5 Polymer Clay Cane Slicing Tips for Your Bead Making Projects

Slicing Polymer Clay Canes

Techniques for Dealing With Warm Soft Polymer Canes and Clay in General:

In the hot Summer heat it can be tricky doing even the simplest tasks in your bead making projects… slicing polymer clay canes for example. Here are some tips and tricks that will help things go a little easier for you:

1) Work with Firm Clay: Soft sticky clay is difficult enough to work with at the best of times. And in the Summer heat, it’s near impossible! Premo, Fimo Classic and Kato are your best bets for a firm clay. If your clay is too squishy, you may need to leach some of the plasticizers from it, before making the cane. More on this topic at these links:

2) Chill Down those Warm Canes: Before slicing, place your cane in the fridge to cool for a half an hour or so. As an alternative, you can you a frozen gel pack. Resource link: Frozen Gel Pack for Polymer Clay Canes

3) Use an Extra Sharp Blade: When cutting thick slices for making simple cane slice beads, I prefer to use a stiff blade for better control. However, if the slices are to be extra thin as is the case when cutting ghost canes, a thin flexible blade often works better.

4) Use a Clean Blade: Wipe down your blade with rubbing alcohol or a baby wipe before making your cuts. It will slice through the clay much more cleanly and easily than if there is gunk stuck all over it. Common sense I know, but worth mentioning.

5) Pull Blade Towards You: Plunging the blade straight down through the cane can lead to smooshing and distortion. A better technique is to pull the blade towards you as the blade moves down through the cane. This is especially the case with thin slices. The Studio by Sculpey Blade Set is a great little kit to have on hand because it has a stiff blade, a flexible blade and two sizes of ripple blades that all work with interchangeable, snap on handles.

So there you go, hope that helps with your cane slicing dilemmas. Do you have any other tips and tricks for slicing polymer clay canes that you would like to share? I’m sure there must be a few that I’ve missed.

Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor

  1. Anna Sabina, 13 July, 2009

    Learned a new tip here at the IPCA (Intl Polymer Clay Assoc) retreat. There is a product available called Blue Tack available at hardware stores. Blue tack does not stick to PC so can be used in a variety of ways and will provide more information later. To prevent one side of a round cane flattening you can make a 1/4 inch thick Blue Tack “cushion” log the same length of the cane and make indentation the length. Rest your round cane on top of the blue tack cushion, cut completely through the cane. Blue tack will not stick to the clay. More tips later.

    ADDED NOTE: You will find more info (and photos) from the IPCA retreat, posted further down as you scroll through this page. Thanks Anna for keeping us up to date and informed. ~Cindy

  2. Ken H., 13 July, 2009

    OOOOOh cool, we’ve got a reporter on the scene sending back information. Thanks a million Anna, can’t wait to hear more.

  3. Cindy Lietz, 13 July, 2009

    I agree Ken. It’s exciting to have Anna at the retreat sending us tips!

    Anna I love the idea of using Blue Tack (blue tacky putty type stuff for sticking posters to the wall)! Who did you hear this from?

    Basically the idea is to make a channel of Blue Tack that your cane sits in, so that when you slice the cane, it doesn’t squash or distort at the bottom. The Blue tack cradles the cane as you cut through both the cane and the Blue Tack. Then you would peel the Blue Tack off the slice and it would stay perfect. You could use the Blue Tack over and over. This is especially handy when you have a round cane that flattens on the bottom, when you cut it.

    People have been doing something similar using with polymer clay instead of the Blue Tack. But since clay sticks to clay, it is kind of a pain. That is why I haven’t passed the idea along to you guys yet.

    I like the Blue Tack method way better! Can’t wait to try it!

    So Anna… how many people are there? Which of the “Gurus” attended? And what would you say is the overall trend you’re noticing at the retreat?

    I am hoping that Doug and I have an assistant by the time the next one comes along, so that we can attend as well. I hate to miss these sort of events!

  4. Arlene Harrison, 13 July, 2009

    Quote: People have been doing something similar using with polymer clay instead of the Blue Tack. But since clay sticks to clay, it is kind of a pain. That is why I haven’t passed the idea along to you guys yet.
    Just as a side note, if you spray your scrap clay base with water before you put your cane in, it doesn’t stick. I’ve also heard of people using corn starch, but the water works great for me.

