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How to Refresh Dry Old Plasticine for a New Art Project

The head of a Dodo modelled with plasticine

The head of a Dodo modelled with plasticine

Many sculptors choose to work with plasticine for their models. It is easy to model with tools and bare hands, and unwanted sections are easily removed. If the artist wishes to make a copy of the model, the next step is to make a mould. Moulds can be made from Plaster of Paris or fibre glass. In the case of fiber glass, it is a good thing to apply silicone latex rubber on the mould as the first step in order to get the details of the artwork. Fiberglass and polyester resin mixed with hardener is then applied to make a casing for the mould. Once the cast has been made, the plasticine can be used again in another project. This hub will show you how to keep your plasticine always looking and feeling fresh.

Plasticine is made of plaster, wax and petroleum jelly in varying quantities. It is used as artificial clay for modelling. Children love it and so do artists, especially those artists who model and cast their art objects to make copies. Plasticine has the following advantages when compared with natural clay.

  • Plasticine can be used over and over for years. This is unlike clay, which will dry out whether it is the end product or it is intended for casting.
  • Plasticine is cheap and easily available in supermarkets and art and crafts shops. Clay has to come from a few specialists.
  • Plasticine comes in a wide range of colours, unlike clay that usually takes the earth colours of the location it was mined.
Old used plasticine

Old used plasticine

When buying new plastiiene, select a brand that is not too soft. Good plasticine should not stick to your hands as you work. New plasticine that feels hard often softens after a little kneading on a hard surface. Plasticine that has been used over and over tends to harden to uncomfortable levels and may need some treatment to make it pliable again. This article will show you how.

Hardening of plasticine can be accelerated by poor storage especially if it is not covered with polythene. This exposes it to wind, dust and other impurities. Over time the oils in the plasticine are lost to the atmosphere, making it brittle, dry and difficult to work with. For very dry plasticine, follow the instructions below:

  • Break the plasticine into small fist-size pieces.
Plasticine with  petroleum jelly between the layers.

Plasticine with petroleum jelly between the layers.

  • Knead each piece into a flat pad, well spread out.
  • Apply petroleum jelly on the surface of each flat pad and lay it on top of another. You can make up to three tiers this way.
Roll the the plasticine layers up from one corner

Roll the the plasticine layers up from one corner

  • Roll the layered plasticine up into a tube shape.
  • Hammer the tube on the top surface with your fist or palm; roll it over and hammer it again. Use any method to ensure that the layers are embedded into each other.
  • Repeat this action until the petroleum jelly is well kneaded in.
Roll into a tube and kneed by pressing hard as you continue to roll

Roll into a tube and kneed by pressing hard as you continue to roll

Chop the rolls into neat blocks

Chop the rolls into neat blocks

  • Chop the refreshed, pliable plasticine into neat shapes and store in a polythene bag.
pack neatly for reuse

pack neatly for reuse

Your plasticine is now not only malleable and easy to use, it will also give you more pleasure since you will use little effort when you mold with it.

After casting, plasticine is bound to get softer due to the heat generated when the hardener and resin are reacting. This soft plasticine will be difficult to work with in the future since it will tend to stick to your hands.

To refresh plasticine that has gone too soft, add some plaster of paris – a little at a time. Knead it thoroughly into the plasticine until you get a good consistency.

Plasticine is a verstile material, safe to use and readily available. If you normally work on large modelling projects, you will find yourself adding more and more stock to your existing plasticine. The older stock will tend to be less malleable than the latest. Using the information in this hub, you will be able to refresh your old plasticine for recycling over and over.

Below is a demonstration by one of my favourite YouTube sculptors. Note that plasticine is sometimes called "clay" as in this video, not be confused with natural clay from the soil.


Emmanuel Kariuki (author) from Nairobi, Kenya on January 22, 2013:

Re-use and re-cycle DDE. You will save both money and planet earth. Thanks for commenting.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on January 21, 2013:

I always got rid of old Plasticine, now I know exactly what to do, thanks for this helpful Hub.