Saturday, March 19, 2011

Conservatory Floor - Using DAS Air Dry Clay

I needed to wait for the spackle on the walls to thoroughly dry before I “washed” them so I decided to go ahead and plan out the floor. The kit came with a 12x12 piece of 3/8 inch thick MDF meant to be used for the floor. I will be making a base for this so I can meld it to the house but for now, I wanted to plan and layout something for the inside of the Conservatory.

I really dislike MDF…I’d rather use Gator board or even the paper-covered foamcore from the Dollar Store than deal with MDF. But since it was the material included, I bit the bullet and forged on.

There are two reasons why I hate MDF. First, it is heavy. Second, it warps…badly. It just sucks up any available moisture if not sealed. I used a coat of white glue to seal the little bit of MDF used on the walls but this was a large piece and I was looking for quick and easy.

I did have some spray sealer by Deft that I’ve used before but I didn’t want to set up the spray booth in the garage. I also happened upon some acrylic matte medium so I decided to see what happened if I brushed that on.

I slathered a light coat of it on both sides and all four edges and let it dry. I dried really quickly and left a slightly rough texture on the board. .. and no warping noted! I thought the “tooth” left from the matte medium might help whatever I used for flooring stick better.

I set the dry fitted Conservatory walls on the base and penciled in the interior. I only wanted the inside done; I was planning something else for the exterior. I was looking through my stash of faux marble tiles and brick stenciling kits when I heard a “tsk….”

“The inside of the Titania’s Conservatory is flagstone…like she saw in old castles on her trip to England as a child. I thought you knew…..”

I turned with a question but Hester had flounced off… I meant to ask about color. I am sure she will advise me in time. Hopefully before I start painting.

So flagstone it is.

I didn’t have any Creative Paperclay and though it is readily available in the US, I didn’t want to make the trip into town to get some. I did have some white DAS air drying clay, however, which I bought at Michaels when my UK friends said Creative PaperClay was nearly impossible to get over there. I’d wanted to see if this stuff was comparable. It certainly is cheaper. It is made in Italy, which was all the information I could get off the package as it was all in languages other than English.

It comes in a 1 kilo (2.2 lb) package. I had the “white” , though I would have called it grey...also comes in terra cotta. It is much heavier and denser than Creative PaperClay but it is not as sticky. It has a more leathery feel.

I tried rolling it out as I do PaperClay but it took more elbow grease.

I think it would have run nicely through the pasta machine which I will do if I use it again. It also doesn’t “seam” as nicely as PaperClay does if you are piecing it…which I had to do for the floor.

Before I applied it, I brushed Elmer’s Glue All inside the pencil line.


A lot of people don’t glue their air dry clay to the substrate but that is how I was taught to do it. I think it helps with the shrinkage, though I didn’t notice much with this product. I rolled it out to 1/8 inch thick on my rolling board.

When it was all in place, I spritzed it lightly with water and covered it with a damp paper towel. As I worked, I folded the towel back, bit by bit. I didn’t notice much premature drying except at the very edges.

I used the same tools as I use for PaperClay. The DAS is a little stiffer so I had to press a little harder but otherwise they all worked fine.

It took a lot longer to totally dry than PaperClay. I can usually paint PaperClay within 12 hours but this is going to be a good 24 hrs before I can do that.

The only cracking was where I had to seam it and only slightly. I filled that in with some lightweight spackle. I don’t yet know if will be apparent when painted.

Like PaperClay, it will shrink away from a cut edge. See where I made the groove a little deeper than I should have…where I didn’t cut through, the edges of the “flagstone” are fine.

I used about ½ of the package for the floor and sealed the rest in aluminum foil and put it in a freezer grade ziplock bag. I can usually “freshen up” PaperClay “ that has gotten dry but I don’t know if that will work with this clay. The fact that it didn’t seam that well using water makes me think that it won’t. But sometime, I’ll try an experiment to see.

Overall, I like this product. Despite it’s odd smell when wet (I can only describe as the smell emitted by working machinery…like ozone..), it is a pretty good substitute for Creative PaperClay. It was much less drying to my hands and required little clean-up as it really didn’t stick to my tools as PaperClay usually does.

But I will still use PaperClay, depending on the project. PaperClay is much lighter when dry.

I should be ready to paint both the “stucco” wall and these flagstones by tonight but unless I get word from “herself”, I’m a little nervous about the color of the flagstone.

I’m sure I’ll get it wrong and never hear the end of it….




Caseymini said...

Tabitha, I don't know who "herself" is, but I have only used DAS for about 20 years. You can dampen the edges if they get too dry and add more clay into that. I usually do just a little at a time when I am doing stone work with it and have never had any trouble adding. I was also taught to glue under the clay. I do think that this helps with the shrinkage. Also, if you keep it damp whilst working with it, you may have less of a shrinkage problem. It does dry almost white, but I like the color in it because it gives you more of a base for stonework. It's not dead white. Just one woman's opinion.

Dark Squirrel Victoria said...

I think your floor is going to be great. I use DAS as I can't find paperclay locally anymore. It will keep in a ziplock freezer bag open for a long time, my last brick is still good after 2 years. I have never done a floor with DAS and it is heavy. I think you will like how it takes paint.