  5. Phaedrakat, 26 February, 2010

    @Arlene Harrison: If you didn’t want to wet your clay, you could try using Saran Wrap (plastic) for this instead. (I haven’t tried it yet, though.) You could use the scrap log of clay, indent it with a rounded cylinder/log shape, then put a piece of plastic wrap on top of it. Place your cane into this plastic-covered cradle, and slice. If you loosely drape the plastic over the base, it (seems like it) wouldn’t interfere with the slicing. Then when you’re done, just toss the plastic, and put your scrap clay away for its next project.

    @whitie: I have used other air-dry clays (like paper, etc.) but not air-dry polymer. I used Future floor wax as a gloss for the two types I’ve tried, it worked wonderfully. I have not had any corrosion or molding, etc. problems. The Future has help up nicely. It would probably do the same job protecting air-dry polymer…

    I like the blue-tack tip, too. I’ll give it a try, as well as the plastic wrap…

  6. rob_k, 13 July, 2009

    I have 2 words for all…..corn starch.

  7. Ken H., 13 July, 2009

    But if you’re going to attach the cane slices to another bead wouldn’t the corn starch possibly cause problems with adhesion?

  8. Cindy Lietz, 13 July, 2009

    Water definitely works, but the clay can still stick together in some places. I agree with Ken on the cornstarch. It is not the best choice if you want to add the slices to anything because it will cause them not to adhere properly. But if you are cutting individual beads, it doesn’t matter.

  9. Cindy Lietz, 13 July, 2009

    Anna Sabina just sent me some updated notes from the International Polymer Association (IPCA) Retreat in Chicago. Click link by my name get the latest scoop.

  10. Anna Sabina, 14 July, 2009

    Hummm..how many people. aboe country but not other so don’t want to miss anybody. But Christi Friesen is the guest artist, other PCers on TV shows here are Judy Belcher and Lisa Palvelka and Maureen Carlson

    other uses for Blue tack……
    You can put it on the end of canes before reducing to help prevent distortion. Support pieces with blue tack while baking and still be reused.

    We got a new clay in our Goodie Bag. It is made in Germany, name is Pardo Jewellery Clay. It is phalate free and contains bees wax. Pretty soft clay and not something you put through the pasta machine.

  11. Anna Sabina, 15 July, 2009

    I apologize for the strange beginning of the previous post. I was using a friends lap top and it was doing really strange things-that’s a PC for ya. ;)-I am blowing a kiss toward my Mac.

    I was trying to communicate that there were 50-70 PCers in attendance. It is hard to acknowledge all of the GURUs because some may well known in one part of the country but not parts. In Iowa there are only 4 of us that do PC and I am not familiar with some of the artists nationally. And, I don’t want to forget anybody.

    There were several people who supported themselves doing PC and traveled all around the country; incredible artists. There were several that are featured on Polymer Clay Daily…actually lots of them. I hope to send Cindy a post this weekend that talks about individuals I met there. Everyone was really helpful to each other.

    It was a great great experience for me because there are so few of us where I live and Guild meeting in neighboring states tends to be in the middle of the week and I cannot attend. I am VERY appreciative to have Maureen Carlson’s Center for Creative Arts in Jordon, Minnesota; a 4 hour drive; you all should really check out her classes. Cindy’s sister in law lives in Iowa and I have not convinced the Lietz family take a vacation so we meet.. Hummm…lets see, what shall we do this summer, go to the Pacific Ocean or Fairfiled, Iowa. Fairfield is close to Riverside where Captain Kirk was born and they have a Trekie Convention every year.

    Well kids, i have to go to my Day Job now, in fact I am late…whoops. I will be dreaming about PC all day.

  12. Ken H., 15 July, 2009

    Thank you Anna for all the informational reports, after you discussed the “new” PC I went and looked it up online and it looks interesting might just fork out the $4.95 from the one site I found that sells it to try some of it.

  13. Silverleaf, 16 July, 2009

    R.e. the blue tack thing – I remember reading on Naamaza’s blog (naamazamir.blogspot.com/2009/05/breakthrough.html) about the use of playdough to make the background of a cane. When you slice the cane you just soak it in water to dissolve the playdough.

    Maybe worth trying a playdough cushion, if you have some lying around.

