Air-dry clay is a nice replacement for using a kiln at home, therefore preferable for artists wanting to enjoy the good integrity of the clay. Many might already know that this type of clay needs drying in the air before use.
It’s perfect for beginners who are just beginning clay projects or those of you who enjoy making clay pots. One problem with this clay is that if you don’t handle it properly when drying, the clay will crack.
This article will teach you some ways to help prevent the clay from cracking when drying.
Why Does Air Dry Clay Crack?
After the clay has been removed from the firing area, it can completely dry. Once clay becomes dry, even tiny cracks can become noticeable features in your piece.
- Cracks may appear when clay shrinks during drying due to poor air circulation or an insufficient thickness of clay on a flat surface
- Sometimes these cracking/shrinking problems are caused by clay inconsistencies. Other times, cracks appear since the clay simply dried too quickly and then cooled down unevenly (which always happens if you use fast-drying materials like a newspaper)
- Clay that dries slowly will crack less than thin pieces of clay fired in high-temperature kilns with minimal insulation material inside them. This issue would cause cracks in thin pieces since the clay contracts and then cools quickly
- If the clay is dried too quickly, it may fracture due to a lack of insulation material. Such a substance is used in high-temperature kilns with minimal amounts inside them, which causes pieces of clay to shrink
- Therefore, it is best if clay stays between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit during the drying process
- Excess water may contribute to the cracking issue as well. When clay is very wet, the water molecules push and pull at the clay particles, making them less likely to stick together securely
- If you don’t allow your clay to dry completely before firing it in a kiln, all of that moisture will turn into steam and can cause your pieces to explode!
How to Avoid Air Dry Clay From Cracking?
There are several ways to avoid clay from cracking when you’re working with it.
- Air-dry clay should never be dried in the oven or microwave. This method of drying can cause the clay to crack and crumble.
Instead, allow the clay to air dry slowly. You may want to place it in a warm, sunny spot or use a hairdryer to speed up the process.
- Another way to reduce the chances of cracking is to make sure your clay is fully moistened before you start working with it. If it starts drying out while you’re sculpting, you can soak it in a bowl of water for 15-20 minutes and then rehydrate it
- In addition, clay being left out too long may have already dried on the surface even though there is still moisture inside. Suppose you throw the clay away simply because of cracks or other damage on its outer layer. In that case, you might be throwing away perfectly usable clay underneath
Instead, take your clay back to square one by soaking it again until the inner side becomes pliable. Then start from scratch if necessary! It’s better than buying more clay since dry air clays tend to get expensive with larger quantities involved.
- Clay thickness impacts drying and leads to cracking in the finished product. If the clay is too thn, it can dry unevenly and crack. Thicker clay will take longer to dry but is less likely to experience cracking
- You should also avoid touching wet clay after handling moist clay or soil, as this can cause the clay to get too dry
How do you fix Cracked Air Dry Clay?
If the crack is small and fixable, you can use a toothpick or needle to apply clay. If the crack is pretty, you will need to use a spatula or spoon.
Tips to make sure to do this right:
- Be sure to smooth out the clay so that there are no bumps or lumps
- Allow the clay to dry completely before moving on to the next step. If you do not let it dry completely, it may crack again.
- Once it is fully dried, seal with Mod Podge for extra protection. Seal with paint if you would like added protection against damage from water or other liquids
Step-by-step instructions for repairing cracked air dry clay:
You should first determine size clay crack sization and depth. Then, you can choose your clay fixation method accordingly.
Next, continue to apply the clay to the desired surface. You should let it dry completely before sealing with Mod Podge for extra protection. If you do not let it dry completely, it may crack again.
Once it is fully dried, seal with paint for extra protection against damage from water or other liquids.
Follow the directions on either Mod Podge or hot glue gun as instructed by manufacturers.
Ensure not to apply too much pressure while doing so. If not, the clay will split further instead of fixing existing cracks/holes in clay from being pulled open during the process.
Let dry completely before reusing clay again.
If neither method works, choose an epoxy clay adhesive such as InstaMorph Epoxy Clay Filler. Apply in layers and allow curing time according to instructions on the back of the package or manufacture website depending on where you purchase a product for best results.
You can do several things to avoid cracking when working with air-dry clay. Ensure it is thoroughly moistened before starting a project. Also, take good care of the clay while sculpting to reduce moisture escapes from inside or outside its texture.
You may also want to rehydrate any clay that has already dried out on its surface. Do this even if the inner side still feels damp for safe-keeping purposes.
If all else fails, don’t give up hope just yet! The key thing about clay is that it’s reusable over and over again until no more use remains in it without having to buy new materials every time something goes wrong during the process.