New Premo Formula a Problem for Beginners Making Polymer Clay Canes

Beginner Cane Design

Some newbies even giving up on canework altogether and selling off their Sculpey polymer clay supplies on Ebay. Don’t do that!

Lately, many clayers have been blaming their cane making woes on the recent phthalate-freegreen-environment reformulation that most polymer clay brands have switched to.

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The new Premo and Fimo polymer clays have gotten very soft. So soft and sticky in fact, that many are tossing around the word ‘silly putty’ when they talk about the new formulas!

The problems that are created by the extra soft clay are many for the cane designer. Mushy clay tends to distort badly when reducing or slicing a Fimo cane. Crisp lines and details are lost, and colors will bleed together if the clay is too soft. Forget about cutting thin slices! They are virtually impossible to slice with a tissue knife if the clay is even slightly warm.

For those of us that have been making canes for a while, this is a pain. But there are work arounds. The plasticizers can be leached out of the clay to be made a lot stiffer. This reduces the clays strength somewhat but since only thin slices of the cane are used, the loss of strength is not a big issue.

If you are brand new to the cane making process, you may be discovering that your cane projects seem to be turning out very ‘squishy’ and unprofessional looking compared to the ones shown in older how to demonstration tutorials. The reason is probably due to the clay formula changes that I’ve been discussing in this article. You may have even been thinking about giving up on making Fimo canes altogether because you think it is too hard or that you just aren’t good at it.

In a previous post, I talked about a batch of ebay polymer clay which I bought online. This purchase included variety of clay brands including some hard as a rock Fimo Classic, some pretty good Fimo Soft, Premo Sculpey, super squishy Sculpey III and a few poorly made canes. The ebay seller had bought a whole bunch of brand new polymer clay at Michael’s in hopes of getting good at cane making. But when her projects did not turn out so great, she listed the whole lot on ebay and gave up in frustration.

If only she knew it wasn’t her fault. It was the clay! And if she knew what I knew about re-working the clay to behave properly, she would have saved herself a bunch of money, and probably a lot of guilt!

The reason I’m sharing this information with you is because this is the reason why I created my Polymer Clay Bead Making for Beginners Course. I know personally how frustrating it can be to not understand why something that looks so easy can seem so hard to master! I have been considering renaming the course and calling it a Primer course instead of a Beginner course since I realize many of you are not really beginners but would still find the information to be extremely helpful.

Sometimes you can be doing all the right steps, but the materials or tools are all wrong. Only an experienced polymer clay caneworker knows you need all your clay at the same hardness. Mixing soft clay and hard clay in the same cane spells disaster!

Maybe you are a jewelry designer that wants to add polymer clay cane designs to your work. Maybe you are a nail artist that would like to make your own Fimo Nail Art Canes. Or maybe you have always dreamed of making your own line of beads to sell on Etsy or at the local craft fair.

Whatever your reason for wanting to learn how to make polymer clay canes out of Fimo or Premo you are going to need to understand the medium of polymer clay.

So before you pack up all your soft, mushy, new Premo polymer clay and your ‘not-so-great’ looking cane projects to auction them off on eBay, perhaps you should take a look at my Polymer Clay Primer Course (aka beginner course). It will definitely put you on the right track for making polymer clay canes.

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Comments

  1. I ran into this problem a few months back. I bought a ton of Sculpey and then was infuriated when it was so mushy. The light in my head went off and I know I shouldn’t have bought the cheep stuff. I took it back and bought all Premo and have only used that since. I get some bars that are really soft, I usally let it sit in a plasitc baggie on my tile for a while and let it start to “Colden” up a bit by its self. If it is really bad I roll in out in the pasta machine and put it between 2 sheets of white copy paper. This works perfect!

  2. Yes, I’ve had my frustrations with the new formulas. Some of my softer brands I leach between paper, but find it is quite the waste of perfectly good paper. I now keep all sorts of paper and use the unprinted side for leaching, or will use a little blender to mix all my brittle clay with the too soft. Also mixing translucent clay with the mushy sometimes helps as it tends to be quite firm. Thanks to you, other readers here won’t have to feel all hope is lost…there is hope!

  3. I read a lot about this problem on another forum. Fortunately, I haven’t had a problem with any of my clays — and if they were too squishy, they would be used to “practice” designs for metal clay projects! I understand that the manufacturers have LISTENED and worked hard to re-reformulate their products so we don’t need to leach, etc.

