Other things to do with old canes

Dry or Old Canes


Old canes, have a tendency to get less pliable with age ...but they can be reinvigorated with the techniques below.

The most important thing to determine first is whether the cane is still raw, or it's partially-fully cured.
....if the cane has actually begun curing (either because it got too warm, or was left in direct sunlight, fluorescent light, etc.), no amount of manipulation (will allow you to reduce it ...though you can still take same-size slices). Desiree ....(unless long-time marinaded?)

To avoid cracking and splits in an old cane, it's important to re-awaken its molecules before bending it, or before trying to reduce it (make it smaller and longer)
(...see Reviving" below for proper reawakening techniques... warming, beating, compressing, etc.)

Because Premo is a softer clay, it mistakenly 'feels' ready to reduce sooner, and thus we start the actual reducing process too soon.
...Kato clay also needs a bit of warming first.
...Fimo (Classic?) seems to be the easiest ...probably just due to the fact takes longer to feel pliable (because it's a stiffer clay to begin with).
.........(I had to do some extensive testing a couple of years ago, and taking my time is what worked for me.) Valerie
.....most people seem to report Fimo Classic canes work up well even after many years
.... but FimoSoft canes tend to crumble. . ..
...........I started w/ FimoSoft & have some of my 1st canes made about 2 yrs ago - never have had a problem with them. Connie
..beginners luck or proper reconditioning?
.... my Fimo canes have always cracked if I went too fast... warming one in your hands helps a bit when you start...just go slowly and you'll save most of it. Kim

.... my Kato canes have all cracked (if I went too fast). Jeanne R.
.....Sculpey III canes stay pliable

I'm thinking that the translucent in both Kato and Premo is a problem
...... I have canes made over four years ago with Premo... the ones with no translucent are very, very workable....the ones with translucent have to be warmed well before using. Jeanne R.
I made a huge cane two months ago with Kato translucent and other Kato clays and it is impossible even though it was completely workable the first day I made it.... every day it became more difficult, and each day for five days I beat it just to try to eek out a few more pieces that would work. Jeanne R.
..Oh, I don't know about that.... I have a lot of Premo canes many years old, including several with translucent, and they're not cracked.
......sure, if I sharply bend an old cold cane it will crack, but we know that's not how to treat them (....when I do want to use one of them, I warm it and gently manipulate it until it's slice-able or reduceable).. Irene

cracking has been one problem that I in the southern hemisphere have faced ever since I can remember may have something to do with the time it takes for clay to reach us and the conditions it travels under.... however, I used Fimo for years and now use Premo and very rarely need to throw a cane into the scrap bin. Petra

I have created my Fimo canes with MixQuick (in the first place) ... then when I come to use them months later, they are still useable (as compared to having used Diluent to soften the clay). . . Jenny P.


wrapping your canes in plastic wrap or in a baggie tends to keep them pliable longer too... try not to make wrinkles in the cane sides though
.....wrapping canes in plastic wrap
(before putting in Rubbermaid or Tupperware-type containers) probably would have helped .. if the container is translucent though, it should also be kept out of (ultraviolet) light too if possible.

See Storage for more info on compatible wrappings or containers to use with raw clay
...especially these sub-categories: "Containers, small-med-lg." ...."Plastic wrap & baggies & plastic bags"...
"Waxed paper, parchment, Coated papers,etc."

I have stored canes in the freezer and found no cracking with canes stored this way. ...there is condensation when you first take them out to use them, but they can be wiped down or just set to rest to room temperature.
.... It's my theory that with time, the plasticizer in the clay settles out and is not mixed homgeneously throughout the clay after time. I think freezing slows this process. Susan
.....If you're storing canes in the freezer, the slices may develop condensation on them as they warm up, so make sure that has time to evaporate before you apply the slices to your project, or you'll probably get steam bubbles and other nasties in your finished product. Eliz.
....The plasticiser also comes out onto the surface when you bring them out into a warm room --they "perspire" an oily residue, so it is NOT just humidity in the room.
.........I used to freeze canes for long periods, but proved to myself that it dried them out (a bit?) they they became brittle by comparison to unfrozen canes of the same batch. I think that while long term freezing doesn't destroy canes, but doesn't really help them in the end. Sarajane


