cane \'kan\ n -- a polymer clay rod of two or more colors; the colors inside the rod are constructed in such a way that when the rod is cross-sectioned at any point, a 2 dimensional pattern is revealed.
Have you ever seen those brightly colored polymer clay canes and thought you could never make them yourself? Canes can be made quite easily if you'll just start at the beginning. The canes described are the most basic foundational techniques. If you take your time and try these easy steps, you'll find that you can master these simple patterns. Then when you combine these simple patterns together, you'll have a quilt-like display of colors and designs. Once you've constructed several canes, you can use them to make beads for jewelry projects. You can also use slices from your canes to cover home decorating items. Any item that can withstand the curing temperature of polymer clay (275 °F) can be covered with your wonderful patterns. Items include paper mache frames and boxes, wooden shapes like drawer pulls or finials, glass jars or bottles, and empty metal cans. The possibilities are endless!
Each cane that is featured here has been worked into a square cane - when you view it from the cross-section, it is a square. Making each of your simple canes the same square shape, makes it easier to use them together later in a complex pattern.
While making a cane, the clay tends to soften as it becomes the same temperature as your hands. Allowing the cane to firm at room temperature will make it easier to slice and use. You may also find that you prefer your canes to be even more firm for slicing. Placing them in the refrigerator for a few minutes will give even more firmness.
The Speckle Cane is probably the easiest to achieve. Making this cane first will teach you the foundational technique for making rods of equal size and length. Any colors will work however the Speckle Cane lends itself nicely to a monochromatic color scheme.
Condition your lightest color first. Then roll it into a rod about 3" long on the work surface. Clean your hands and work surface and repeat with the medium color. Clean again and repeat with the darkest color. Working from lightest to darkest and cleaning your hands and work surface between each color will keep the darker colors from transferring to the lighter ones. You should now have 3 rods each about 3" in length.
Gather the three rods together into a bundle.
Gently roll the bundle on the work surface until it is one smooth rod. As you roll, don't let the colors turn. Roll this new rod gently until it's about 8" long.
Divide the rod into four sections each about 2" in length.
Bundle the four sections together in your hand. Gently squeeze them together. Roll the bundle gently on the work surface until it is again about 8" long. Always be sure with this cane to keep the stripes on the outside straight - don't let them twist. When the cane is about 8" long, repeat steps #4 and #5 to multiply the speckles. You can keep repeating steps #4 and #5 until the cane is as speckled as you like.
Once the cane is as speckled as you like, roll it gently on the work surface but keep it short. The speckle cane is now complete but for the purpose of these projects, I'll describe to you how to change it from a circle cane to a square cane. Gently apply pressure along one side of the cane with your hand. Turn it 1/4 turn and apply pressure again. Repeat this step until the cane has four definite sides.
You can now make the cane more square by rolling along each side of it with a clay roller, or glass jar.
Pinch the corners all along the length of the cane with your fingers. Turn the cane and repeat this process on each corner. After pinching, roll along all four sides again with a roller. This process will allow you to turn any circle cane into a square cane. Next, we will reduce the cane slightly:
Reducing a cane means making the diameter smaller while increasing the length. By reducing you can make the details in the cane more intricate. This is a foundational technique that will work with all cane types. Reduce the cane by gently rolling along the side with an acrylic roller, applying gentle pressure as you roll. (See step #7.) Then turn the cane 1/4 turn and repeat for each side. Repeat this process on all sides until the cane is approximately 1" square. The length of the cane is not important at this point - only the measurement across. Set the cane aside and allow it to firm up before slicing.
The Checkerboard Cane looks great in two colors which contrast each other. Try this cane using a light and a dark color or two colors which are opposites.
Condition and shape each color into a fat rod. Remember to work from light to dark and also to clean your hands and work surface between colors.
Refer to Speckle cane instructions #6-8 to change your circle rods into square rods. Make your square rods equal in diameter.
Press the two colors side by side and roll over the top of them to make sure they are level with each other. Cut the two-colored rod into two equal lengths.
Group the two sections together with the colors alternating in checkerboard fashion. Press them firmly together. Refer to Speckle Cane instructions #7 and #8 to reduce the cane to 1" square. Trim the ends and divide the cane into four equal sections.
Group the four sections together again in checkerboard fashion. Reduce again until the cane is 1" in across. Set the cane aside to firm before slicing.
The Jellyroll Cane is so easy but it is a very foundational part of making many other complex canes. It requires you to make sheets of clay instead of rods. This cane will start out circular but again for these projects, we'll turn it into a square cane. Like the Checkerboard Cane, the Jellyroll is most outstanding when you use either light and dark or opposite color combinations.
After conditioning each color, you'll need to turn each one into a sheet. The Sculpey Clay Conditioning Machine creates even sheets of clay in a breeze. An acrylic roller may also be used. Flatten the lighter lump of clay into a slab. Keep flattening the slab until it's easily rolled over with a clay roller or heavy glass jar. Roll over the clay in one direction then lift it from the work surface and turn it 1/4 turn. Repeat rolling and lifting and turning until the clay is a sheet about 1/6" thick.
Clean your hands and work surface and repeat this process with the darker color.
Layer the light color over the dark color. Press them together by rolling over the top. Trim one edge straight.
Gently roll the light color up inside the dark color. Work slowly so that you form a firm roll without trapping air bubbles inside.
Squeeze the jellyroll in your hand working from the middle of the cane to the ends to choke out air bubbles. Roll the cane gently on the work surface to smooth. Refer to Speckle Cane instructions #6-8 to change its shape to a square cane. Reduce the square cane until it is 1" across. Set the cane aside for a while to firm it.
The Pinwheel Cane is so easy. It starts out basically the same as the Speckle Cane using rods of equal proportions. The Pinwheel Cane will look great with any three colors, but I like it best with the lightest color in the middle. The Pinwheel Cane can also be made with more sides. For this instruction I used only four sides so that the cane lends itself well to the square shape.
Refer to Speckle Cane instruction #1 to make three rods of equal size and length. Refer to Speckle Cane instructions #2 and #3 to bundle and roll the three colors together. Pinch a sharp point along the top of each color so that your rod becomes triangular. Smooth the sides between the points with your fingers
Trim the ends of the rod. Divide the rod into four equal sections each about 2" long. Bundle these together with the light color always in the middle and the other two colors in an alternating pattern.