  4. This is something that I didn’t know. I would have been one that would have given up and trashed everything. Thank you so much for the info. Cheryl

  5. How right you are about you having encountered the problems and worked out the bugs for us. I can’t wait to try making canes. Yes, right now it looks hard to me, but when it finally works, it goes from just being a lump of clay to a work of art. Yes, I too have seen stuff on E-bay and have wondered at some of the probable frustrations these artists have probably had to endure. Can’t wait to try my hand at it though. With your hints, helps and techniques, like my best friend often reminds me, I don’t have to reinvent the wheel, since you have already invented it! Thanks

  6. OOOOO good thing I did such a bad job of storing the clay I bought about 5 years ago when I thought I had time for this new hobby! It’s rock hard, but I’ll bet with some conditioning it will be just the right firmness for impecable canes. Did I say impecable? I may be aiming a tad high. I went out and bought a new batch this time around, but I’ll hang on to the old stuff in eager anticipation of making beautiful canes!!
    thanks!

  7. I have tried several canes and they have not work well, but what the heck. Adventure is the name of the game, and try, try again is what we as clay artist should do. It’s like a runner going for 26 miles and hitting a brick wall at 24 miles. We need to push through it and when we do the feeling can be so high. So I say to all of you who want to quit. Reach for the the Moon and if you fall short, you are still among the stars. Cindy I so want to meet you, and thank you for helping all of us start our journey.

  8. I have experienced squishy canes. I find that if I’m patient and let it rest and even put them in the fridge, I can usually even get softer clays to work but it would be nice to be able to cut them really thin. I find that I can’t get them really thin without distortion.

  9. my frist cane i made was going to be a butterfly but it was a melted butter fly, i got a lot of old clay form a friend of my moms so it is not as sort as the newer kind but it helps to work on a cool surface and i freeze my clay.

  10. “Colden”…great word for it, Krista! That’s exactly what I do, too, with this new clay…except I just let it sit nekkid(sans plastic bag). It works just fine then. Unfortunately, it also picks up cat/dog hairs…which I just include and call it “mixed media”!! :)

  11. Pain in the “clay” is right!
    Even as a sculpter of dragons, this new clay is trouble some. I once left a dragon to sit for a couple of days to return to it and find his arms had melted off and fused with legs, and his head went somewhere else also :) (I guess it could be a new breed)
    Leaching is a pain, but it does work. THANKS for letting us all know…..Now if I could just leach my stomach – wishful thinking!

  12. Thanks for blogging about this Cindy, this subject seems to come up in other forums. Its true some people are having a time with the new formula of clay which now conforms to the law. Not all translucent clay are created equal and the lack of color tend to make them more squishy to, but some clay brands like ProSculpt who makes a translucent clay are not meant to be used for canes as they crack and seperate from the colored clays making the canes barely usable.

    Love your videos and your blog now is on my favorites to!!! Thanks.

  13. I am so pleased to hear all you guys’ comments and encouragements!

    For all you new to polymer clay, you can see you aren’t the only ones to have had problems and we are all here to support each other and offer our experiences and knowledge.

    When we get done here, the world won’t know what hit them, with all you great polymer clay artists get making beads!!

    ***sorry I got a little carried away there with the ‘saving the world with polymer clay speech’!! Someone called me a Polymer Clay Super Hero the other day and it must have gone to my head!!! hehehe***

    Cindy’s last blog post..Jewelry Beads Made with Polymer Clay Spider Cane Slices

  14. Dear Cindy,

    Because I am fairly new to Polymer Clay, I guess I don’t have anything to compare the “newer” clays to. I do know that I find myself getting quite frustrated when my clay gets too soft and mushy and it won’t do what I want it to do. When this happens, I hear your voice in the back of my head telling me to let it rest for a few minutes. This always helps(yes, after seeing your videos that you send weekly, I do hear your voice talking to me while I am claying ;)

    I recall seeing somewhere on your site…oh, yeah! I think it was a video preview…where you were keeping your clay next to you on top of a small freezer pack. I thought that that idea was very ingenious and plan to do that myself from now on to keep my clay cool as I work with it.

