What To Do When Polymer Clay Techniques Don’t Work Out As Planned

Old Cracked Clay Cane Slices

Crackled Cane Slices! Aaakkk! That Wasn’t Supposed to Happen!

The problem with having too much of any one polymer clay cane, is that the cane can get old and unpliable if it sits around too long. It is one of the reasons I don’t often make enormous polymer clay canes.

What happens is that the plasticizers either settle or leach out of the clay. And then the cane becomes brittle and cracked, making it impossible to work with as is.

Just look at the picture above. The bird cane slice that was added to this polymer clay ‘fabric’ sheet was too brittle. And although it sliced up OK, when it was rolled out thinner, it crackled all up.

It can also be a problem when you are trying to fold cane slices from old canes, to make Mobius Beads or a Trumpet Flower Bead. Very frustrating!

Don’t despair though. These old canes cane be revived. Here’s an article written awhile back that most of you will not have read before. It’s all about how you can make your old canes, soft and pliable again… Reviving Hardened Fimo Canes

One more tip. If you’ve had a cane sitting around for awhile and you’re not sure if it’s old or not, take a fairly thin slice and slowly bend it in half until the sides touch. If it bends without cracking it’s OK to use. If not, it could use a little reviving!

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  1. Cindy Lietz, 13 April, 2009

    Another thing to know is, some canes that are old and hard have often been partially cured by being accidentally stored near heat or in a sunny window. Those canes will never revive no matter how hard you try. Chop those up and use them in a faux stone technique. At least they won’t be completely wasted that way!

  2. Illaya, 13 April, 2009

    I have another storage question. When I first started collecting and or making canes, I was told that a good way to store canes to make sure they did not get cooked from ambient temperatures was to store them in plastic wrap then store in containers in the freezer. Later I was told not to freeze them. I have removed all of my canes and clay supplies from the freezer allowed the moisture in the containers to evaporate naturally. What have I possibly done to my clay/cane stash?

  3. Cindy Lietz, 16 April, 2009

    Yeah I know I have heard conflicting info on that too Illaya!

    I think where the problem came when people stored their canes in the freezer, was that condensation would collect on the sides when they came into the air. Though since the clay is not water based, I don’t really know why that would be a problem for the canes.

    I doubt you’ve done any damage to your stash of canes by putting them in the freezer. I also doubt it had any benefit either, other than making them easier to slice.

    Do let us know if you run into any problems with them though. It would be good to add your research to the knowledge base here, so everyone can learn from it!

  4. Jocelyn, 09 May, 2009


    The only reason I can think of that the freezer is a problem is due to moisture. I stored some of my stuff in a freezer for years, actually forgot about it, and had no problems with the clay or canes when they were thawed, warmed, and dry. This clay and the canes did not contain transluscent clay.

    However, I did have a problem with transluscent clay plaquing. I used a lot of the transluscent in all my clay because I loved the way your images popped dimensionally upon baking and finishing. I asked everyone on the old pc forums and boards, and read everything I could find to see if I could figure out why and stop it.

    All I can say is that many of those folks who write the books, tuts, and fill the art galleries were very cautious about exposing the clay to moisture, and very generous with their time and advise. CT can be very humid and damp, especially in the summer, when I did most of the claying and baking (toaster oven on the deck, in shorts and shades,lol).

    Never did completely eliminate the plaquing, just adjusted my designs to look like it was part of the deal. But, using the air conditioner, not laminating and baking on rainy humid days, and starting with the oven cold with the clay inside (slow elimination of moisture) did make a huge improvement. Also the cold start seemed to cut down on the number of air bubbles in the final product with clay of any kind. I still plunged all transluscent clay into the ice water bath upon removing from the oven.

    That same year, I started claying heavily in the winter, and also noticed a big improvement, which I attributed to the lack of humidity. A decade or so later, I mostly do other things in the summer and clay in the winter. I also switched to all Kato clay, and I find that using her transluscent with her other clays greatly reduced the plaquing and air bubbles.

    Since folks standardly use water as a release agent for molds and clay in all climates without reporting problems, maybe the process improved. I probably got much better at conditioning clay and paid lots more attention to the details while I experimented. I also settled on one brand, instead of mixing clay manufacturers.

    Interested to hear from others and their experiences with this moisture issue. Please share!!! I love the process of experimentation with polymer clay. We each seem to have unique techniques and experiences, and reading the comments here at Cindy’s site has become an addiction in the last couple of months.

    For that alone, I cannot thank Cindy enough.

  5. Cindy Lietz, 10 May, 2009

    Thank you, thank you, thank you Jocelyn!!! Your response to Illaya’s question was amazing!

    You’re right about the moisture causing placquing or moons in translucent. In fact some of the faux stone techniques suggest you have your hands damp to encourage more of the moons.

    I read about a sculptor who avoided the moons by starting in a cold oven like you, but then starting at 100F and adding only 5 degrees more every five minutes until you reached 275F, then starting the timer. You’d basically have to sit on top of your oven for a couple of hours to get this result, so I haven’t tried the technique myself.

    Would be worth it I guess if you were doing very large batches or expensive sculptures.

    Thanks again Jocelyn! It is such a pleasure having you around this blog… you have no idea!

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