Reducing Polymer Canes | Fimo Clay Tips for Making Millefiori Beads

Reducing Polymer Clay Canes

These Recent Comments Identify Cane Reduction As One of Your Biggest Polymer Clay Challenges:

“I’m slightly new to the clay and loving it every step of the way. My biggest problem is – is there some trick when making the cane and how to make sure it stays the way you have formed it when you compress the cane and make it longer. Mine are starting to look like I want them to, but so far I’ve been unable to make a butterfly that LOOKS like a butterfly once I’ve completed it. Is there a trick?? I think I could go on and on with clay, and i LOVE your sight. Thanks so much for all the help and for sharing your talents.” ~Linette


“I am very much a newbie to PC but love it. My biggest problem is setting up and reducing canes. They never seem to come out at the right proportions.” ~Angie Milosevic


“I have a problem with making rose canes, mine look like a big mess and I really, really want to make rose canes.” ~Cheryl


“Right now I am trying to learn canes. They are so difficult to do at the beginning. The canes don’t stay round they squish.” ~Lisa


“I’m just a newbie, my greatest challenge was making those flower canes and reducing them to even smaller pieces that would fit in as small as nail decorations without even destroying the figure in my canes.” ~Fritzie


“My biggest challenge is in cane making. After I design and put a cane together, and then start to reduce it by gently squishing in the middle and trying oh so hard to keep the ends even, it never fails that the ends go into themselves and then the design starts to come to the outside of the cane. I hope I am describing this so that you know what I mean. I need to learn how to reduce my canes. Also, I could still really use a lot of tutoring on designing canes. I tried to make a face cane, and it came out VERY distorted to say the least. Thank you for all of your help.” ~Cindy Erickson


“My greatest problem is trying to do face canes. I cannot get them to look like a face. they are really distorted. Please help.” ~Marla


“My biggest challenge is canes have been claying for a while now and seem to have some trouble with the idea of reducing and how to get the kaliedescope effect. I have lots of tutorials but a video seems to be my greatest learning tools. Is why I like your site, you have quite a few to learn from. I would like to know exactly how to put the clay into the canes to keep the petals of a flower rounded instead of squaring off.” ~Laurel


“I am currently making (or trying to make) canes of designs. Some turn out, but others are not quite up to par. I’m tempted to buy canes already made, but I know I’ll never learn to master this if I do. So I promise I won’t.” ~Jana


“Biggest Problem for me seems to be complex caning. I love it but I am having a hard time with keeping the details when reducing. Looks great as a 2 1/2 in cane but when reducing it down, Some of them are UGLY!! All of the colors seem to run in together making magenta look orangey ?!(is that a word?!?) or colors disappearing all together.” ~Wendy Jones


“My biggest challenge is making Flower Canes. I just cant seem to get all the pieces together so that it looks right. Very frustrating.” ~Tabatha Pimentel


“I can’t make nice geometric canes – they get a bit distorted.” ~Helen


“I have made only a few canes that I like even after having spent much time and lot of clay trying. The clay is either too soft & loses its shape or it crumbles after I have used it in a pattern.” ~Margaret Blotja


“I love the look of precise kalidescope canes but mine always get jumbled.” ~Arlene Harrison

So… Here’s 6 Tips That Should Help With Some of Your Cane Reducing Woes:

1) Make sure that all of the clays you are using to build your canes are of the same consistency and temperature. Firm clays and soft clays move differently and will not reduce evenly when they are combined in the same cane.

2) It’s best to condition each color of clay that you plan on using in advance, and then let the clay sit overnight. After this “resting” period, run each of the colors through your pasta machine to check for density. If one flattens out very easily, it’s too soft. Cracking along the edges indicates the polymer clay is too hard.

3) Be especially mindful when packing the background of your polymer clay cane so that there are no holes showing. When there’s air pockets, the clay next to the space will ‘slide’ into it. This can cause lots of cane distortion once it is reduced.

4) Try pulling and stretching the clay rather than rolling it. This keeps the elements inside the cane from twisting and distorting.

5) When reducing your canes, keep your motions equal on all sides. And flip the cane end for end regularly This keeps one side from moving further down the length of the cane than the other.

6) You can stick the end of your cane to your smooth work surface and use the flat palms of your hands to push on opposite sides of your cane at the same time. Turn the cane a 1/4 turn and press again. Keep turning and pressing evenly to get the cane to lengthen. Flip the cane periodically to keep the reduction even. This flipping action also minimizes the distortion and waste on the ends of the cane.