    I have only begun to experiment with making canes during the day when I am at my table, but, Cindy, I must confess, I find myself making lots of canes when I am in my bed at night! For example, in my mind, I will see the Johnny-Jump-Up flower from one of your cane making pages. I lay there and imagine how I will build it, what colors I will use, and I imagine how I can make leaves like you have showed us, and other beauties, and I imagine how I can put all of these together into a piece of “polymer clay fabric” as I believe you may have called it, and make beautiful and stunning pendants! I lay in bed claying instead of sleeping!!! Girl, I do believe I am becoming a polymer clay addict!!! Tonight I will probably be thinking about how I can make Nail Frooties, now that I know what THEY are :)

    Again, and as always, thank you so much for all of your time, effort, and creative love that you put out on your blog for all of us creative sponges out here! You are the Best ! :)

    Sincerely,

    Cindy

  15. Just a quick PS:

    If I should be blessed enough to win the treasure of your video package, I would be THE HAPPIEST POLYMER CLAY JUNKIE AROUND!!! :) :) :)

    Thanks,

    Cindy Erickson

  16. Argh! Even more reasons to get frustrated by canes! :) Only kidding. As I’ve said before, this process is intimidating & I haven’t yet gotten the courage or patience stored up to try it seriously. I would never have known or thought about mixing colors of different temperatures, but of course! That makes sense! I’m ready to learn how to leach out the plasticizers!

  17. Dear Cindy…I just wanted to correct myself in my first post on this page:

    I knew that I had seen your ingenious idea of keeping your clay on an ice pack while you were claying, and I thought I saw it in one of your video previews. Well, last night in the middle of the night, I remembered that I had seen this great idea of yours on your cane slicing page (tutorial). I just wanted to be sure to correct myself so that anyone reading my post wouldn’t go on a wild goose chase trying to find your idea in the wrong place :)

    Thanks…and yes…I was claying in bed all night again!!!

    :) Cindy Erickson

  18. I’ve had the same problem and couldn’t figure out why. Thought I bought a bad batch and all most took the unopened packages back to the store but I did find out that some of my canes sliced better if I put them in the fridge for a while they sliced easier but then sometimes they sweat and the ones I screw up on go for core filler when I need it. Still practicing on the canes.

  19. Hi Cindy, I am a die-hard Premo user. I’ve used it through all it’s formulations. Fortunately, I seem to be one of those people who can cane with just about anything and caning is what I do most. I try to mix super hard with super soft and come out with “just right” clay. Even so, occasionally a cane will just not reduce right, in which case it gets turned into a new color, leached if necessary and reused for something else. I try to just work with what I have and not let it stress me out. Hugs, Sue C

  20. That is the hardest part for me just starting out in PC is what clay to get. I made my first dragon with Premo and I didn’t like it. Even after cooling it his little head kept drooping. It was hard to handle and floppy.
    I tried both Femo and Sculpy III for dragon 2 and 3. I read that Sculpy III was the best for beginners.
    I still haven’t decided which clay I like best. The Premo dragon turned out OK but he was a baby and didn’t have much detail. I would have hated to work on the other dragons with the clay being so floppy.
    There has been mention of mixing clays hard and soft together. Do you stay with the same brand of clay or are you able to mix brands together.
    If anyone read this thank you for staying with me, I think I am rambling. It must be a touchy subject.

  21. I think this tip may save my hand from sticky clay & my push molds as well. I make canes & have noticed the stickiness over the years getting worst to but articles like this one will keep ours smiley face canes smiling instead of rolling into a frown due to squishiness of new softer clays. Thanks again for another informative article.

    thank you
    abby

  22. Slicing your cane when you think you are using a 2×4 by the way it just goes into a blob is so much of a clay pain. After a little research and found to put it into the fridge or freezer made me so HAPPY. I thought maybe I would have to sharpen those tissue blades. Cindy keep up this wonderful blog of tips for us newby’s.

    Needing as much help as I can get on this awesome craft, I would be so honored to win the treasure hunt prize.

    • @Jeanie: Hi, I have been a die hard Premo user for as long as I can remember. I do mix the soft with the crumbly clays. It seems to balance the texture. Make sure they are totally mixed. I also freeze my canes to firm them. But a really great trick is to clean your blade with 91% alcohol just before using them. be careful, it will be as good as new. super- sharp! the blade will glide thru the clay effortlessly. Hope this helps.

  23. You’re welcome guys! Just didn’t want you to think the problems you were having was your fault!

    For those of you who don’t have the course yet, in there is a video that will help you firm up that sticky, soft clay so you don’t have the same problems with it.

    Love the stories about the drooping dragons and the frowning smiley face canes!! I am wondering when these polymer clay companies are going to understand their formulas better!!

    You all, especially the Newbies, need your clay to behave so you can make decent beads and canes, and don’t get discouraged! But until then, I’ll just have to keep teaching you how to fix it!

    Cindy Lietz’s last blog post..Slicing Fimo Nail Art Canes | Sculpey Polymer Clay Cake Toppers

  24. “But until then, I’ll just have to keep teaching you how to fix it!”

