Important things to remember
All canes

Round canes
Square canes
End Caps method


When you have "built" a cane, it can be reduced in size so that the image becomes smaller and smaller. The image will remain exactly the same (if you reduce well). Reducing a cane is also useful if you want to cut it into same-length pieces then recombine them to form smaller and more complex multi-cane canes.

Important Things to Remember

The most successful reduction will happen if all the clays used in a cane are the same consistency and temperature... otherwise those parts won't reduce equally (...or could use the "end caps" method below). may have to add a bit of softer clay to any clay which is harder than the others
...or to leach a harder clay between pieces of paper to make it stiffer

All conditioned clays have to move at the same rate (or the moutains and cliffs come tumbling down! --probably my most crucial canes are my landscape canes)
.... When I am using many colors, I check on softness by conditioning every color
......... then I let them set overnight at least to cool off.
..........the next day or so, I cut off an equal amount of each color; flatten them slightly with my roller; and then put each through the pasta machine.
................If one flattens out too easily, it's too soft..... If I don't get a nice smooth sheet from another, it's too stiff.
........If I am just using a few colors, I make little sheets of them on the #1 setting, make a little stack, and roll the roller over them. If a color is too soft, it will squeeze out more at the sides (Mike Buesseler?)

I test the (relative) softness (of the clays) by putting layers of the different colors together(just a little square of it) and then brayer it as if I was trying to thin the layers. You can tell rather quickly if one of the colors is too soft because it will squish out more than the others or too hard and it won't move. Kat

Many caners will tell you to let your cane "rest" for a time to allow it to reach a uniform temperature ...before reducing.. Okay. Yes, this is a good idea and essential to prevent distortion. However, this does NOT mean that the cane must be uniformly COLD. My canes are almost always large (
When I let one of my larger canes (2-3 pounds) cool overnight, what I have in the morning is a large cold cane. Great. Do you know what a pain in the butt it is to reduce something like this? To say the least, it's difficult and time-consuming.
Another problem with this method is that when reducing a cold cane the heat from your hands will warm up the outer layers faster and leave the center cool. There goes your uniform-temperature cane! I've reduced many canes this way with less than ideal results.
To remedy this problem, I've learned to put all my canes in the oven before reduction. Again, I use a cookie sheet and set the temperature very low. The results are GREAT! I now have the option of reducing a cane right after I've made it or the next day. The cane is uniformly soft and reduction is a breeze. I can't tell you what a difference this has made for my caning (and my attitude…I actually look forward to reducing a cane!). Candy

...One of the most important steps to reducing a cane, and the hardest for me to do, is to let the cane rest once it is constructed. This gives all the components a chance to come to the same temperature. Sally
...I respectfully disagree . . . I reduce (successfully) 4 pound+ canes without. letting the cane rest. In fact, the cooler the cane gets, the more difficult it becomes to reduce and the more distorted it will become in the reduction process. Think of it this have a cold cane (room temp) and you reduce it with your *warm* hands. What ends up happening is the outer layers of the cane warm up *much* faster than the center because of your hands. This causes the outside of the cane to move faster than the center. I don't disagree that a cane should be uniform in temperature to reduce properly (that is *very* true), what I am saying though is that the cane needs to be warm so that the middle moves just as fast as the outside. You can warm up your canes in any way you want, but what I have found that works best is to warm them up at a very low temperature in my oven. I need to get to Wal-mart and get an oven thermometer so there isn't any confusion over "very low temperature." Anyway, that's my cane reduction advice and I know I'm in the minority... Candy

I don't really cane all that much, but I have noticed that if my Premo has been leached, I have much more control of it during the reduction process. If the Premo is good and soft the outside moves so quickly! Heather

outer design elements vs, inner design elements

When you reduce, almost no matter how well (except perhaps with the end caps method), the warmer outside design parts of a cane will move more than the cooler elements near the middle of the cane
...So whatever's on the outside of the cane image will thin, and whatever's on the inside will grow larger begin with smaller elements near the center of the cane than you might normally use (for example, the nose or lips for a face, unless you want to end up with a really large schnoz or lips if they're close to the middle)
......and make the elements near the outer parts of the cane image larger than you normallyl would (hair around a face, e.g., especially if the face has no background or very little)
......another way to protect the outer elements from getting too small is to use a lot of background around the image, so the image itself will be farther from the outside of the cane
..It's also good to wait for the entire cane to cool to the same temperature before reducing (I refrigerate too, if necessary).... for really large canes, this could even take several days

ALL canes

Since the outer portion of the cane will usually be warmer than the inside from your manipulations during building (unless you've let it rest first, which is always a good idea), you can begin pressing gently or whacking! in the *middle* of the cane length, especially for firmer clays.

