Rainbow Cane Polymer Clay Sculpting Tools

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Polymer Clay Rainbow Sculpting ToolsCreativity in polymer clay comes from being inspired by everything around you. So how can one be expected to sculpt a masterpiece with a set of boring tools in hand?

I’ve heard many versions of this phrase ‘An artist will be more inspired to create art, when working with a piece of art in hand’.

As a miniature sculptor, tiny tools are essential to my craft. This includes small needles and an X-ACTO blade.

my favorite clay sculpting toolsWell, with my original clay covered blade slowly chipping away, and my very first fish-cane tapestry needle nowhere to be found, I decided to create a new set colorful and inspiring set of miniature sculpting tools.

Tools and supplies to follow along:

You can pick these up at your local craft store, or purchase using my amazon affiliate links below. (If you go through my links I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you)

Before you settle on a design, consider how you will hold and use your tools. I personally like to hold my tools very close to my eyes, and so I will opt for shore handles. If you prefer a larger surface area to hold on to, consider larger tools or sculpting longer handles to hold on to.

Polymer Clay Rainbow Sculpting Tools preparing toolsSince I’m sculpting a set, I prepared an X-ACTO Knife blade, Tapestry needle, and small pin since I couldn’t find a Sewing needle.

My chosen color palette is a rainbow of color including red, yellow, orange, green, blue, and purple.

This is where it gets really exciting. The colors and size don’t matter. With art you get a creative license. And so I chose random balls of Premo Sculpey Polymer Clay of approximately the same size.

After conditioning the clay I ran each ball through my Pasta machine to create a relatively uniform width sheet. This will allow for easy stacking.

Polymer Clay Rainbow Sculpting Tools rolling clay Polymer Clay Rainbow Sculpting Tools rainbow sheets

 

It’s too bad clay isn’t edible. I love rainbow cookies, and this nearly looks good enough to eat!

Polymer Clay Rainbow Sculpting Tools stacking sheets 2 Polymer Clay Rainbow Sculpting Tools stacking the sheets

Here’s a fun trick for rolling up a rainbow cane. Cut the front of the stack at a diagonal so that the color on the bottom sticks out the most, and the color on top is the shortest. This makes it easier to grab the bottom and start rolling up your cane like a jelly roll.

Polymer Clay Rainbow Sculpting Tools diagonal cut sidePolymer Clay Rainbow Sculpting Tools elongate the stack

 

Consider your pattern.

There are many different styles of jelly roll cane. If you use a short stack your cane will not have too many ‘rings’.

Pro: Every color is clearly visible

Con: You don’t get a full ‘jelly roll’ ring effect

If you stretch your color stack so that it’s very long you will be able to roll and roll and roll.

Pro: You get a very colorful design where each color loops around again and again and again

Con: Your colors will be thinned out and harder to differentiate

I’ve made canes using both styles in the past. They both look amazing so determine which you prefer.

Polymer Clay Rainbow Sculpting Tools rolling canePolymer Clay Rainbow Sculpting Tools rolled cane sidePolymer Clay Rainbow Sculpting Tools rolled canePolymer Clay Rainbow Sculpting Tools reduced cane

For this project I chose the ‘short stack’ route because I want the individual colors to be clearly visible on my tools.

Polymer Clay Rainbow Sculpting Tools cane sliced edge

Once rolled up, I reduced the cane by rolling against my work surface so that it became slightly longer, with the diameter getting slight smaller. This process ensures proper adhesion between the clay layers and helps eliminate air bubbles and general gaps.

Using my Super Slicer I chopped off the messy ends to reveal the rainbow within.

You may choose to stop and this stage in the process. But if you want an awesome crazy color pattern like mine – keep going.

I turned the cane Back into a short/fat cane by squeezing the top and bottom between my finger, then some more using the palm of my hand against my work surface.

Polymer Clay Rainbow Sculpting Tools squishing cane Polymer Clay Rainbow Sculpting Tools squishing cane 2

Satisfied with my results, I cut in half, then cut each half into thirds. Kinda like cutting a small pizza.

This resulted in the 6 pi-like cane wedges pictured below.

Polymer Clay Rainbow Sculpting Tools slicing cane in halfPolymer Clay Rainbow Sculpting Tools pi slicing cane

Now for the fun part.

I oriented the pi slices head to tail to head, alternating the direction of each slice, and creating a linear instead of circular cane. See image below.

Polymer Clay Rainbow Sculpting Tools cane pi slices lined up

I squeezed the pi slices together to form a square shape, then elongated using a Rolling pin  to reduce the width of the cane while increasing the length of usable rainbow.

Polymer Clay Rainbow Sculpting Tools combining cane slices Polymer Clay Rainbow Sculpting Tools combining cane slices side view Polymer Clay Rainbow Sculpting Tools reducing square cane Polymer Clay Rainbow Sculpting Tools reduced square cane

I find that freshly reduced canes are warm, soft, and easy to ‘squish’ so I set it aside to cool. If you wrap your cane in plastic, half hour in the refrigerator will make it easy to slice and harder to distort.

While waiting for my cane to cool I prepared my raw sculpting tools.

Preparing the X-ACTO Knife

The x-acto knife blade has a decent size hole for attaching to the blade holder. You can try forcing clay into this hole to secure the blade in place, but I find that this comes loose over time giving you a wiggly tool. Tools that wiggle are no fun when a small shake will mess up your tiny sculpture.