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  25. Cindy,

    Thanks for the info. Really have enjoyed all the articles and videos. Look forward to having the Beginner’s Course whether I win it or have to purchase it (I’d prefer the former). I live in a rural area and don’t have access to hands on teaching but the videos you so generously sent has filled the gap magnificently!! Really appreciate the way your hands are always in view so that the student misses nothing.

  26. I couldn’t agree more, Cindy. Your videos are the best I’ve ever seen for teaching about polymer clay. I’ve seen a few others on You Tube, and your videos are in every way the best…the most informative, the best camera angles, the best sound, the most understandable directions, the best, best, best!!! I too will save to purchase your videos if I am not the lucky winner of the Treasure Hunt, because you are such a wonderful teacher! I wish you could be my Tutor in everything I want to learn! I have told all my friends and my two daughters about your videos and Blog. I just do not even begin to understand how you have so much energy, and where you find the time to do so much for all of us! You truly are an Angel!!!

    Sincerely, Cindy Erickson

  27. @Marianne: You’re very welcome!

    @MJ: Thank you so much for your comments! I know what you mean, I once lived in a rural area and didn’t have access to any craft classes at all. That is what I find so fascinating about the internet. How you can sit at a computer and get a teacher right into your own home! Don’t have to pay for gas. You can keep going back over the info as often as you want. And you can even get help from the teacher long after the course is over. Can’t do that in any craft class I’ve ever taken before!

    @Cindy Erickson: Cindy you are amazing! You write the best comments I’ve ever read… they make me feel like all the hard work is worthwhile!

    Cindy Lietz’s last blog post..Rainbow Jewelry Pillow Beads Made From Extruded Polymer Clay Canes

  28. :) Cindy, for me, your work is soooooooo worthwhile! I found a REAL treasure chest when I found your blog!!!

    :) Cindy Erickson

  29. I found out some things about cane making the hard way and I am happy with all the tips on your site.
    Thank you very much!

  30. I, too , was distraught with Premo Squishy, and stocked up on tons of the old stuff- hopefully it will last.
    I was sad knowing all the old techniques, and project instructions from older books may not work.
    But, alas, they said they have gone back to the old-

    The above tips will surely help with the squishy, but then again- we can just invent new methods for the squishy.
    I did a Mokume Gane with only black and white, and slicing it automatically performed a Skinner Blend through the slice!
    Quite interesting!

    I am learning soooo much thru this treasure hunt!

  31. Okay.. I have been having so much fun reading these great articles, I keep forgetting to find the treasure chests…but I am getting so much information, that to me, that is the best reward.
    I have yet to make any canes except for the classic jelly roll.. so have not encountered this problem.
    Canes are something I will wait on until I am better with polymer clay, I do not want to get frustrated and end up quitting..LOL
    But just having the information is helpful anyway.
    Hugs
    Lisa

  32. Thanks for the warning on this one. With your advice maybe those poor dejected dragons will again stand up and breathe fire.
    Have absolutely loved this treasure hunt and as I have already said am very inspired to get the equipment out and have a go at beads, canes and that lovely mokume gane.
    Reading all the other comments has been enlightening too, this was a wonderful idea, Cindy.

  33. This is the best. I was just wondering what the difference was between the different types of clay, where to use them, when to mix them and what to use for sculpture or canes. I could use an article on each of the clays and suggestions on type of art projects to use them for. Glad you got a good buy on e-bay and glad I have your articles! I have moved my way through the treasure hunt – in hopes of winning – and now I am going back to finish reading all the articles. In the process of hunting treasure I have learned so much, which is the most important thing! Thank you for all your creative energy from the articles, to the ideas, to the videos and the hunt! Let the bead making begin.

  34. @Kody: That is a great way of looking at things! Coming up with new techniques instead of worrying about the problems!

    @LisaG: Don’t be intimidated by the canes. When my caning classes come out they will be so well explained that even a beginner will have success with them.

    @Linda: Yes, it is only fair that a dragon should be able to stand proud!

    @Pamela: Great question! I will answer that in a future Q+A post. (Type in Q+A in the search box to look for those posts.)

    Cindy Lietz’s last blog post..Faux Turquoise Jewelry Bracelet – Polymer Clay Bead Making Projects

  35. i have been running into this problem alot with white sculpey I bought 4 pounds of white sculpey at walmart and it getts so soft that items I make will fall over or almost melt alittle I found that useing baby wipes (dryed out) and newpaper putting to clay in the center and rolling it out while between the papers will firm it up quit a bit. I found this on acident my 3 year old son got ahold of some of my clay and hid it I found it to days later under his matress wrapped in a baby wipe ( he was saving it) when I took it out and needed it I noticed it was alot firmer.

