Last formal report – comparing air-drying clays

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The Rough Squad

theinfill - trying air drying clays - Medieval, Tudor and Jacobean dolls' house

Bad wigs awaiting arms and legs (and possibly a few clothes?)

Table and bullets

Whilst this is an ongoing experiment for me, I’ve now reached a flow point in what I’m concentrating on and I’d like to flow a little more freely, so have decided to give as much of a report as I can at this time. I will follow on with images of what, if anything, I manage to make as I go along, with comments then on the materials used.

Please  note that these four air-drying clays were chosen at random from a largish selection out there, some of which are made by the same firms (so many that I keep getting the names confused of the products), some available in the UK, some not.

Four air-drying clays – what would I use them for?

—~—

Activity

DAS

Art Mache

Staedtler Fimo Air Natural

Creative Paperclay

Heads

Y

Y

Y

Y

Torso/Body

Y

Y

Y

Y

Hands

Fingers closed

Fingers closed

Fingers closed

Y

Legs

Y

Y

Y

Y

Details easy to see and work when wet

Y

Y

N
(too much fibre hiding detaildries smooth)

Y

Make holes in/carve when dry

Y
(crumbles at edges)

Y

Y

Y

Brick/Stone

 Y  Y
(if semi dry)
  Y
(if semi dry)
 Y

Faux wood and plaster carving

Y

Depending on depth

Y

Depending on depth

Larger items without armature

Y

N

Y

N

Friability when dry

High

Moderate

Least

Still finding out but seems stronger than
Art Mache

What am I thinking of using them for?

Plaster, plaques, small statues etc

Covering wire constructions – bigger than 1:12, plaster, small wood pieces

‘Wooden’ pillars, window shapes, larger wood items etc

Various – still experimenting

BIG PROVISOS

(including the fact that I’ve been using them such a short time and have little or no previous experience making something this small and detailed in a clay):

  • I’ve been doing this for only a few weeks and time and experience are major elements in the making of models, both in the patience of execution and development of the medium afterwards (also see note lower down re drying)
  • If you’re looking for a smooth finish, (wanting to show bits of torso, leg, arm etc) and know you’re not the most Zen minded with patience, then the DAS and the Creative Paperclay are your best bet for obtaining the smoothest looking finish when wet and therefore need less sanding when dry.
  • All of the clays (other than colouring) look similar to each other when dry – that is:
    • smoother overall than you imagined
    • rougher than you thought they were in places
    • shrunk by varying amounts according to clay and thickness used
    • showing joins you thought were totally smooth when wet; e.g. cheeks, chin, forehead, fingers, ankles
  • Wetting the dry surface in small areas and trying to re-smooth can help, but I’ve been unable to achieve a totally homogenous look on any of them at the joins with this method.
  • All the clays seem not so much still wet inside but softer for quite some considerable time after the advised drying times.
    • Not enough time has passed yet to know when they will, if ever, be the same throughout their thickness
  • I’ve found that all but the Art Mache can be made to look less porous and gain a smoother finish when dry by dipping in a very thin ‘milk’ made of itself and then very lightly brushed to remove any bits that may have clogged in the detailing and then left to dry once more.
    • BUT this has not covered any joins in the build if they are not already fairly well smoothed out before drying.
    • What about the Art Mache? The milk from this still shows porridge-like lumps after a couple of days sitting, so a milk from Creative Paperclay (same colour) may be the answer
  • Have tried painting on each without sealing first and have lost very little or any colour through absorption into the clay.  I can notice very little difference between one sealed first and one not
  • Sealing, however may fill in the ‘look’ of the odd annoying join and make the surface stronger(?)
  • Art Mache and Paperclay sand the easiest when dry
  • DAS edges crumble the easiest when dry (and when working it wet)
  • Staedtler Fimo Air Natural is the hardest surface when dry

Meanwhile, roll out the clay, I feel a pair of arms coming on!

 

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