Pulling-stretching* and pressing are the most distortion-free ways of reducing a cane, not rolling.
........however rolling is fine for reducing canes in which minor distortion won't matter, like spiral or other geometric canes
.......rolling is also fine just to smooth out a cane, etc., when a reduced cane is almost as small as you want, (or for canes which have already been mostly reduced with other methods)
..Also try to keep all motions equal on all sides, and reverse the direction of the cane periodically to keep the ends the same.
..Remember, the ends will always be distorted with this method (you can periodically squeeze near the end of the cane to keep the clay "inside" and the ends less distorted.) Diane B.

Z Kripke had us use the side of our hands and fists to pound the clay to reduce it. ...Surprisingly, it worked! Her theory was that the pounding took energy to the center of the cane and got it moving along with the outside.
.....After using edges of hands and fists (which got sore), some of us moved on to using our acrylic rods. Dotty
(....see more below in "whacking")

various photos of large canes being reduced with various techniques (... look at thumbnails of all 100 photos to find the reducing ones!)

Packing clay in and around various components (or simply pressing components together) can cause distortion in the cane when it is compressed and reduced, because it's really difficult to avoid having tiny gaps between the added packing pieces of clay.
...unfortunately, these gaps will be filled in by any clay closest to them during reduction!

(...see below in Component Method for for warnings about packing clay around features when making face canes and reducing... and how to avoid distortion)

ROUND (+other) canes

whacking (hard!)

First, I let the cane sit overnight after building it and making sure it's well compacted together (no air spaces).
My reducing technique involves banging the sucker around until it starts moving as one peice and not just the outside. I whack it pretty good, aiming the hits toward the center of the cane. Then I try squeezing the middle a bit and sort of working outward from the squeeze to the ends.
If it starts edging the sides over the ends at all, or sucking in at all, I go back to banging it
"The important thing is to direct all your moves toward the center of the clay and get the center moving at the same speed as the outside". (This is a direct quote from Kathy Amt).
When it gets moving pretty good, I might hang it down from one end and sort of stroke downward like milking a cow letting gravity help stretch the cane. If you do this swap ends once in a while.
....I use a register mark (a thin line down the top of the cane) so I can see if it twists.

Bob just rotates (his huge cane) and whacks it...... his acrylic rod is actually crazed from all the whacking. Kat
...Bob's lesson on reducing a huge face cane by rolling around the outside with a large solid acrylic rod...pressing down on the middle... pounding with the rod up and down the sides of the cane...then pulling
AFTER: (hard to tell the diameter here, but I'm sure it's less an an inch)
OR... (then click on each Next photo from drop down menu)

(for square canes only?)....For some reason that I don't understand, this method will reduce a cane with little distortion and little waste....if anything, it reduces the inside of the cane more than the outside so the ends bulge outward only slightly. I speculate that it's the vibrations of the water that make it work so well. I don't even usually let the cane rest before reducing--only if the temperature in the room is very warm or I'm using different brands or consistencies of clay in the same cane. I know this sounds crazy, but it really does work:
.....I use a small straight-sided glass bottle with a tight-fitting screw-on top, 3/4 full of water. Like a Worcestershire sauce bottle.
Holding the neck of the bottle as a handle, start tapping firmly on the cane with the side of the bottle. Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, moving from the end of the cane farther away from you toward yourself.
Then after doing this about 10 times, turn the cane end-to-end so you'll be working in the opposite direction. Suzanne

I once reduced somebody's round cane of Sculpey doing the pounding thing.
....Pounded it into a square, reduced it, and then patted it back into the round. Surprised the heck out of me when it was not badly distorted.

Sarajane's reduction of a 13-lb cane, which was built on it's side (rather than like a cake)... ended up large as her arm, then she reduced it to about an inch (and kaleidoscoped some of it?)

And Sarajane's tips on reducing canes, esp. large ones


For canes, it doesn't matter if you let them rest or not, the main thing is to have it a consistent temperature throughout so the clay moves at the same rate. The reason large canes are a problem is that your hands warm up the outsides layers, but can't get to the inside so the outside moves faster, the inside stays put, resulting in lots of waste as the ends with no center...
....the trick was to put the entire cane into the oven at low, low temps before beginning to reduce (tip was from Candace or Stephanie of Clay Daze)...test with something less dear to make sure you oven won't start to cure even at the lowest setting.. . .(after warming up the whole cane, it's much easier not only on your arms, but you've solved the consistent temperature problem). Kim Kl.

