Jan 23, 2014

How to work with polymer clay millefiori canes - 101 basics for beginners

If it is your first steps in the polymer clay world of canes, this article will sure help you to figure and understand some of the basics you need to know before and when you start creating with this colorful creative material and technique.

Over the years I've been asked by my customers some questions regarding working with polymer clay canes, most of them about cutting and slicing, backing and curing. Questions such as:
*** How difficult is it to bake and cut polymer clay millefiori?
*** How many pieces are possible to get from a cane?
*** Just wondering the best way to cut the canes?
*** Could these be used for mosaics, if I cut them, then baked the pieces?
Would they stand up to grouting?

Here are some basics TIPS
Polymer clay, after it is baked is basically plastic, it hardens very nicely after curing, but it is still a crisp material.
If you haven't work with polymer clay in the past, my advice to you is to buy a few packages and try the material, its softness, its elasticity and its firmness, before cutting the canes.

A great TIP before slicing canes for the first time
Take a small portion of clay, less then 1/4 of a package, mix and knead the clay thoroughly; then form a small cylinder. If the material is soft, let it rest for 5-10 minutes to firm. Then, with a blade (will be explained later on) cut thin slices - after every slice you cut, roll the cane 2-3 mm / 0.1 inch forward and cut again, this way the cane will preserve its round shape.

When using clay that can be recycled, you can experiment many times until you get the hang of it and acquire confidence in the cutting technique.
I recommend this practice every time you want to cut slices from a millefiori cane for your creative work.

About my polymer clay canes in my shop
All my canes are raw, unbaked and easy to cut; the canes are fresh, mildly soft and can be reduce to a smaller diameter. And they are wrapped with a thin nylon sheet.

I have these kinds of polymer clay millefiori canes:
a/ There are canes that are mostly flowers, with translucent background, it is indicated in every listing, and in the pictures you can see it as white.
b/ There are flower canes with solid background; it is indicated too in the listings.
c/ Dots, kaleidoscope and spiral canes - are all with solid polymer clay.

The color of the canes after they are cured
After baking flower canes with translucent background, the translucent looks a bit like "ice". Polymer clay crafters use this translucent background, so when working & creating with layers the transparency is saved after backing. Solid color canes are the same after baking.

In every listing of the canes there is the ~~~ Size Info ~~~ regarding Length and Diameter; most of my canes are 1.25 - 1.50 cm / 0.50 - 0.60 in.
All the Canes Length are 4 cm / 1.6 in.

Before cutting the canes, warm them a bit with your hands before reducing or/and slicing.
The canes have to be cut with a thin blade, sharp and clean, so the design will not smudge.
I slice the canes with a tissue blade which I buy on "Polymer Clay Express".
Mostly I use this kind.
But, if you have something similar, some kind of xacto knife or Stanley Knife / box cutter (only the knife without its handle), it will be fine, must be sharp and clean of course.

Slicing canes
After every slice you cut, roll the cane 2-3 mm / 0.1 inch forward and cut again, this way the cane will preserve its round shape. If it's a square shaped cane, turn it over to its next side on every slice.

How many pieces are possible to get from a cane?
If your preferences are thin slices, you can get 30-40 slices from a 4 cm cane, depending on your cutting experience. The canes also can be reduced; so the original cane can be lengthened and this way you will get much more slices per cane.
If your preferences are thick slices (like round flat circle beads or mosaic circle tiles) you can calculate the amount of slices according to your thickness preferences.

Warm the cane by rolling it gently between your hands than keep rolling it gently on a clean & smooth surface. You can see the cane lengthen as you proceed. Stop when the diameter size of the cane is suitable for your needs. Let it firm before cutting.

Polymer clay is baked in a home oven at a very law temperature.

All that you need to know to succeed when first time baking and curing, from my experience:
If it is your first ever baking clay, my advice to you is to bake something small at first, to check that your oven is baking with the right temperature. Yes, it is better to bake first time something small that you wouldn't regret if something goes wrong...

a/ Preheat your oven to 110 degrees Celsius = 230 degrees Fahrenheit (according to the FIMO brand clay instructions, which I use for my canes).
b/ Baking (curing) time is at least 20 minutes, but I suggest to bake it even longer, 30-40 minutes.
Please Note: For thicker products the baking time has to be longer.
For small beads and other small products, my recommended baking time is quite enough, but products with much greater volume & thickness needs more  baking time - I recommend 1 hour.
c/ Place your work on a parchment paper / baking paper/ baking sheet.
 I cover the work with another baking paper, just to be on the safe side.
* Do not use a metallic silver paper; it will increase the intensity of the heat.
d/ Make sure your oven is at the correct temperature all the time; if it is your first time baking polymer clay, it is better that you will check now and again the oven to see that everything is all right.
e/ Let your polymer clay work cool down totally - that way it will harden correctly.

Incorporating polymer clay to Mosaics
Could the canes be used for mosaics, if I cut them, then baked the pieces?
Would they stand up to grouting?
Yes, you can use it in mosaics, and of course, they have to be cut and baked before placing them in your work.
It can stand up grouting with no problem, but it depends on how you clean it after it is dry, so it won't harm the polymer clay.

Do you have more questions regarding using my canes? please post them in your comments down below; I will answer you back and if your question fits this article, I will gladly add it to this post with my answer.



  1. So beautiful!!!! Thank you for your useful tips!

    1. Thank you my dear, love your comment :)

  2. Hey Ronit, Wonderful post. Makes me want to try it out!

    1. Thank you my dear Irit :) this is a great compliment for me :)

  3. Hello, do you tent your work while baking it?

    1. Hello Clare :) yes, I do tent the work, with a baking paper.

  4. Thank you so very much for this wonderful and useful advice. I cannot wait to start using it.

    1. Thank you very much heather :))) enjoy!!!

  5. Can you kindly explain the best & correct way to reduce triangular & square, etc. canes so they don't smudge & distort? Thanks in advance. Sara

  6. I love that you been kind enough to give this wonderful advice.
    But I was hoping you would give some tutorials on making the canes shown in the pictures.
    Its why I clicked on it, I thought FINALLY someone is going to show how
    to make a cane that doesn't look like a kid slapped it together. But alas your just giving
    advice I've alrady heard. Thank you for your efforts.
    "Happy Crafting"

    1. Hello MissDinTexas, thank you very much :)
      this post is specially designed to help beginners and for my costumers frequently questions.
      please subscribe to my blog for news, and I hope to soon surprise you with new tutorials :)

  7. This is a wonderful site. My husband is a pen turner and is very excited about using millefiori canes. He just received a few on ebay and was wondering how to store these to keep them fresh? Please advise!

  8. Hello, this is a great question! Thanks!
    You can store polymer clay canes in a plastic box, but the kind that is thick, and that its cover is hermetic, so no air will get inside. You can also store the canes in a tin box with hermetic cover. The boxes must be very clean, and you can also wrap each one of the canes with a thin nylon wrap (not the sticky ones).
    enjoy creating! :)

  9. OK. I know this will sound dumb. But is there a tutorial showing us how to make the canes???

    1. Hello LUCEmarbles,
      It's a totaly fair question :)

      There are new tutorials at my shop:

      Enjoy! :)

  10. After using a part of the cane, Can I store the canes for future use ( say after a few days) for another project? If so how to store canes? Thank you.

    1. Store the canes in a air tight box / container.
      Type box - thick plastic with a hard cover or a tin can with a lid. For higher maintenance of freshness, wrap the cane with a Nylon sheet, or if you bought from my shop, then keep it in the original wrap.


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