Sunday, 3 March 2013

What is a Cane?

This was a question asked by a good friend of mine recently, and the best way I could describe it was like a stick of Blackpool rock, with the design running right through it. The perplexed look I got from that description deepened as I imagined she was wondering how on earth you do that. So I thought I'd show a little demonstration of one of my far-from-perfect Rose canes, so you can see for yourself how they are built and the amount of work that goes into one.  Now, this is not a tutorial, though if anyone looking in you can use it as such if you wish, but trust me, there are free tutorials all over the net, just google. This is MY way of doing it, which may or may not be the 'right' way, but it works for me.

 So, we begin with the colours of clay we need. In this one I've used fuschia pink, mid pink (which I mixed with some of the white to lighten it a bit), white and translucent. Translucent clay looks opaque in it's raw state but after baking, clears almost completely. I've only ever had one bad batch of translucent that stayed whiteish after baking. I binned it.

After conditioning and rolling the clay to a smooth, soft workable state, I then made a 'skinner blend' of the three colours, which is a way of folding and rolling over and over to meld the colours together . I then rolled it through a thin setting on my pasta machine to make a long thin strip of white through to fuschia pink. I then concertina folded the clay to make a block of graduated colour.

After gently teasing it into a rounded block, I rolled it to 20cm length and cut it in half. The first half I cut five 2cm lengths, while the second half I rolled further to 20cm again and cut that into ten 2cm lengths.

Then came the shaping. The smaller ones were flattened along one side, while the larger ones were flattened along both sides.

Then comes the assembly, which begins with rolling one of the smaller petals, and placing the rest of the smaller petals one at a time around it, overlapping slightly. The larger petals are then added, again slightly overlapping.

Once this is done, take a small smooth long tool, or cocktail stick, and make a groove along the length of each of the outer petals.

Now comes the packing. First roll out some translucent clay to a thin snake about the size of the tool you used and place lengths of it along the grooves you made in the petals.

Once that is done, place thin slices between those to level it out. Smooth it all down a bit and then roll one thin sheet of translucent clay around the whole lot.

Now you have a roughly 2cm long, fat rose cane, which needs to be reduced. Gently squeeze it and rotate it from hand to hand, really gently. This bit takes time and patience, so think of your cane as a tiny fluffy kitten, squeeze too hard and you'll hurt it, or in the case of polymer clay canes, distort it.

As the cane gets longer and thinner, you can begin pulling and twisting ever so slightly, with a quick roll every so often to keep it smooth. As it gets thinner still, you can begin rolling it on the board or table, but be careful you don't do this too soon. The ends will bulge and look distorted but don't worry, that's supposed to happen, you just cut them off when you're done.

Here is the result of the cane. Slices are then taken and placed on a base sheet or bead and smoothed in, in whatever way you wish to use it. I'll show you more when I've made something out of this cane.


  1. Wow! And that`s before you make anything, it must take a lot of patience. I`m surprised your prices aren`t double what they are in your shops.
    Thank you.


    1. Ah but one cane goes a long long way. I've used this one already, and hardly made a dent in it. I have canes I made months ago that I'm still trying to use up.

  2. Wow will get my husband to have a look as he wants to make canes then turn them into pens thanks for the info

  3. You're welcome. Pens seem to be popular so tell him to get going on them. :)