Yes! You CAN use an extruder with air-dry clay! Because most air-dry clays are soft compared to polymer clay, many people wonder if it'll work in an extruder. The key to success using air-dry clay in an extruder is the brand of clay used. Some brands are just too sticky to go thru an extruder without problems. Use a stiffer or less-sticky brand. Makin's Clay is one brand of no-bake clay that works well with an extruder. As a matter of fact, the Makin's brand of extruders are probably the most popular for both air-dry and polymer clays.
What is an extruder and what is it used for?
An extruder is a tube-shaped tool with a handle at one end attached to a plunger. Interchangeable disks are inserted into the other end. Place some clay inside and turn or depress the handle to extrude the clay in various shapes. The round discs are for vines, stems, borders, and letters. The screen discs are for hair, grass, straw and floral stamens. The flat slot discs are for weaving baskets, lattice, ribbons and bows. The square, triangle, half round discs are for bricks, logs and borders. Some shapes are perfect for making small beads or pattern canes. As you can see, the clay extruder has many uses.
The Makin's company makes 3 different clay extruders:
'Clay Gun' This low-cost extruder has a plunger-style handle which requires thumb pressure to push the clay through the barrel of the extruder. It is made of plastic and sells for less than $5. Twenty disks are included with Clay Gun. This extruder is designed for use with Makin's Air Dry clay, which is very soft, and the Clay Gun may not be suitable for stiffer (polymer) clays which require a heavier duty clay gun.
'Professional Ultimate Clay Extruder' This is the very popular heavier duty model of the Makin's Extruder. It is reasonably priced (less than $20 at Amazon) and comes with 20 disks. Most noticeably, it has a unique plunger that works with a crank handle & screw mechanism. It takes a lot less strength to extrude the clay with this style turn-crank than the typical push-type.
In addition, a rubber O-ring cleans the sides of the tube while the clay is pushed through, so there is less mess and the clay is used efficiently. Additional disks may be purchased for this extruder and there is a "clay-core-adapter" available that allows you to create hollow tube beads.