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Using Clay Cutters

How to get the crispest cut from your cutters.


Welcome to clay cutters 101. This page is going to give you all the knowledge you need to enhance your cutter game.


“Why do my cutters not work great?” - If this is the question you keep asking yourself then keep reading to find out the best cutter secrets to get a perfect cut, every time.


Why do I need to know how to properly use my cutters?


After hours of working on your gorgous clay pieces, the time has come to cut your shape.

But what if it goes wrong? What if my cutter isn't sharp enough? None of us can afford to re-do a project that we have invested time & love in.

I think we have all been there, hesitant to take that final step. But im here to show you that it doesnt have to be that way and you can get the best from your cutters EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.


So what do you need?


- Good quality cutters

- Knowledge


And thats it.

Okay, well maybe a few more things if you have them,


- A shiny, smooth tile

- Baking powder or Cornstarch

- Damp Sponge

- Fan Brush

- Piece of paper or Roller and Depth Guides



How to cut




Step 1 - Condition, condition, condition


Clay cuts best once it has been thoroughly conditioned. This can be done by warming up in your hands and rolling repeatly with a roller or pasta/clay machine.




Step 2 - Adherence


Have you noticed that when you use your cutter your clay will stick to the cutter and not to your surface? We need to make sure our clay is properly adhered to our surface before we cut. The best (most grippy) surface for your clay is a smooth shiny one, like a tile or piece of glass.


To secure your clay properly to the tile you have two options - first, you can put a clean sheet of plain paper over your clay and lightly smooth over with your fingers. This motion is called burnishing and will make sure your clay is pressed down fully to the tile.


The next option requires depth guides* and a roller.

Take your clay and roll directly onto the tile, using your depth guides to ensure you keep the clay at an even thickness. This is my preferred method as the clay will be perfectly uniform and secure. I use this method even after rolling through my pasta machine as the final step.


If you are planning to make a beautiful slab with 3d decoration, this step should happen to your base as you wont be able to flatten or roll it again later.


*A quick note on depth guides, these can be made from plastic, wood or any material and you can find many made specifically for clay artists, however, you can use any two pieces of material for the same effect. If you look around your home so many things can be turned into depth guides - playing cards, cardboard boxes, rulers etc. They only caviat is that they have to be exactly the same depth.




Step 3 - Rest


Another factor which may be causing your cutters to stick to clay is the clay itself.

Once a piece of clay has been conditioned, it can become sticky and soft. Some clay brands suffer more from this than others but all can be remidied.


If you notice that your clay is too soft or sticky then rest the clay before you cut it. I know its the most exciting feeling to want to cut into that beautiful clay that we've just put down, but trust me, let it rest. Overnight is best if you can wait or alternatively you can pop it in the freezer for 5 minutes to chill. This will help stiffen the clay and it will be less likely to goo up in your cutter.




Step 4 - Cutter prep


Release agents. These will help you tremendously with the quality of your cuts.

Most clay artists I know use a powder, this can be baking powder, corn starch or similar. Think of it like greasing a baking tin for your cake. Dip your cutter, cutting edge down into your powder. Use the back end of a brush to tap off the excess and your cutter is ready. This process can be repeated after a few cuts into the clay or whenever you feel it necessary.


Alternatively you can use water to prep your cutter. To get just the right amount of water, wet a sponge and squeeze most of it out until the sponge is slightly dampened.

Push your cutter into the sponge cutter side down and bounce a few times. The cutter will be moist enough to cut but not overly wet and ruin your clay. Please be aware that some clays are not suitable to be dampened, so check the manufacturer instructions.


As an extra you can use a fan brush and a tiny amount of powder to dust your clay. This will reduce any surface stickyness.




Step 5 - Pressure


Finally, and importantly comes the cut. Cutters are essentially blades and although the quality of these blades can vary one factor remains the same and that is pressure.

The more you push down onto a cutter the stronger the blade can push into the clay and down to your surface underneath.

Using a pressure plate can help add more pressure evenly. Place your plate over the entire cutter ( I like to use a clear acrylic disc so I can see my cutter placement) but you can use anything flat and firm. Push down, and the force will be evenly distributed over the cutter.


Of course you dont want to exert so much force that you break the cutter. Never push your cutters from the sides and only use a downward motion.


Top tip - It may be a simple one, but make sure your work area is flat, level and sturdy. This will help tremendously. A wonky desk will make your life so much harder. and cause cuts to fail.


And thats it. You will have more successful cuts from now on.

I hope this guide has helped. This is the advice I give to all of my customers but the guide is universal and will work with whichever brand of cutters you have.


Happy Cutting!



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