Comparison of Customizing Clays

The following is a survey of clays commonly used in action figure customizing. The clays discussed here fall into three main categories: 2-part air-cure (Milliput, Expoy Putty, Magic Sculp, Kneadadite); 1-part heat-cure (Super Sculpey, Sculpey III, Fimo, Sculpey Super Flex, Premo); and 1-part air-cure (Das Pronto). Each type has its benefits and drawbacks, as discussed below.

The properties of clays as they relate to customizing make for some unusual criteria for evaluation. First and foremost, the clay must be one that can be hardened, bonded to the figure, and sanded to a smooth finish. Generally, these clays are not as ideal for sculpting as normal modeling clay. They tend to be stickier, grainier, and require some special processing to reach a hardened state. They also tend to be more expensive and less available than modeling clay.

With these thoughts in mind, I surveyed a group of customizers with experience with the different products. The results are presented in the following table. I averaged multiple responses for a single product.


Product Sculpt-
ability
Non-
stickiness
Smooth-
ability
Strength/
hardness
Bonding
strength
Sand-
ability
Total
score
% used Working
time
Cost/
ounce
2-Part Air-Cure:
Milliput 3.7 2.6 4.4 4.9 4.1 4.4 4.0 58% 1+ hr $4
Kneadatite 4.3 2.7 4.7 4.0 3.7 4.3 3.9 25% 1+ hr $4
Magic Sculp 3.8 3.0 3.5 4.0 3.5 3.8 3.6 33% 1+ hr $2
Epoxy Putty 2.6 2.3 3.1 4.7 4.1 4.3 3.5 58% 20 min $1
1-Part Heat-Cure:
Premo 4.0 4.0 4.0 3.0 4.0 5.0 4.0 8% unlim. $2
Fimo 4.2 4.3 4.0 3.7 2.7 4.0 3.8 25% unlim. $2
Sculpey III 4.5 4.0 4.5 3.0 2.5 4.0 3.8 17% unlim. $2
Super Sculpey 4.5 4.0 4.1 2.5 2.1 3.4 3.4 75% unlim. $2
Sculpey Flex 3.0 3.0 4.0 3.0 3.0 4.0 3.3 8% unlim. $2
Sculpey 3.0 3.0 3.0 2.0 1.0 3.0 2.5 8% unlim. $2
1-Part Air-Cure:
Das Pronto 3.3 3.0 3.8 1.5 2.0 3.5 2.8 25% 1 hr $1


As shown in the table, the 2-part air-dry clays are generally preferred, but their limited sculptability and stickiness lower their overall score. They are also more expensive. The 1-part heat-cure clays have better sculpting properties, but are fragile and often have to be glued to the figure. They must also be heated to over 200 degrees F to cure, which is problematic when bonded to a plastic action figure. The 1-part air-dry clays are not particularly suitable for customizing.

A combination of clays may be the best answer. Try using cheap epoxy putty for quick-dry structural pieces. Use 2-part air-cure clay (such as Milliput) for sculpting finished surfaces. For free sculpting, use Super Sculpey, Fimo, or one of the other 1-part heat-cure clays, then make a casting for the finished custom figure.

At the time of this writing, one more clay that has a lot of potential but had not yet been tested by any of the survey participants was Aves Polymer Clay. Aves' two-part air-dry products, Apoxie Clay and Apoxie Sculpt hold the most promise. They are relatively inexpensive, come in a variety of colors (including metallic), and are highly endorsed by many members of the sculpting community.

Page 2 - Detailed Product Descriptions

Updated 03/03/03