Most importantly, WARM your cane as much as possible .......(before slicing or reducing it) preferred method is to wrap the cane in plastic wrap or waxed paper, and stick it next to my body (under my thigh) while I'm sitting at my work table. Irene warm an old cane, you can put it in the microwave for 5-10 seconds on regular power. Check it, then continue zapping at 3-5 second intervals until it is workable.
...... I know it sounds radical, but I saw a VERY highly respected artist use a microwave at Ravensdale ...I think the reason it's not more publicized is because it's risky
...Margene put her old cane in a zip-lock bag, then floated that in hot water (NOT boiling though)... that made it soft enough for her to work with almost as easily as Donna Kato and Marie Segal did with their new canes. Burt
ipes warmer! ... those heating pad thingies made to wrap around a box of baby wipes to warm them to body temp. I use an empty wipes box and the warmer wrapped around it... put canes and blocks of clay in the wipes box and the warmer heats them up. . .
....(see many more ways to warm clay in Conditioning

COMPRESSING it lengthwise (and maybe from the sides) works too, and keeps it from splitting . . . so maybe using all 3 motions would work best
favorite way is to first warm the cane in your hands, or in some other warm spot
.......then set it on end, and press downward a little
.......then lay it on it's side, and roll it out a little
.......repeat this over and over until you feel the clay moving all the way through... learned this method years ago but don't remember from whom.Dotty

Someone mentioned gently TWISTING and PULLING the cane just a little first ...

BEAT or SLAM your old canes .......(or sheets)
......canes: the forces applied on the surface by doing this cause the molecules to vibrate throughout the whole cane, which softens it
......make sure to apply your hits as evenly as possible to minimize distortion of the pattern.

..take your acrylic rod (or something else) and beat on those canes with it ... literally!... all sides and both ends.
..OR, find a good study solid flat surface, then slam the cane against the surface over and over again. ......rotate the cane to impact all sides (...I think Sara Shriver introduced me to this best way to restore old stiff canes). Desiree
...After a few beatings, check the cane and if it has begun reducing, push it back into whatever dimensions you want.
......(you can combine the beating method with warming and manipulation to facilitate the process). Desiree

I don't reduce my entire cane completely ...I reduce only the amount I'll use before I store the rest of it.
...I reduce the entire cane by perhaps 1/4 ..... then I cut off the part I want to use immediately, and set it aside (for further reduction)
(...then I wrap the part to be stored in plastic wrap, and place in a non-reactive plastic storage drawer) Kim K.

I had old sheets of pc "fabric" that I'd made a year ago which I forgot all about... When I tested them last week they cracked when I touched them. So today I 'excited their molecules' by smacking them between their saran layers until I'd hit every inch of each.... I used both an acrylic rod and then switched to a rubber mallet.
......I must say IT WORKED like a charm.... I later used a lot of them to make mokume gane (slabs) after they were softened up. be sure that the plastic wrap covers the whole cane and that it's not wrinkled at all or you'll be beating texture onto your cane...Carolyn

One person even suggested using a vibrator of some kind to reawaken the molecules
(... vibrators for backs, feet, whatever...... or maybe on top of the washer or dryer, or other vibrating appliances or machinery?)

You can LEACH some PLASICIZER into your old cane from any really soft clay like translucent, to soften it (leaving them in contact for awhile);
....and/or you can rub on some Diluent, Liquid Sculpey, mineral oil, etc. onto your cane, enclose in a baggie and wait a few days or longer for it to sink into the cane.
........ ( "marinading")... old polymer clay usually benefits from an infusion of plasticizer, quick Mix, mineral oil etc. The problem is forcing the softening agents into the clay. I have one of those vacuum & seal food storage machines. (I highly recommend them, BTW). One of the features is quick marinading because in a vacuum the liquid marinade is much more quickly absorbed into the meat tissue. So instead of marinading meat for hours or overnight, it only takes 10 - 20 minutes. I'm wondering if after chopping up the stiff raw fimo, if using that machine to "marinade" the clay in a little oil wouldn't speed up the softening process a bit. The same basic process (without doing the chopping) might work on old stiff canes as well. Hmmmm.... Desiree
....*making an almost perfect vacuum with ziploc bags is easy (without a special vacuum machine). . . .Put your (clay, or clay/mineral oil, or canes, or clay sheets --or food) into the bag and close almost half of it. Find a little bit bigger container than your bag and fill it with water. Put the bag under the water (the air-hole should not go under water), and let the water (force) the air out of the bag. Seal and take out of the water. Dry with towel. You have to try this before you believe it is almost as good as any vacuum-bag machine out there. And yes, this is the method I use constantly with food (to help avoid freezer burn, and loss of vitamins, etc.). PöRRö

various methods used together
... What I do is put a drop or two of diluent or liquid plasticizer on my hands and rub them together to evenly distribute
... then I grasp the cane, release... move down a bit, grasp ... and repeat until I've gotten the plasticizer off of my hands and onto the outside of the cane.
...wrap with plastic wrap ...and let sit from 1 hour to a day or two
...I test it occasionally (....if the cane flexes when I try to gently bend it, it's time to work with it)
...grasping the cane again, from end to end, I warm it up.
...put it down on the table and roll it back and forth, putting little or no pressure on it.
...pick it back up and flex it very gently, starting at one end and going to the other. ....put back down and roll.
...Repeat, paying attention to how much "give" you feel in the cane. Kim K.