(I think my biggest cane ever was 2 lbs...but anyhow, I can say that the slamming really REALLY helps, as does letting the whole thing warm up). . . I put mine in the microwave at 5-15 second intervals.. .it helps SO much to warm it up, but you definitely have to be VERY careful with doing it. Lynne

Carol Simmons' huge 6 x 2" triangular cane (to make various kaleidoscope cane variations)
... polymerlcaydaily mentions that Carols put the cane in the microwave twice for 3 seconds during the 2-hr reduction

squeeze the ends first

Donna Kato...lately i've been pinching the ends then rolling the middle down. i have less waste that way….
Start reducing your cane by "choking" it at each end. That is squeeze up near the ends and reduce just that area somewhat. The middle will stay fat. Then, begin squeezing in the middle until it is the same diameter as the end portion. Repeat this. Don't try to do this all in one squeeze. Do it slowly. Stretch the cane a little in between squeezing. When the cane is about twice as long as it was to begin with, then is the time to start rolling it. But when you are rolling it, make sure each hand pulls outward somewhat, helping to stretch the cane out. Use the palms of your hands.

squeeze the middle first

Syndee: I'm going to do a real simple description of Marie Segal's SureFire Method of reduction, which when combined with Premo clay will yield the most beautiful, undistorted canes!!!
1. Grasp the cane in the middle of cane and SQUEEZE to create a dumbell effect.
2. Turn the cane and continue squeezing and squeeze up to one end.
3. Flip the cane over and squeeze to the other end.
4. Now lay the cane down and roll to smooth
This forces the inside clays to move along with the outside portions and provides for the least amount of distortion and waste. The photos I've included aren't the best, as this was a cane that was already reduced, but I think it will show what I mean (please note how little waste there is on the end of the cane). You REALLY feel like you would be causing more distortion this way, but it works like a dream!!!

Bob Paris reducing a huge face cane (same link as above) rolling around the outside with a large solid acrylic rod ...pressing down on the middle ... pounding with the rod up and down the sides of the cane...then pulling (see each step by selecting from drop-down menu)
or .

Leigh's lesson on using Marie's method as above, but she reduces the ends after squeezing most of the middle before squeezing the whole cane, then finishes squeezing the leftover unreduced length

I would say yes to squeezing from the center.. . this will push the ends out and keep them (somewhat) from caving in.
. . .I would also say no to rolling.. at least until you get the cane reduced. Rolling will allow any air trapped inside to destroy the cane.
....Squeezing will push the air out.
....Sometimes when I've finished building a cane, I slam it down on it's side a few times . . this helps push it all together (I cane with Fimo exclusively, but others are able to do it with softer clays) Cindy

I've had very few problems since I tried the "wasp waist" method that someone once described in this newsgroup. Basically, from the center of the cane, pinch in all the way around - just a bit - on a 2" diameter cane, I "wasp" it in about 1/4 to 3/8 " deep all the way around. Then you expand the "waist" with a second pass next to the original line. Once you have about 1 1/2 -2" pinched in, you can start to flow this reduction all the way to both ends. Speaking of ends - you'll notice that the ends are pushing OUT instead of sucking IN like when you roll the cane to reduce. ONce this happens, stop & do a little rolling & some just plane stretching of the cane to equalize. To stretch, stick one end to your surface & pull the other end & stick it down too, stretching it along the way.

I reduce using the barbell method of squeezing the cane in my hand. I don't worry about keeping the cane round as I reduce and when I'm almost done I round it out -- I have very little distortion and I have reduced plate sized [8" diameter] canes to ciggarette [1/4" diameter] without loss of clarity or detail.

SQUARE (rectangular) canes

(for reducing triangular logs and canes, see Canes--Gen.Info. > Tips for Making Canes, triangle )

Square (or rectangular) canes are usually created square, and reduced while remaining square.
...some canes won't suffer too much distortion though if they're pressed and rolled into a round cane first for reducing, then pressed back into a squared shape after reducing
...also, any round cane can later be made into a square cane (before or after reducing) as long as the slight distortion won't matter (e.g, many geometric and kaleidoscope canes, etc.)... making a round can squared can be for purposes of design, or to make slices from these canes fit together in a grid or row because of their now-straight sides

Squared canes (like any cane shape) can be created any size or volume of clay --from humongous, to medium-sized, to fairly small
...... and they may be created any height ---from very "short" canes (relative to their widths) to "taller" ones
...if they begin as fairly short and wide canes, the first part of reducing may need to concentrate just on getting the cane to be longer so there's enough room for it to be held or pulled or rolled over to finish reducing (...for canes which are already long enough to hold or roll over, this may not be necessary
(...some of the following tips are for first getting the cane small enough, and some may assume it's already small enough to pull/roll over, etc.)

