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Heat Gun

Posted by goregt On March - 18 - 2007

Using a heat gun to bake a sculpture

One of the more recent additions to my workbench is a heat gun. I initially purchased a heat gun because one of the sculptures that I was working on was too large to fit into my oven. Although it takes a little longer then baking a sculpture in the oven, my heat gun allowed me to cure my sculpture so that it can later one be prepared for a mold. Since my purchase I have learned that the heat gun is also a great tool if you want to only bake certain parts of your sculpture.

Let’s use an example where you were sculpting the human figure. In our example you have worked out the details to the front of the torso and now need to move onto the other areas such as the back, arms and legs. To avoid any damage to your hard work, a heat gun will allow you to bake the sculptures torso so that you can comfortably work on the other areas. Now keep in mind that using a heat gun is similar to an oven and you will need to let the sculpture cool after it has been baked.

Recommendations when using the heat gun

First of all do not put the heat gun on the highest setting. Polymer clay is supposed to be baked at low temperatures and baking it a too high of a temperature will destroy your hard work. Try to gauge the temperature of the gun around what you would use in the oven (for example most polymer clays should be baked around 275 degrees for 15 minutes of time per ¼ inch thickness of clay). Secondly, avoid holding the gun in one location for too long. Imagine using the heat gun like a hair dryer, you will want to move it around from side to side to avoid burning one spot. If you hold it in one area for too long, you may see the clay form little bubbles and start to turn black from burning.

Safety tips

– Keep away from small children. My heat gun looks like a modified hairdryer and heats up to over 900 degrees. In my house that is a potential formula for disaster. I also recommend storing the heat gun somewhere where the kids cannot get to it when you are not using it.
– Do not touch the tip of the gun. The heat gun will get extremely hot in a short amount of time and brushing up against the tip of the gun can cause serious burns
– Let the heat gun cool down before storing it away.
– Let the sculpture cool down before going back to work on it.
My heat gun is not my most used tool but it does serve its purpose and gives me a lot more sculpting freedom for a very small investment.

I personally own a Uline H-915 and I am very happy with my purchase. My gun is lightweight, heats quickly and allows me to isolate certain areas of my sculpture so that I can move on to the rest of my project. If you are looking around for a heat gun to add to your tools collection, you can learn more about different brands available by clicking here.

3 Responses to “Heat Gun”

  1. Teeko says:

    This is interesting information, but there seem to be so many different heat guns out there, and not all sites even specify the temperatures they reach. Would a heat gun labeled an “embossing heat tool” be likely to heat up enough for use with polymer clay? (I am looking at the Stampabilities Embossing Heat Tool Gun now being offered on eBay — http://crafts.shop.ebay.com/i.html?_nkw=heat+gun&_sacat=14339&_trksid=p3286.m270.l1313&_odkw=milwaukee+heat+gun&_osacat=14339, but have no idea if it would fit the bill.) Can you tell me what the lower heat setting is on your gun?

    I have become especially interested in heat guns after reading in Sandra McCall’s book “Stamping Effects in Polymer Clay” that blasting an already baked piece with a heat gun will “create great shine without sanding and buffing.”

    There are no children in our home, so high temperatures are not a concern, but I am wondering what is the lowest wattage or lowest temperature that would be useful. Lower heat seems to be cheaper, but I want to be sure that I don’t buy a heat gun whose temperature will be too low for this purpose and then have to buy another one.

    I would much appreciate any information along this line.

  2. goregt says:


    The heat gun that I have, or better said had until it died and flew off to that heat gun cloud in the sky, was a Uline H-915 variable temp heat gun. My temperature ranges for my gun were from 110°F – 930°F (45°C – 500°C). 930°F is way too high and the optimal heat for heating Super Sculpey according to the instructions is at around 275°F. I try to aim for a temperature around 225°F-250°F when I bake or heat up my sculptures. I’ve never used an embossing gun but as long as it can get up to around 250°F I think you will be OK. I’ve tried using a hairdryer in the past but it just took forever to get anywhere. Even using a good heat gun takes some time so I would recommend spending the money up front for a decent model. I did a quick search on Google and found the Uline H-915 for around $60 so it really isn’t that expensive if the embossing gun doesn’t look like it is going to work out for you.

    Just a quick note, if you set the temperature too high the clay will bubble and eventually burn. I’ve made that mistake a few times and there is nothing worse than having little bubbles on your artwork. So it is always better to start with a lower temperature and work your way up.

    I hope that helps.

  3. Teeko says:

    Thanks for the information. As I kept looking around, I did find some mention that some polymer clay artists use embossing guns, so maybe they are all right. I have even considered holding a baked clay piece upside down over the gas burner on the kitchen range, lol. But I guess that’d be way too risky.

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Nothing special, just a self-taught sculptor having fun with my art and showing all of you the tips and tricks I use to create my own artwork



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