If you need to manipulate a raw slice from an old cane, or you wan to thin its edges before applying it to another surface, be sure to do a series of gentle presses on it between your fingers.... don't pull at all (or it will split).

Lastly, after slicing your cane, if the slices are sort of foggy looking, you can try swiping lightly with alcohol or Diluent before baking
. . . or you can sand & buff after baking to remove that layer; it may be that baking will reduce that?
. . . or just apply a gloss finish?

Other things to do with old canes

see many more ideas in Canes-info > "Unloved or Messed Up Canes"

As for your current old canes, don't give up on them though!. . . you can always find *some* way to use the slices or the cane if you really like it.

If you want to put slices from them together seamlessly on an object, or overlap the slices and press to create a smooth surface, that will be the most difficult (but there are things that wil hlep).

If you simply want to use fat slices alone (with a hole running from edge to edge for beads/spacer beads or earrings, e.g.) it will be easier.

On a whim I ran one of my bad cane ends through my pasta machine on #1. Gorgeous! I repeated this with the other end w/same results. Now I find myself going through my chop container for end scraps which I'm doing the same with. About 8 out of 10 come out w/a great pattern.... Going to try a thick slice and see if I get a nice big one to put on a boxtop, etc. kittyweil
....This sounded so great that I went and tried it and sure enough, my weird odd shaped metallic and black and cream scraps from a cane turned into a lovely enough swirly flat sheet that I immediately covered an Altoid tin with it as a gift. Robin J.

Try to think of ways to use the slices that don't call for seamless joining, like the thick slices above,
....or appliquing them onto a square bead or other item "in relief."

You can even bake *the whole cane* for 5 minutes or so, then take out of the oven and slice while warm with a stiff blade -- though these might have "fog" too and you'll have think about any holes you may want in advance.... see above for foggy problem.)

symmetrical patterns can be made from canes or scrap clay in several ways
....for example, combine this cane with itself or with other canes (old or new), compress them to a triangle log, cut 4 -8 or more thick slices from it, and recombine to form a square, hexagon or octagon shaped pendant or an object for onlay, handle to add to a vessel lid for lifting it, etc.
....Or simply reduce the canes to square logs (the older ones will not reduce as well and will stay larger and rounder--a design element you can use), reduce, then cut a number of lengths and recombine them till you have a pleasing small-motif, repeating pattern which can be used as a background or by itself (I like them on pens, e.g.). Diane B.
(see more on the various ways and effects in Canes-Instr. > Symmetrical Patterns .....and also Beads > Symmetrical)

If you have an older cane which has lost some of its flexibility, you can still use it for mobius beads: Slice the cane, paint each side of the slices with a thin layer of Sculpey diluent, and sandwich the slices between two layers of waxed paper. Put the sandwich under a *thick* layer of toweling under your heating pad, and set the pad on its lowest setting until the clay warms slightly. As the warm diluent soaks into the slices, they regain enough flexibility withstand the mobius warp.

You could also bake the slices first, then press into a mortar of soft clay, singly or like tiles in a mosaic.
.... the sun came thru the curtains & found those canes... so later I sliced them (with lots of difficulty) & used 'em anyway (esp great in mosaics)
...... I usually leave my canes in several diameters when I first make them, so as not to have to fight to get multiple sizes later. patsy

i had a bunch off old canes (which were) very hard and crackled.... i roll out a (sheet) off mixed translucent clay and push all kind off hard cane (slices) on to the layer. then i roll the canes in to the layer of clay ... then i fold it two times and run it through the pasta machine on setting 1, (then 2, then 3)...than i get this great crackeld cane look in layers. Brigitta

With my sun-dried canes, after crumbling them I whizzed the pieces even finer in my food processor, then incorporated them into some "mud" I already had--and came up with my own version of "Granitex"! I put it aside to use later, but alas--for the Granitex idea anyway--by the time I got back to that project a week or so later, the dried out pieces had become "reconsituted" by the good clay, so that when I ran it through the pasta machine a few times, the speckles blended into the rest of the mud. LynnDel
....(see more on this idea and others in Scraps > Hard Scraps, and in Sheets of Pattern > Other Sheets)