To nestle the blade securely in the clay, you want to create more ‘bite’. I refer to ‘bite’ as anything that can be embedded securely by ‘biting into’ the clay.

Polymer Clay Rainbow Sculpting Tools wirePolymer Clay Rainbow Sculpting Tools xacto wrapped in wire

My favorite choice is crafting  wire. Cut a small length and pull it through the hole. Using pliers wrap it around and around, then squeeze the entire thing down to prevent any movement.

Condition a small blob of scrap clay. I chose to use the rainbow cane ends. Even if no one will see it, I WILL KNOW that there is art down to my tools’ very core. 🙂

Position the wired blade over the scrap clay and press down till it’s fully embedded. Use the clay on the side to wrap up and around, completely embedding the wire. Smooth out and set aside.

Polymer Clay Rainbow Sculpting Tools xacto blade and scrap clayPolymer Clay Rainbow Sculpting Tools xacto blade on scrap clayPolymer Clay Rainbow Sculpting Tools xacto blade in scrap clay  Polymer Clay Rainbow Sculpting Tools xacto 

Preparing the Tapestry needle

Same thing for the tapestry needle. Alas my first needle has a small hole which I managed to break trying to force the wire through. Luckily I had a larger needle handy. If you cannot fit wire through the hole, it’s ok to cover the needle as is.

Once wired – prepare scrap clay.

Press down on the needle to embed, then cover and smooth out the seems.

Polymer Clay Rainbow Sculpting Tools tapestry needle on clayPolymer Clay Rainbow Sculpting Tools tapestry needle in clay

Preparing the Sewing needle or Pin

My pin didn’t have a hole to secure with wire, but it did have a tiny pin-head. Instead of using wire, I pushed the pin through a small ball of clay allowing the pinhead to embed comfortably.

Smooth as needed.

Polymer Clay Rainbow Sculpting Tools needle on clay Polymer Clay Rainbow Sculpting Tools needle in clay Polymer Clay Rainbow Sculpting Tools needle wrapped in clay

Adding Rainbow Slices To My Sculpting Tools

By this time my cane had cooled down and was ready for slicing.

Using my Super Slicer I cut thin squares and wrapped them around the scrap clay. I positioned them at random shapes and angles, and added half-slices into gap areas that were otherwise not covered.

Polymer Clay Rainbow Sculpting Tools slicing cane Polymer Clay Rainbow Sculpting Tools cane slices

I smoothed the seems with a inkwell rolling pin to ensure a smooth and easy-to-hold tool.

Polymer Clay Rainbow Sculpting Tools covered in scrap clayPolymer Clay Rainbow Sculpting Tools covering tapestry needle Polymer Clay Rainbow Sculpting Tools covered tapestry needle Polymer Clay Rainbow Sculpting Tools covering xacto knife   Polymer Clay Rainbow Sculpting Tools covering pin

Bonus Hole-Maker Tool

I had a few extra rainbow slices, so I created a bonus tool. I rolled a ball of scrap clay and covered with the remaining slices in a square-pillow shape. I then tapered the edges to form 4 unique shapes including a thin round ‘poking tool’ and a thicker poking tool, and 2 longer poking surfaces.

Polymer Clay Rainbow Sculpting Tools poking toolPolymer Clay Rainbow Sculpting Tools ready to bake

I find that weirdly shaped tools are ideal for poking holes when sculpting. From shaping a mouth or eye-socket, to blending seams on a multi-color sculpture.

Into the oven, allowed to cool, and ready for testing!

Polymer Clay Rainbow Sculpting Tools Polymer Clay Rainbow Sculpting Tools in action

You can create any shape for your bonus tool. The photo above demonstrates the holes created by each of the tools. Small holes come from poking, and wider clefts come from pressing the tool into the clay sideways.

What about you? do you have a weird handmade tool that you simply cannot sculpt without? I’d love to read about it in the comments below.

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Comments

  1. Cora Meza says

    This is a wonderful idea! I have made tools for creating texture and shapes from scrap clay before but these are amazing !

  2. Sandra says

    Thank you so much Leah. I love these tools and will be making them. All of them. Looking at them makes me want to play in clay or should I say create with clay.

  3. Linda says

    I knew the minute I saw these tools that this would be my first project–making tools for my new medium. How Awsome can that be? It was a lot harder than I thought it would be but I am successful, so far. Now I must bake them but do not know for how long. They are very thick. Help?

    • MagicByLeah says

      Awesome! I’d love to see pictures of them Linda. As for how long to bake, I recommend measuring the thickness then following manufacture directions on the clay package. I use Premo sculpey which requires 15 minutes per quarter inch thickness

  4. Georgia says

    You have helped me try again :). I had tried to make a handle for my different style blades as I saw them on a pinterest page with no directions, just looked safer then how I was doing it, but my blades kept slipping out or the handles would break, so I gave up. Now thanks to you I see what I was doing wrong, and I will be making my new ones in the morning, Thank you for posting. I have a feeling I will be learning much from you, so glad I ran across your site on Pinterest.

    • MagicByLeah says

      Wow thanks for sharing Georgia. Glad I was able to help. My blades used to slip till I figured out how to anchor them in the clay the way I teach here

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