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g. Reducing and Slicing Canes

Reducing Canes:

  • Tip: When I reduce canes I find that if I work from the centre out to the ends, kind of trying to squeeze the insides out, that works best.  There are lots of different methods people use, experiment and find one that works for you.  A workshop is useful to see it done at least once before attempting it yourself.  Unless the cane is very tiny, do not just roll it - the outsides will seriously distort, and you will lose lots of clay and get only a tiny bit of usable design at the end. 

    The key is to compress it from the sizes, from the middle out towards the ends, keep flipping it end to end, then once you get it to a manageable size.  Once you can get you hands around it and long it's long enough to pull, then you can continue with a combination of rolling gently to even it up, pulling along the length evenly, and compressing areas which are thicker to even it up.
    I usually reduce canes down to a usable size of about 2-4cm diameter, then cut into lengths to keep until I need them.  You can store these canes for a long time in a cool place (I store mine in plastic trays).
    Take your time when reducing canes - rushing can cause bad results so better to just work slowly and rhythmically.
  • Square Canes:
    Reducing Square or Triangular shaped canes can be made easier by using a brayer to roll edges as you reduce.  The brayer can also be used to hold cane as you stretch the length out.  A combination of gentle compression and stroking down the cane on all sides, combined with rolling smooth with a brayer is the trick.  Avoid pressing your fingers into the sides of the cane & distorting the shape.
  • Odd Shaped Canes:
    A bit trickier - you can't roll these, so you have to use more of a gentle pulling action.  It helps if the cane is longer and smaller diameter to start with, and also made of soft clay.

Slicing Canes:

  • Round Canes:
    Use a very sharp tissue blade - the sharper it is the smoother the cuts and less distortion.
  • Keep blade taut by pulling from sides as you slice downwards to avoid bending.
  • I generally have the cane facing towards me and I slice with a rolling motion so that the cane rolls slightly as I push downwards.  This helps prevent flattening of the bottom of the cane.
  • I also find that if I slope the blade slightly away from me as I cut I get a more even slice.  If I slice straight down the bottom of the slice is often thinner than the top.
  • Mark distance between cuts by making a slight impression on the cane before slicing.  You can use a ruler and mark off equal cuts on canes.
  • If it is warm put the cane in your fridge to firm up for a half hour or so.
  • Square Canes & other Shaped Canes:
    Not so hard as round - easier to cut if you have a flat edge on the table-top.

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