Victoria ♥

Tabitha Corsica said...

Hey Casey & Victoria! Thanks for your comments.

I knew DAS had been around for a while but didn't realize it was 20 years. I do like this product and I wonder what is the reason for the love affair with Creative PaperClay? The biggest difference I can see is that the end product is lighter in weight (PaperClay) and that could be important depending on the individual project.

But I would use it again. And I am sure there is a bit of a learning curve involved here, as there is with any new thing one tries. I had big problems with CPC cracking and shrinking when I first started using it.

Now that the DAS is completely dry, the color is lighter. I don't mind that it is still slightly actually looks like stone. I will be painting it and the stucco walls today...whether Hester shows up or not...

Casey..."herself" is the haint housekeeper, Hester, who has been revealing the history of the house to me. When she feels like it...


Michelle said...

Your flooring looks fab already! Your paperclay dries within 12, must be that hot climate you live in! lol I have to wait at least until the next day with a thickness like that!

I have been umming and arrrhing over what to use for my cobble stones for Diagon Alley...I have pondered on buying Richard Stacey ones or make my own out of DAS. I would want to add quite a bit of texture to the cobble stones though.

Watching with lots of interest to see how these flagstones turn out. :o))

Michelle xx

Tabitha Corsica said...

Our climate is pretty humid so most people use air conditioning which reduces that as well as cools. That, and the ceiling fans, makes the clay dry faster. I have already done a Paperclay project in the evening and been able to paint the next day. I worked on this floor on Friday afternoon and only now (Sunday morning) does it feel dry enough to paint. The rolling board I have makes the clay 1/8 inch. I have never made it thinner. This board was given to me as part of a class I took using CPC. I assumed that was because the results (in 1/12 scale anyway) were best with that thickness. I never asked...maybe a should try rolling it thinner? It would certainly go farther and be more economical. I have also never tried making individual stones. That is something else on my list of things to attempt. I want quoins on the main house and those will have to be applied individually.

Wendie said...

Oooo Tabitha... you have saved me an experiment !! :D Great tutorial! I think the reason for my 'love affair' with CPC is the texture. Looking at your pics, it seems to be much more fibrous then CPC? maybe it just feels more familiar to me as I work with polymer clays usually? but the results seem to be giving DAS extra points. My Skool of Majick has been waiting to be finished for SO long that methinks I'm gonna have to bite the bullet and try some DAS for its floor? Thanks for the kick start xxx

Michelle said...


Your rolling board, is it made from a floor tile with a wooden frame around it? It looks easy enough to make and something that would help me. I don't have a rolling pin that long or big, but I know you have suggested drain pipe in the past. That's not so easy to come by! lol :o))

I don't have paperclay very thick (though I don't know the 1/8 inch conversion to cm's), depending on the project I have been able to paint some pieces the next day. However, British weather seems to be rather damp and we can count the hot days! lol lol I think this is the main reason paperclay mostly takes longer to dry.

I have made individual slabs in paperclay and I glued them on foamboard and it warped! I will be making another hearth for my Hogwarts fireplace. :o)


If you have a Range near you, buy your DAS from there as it's heaps cheaper than HobbyCraft. :o))

Michelle xxx

Tabitha Corsica said...

Wendie...yes, fiberous is an excellent way to describe the texture of the DAS. Despite the differences, I think the outcome is very similar to CPC. friend Larry made the rolling board for me. It is a piece of 1/2 thick plywood with the trim pieces nailed to the top. Not even mitered. The 12 inch floor tile fits inside the "frame". The trim pieces measure about 4mm thick. The vinyl floor tile is about 1mm thick so that when the tile is dropped into the frame, there is around 3mm (or a tad less)left. 1/8 inch is between 2 and 3mm. The rolling pin is a piece of PVC piping (like plumbers use). I got this one from Larry but I was able to by 2 ft lengths at my local hardware store. The tile can be easily removed for cleaning if necessary.

This is the same type of rolling board that Bill Lankford and Rik Piece use.

Lucille said...

Hi Tabitha. It's my first time commenting here. I just want to say how much I am enjoying this new project of yours. Especially, the story that you are making up as you go along. It's so entertaining. I can't wait to see how this house is going to turn out. And, I'm learning so much from you.

Tabitha Corsica said...

Thanks, Lucille. In a lot of ways, I'm learning too.

Carol said...

Thanks for the great tips on acrylic matte medium and DAS. I, too hate MDF so I'll give the medium a try next time I have to use it. BTW, you're missing another Arctic blast. 16 F tonight!

Brandy Rose said...

I haven't dabbled in clay yet, but I'll certainly come back to this as a tutorial when I do.

Norma said...

Thanks so much for leaving the comment on my blog re the acetone, all tips and tricks very gratefully accepted!

dale's dreams said...

What a well thought out and informative post! I don't know much about clays, but, I've learned a lot here. :)

I'm liking how the floor is coming out. :)

Deni said...

Paper clay is amazing
I was so lucky to be able to have a workshop with Rik Pierce I learned so much! all with Paper Clay
It seems I cant buy it here in Australia which is a shame!