shimpo clay extruder reviews manufacturers
Handheld extruders or “clay guns” are useful tools for making small runs of handles, coils, and small hollow forms. If you are looking to make a repeatable shape in a quick, efficient way, then a handheld extruder is what you need.
These extruders work like a caulk gun: you fill the barrel with clay, screw the cap over the die form, and repeatedly squeeze the trigger to push clay through the die. It can be a bit of a wrist workout, so definitely use soft clay with these.
There are four options when choosing a handheld extruder: 2 sizes from Scott Creek, and one each from Shimpo and Kemper. There are also two miniature clay extruders such as the Kemper Klay Gun, for making extremely small shapes, which I’ll cover at the end of the post.
It’s really a coin toss as all four handheld extruders are well made, but for most studios and hand sizes, I would recommend the Shimpo Handheld Extruder. For about the same price, the Shimpo Handheld Extruder comes with a few more dies than the Scott Creek, and I prefer the circular handle at the back as opposed to the bar handle on the Scott Creek models. And as this is a handheld extruder, I prefer the shorter and wider barrel of the Shimpo because it is easier to squeeze out the clay.
A full review of handheld extruders follows, including the three options from Shimpo or Scott Creek, and two options for smaller decorative clay extruders. For larger extruders, check out our guide to wall-mounted extruders here.
The Shimpo Handheld Extruder is a quality tool that lets you easily make shaped coils, small hollow forms, or handles. It’s basically a caulk gun with an aluminum barrel and dies. The threaded barrel is 2 1/4” wide and about 10 inches long. The entire model measures about 13 x 9 x 3 inches, weighs just a few pounds, and can easily be stored in a drawer. It can be entirely submerged in water for cleanup, but you may want to oil the hinges and moving metal parts as needed.
The Shimpo Extruder is the top pick because the kit comes with five dies and one blank, and I prefer the circular handle. I also find the the shorter barrel makes it easier to squeeze out the clay, even though that means more frequent refilling. But it’s really a coin toss if this is better than the Scott Creek Clay Gun and the choice really comes down to personal preference. In my studio, I use a Shimpo Handheld Extruder along with a mixture of dies from Shimpo and Scott Creek.
The Shimpo Handheld Extruder generally retails for around $60 and the die kits are about $40 each. You can find this tool at ceramic supply stores or online at Blick.
Scott Creek makes two handheld extruders and five die kits. The Super Duper Clay Gun has a 10 inch barrel while the XL has a 15 inch barrel. Both feature a bar handle at the rear as opposed to the circular handle on the Shimpo. The barrel is 2 inches wide, which is 1/4” smaller than the Shimpo. Note that the Scott Creek die kits will definitely fit the Shimpo Extruder, but the Shimpo dies may not work with the Scott Creek guns. Both Scott Creek extruders come with one coil die and two blank aluminum dies.
Scott Creek extruders are rugged, well built, and will get the job done. They are a bit harder to find in stores, but are readily available direct from the manufacturer. Scott Creek also makes a hollow aluminum die kit with the same shapes as Shimpo, along with an aluminum die kit of small forms. There are also three die sets made out of clear acrylic including a “shape and coil” kit, tile trim kit, and handle kit. The handle kit is my most used die kit and I would recommend that kit regardless of which extruder you purchase.
Although it might seem attractive to use the larger XL Extruder, keep in mind that the longer barrel may be harder to clean and store, and it is that much harder to squeeze clay out. (Any handheld extruder really relies on wrist strength.)
The Scott Creek Super Duper Clay Extruder usually retails for around $55-60, and the XL goes for around $70, and the die kits generally cost about $40 each.
The Kemper IKEG Klay Extruder is an interesting offering from the venerable clay tool manufacturer. It’s even longer than the Scott Creek XL, with a barrel measuring 20 inches in length by 2 inches wide. It comes with 3 aluminum coil dies, 1 blank die, and 2 plastic spouts.
As stated above, I feel that a shorter barrel is easier to use but if you decide to go with this option, you can always just fill the barrel with less clay to make it easier to use. Aside from that, the trigger of this gun is virtually identical to the Shimpo with a circular handle. Kemper has a limited offering of dies, but Scott Creek dies will work with this extruder.
These miniature clay extruders are useful for making texture or super small coils, such as for hair. They also work with polymer clay, so if you are working in miniatures, this is the clay extruder for you. For typical clay studios, these mini guns often sit unused in studio drawers but if you need a really specific shape, they may work for you. They are virtually identical but the Bailey set also comes with a handy plastic carrying case.
Handheld extruders are a great way to make small batches of similar shapes, such as handles or hollow shapes. For a long time, I thought of them as an extraneous tool but once I started using them, I found that I really liked the look of extruded handles. Definitely don’t get one of these if it will simply sit unused in a drawer.
Seriously though, I fully agree. The first extruder I had, in a classroom, was a Scott Creek, and it is still my favorite. The one I had, wasn"t the aluminum barrel version, but it was powder coated, making it durable, and easy to clean. The plunger, also locks into a series of rungs, instead of the aforementioned "Yoke" set up, on the Brent, which I also used and didn"t like. The collar on the Brent, is the quickest, to remove, since you just have to turn it. The Scott Creek, has the three pins, which work well, even in a classroom setting, where the students found every single way, to improperly reinsert the pins. In six years, I never lost a pin....Though one did get bent up pretty bad, and had to have some readjustment done, in the Industrial Tech room.
I am just not a fan of the North Star. The small chamber, the permanently attached plunger and the plastic dies. I didn"t like any of it. I also did not like the twin wing nut system, that secured the dies, to the rest of the extruder. It"s not that extruder didn"t work well, it does, but it"s just not as good as some others, in my opinion.
After a quick YouTube Search, I found another potter using the Super Duper Clay Extruder made by Scott Creek Pottery. After some thought, I bought one. Kemper and Shimpo also carry their versions of Handheld Clay Extruders.I’ve been using Scott Creek for a while now.
The Clay Extruder was exactly what I needed. This little baby holds over a pound and a half of clay and can make up to a dozen handles at a time. It’s a great helper for beginners or anyone that’s not that good at making handles.
Keep in mind the state of your clay is an essential part of making a good handle. If your clay is too hard, you will want to wedge water into it until your clay has a smooth, even consistency throughout, and air bubbles are gone. When your clay is nice and soft but not mushy, you are ready to load your Clay Extruder.
The Extruder has two handles. Right above the top handle is a release button. While holding onto the top handle only press down on the release button with your thumb. Then grab the handlebar of the plunger with your other hand and pull the plunger back and out of the cylinder.
My Clay Hand Extruder comes with three 2-inch (5 cm) dies. One die is a 1/2 inch (1.27 cm) coil shape, and two blank dies to customize to your needs. I made two smaller coils. You can also get a set of 8 handle shape dies. It’s great to choose from many different dies and even make your own.
Press the two handles together with one or both hands, whichever is easier for you. The clay is soft, and the extruder is light, which makes it very easy to use. If the clay starts to curl in the beginning, just straighten it out.
After struggling to pull a good handle, it’s nice to have a helping hand, especially as a beginner. You can use this Clay Hand Extruder for all your ceramics that need a handle of some kind. I have found using an extruder is more convenient and gives you the ability to be more creative.
Sturdy and easy to use, this extruder takes a good quantity of clay and is much more handy than using my big wall-mounted extruder. Prior to this I used an adapted standard applicator for silicon which works in basically the same way, but this is far more sturdy and easier to pump smoothly.
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