Cristel's lesson on reducing a square cane using squeezing and a brayer (gone)
Janet's very large, short/wide rectangular cane beginning to be reduced with a long rod (hitting?, rolling?)

(for larger square canes)... i work all sides evenly by pressing-squeezing opposing sides
....... periodically, i roll each side smooth to square up the corners
... when i get to the small reduction, i pull the rod instead, like ceramicists pull handles. Donna Kato

(after it's long enough to hold onto) CZC uses an acrylic rod to lengthen the cane
...They hold one end of the cane with left hand .... then use the long rod to roll over it from the middle of the cane to its farther end –this lengthens the cane a little.
........then they turn the cane 90 degrees so the somewhat flattened side is up, and repeat
....They then flip the cane end to end so they can hold the otherend of the cane and roll over the other half
....... repeating everything until the cane is reduced as much as desired.

When I do square canes, I use my thumbs and first two fingers of each hand for the squeezing part, and an acrylic roller for the smoothing part of the process. first I smooth all four sides down the length of the cane with the roller, pressing a bit
....then I pick the cane up and "climb" up and down the length of it with pinchy fingers (one hand set doing the left/right faces, one handset doing the front/back faces of the square cane) this several times
....then I do the rolling thing again to smooth out and realign your cane's squareness. Sarajane

I start out by banging down the length of the cane with my acrylic roller... I do this on all 4 sides
....... then turn the cane 180 degrees and do it all again.... repeating this until the cane is a manageable size.
....Then I roll the roller on all 4 sides, just to smooth the cane.
....To finish reducing, I put my hands together on the middle of the cane, and gently smooth outwards, applying just a little pressure
. I do this on every side, and turn the cane 180 degrees again.... and continue until the cane is the size I want.
...The reducing starts out slow, but then speeds up as I go (maybe as the clay warms up).

(...see above in "Whacking," under Round Canes, for Suaznne's method of using a bottle of water to tap, tap, tap the cane
........the purpose of any type of whacking or banging is to create friction in the innermost parts of a larger cane so that it will begin to warm up and be able to move --the exterior areas will be warmed simply and quickly by the warmth and movement of hands).

In the McCaw tape, she stands the cane on it's end.
....Lock your fingers together like you're saying your prayers... then with the heel of both hands, press heels toward each other at the center of the (sides of the) cane
....... release, turn the cane 1/4 turn, and do the same on all 4 sides...... work your way towards ends.
....Turn the cane with the other end to the top, and repeat.
....Once the cane gets too long to stand on it's end, then lay it down flat and give it a stretch
........then slide your roller down the length of the cane on all 4 sides
.......stretch and roll and slide your roller again until it gets to the size you want. ....doing it this way will help to keep your cane square.

(also see the End Caps method just below for reducing square canes, as well as round ones)

long, solid rods or tubes of acrylic (or brass, or other things) which are square in cross-section
these can be used to reduce a round or square cane into a perfectly square cane ...or used to "square up" canes which are already square but maybe not exactly the cane between two of the rods.... then roll over with a roller or sheet of plastic/glass
...turn cane. and roll over again
(spacers between the rods (like an H) are sometimes used between the rods at both ends of the clay log to hold the rods apart (perfectly parallel)
....these rods can be other acrylic (short) rods, square wood pieces, or even baked clay ones you make yourself
.....some people use paper or waxed paper under the clay so prevent it from sticking to the work surface

END CAPS method
(little or no distortion when done right)

creating a vacuum + squeezing the middle

If the face ends of a cane are held perfectly flat, and therefore can't bulge outward or suck inward, then the amount of clay inside the cane must remain the same, and there will be no distortion and no waste (or very little).

The basic idea of this method is creating a total VACUUM between each end face of the cane and the stiff plastic disc pressed onto it (or whatever end cap you're using)
.....this vacuum will keep the cane end pressed tightly to the disc so that it CAN'T *pull inward* in the middle, and it keeps all the same clay inside the cane that you started with!

reducing a moon face cane with hexagonal glass disks at Shrinemont 2004
reducing a humongous cane (lobster + background), using a (hexagonal) ceramic tile on each end
...(photos of building cane, during reduction, and after reduction...... also shows how canes are often left as "gradual" reductions (she calls "volcanos") so later any size slice is still possible... in this case, she left both ends wide and reduced only the middle)

