Whether you hand-build clay or work with a wheel, a slab roller can be a worthy investment. Operating like supercharged rolling pins, rollers take the guesswork out of making slabs of your desired size. You can adjust the rollers so they force out clay at a consistent thickness while doing the work of flattening. Like clay, rollers come in all forms: Some resemble pasta machines while others look like mangles. Finding the one that works best for you will depend on the type of clay you use and the size of slabs with which you typically work.
1. Makin’s Professional Ultimate Clay Machine
For consistently even slabs of modeling clay, this stainless steel machine does the job for under $50. Its rollers are super smooth, to prevent clay from sticking, and the seven-inch width allows you to churn out small-to-medium-sized slabs. With nine thickness settings to choose from, you can meet a variety of needs—even achieve paper-thin clay. Our only gripe is that denser clays like kato and fimo have to be preconditioned before you run them through, for the best results.
2. Darice Studio 71 Polymer Clay Press
Another machine that clamps to the table, this press from Darice is our runner-up because it offers a smaller roller area, among other limitations. You can make slabs up to five-and-a-half-inches wide and choose from one of seven thickness settings. Still, it delivers consistent slabs with no streaks, and firmer clays like fimo and premo run through with little difficulty. Quick to assemble and disassemble, it is especially advantageous to artists looking for a small roller to tote around for workshops or leisure.
3. Activa Clay Roller Kit
Another great option for small spaces, this straightforward roller is more akin to a rolling pin than a pasta machine. Its 10.5-inch length makes it useful for rolling out pieces you can’t fit into a compact crank-handle machine, and it can be used with ceramic as well as polymer clay. In addition to a roller, you get a smooth rolling board and four pairs of starter rails to adjust the roller height, depending on your preferred thickness. These fit into grooves on the board to help ensure stable and steady rolls.
4. Shimpo Slab Roller
If you have a designated space for a full-size slab roller, go with Shimpo’s product. This pro-quality model features a two-roller system to evenly distribute pressure throughout the clay as it travels. With a 30-inch width and ability to produce slabs up to three inches thick, this roller can handle big jobs. Yet, operating it is relatively effortless, with little force required to turn a large wheel handle to keep the clay moving.
5. Intbuying Slab Roller
This roller falls somewhere in between a starter roller and a top-quality one, in terms of size, price, and performance. A good pick if you aren’t ready to invest in a stand-alone roller, it is large enough to roll out slabs up to about 17 inches wide but small enough to still fit on a table. The rollers are raised on stout legs, and they turn via a handwheel for precise control. The overall construction, however, is not nearly as refined or as robust as the Shimpo roller, so you will eventually want to upgrade.