  14. Chris, 16 July, 2009

    Hey, I live in Iowa too. I really think Cindy needs to visit. ;)

  15. Anna Sabina, 16 July, 2009

    OMG Chris, I live in Des Moines, I see you are in Indianola. I talked to Cindy in the past about my discouragement about so few PCers there are in Iowa that I had to resort to stalking people in Michael’s. Never thought I would meet someone so close through this site. It would be great to have Cindy come to Iowa for her First International Teaching Tour !!!!!

  16. Freda, 16 July, 2009

    What a treat for us to read first hand about the IPCA retreat. So glad you are willing to take the time to write, Anna.

  17. Chris, 16 July, 2009

    Anna – WOW! you are close! LOL about stalking people at Michaels. :)

  18. Ken H., 16 July, 2009

    @ Anna
    Me thinkst that thou art a trekker/trekkie, what ever the correct term is these days?

  19. Cindy Lietz, 16 July, 2009

    Your Trekkie-Vacation reference, Anna, reminds me of when we watched one of the young Captain Kirk Star Trek TV episodes on our last “Pacific Ocean” vacation at the Tigh Na Mara Resort. Our kids Willow and Fisher, actually got into it, in a very retro kind of way. It’s funny because the shows they watch on YouTube these days, many of them done by kids their own age using only cell phone cameras, often have better production quality than those glory days of the 60’s and 70’s on the Original Tube. But it’s unlikely anyone will ever be able to top those hokey cardboard props and blinking cathode diode lights we all fell in love with on the very first USS Enterprise. Classic!

    Hopefully we will be able to find the time to visit Doug’s sister in Iowa sometime soon, and get together with you guys. It sure would be fun to meet you face to face!

  20. Anna Sabina, 17 July, 2009

    Okay, I MUST clear something up here. I am NOT, repeat NOT a Trekie. But i did like those Tribbles on the original show. I mentioned Riverside, Iowa as a way to lure the Lietz family to Iowa. And, yes Captain James T Kirk was “born” in Riverside sometime in the future and about 117 thousand people show up at in the tiny town of Riverside for some sort of event; I really do not know the specifics. Cindy’s sister in law (Doug’s sister) does live in Fairfield Iowa; I know cuz Cindy told me. The only notable thing about Fairfield is it is the home of Maharishi University of Management. Basically it is a rich kids college where they learn Tanscendental Meditation at about $50,000.00 tuition per year. Now, there really isn’t much else around Fairfield; not that I have been there.
    It would be an inexpensive vacation for the Lietz crew, they could have Scotty “beam them” to Iowa and take “floater classes” to get home

  21. Jocelyn, 17 July, 2009

    That blue tack stuff is the best. For canes, who knew? Great tip, thanks!

  22. Anna Sabina, 18 July, 2009

    Here is a picture of the Bead Strand for the IPCA Retreat. Each participant made a black and white bead to be added to the strand. There actually were 2 identical strands, one was auctioned off and the other was placed in the IPCA archive.

    2009 IPCA Retreat Photos from Anna Sabina

  23. Anna Sabina, 18 July, 2009

    Here are pictures of the IPCA retreat swap items. The theme was hands across the water. It is interesting to see how this was interpreted.

    I keep remembering tidbits from the retreat I want to share but they come in no particular order. LOL There was just so much new stuff I learned but this is a good one. According to Judy Belcher, slightly stretching a sheet of clay run though your pasta machine will help remove air bubbles. Who knew !!!

    2009 IPCA Retreat Photos from Anna Sabina

  24. whitie, 25 October, 2009

    i’ve found out that air-dry polymer clay doesn’t need to bake.but the problem is that it would dry up very quickly.should i use the air dry polymer clay in what kind of conditions of room,like in cold or hot rooms.

    my biggest problem is,would air dry polymer clay corrodes when it came in contact with water even after it has harden up?

    what should i apply one the surface to make it look shiny and act as a procter?

  25. Cindy Lietz, 29 October, 2009

    Hi Whitie, thanks for your questions. I personally have not worked with air dry polymer clay. I too have concerns about it drying out and being durable enough should it get exposed to moisture. Is there any reason why you need to work with air dry clay?

    If you are looking to learn all about regular polymer clay (not air dry) and how to use it, I have an excellent video course for beginners that you may like. It will save you a lot of time and money by avoiding mistakes that most people make when starting out.

    Click the link by my name for more info.

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