use a blade to lift the clay sheet from the rollers and keep it from rolling round and round on them. The Imperia is unique its blades are plastic and also that the blades are easily removable. These blades are held in place with metal rods that you can slide out, allowing you to remove the blades, clean them, and replace them in mere minutes. Mirjam Bosch demonstrates this process beautifully in a video here. You do have to un-clamp the machine from the table to clean the blades, and it does need a screwdriver. But it’s straightforward and simple to do.
Accessories for the Imperia
The Imperia ships with a set of noodle cutters that attach to the slots on the back of the machine. These cutters are heavy! You would use them to cut the pasta sheets into strips of fettuccine or spaghetti. You can use these cutters with clay, but I don’t know how you’d ever clean them if your clay got stuck!
The Imperia also ships with a sheet feeder that fits onto the front of the machine. Instead of sliding into slots like on the Atlas, this sheet feeder sort of hooks over the fender in front of the rollers. Sheet feeders are handy to hold a sheet as you feed it into the machine, giving you a free hand to crank and one to catch the thinner sheet as it comes out.
My particular model of the Imperia didn’t ship with a motor, but some packages do. The motor allows you to use both hands to wrangle the clay and saves labor. Imperia pasta machines don’t have mounting holes around the crank hole to attach a motor like the Atlas, so you’d need to secure a motor by using a plastic clamp that fits into the C-clamp hole. You can see it fairly well in Mirjam’s video that I linked above.
While I was unable to test for durability, I did find this machine to be quite serviceable and it did a very good job. It’s a sturdy, well-made, and attractive machine. The all-metal clamp won’t break. The plastic blades are easily removed for cleaning, which is a huge plus for a pasta machine like this. If you don’t have access to an Atlas or if you received this machine as a gift, I think it would be perfectly fine and serve you well to condition, mix, and sheet polymer clay. The price, if found low enough, means that you get a good polymer machine for quite a bit cheaper than an Atlas. And because a motor is available you can always upgrade to one later.
My only concern with this machine is that the gears are, in fact, plastic. That might not matter if the plastic is strong. But it does concern me. I would avoid jamming large chunks of stiff clay into this machine.
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