To learn more about the cane making process, here are some other articles that you can read:

Please do let me know if the tips I provided above gave you any new ideas on how to reduce your polymer clay canes more effectively. And if you continue to have problems, let me know that too. I’ll do my best help you find a solution.

Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor

  1. Cindy Lietz, 04 November, 2008

    Some people swear by chilling their canes in the fridge before reducing for best results. Others swear by warming them up a bit in an oven with the temperature dialed way, way down. I’d love to hear your opinions about these two very opposite approaches. Which method do you prefer?

  2. Illaya Brown, 10 November, 2008

    I always chill my canes for about 30 minutes. I also always make sure that my clay is either mixed brands with equal percentages or just one brand.

    I found after years of being frustrated with cane reducing that adding about 2 inches of scrap clay to both ends of my cane, that all the waste and distortion stopped. The scrap clay moves inward without effecting any of my newly built cane. Illaya

  3. Catalina, 19 April, 2009

    Illaya, I didn’t think to add scrape clay to the cane. That sounds good so I’m going to try it. I usually just keep pressing the ends in as it starts to distort. I, also, have to be patience enough to chill them first.

  4. Cindy Lietz, 21 April, 2009

    @Illaya: I am so sorry sweetie I missed this comment! I try so hard but some slip through the cracks. I am really glad Catalina answered this because it popped into my inbox again and I see it was never addressed. Adding scrap clay to the ends pf canes, is an excellent way to deal with distortion! I read about it recently and have been meaning to pass it on. Thanks so much for doing so for me! I’m sure many others will love the idea!

    Catalina: Thanks for addressing Illaya’s comment! I missed that one. It is not so much a matter of chilling the canes when you want to reduce them. It’s more of letting them get to the same temp all the way through to the core by letting them rest. Chilling is more for when you want to slice your polymer clay cane without distorting it. Hope that makes sense!

  5. Meg Blevins, 05 August, 2009

    Cindy, thank you for your VERY informative site. I am new to this art-form and am now a member so that I can continue learning. I messed up…I created a dragonfly cane. Very pretty, but it’s 1″ thick and about 6″ wide (think thick coaster). Can I add extra background clay to the top and bottom to make it thicker in order to reduce it? Is there a better way to reduce it? Thank you for your help!

  6. Cindy Lietz, 06 August, 2009

    Hi Meg! Been there myself a few times so I can relate.

    Usually, what I do is make sure the cane is stuck to a tile or a cutting board and then cupping both hands around the cane (like you were holding a warm cup of coffee, gently push your hands towards the center. Keep moving your hands around the cane and pushing in so that all sides are getting equal pressure. Flip the cane over so that the top doesn’t get too domed and stick it firmly to the surface, squeezing like you did before.

    If you do this slow enough and even enough, making sure the ends don’t get too deformed you can get the cane to a more normal dimension, so you can reduce it the way you normally would.

    I don’t usually like to stick scrap clay onto the ends of my canes cause then I can’t see what’s going on, but lots of people do. Do what works best for you.

  7. Mikki, 20 May, 2010

    Hello, I have found your tips really helpful. I, myself have been having trouble with making heart and star fruit canes the stretching process atleast.. Their shape is complicated and I do not want to squish it. Do you have any advice or help that can solve this?

  8. Cindy Lietz, 21 May, 2010

    @Mikki: Thanks! I’m glad you like the site! I take it you want to use these canes for miniatures? If you reduce the sections to as small as you need before putting it together (for example reduce the points of the starfruit separately instead of in the star shape) than you will get them nice and tiny. Another way is to reduce using the PlayDough technique, which can find on YouTube, but it can be quite a hassle to get your tiny canes clean again after removing the temporary PlayDough background.

    If you are using the canes for bead making you can just pack the background with translucent clay. Click the link by my name for more info on how to do that.

  9. Melodie Fairburn, 22 February, 2013

    Hi Cindy

    Thanks for another great cane reducing tutorial. I was wondering why you never roll your cane to reduce it, like so many other tutorial suggest you do.

    I am sure there is a really good reason that I haven’t learned yet.

    Thanks for making my morning coffee taste so good, lol. I enjoy your tutorials so much that I have to start disciplining my self to stop watching and start making. lol

    Have a great day.


  10. Cindy Lietz, 22 February, 2013

    Hi Melodie, that is a great question! The reason you don’t roll a cane on the table to reduce it is because it will get twisted inside and will reduce unevenly. Won’t make much of a difference at all on something like a bullseye cane, but on something like this Easter Lily Cane it will. That would make a good subject for one of these PSA style videos sometime. I will put it on the list.

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