How to Make Air Dry Clay Stronger
Air dry clay is a wonderful and versatile craft material that is both suitable for adults and kids. It’s easy to mold it, to personalize it, and as the name suggests it air dries, so you don’t need a kiln or oven to cure it. Perfect for at-home pottery!
However, it is also not as strong as the regular clay or ceramic creations, that are cured and glazed in a kiln.
Air drying clay is pretty fragile, so if you plan to make an everyday object that is used regularly, you should strengthen your clay craft to stand the test of time.
Picking the best type of clay, choosing durable shapes, molding and drying it properly, applying armatures, and finishing the project with a sealant will make your air dry clay craft stronger.
Now let’s dive into the details and best practices to make clay crafts strong and durable!
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CLAY CRAFT INSPIRATION:
1. Solid ShapeS Increase Durability
Solid shaped clay projects like circles, ovals, rectangles, squares, cylinders, cubes and others are less likely to break.
Clay crafts with delicate, thin, or protruding parts are more prone to breakage. However, you can balance it out by making the crafts thicker and using an armature.
2. Thicker Clay Crafts are Stronger
Really thin, flat air dry clay crafts are very fragile and break easily (for example, jewelry, flowers, etc.)
Roll out clay to a 1/6-1/8 inch thickness, and you won’t have to worry about breaking it. This works well for crafts like clay bowls, coaster, plates, trinkets, wall decor, etc.
For delicate and thin clay crafts use an armature or choose a more durable air hardening clay. Read through for my recommendations.
3. Add Minimal Water
Air modeling clay dries out pretty quickly especially if you handle it a lot. So, while modeling the clay, the more you touch it and shape it, the dryer it becomes. The moisture evaporates naturally, but your hands also soak up a bit.
You may wet your hands (it is recommended for best results), but don’t add an excessive amount of water to the clay to soften it up.
4. Choose The Best Clay Type for Your Craft
Epoxy air dry clay is the most durable among all types of air hardening clays. The result is so robust you can even drill holes in it. The epoxy putty is waterproof, crack-proof (because it won’t shrink while drying). It’s perfect for making all kinds of repairs like broken sculptures, decorations, or sticking together parts on a large sculpture (also called the ‘sculpting duck tape’).
If you are looking into doll making, you should use artist-grade clay, for example, ACTIVA La Doll Premier (many doll maker artists claim this clay to be the strongest). For more info on this read this article by KarenAScofield. I haven’t tried them personally.
You can also make your own cold porcelain clay, here is a video tutorial and recipe.
5. Apply Armatures
Using internal armatures is perfect to strengthen air dry clay sculptures. Another advantage of applying armatures is you will need less clay to make your item and also it will take less time for your crafts to dry completely.
What to use to create armatures:
- The wire is perfect to create the ‘skeleton’ of your crafts. It also strengthens thin and delicate parts like fingers.
- To create the body, or the basic shape of your clay craft, use tin foil or styrofoam shapes (see my air dry clay bird craft).
- For flat and relatively thin air dry clay projects you can also incorporate drywall repair tape to make the pieces more durable.
Check out this cool clay cat tutorial by Susie Benes. She used wire and tin foil to create the armature for the cat sculpture.
6. Minimize Cracks
Air drying clay shrinks while the water evaporates from the project. So, small to medium cracks may appear on the craft. They are annoying but normal. However, if your clay craft developed lots of cracks, it makes it weaker and prone to break.
What you can do to minimize cracks:
1. Slow down drying time.
Loosely cover your wet clay project with a plastic sheet or wrap and place it in a well-ventilated room in a warm spot.
Never try to speed up drying with a hairdryer, putting it out in the sun, or other ‘clever hacks’. It will make the clay crack or warp.
Be patient, it will pay off!
2. Rotate your craft.
This will help so every side can dry evenly. Just be careful if you have delicate details on your projects, for example, ears, tails on animals, small attached flowers on fairy houses, etc. They may easily break down.
3. Oven drying?
Some crafters suggest putting clay crafts in the oven.
They claim that it makes the craft dry more evenly. While the traditional way of drying clay, leaves some moisture in the clay and makes it fragile, oven baking makes all of the water evaporate, and the clay dries harder.
I’m not sure about it. I never tried it. I know that Crayola states, on its safety page, that you shouldn’t put their clay into the oven.
So, I may try an experiment with it in the future just for fun.
Learn from my mistakes! See how cracked my clay bunnies became? I applied air dry clay in a thin layer and tried to speed up drying. BAD IDEA! You can fix most cracks by pushing in wet clay, but I just removed the clay from the styrofoam armature and did it again with a thicker layer.
7. Apply Paint or Sealant
A coat of acrylic paint, sealant, varnish, or lacquer makes the air modeling clay craft stronger. You can apply several coats but make sure that the previous layer dried completely.
Before applying anything to your air modeling crafts, make sure that they are 100% dry. They may develop mold from within if they are still wet on the inside.
Conclusion about strengthening air dry clay craft
It’s so easy and lovely to work with air dry clay. I highly suggest trying it if you hadn’t tried it yet. You can make hundreds of amazing crafts with clay!
Applying these simple tips and hacks, you can make them durable and enjoy them for years. It is heartbreaking when you work with a craft for hours, and it breaks.
Have you ever made something gorgeous with air dry clay? Do you use any of these tips to strengthen clay? Leave a comment!
Related air dry clay articles:
- Can You Make Mugs ut of Air Hardening Clay?
- How to Color Air Dry Clay?
- Cool Air Modeling Clay Craft Kits for Adults