Old Polymer Clay Canes – Revive Hardened Fimo Canes for Bead Making

Cracked Polymer Clay Cane

Just Because Your Millefiori Canes Have Gone Hard and Brittle, Does Not Mean They Have To Be Thrown Out:

Maybe you stored your polymer clay canes improperly. Or perhaps they have been sitting around for a long time, and now they’re hard as a rock. Don’t rush to reduce them or you may cause permanent damage to your canes!

The first thing you need to do when you want to work with an old hard cane, is to check and make sure it hasn’t been partially cured by accident. This can happen if the cane was stored in a very warm area, in direct sunlight or even under a hot lamp.

A good way to check if it is partially cured is to take a slice and squish it in your fingers until it is completely mixed. If there are hard bits of clay in your mix, it has probably started to cure.

With a partially cured cane, the best thing to do is pop the whole cane into the oven to finish the curing process. After taking the cane out of the oven, and while the cane is still warm, cut it up to make cane slice beads.

Another thing you can do with a partially cured cane is to chop it into small bits, or grate it for mixing with new clay to make faux stone.

Now if the cane has not yet started to cure and is just really really firm, don’t rush into trying to reduce it. You will end up with a cracked up mess. Make sure your older canes are ‘ready’ before you start working with them. Here’s some things you can do:

1) Re Hydrate: If your polymer clay cane is cracking quite badly, it can help if you try to add some plasticizers back into the clay. A thin sheet of Fimo Mix Quick wrapped around an old cane can work wonders. Let it sit for a day or so to soak in as best as possible. I have also used baby oil rubbed onto the outside of the cane which is then wrapped in Glad Cling plastic wrap.

2) Warm It Up: Wrap in plastic and put close to your body to warm up. (Some artists like to tuck it into their bra, but that is up to you! :-) You can also warm up the cane by placing in a baggie and setting in a bowl of hot water. A heating pad, a cup of coffee, a baby wipe warmer or a metal or glass lampshade will work too. Don’t get it so warm that you end up with partially curing clay though. The cane will need to warm up all the way to the center, so this can take awhile if the cane is large.

3) Pound It: Using your acrylic rod, gently pound down the length of the cane. Make sure to pound with even pressure and to do it on each side of the cane equally. Compressing and beating the ends will also help. This ‘shakes’ up the molecules in the polymer clay and helps get them to move again.

4) Wiggle It: Gently wiggling, twisting and pulling the Fimo cane will also help to get it moving. Be very careful though. The image will crack if the clay is not soft or warm enough to be reduced.

If you work carefully and slowly, you can get just about any old cane to cooperate with you and reduce properly.

To learn how to store you polymer clay canes so you have as few problems with them as possible, read these articles:


Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor

  1. Mary Ellen, 15 November, 2008

    I’ll try to remember your tips. A had the same problem with clay I didn’t store properly and did the clay softener drop at a time trick. With determination it finally came alive. That was my first. Thank again, Cindy

  2. Susan, 16 November, 2008

    Thanks for these tips. I am so hesitant to even use Fimo. What I have seems so hard to condition, that I usually just keep putting it back in my “use later” stash. Maybe I’ll take the Fimo plunge one of these days, after all. Susan

  3. Cindy Lietz, 16 November, 2008

    @Mary Ellen: You’re very welcome! These tips can actually save some money too, by not having to throw out clay canes you think are ruined!

    @Susan: Some of that old Fimo is the best stuff to use for making canes. If you type in ‘hard clay’ into the search box at the top of this blog you will find some articles on how to soften it up a lot easier. Wouldn’t want you putting off a perfectly great time to be claying, cause the clay is too hard to work with!

  4. MJ, 05 December, 2008

    Hi Cindy,

    Very informative. Can you tell me where to find the Fimo Mix Quick? I have been looking for some for quite awhile (over a year) now.

    Thanks. MJ

  5. Cindy Lietz, 05 December, 2008

    I bought mine at Michaels but I haven’t seen it there since. The Clay Store carries it though. Just Google it to get the link.

  6. MJ, 07 December, 2008

    Thanks Cindy. Will look there.


  7. Nevena, 16 August, 2009

    Assuming, that i have kept the polymer clay in a wrong plastic bag for a couple of months – does it mean that i have to throw it away? And – is there such thing as old clay that can not be fixed or just clay that can not be fixed? Or you could make almost any workable with some oil? And what kind of oil works best?

  8. Cindy Lietz, 16 August, 2009

    Hi Nevena,

    All great questions! The first step to getting some quick answers is to use the search function. There is a search box at the top of every page of this blog.

    The topics you are asking about have been discussed in other threads so I know you will find some good feedback by using search keywords such as:

    baby oil
    old clay
    hard clay
    plastic bag

    If you still have questions after reading through the information that is already posted, then by all means post specific questions in the comments section below any relevant article. And either myself or another member of this supportive community will be sure to help you out further.

  9. Jocelyn, 15 July, 2010

    Had to pull this one up, the answer was here, I just didn’t find it. Thanks for all these visual and tactile tips, Cindy. Be easier now to figure out which canes need more attention and save more. This adds money back into my budget and I thank you.

  10. Liz T, 21 November, 2013

    Hi Cindy,

    I ordered canes from China. They are hard as a rock and can hardly be cut.

    I watched your softening up canes video and will try the oven and water.

    I was wondering about “oil”. Have you tried slathering simple vegetable oil on a cane and leaving it wrapped for a few days to see if that softens it up?

    I am a beginner, I mean really a beginner. The beads I have made look like well……… a mess. I cover them with modgepodge after baking and it makes them look better. My problem is getting the little pieces of cane to stick to the balls of clay. Also they will not spread out when I do get them to stick. I think they need to be softened in my opinion. Can you give me some words of advice?

    I am working my way through your video’s they are wonderful. Thanks for the hard work you put into the video’s.

    Thanks for listening and any help you can give me..

  11. Jocelyn C, 25 November, 2013

    Hi Liz! Place ‘hard clay’ or “softening clay” in the search box in the upper right corner, and you will find a wealth of help.

    Each type of clay has it’s own characteristics, but, if I need stone hard clay now I put it in my B/D food processor and pulse. Prior, I might get out my huge mallet, put the clay in a baggie, then pound it a few times first. The best and fastest softener for me is Mix Quick.

    It’s very soft, and I basically smear it on chunks of clay (small amounts it really works) then pulse more. The friction and the combining produce great usable clay in just minutes. Plus, your hands don’t hurt.

  12. Jocelyn c, 25 November, 2013

    Liz, my apoligies for missing the “cane” reference, but the same is true on searching. Cindy did a great tute on what worked and did not, in restoring old canes.

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