Sharing a language

Pasta Machine

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Worldwide Pasta Machine Survey.  Now we can recommend labeling pasta machines with a thickness guide that will help set a shared standard.

After analyzing the survey results we have four key findings:

  1. As we suspected there are huge differences not just from one model to the next but also from machines of the same model.
  2. The Imperia has the smallest range (in one case just 1 mm – 2.1 mm!) and the Dream Machine has the largest range (.5 mm – 3.4 mm)
  3. The common range is between 1 mm and 2.5 mm.
  4. Absolute precision is not possible due to differences in the way each artist measured their clay and machine, the types and age of clay, the variations in thickness of playing cards and the shifting of the rollers over time.

Pasta Machine Thickness Guide

The survey results were used to create this simple chart that can be used as a more consistent way to talk about thickness regardless of the brand of the pasta machine or the number of settings.

Note that the actual thickness of playing cards does not necessarily equal the millimeter equivalent. The stacked cards will commonly be a bit thinner than the clay that comes out of the machine at the equivalent setting but should be within .25mm. This is due to the cards not filling the space precisely as well as expansion of the clay as it rests after being rolled through.

Not every project needs precision in measuring thickness, and not every artist wants to work with this degree of accuracy. But for those who do, establishing a standard will provide a guideline for teachers and writers to use when preparing instructions for students who would like to duplicate steps as closely as possible.

How to label your pasta machine

The instructions include a chart you can fill in and then cut out to tape to your pasta machine. It only takes about 15 minutes to measure and label your pasta machine. The more machines that are labeled, the more we can shift to sharing a common language about thickness.

Requesting feedback

We believe it’s important to include the worldwide polymer community in the process of developing this kind of standard. Please let us know your thoughts by continuing to comment here on PCD.

Next Guest Article: Some Recommendations for Teachers and Writers

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  • reply Alice Stroppel ,

    Thanks for your efforts, having a standard will be a big help to many if us.

    • reply Alice Stroppel ,

      many Of us. If I could just get my fingers to work on this ipad. 🙂

    • reply Anita Brandon ,

      Cynthia, Thank you and all involved in making this helpful survey happen. I think it will be very helpful in establishing a common PM language.

      • reply Carolyn Good ,

        This information is very useful. I noticed a huge difference in measurement from my Atlas and my DREAM machine and still like to use both so I can have a chart on each machine and get the same results in thickness this way. Thanks to everyone who put all this survey and info together.

        • reply Elizabeth Sperandio ,

          I I come from an academic fine arts background, and I am fascinated by the polymer communities worry over standards. (For instance the making of color chips and formulas baffles me). I once spent a winter mixing shades of white paint and a prominent painter suggested I just make paintings instead…lots of them…then I would learn to mix white paint, but more importantly learn how to make interesting/and or beautiful pictures. (I might add here that there are huge differences in pigment saturation between brands and lines of paints.)
          I personally think that the fantastic work made in the last 10 or so years is what elevates polymer to a significant craft form. But my perspective is different. In the fine arts the process is more emphasized than the craft, and in the fine crafts the craft leads the process. As a “newbie” and mostly an outsider right now…what I see are already existing standards in the craft that have been created by both the community as well as the inherent nature of the medium…( canework and the idea of gradated color (skinner blends) are just the first things that come to mind.)
          My inclination is to think that imposing more standards at this point is putting the cart before the horse. Maybe its time to engage fully in the process…it is so apparent that the craft is already there.

          • reply Sage Bray ,

            Thanks for your insight Elizabeth. I also come from an academic fine arts background so I know what you’re saying but there is a huge difference between the long established art forms and polymer. Other arts and crafts have standards that came about over hundreds or thousands of years and are so well established that there is no talk of standardization. If you use charcoal or pencil, there are hardness designations, in paints there are known viscosity ranges and numbers for brush sizes, and in ceramics you learn the cone firing standards–all terms that allow the processes to be discussed, recorded, and passed on without confusion. Our medium has been around for only a handful of decades and has very few standardized terms to communicate processes. Canework and Skinner blends aren’t standards, only techniques with a huge range of variation.
            Polymer will probably never have a lot of standards since like other clays its variables are too broad but if you want to duplicate what you have done (In 2D you sell multiples by duplicating electronically while craft must be recreated by hand.) you need a method of recording your work hence color chips, the use of rulers, and hopefully now, thickness terms. It is also difficult to share without a common language … and I do hope we can always be a community that shares.

          • reply lynn dunn ,

            Thank you so much for this. I think it will be of great help. If I might comment on the fine arts issue, I feel that like many “crafters”, I become easily discouraged when my work doesn’t approach that of the pros. I suppose if I painted, I would quit if I didn’t produce a masterpiece. The more information I have, the better I can produce–and critique–and enjoy this wonderful medium. I also wish more artists measured and labeled their items–it is sometimes difficult to appreciate the scope of the work, even as one appreciates the beauty….

            • reply Trina Williams ,

              I fully intended to do the measuring process but a nasty bout with bronchitis and a PC deadline got in the way. Besides I have taken off all the fenders on my machines and can’t remember which is which! Enough people did “do the math’ to make this a useful tool for all of us.

              • reply Priscilla ,

                Thanks to all who compiled the responses (or was it just you, Cynthia?). Even though I’ve never used precise measurements, one never knows when that might come in handy.

                I also appreciate the PC artists and crafters who are trying to establish some common terms, and perhaps at some point a common “curriculum” to help beginners develop basic skills. From there, any of us can go as far as our talents will take us in developing polymer art and craft.

                • reply Randee M Ketzel ,

                  I have been watching this process with much fascination–finally being back online with a reliable computer feels good again! I would love to see the reccomendations for teachers and writers–where might they be found?

                  • reply Shelley B. ,

                    It was a brilliant idea to use playing cards for this survey. I, too, am an outsider albeit admirer and wannabe. And I will probably look back at this comment when I really learn what I am doing with PC, but it seems to me that it may be easiest to coin “Card” or “Cards” as a new term for measuring the thickness of clay rather than trying to standardize machine settings. For example, if I were instructor, since my machine’s setting of 5 may fit only 4 cards through, while my student’s machine setting 5 fits 6 cards through, wouldn’t it be more precise for a teacher to use the term “5 cards of clay” rather than millimeters (which cannot easily be determined by the naked eye, or a specific setting on a pasta machine? The student would be able to determine which setting to use simply by fitting 5 cards through their machine, and using whatever setting that is for the project. What do you think of this idea?

                    • reply Sandra D. ,

                      Thanks you. for the information about thickness guide. fantastic idea.

                      Leave a comment



                      • I'm Cynthia Tinapple, an artist, curator, and leader in the polymer clay community for over 20 years.

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