Pasta Machines…

Sprouted Head ShrineI was reading an ad for a polymer clay how-to book  this evening-“the most expensive piece of equipment **** uses is a pasta machine,but you may substitute a rolling pin or a brayer.” Which, while true is somewhat akin to telling a chef- “If you don’t have a 10,000 BTU stove, you may substitute a can of Sterno.”  I consider a pasta machine to be an essential piece of equipment in a polymer clay artist’s studio.

As an artist/teacher who owns twelve Atlas Pasta Machines, including two 180’s and two beloved “field stripped” machines one over seventeen years old- and has witnessed many students have machine failures with the Chinese knock-off pasta princess- I recommend that you purchase an Atlas 150. (Yugo or Lamborghini?)  Many of my machines experience the ultimate test, nine year old boys at summer camp, who like to put eight in thick pieces of clay through the machine at the thinnest setting while screaming “oh, NO! Bill!) 

  • If you have a choice- for example: you are at a retail store and there are six machines on the shelf- set the machine rollers on six and then roll a heavy weight piece of typewriter bond paper through the rollers- if the paper crinkles on one edge (or gasp both edges) pass on that machine. Also check the metal gauge on the scraper bars- the thinner the metal the more easily damaged it is.
    Before rolling blocks of clay through the machine cut the clay with a knife to @ the thickness of the rollers. Loading and rolling your clay with the grain = the direction it exited the pug mill at the factory, indentation marks perpendicular to the rollers is also helpful. Try never to roll more than three thickness of sheeted clay through each of the settings- for example: three sheets of #1 at #1.The machine was designed for pasta and straining the rollers and/or you elbows doesn’t speed things up!
    The rollers should be in motion when you start rolling the clay through. Allow gravity to assist and let the clay roll through past the rollers before pulling it forward. One reason for excess “cupping” is uneven pulling on the clay as it exits the rollers, the tiny adjustment in your motions can also cut down drastically the amounts of clay caught on the scraper bars.
    Use caution when using clay body additives such as embossing powders, sands, gravel and or large glitters-OR metal texture sheets-  once the rollers are marred they will always leave undesirable imprints on your clay.
    Using two speed clamps or large carpenters C-clamps to affix your machine to the table will make it easier to use your machine and cut down on the wear and tear on the gears. The screws on the base should be tightened periodically.
    I recommend that you never take the machine apart to clean it- once the rollers are even slightly bent or misaligned the clay will build up on the scraper bars at an alarming rate. Stay away from metal tools when cleaning, use instead a bamboo skewer or something similar.

5 Responses to “Pasta Machines…”

  1. 1 Sooz November 16, 2007 at 3:59 pm

    Lindly –
    Thanks for posting this! I am forever preaching about the pasta machine rip-offs and telling people just because you have a 40% off coupon doesn’t mean it’s a good deal!
    I love my Atlas, and still kick myself for disassembling my Mercato….

  2. 2 Trina November 18, 2007 at 1:11 am

    When my students ask me about Pasta Machines I tell them to strive for an Atlas but the knockoffs are OK (and cheap)for getting started.
    I had one student who took her “new” machine out of the box to find it had a piece of wire caught between the roller and the blade and a bunch of what looked like parafin all over the rollers. Could have been trans clay. I told her to take it back soonest.

  3. 3 lindly November 18, 2007 at 1:56 am

    Good advice! As always save your receipt and if the box appears to open = look inside and make sure the machine is clean and intact.

    But, having seen many of the knock-off machines break within the first five minutes of a very pricey conference or workshop- I balk at the getting “started” notion= when the low guage metal under the rollers warps on the first pass through, the gears strip in the first ten minutes or the clay balls up into a contiguous mess…nothing was saved by buying an inferior piece of equipment. Even Frustration and remorse doesn’t beget a 40% off coupon.

  4. 4 Marcie November 21, 2007 at 10:45 pm

    9 year old boys, summer camp, clay and pasta machines, sounds like a hoot. I am pretty sure the new $19.00 amaco model would flee at top speed or end up a shriveling whining mess.

  5. 5 Cindy Matthews November 30, 2007 at 11:46 pm


    I enjoy your site – you are very generous with terrific information about claying and all things related. Thank you for that!

    Just have to offer this in response to the “buy the best” theory regarding pasta machines. I bought an Amaco almost 3 years ago as a beginner. I’ve used it hard, and it still works very well for me. I fully intended to get an Atlas (like the one in my kitchen!) eventually, and I still will when this one dies, but it has served me well.

    It does get gunked up from time to time, but it’s not all that difficult to clean, and since I have only just started to make money on clay, I never wanted to spend the money on a machine while this one still works. I’d rather buy more clay. Or a different tool. Or a book.

    So, I guess I’m not arguing with you so much as offering my viewpoint as a “small time” clayer whose had pretty good success with a cheapo machine. I doubt I’ll ever be able to attend a class of any kind (I’m disabled) but if ever I did, I have a hunch I’d have an Atlas before I attended one! 🙂

    Thanks again,


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Thanks for visiting my blog where you'll find my latest news, class details, and new tips and tricks. You'll find more information about my work at my website. Come back often.


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