Sunni's lesson on using small mirror tiles at both ends, and squeezing

PREPARING cane ends for end caps:
... first slice off enough clay to make a perfectly flat cane end... slice back far enough into the cane that there are NO air gaps between any of the components
if you just hate cutting off any of your cane, instead you can press scrap clay into any gaps or even over the whole end of the cane end
......... then pack everything tightly together to remove any air gaps, before cutting the end of the cane flat an end cap tightly onto each end of the cane (bit of Vaseline may help with vacuum)
ONCE the caps are ATTACHED --to reduce: the cane in the middle to get kind of a bone shape (if you can't get your fingers between the disks for very short canes, use some kind of rod to press on the clay instead)
(--on canes which are very wide but short, sometimes a back-and-forth twisting motion can help loosen it up)
...then press all the way around each cane end (which is tight against the plastic disk/etc) from all sides with a tool or fingernail to reduce the diameter of the ends...... press the cane all around those areas with fingers to smooth if necessary this step, I sometimes reduce only one end of the cane so that I can save the larger end of the cane for larger slices)
...then begin to stretch the cane apart by pulling on both end caps to increase the length
...alternate the stretching (which reduces the diameter of the middle of the cane) with the pressing around the ends next to the end caps (which reduces the diameter of the ends of the cane)
...once the cane is long enough, it can even be rolled in the air with 2 hands to assist with reducing if desired
This whole process can take awhile, but I've successfully reduced a 3/4" tall cane (2-3" wide) with no waste. Diane B.

"end cap" possibilities
TRANSPARENT or TRANSLUCENT ... best because you can actually see what's happening to the cane end
...I press a flat, round-, square- or whatever-shaped piece of hard plastic or glass ... I try to make them just a bit larger than the end diameter.
...Michael's has small round glass pieces with their glass etching materials... Marlene
...craft stores often have glass discs for various things. . . flat glass disks to embellish for xmas ornaments, e.g.
..the clear lucite mounting pieces meant for rubber stamps can work...Valerie
...I buy acrylic discs at my local plastics store
...... polymer clay will begin to eat or cloud some kinds of hard plastic, so don't leave the end caps on for a long time unless they're acrylic
...With smaller-diameter canes, I use the softer translucent plastic that can be found in margarine lids or something similar, and cut them to the right size
OPAQUE ...but then you can't watch what's happening
...In a pinch, I've used a plastic or metal jar lid
...try the small ceramic bath tiles (about 1-2" square)
...I guess even using coins could also allow a vacuum seal if they were very firmly seated over the whole surface.
...see using small round mirror tiles in lessons just above, although the silvering can be removed from mirrors with toilet bowl cleaner (carefully, because they have an acid in them), or by scraping

My husband makes my rollers and cane end caps from acrylic (rods?).
.... It has been a learning experience for him. At first he just did the cuts and smoothed the rough edges but had lots of problems with minute cracks. ...From that he learned to lubricate the saw first. Now he is able to cut nicely and sand and buff to a nice clear finish. So it can be done but you need the right equipment. Trina

I've heard that if you smear Vaseline on the cane ends, the clay can't pull away.... I have some plexiglass discs and I love them. Donna Kato

Don't remove the end caps until your cane is reduced, because it is hard to get it suctioned back onto the glass if you decide you want to reduce it farther ( but could make a new cut or add scrap and make new cut).
. . . .I managed to stretch my "hockey puck" about three feet... Ziggybeth
(her parrot cane reduced by end-caps method); not at site either (gone)

Or ...use your smooth work surface as a kind of end cap --or at least a "holder" (instead of 2 end caps, or could use regular end cap on free end as well)
...adhere one end of your cane to the work surface...reduce a bit
...then flip it over and adhere the other end and reduce more. Valerie


for reducing odd-shaped canes, see Canes--Gen.Info

when reducing canes to a very small size, the eye may change how it perceives the strength and shade of the colors, etc. (see Canes-Info)

If we kept the outside of the cane cold, while trying to warm up the interior
....then the pressure would make it to the center of the cane more easily (to keep the outside from reducing more quickly than the inside) .... ..........maybe use some kind of cold pack glove? Donna Kato
....or putting in frig for ten minutes or so?? Diane B.

(when rolling to reduce a cane over 4" long) CURVE the cane first, then roll or toward 11 o'clock with one hand & toward 1 o'clock with the other hand... the cane will stretch as it rolls. This works really really well.

make sure you have about at least 1/4" of background clay around the outside parts of your cane to make sure you don't get any distortion
... I also try to return to the basic shape (round,square,triangular) every time I add a new element of the design to the cane.... I use the background color to do this
. . . . if I'm not using background (doing an odd-shaped cane), I reduce the elements down to size first, then add them together. syndee