  36. I am still trying to decide between learning to make glass beads or fimo,the latter being the cheapest to set up.I think I will have a look now on ebay[since you mentioned it]& get a few colours to try.As a beginner,I wondered if the newer soft type would be of help or hindrence,so reading your tips should help smooth out[excuse the pun]my enital trials.This realy has been a site full of info.

  37. @daisy: Awww what a sweet story! What you figured out by accident is how to leach polymer clay! Way to go! I do it between two sheets of white paper and roll them through my pasta machine. Be careful when you use newspaper though, because the ink will transfer onto the clay!

    @Andrea: Of course you should do polymer clay! :-) It is way cheaper and easier to get set up and the learning curve isn’t as steep. Try polymer clay and add glass later. There is no reason that you couldn’t do both!

    Cindy Lietz’s last blog post..Make Pendant Spoon Jewelry using Polymer Clay Mokume Gane Techniques

  38. I learn so much from you, Cindy! I did think it was me. Until recently I was using Sculpey III and Premo, sometimes together. I quickly realized Sculpey III wouldn’t do for caning, and I got excited that Premo would be my answer. Alas, I think I got into claying after they changed their formula, because Premo did not save the caning day! My simple canes were mushy and twisty, and complex canes–you can forget it! And I almost had until this article informed me I might not be the problem. I will stay tuned to find out if Premo firms up the product. Until then I will try leaching and ice packs again. (I tried them last night, but unfortunately, I had some Sculpey III snakes in there that ruined the fun for everyone.) I am going to save my goofs and make the best of it. And never again will I buy Sculpey III! From now on, it is Dollar Day Premo for me. (and maybe Dollar Day Fimo…)

    It is so nice to have a clay community developing around your blog. What a great way to share ideas and get some support throughout the learning process! I feel like a lone clayer in my town. None of my friends clay (though they like what I make) and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone in the clay section of our Michael’s! I live in a rural city where the only place for clay supplies is the one Michael’s store. So thanks for encouraging us to participate more through this wonderful treasure hunt! I’m still crossing my fingers that I could win it, because as you said, having solid knowledge and skills with the basics gives a much stronger foundation on which to work. And I would love to continue to learn from you in your video courses!

  39. Kimberlee, what a special comment

    I agree about how nice it is to be building a polymer clay community here on the blog. Believe it or not, even though I am in the city my situation is very similar to yours.

    None of my friends work in polymer clay. The only way to buy clay is online or at Michaels (I’m in Canada so that could be the reason). And no one is in the clay aisles there either.

    To learn how to make polymer clay beads I had to search the net, read books and experiment. My crafty background was helpful but it took a lot of time.

    That is why I made the courses. I figured there were lots of people like you and me struggling out there. My husband is good at filming and we thought videos and a blog would be the way to teach people.

    I am so proud to be on this polymer clay journey with you and everyone else here on this blog!

    Cindy Lietz’s last blog post..What’s Better than Receiving Beaded Polymer Clay Jewelry as a Gift

  40. i find the new premo to be vastly inferior to the old phthalate-based stuff.its less dense and has this elasticity to it thats just awful..and its softer, which is a problem..and for people who’s canes get all smushed when they try to cut them, i have a solution that works very well. stick them in the freezer first for about 20 minutes. using a kato nu blade the canes should come out very nice indeed. and for shaping using a very firm smooth surface is best..i use a pane of glass myself. hope that helped a little. i may not make canes regularly but im as familiar with premo as anyone can be..i know this stuff inside and out as ive been working with it for about 15 years.

  41. Thank you so much for your comments! Cool sculptures BTW!! Love your style!

    I have heard that they have ‘tweaked’ the recipe a little and the new stuff is coming out better than it was. I have some of the older new stuff that is super soft and have found it not too bad if it is leached of the excess plasticizers. You’re right about putting in the fridge, that can really help!

    Thanks for your tips, I’m sure they are helpful for everyone trying to use that mushy stuff!

  42. Hi Rozz – nice to hear from you again. I remember reading one of your previous comments from a while back, about how important Premo is to you and your polymer clay customers. So… from one die hard Premo user to another, I concur :-)

    And thanks for sharing the tip about using rubbing alcohol on your cutting blade to make cane slicing easier. As you may have noticed, I’m “all about” making things things easier when it comes to polymer clay. Looking forward to hearing more from you in the future :-)

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