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Copyright DoodlePippin 2019. All rights reserved.

Park Lane East, Reigate, RH2 8LH 

 Email: ruth@doodlepippin.co.uk 

Free Polymer Tutorial

This tutorial will show you how to make two different cane designs, and turn them into a bangle, pendant or earrings

This tutorial was published in Making Jewellery magazine in their February 2017 edition.


It describes two of my frequently used cane-making techniques - one results in a more geometric design, the other tends to produce more 'organic' patterns.  I then explain how to turn those two cane patterns into bangles, earrings and pendants.


(Bear in mind that, due to the unpredictable nature of polymer cane-work, your design may be similar or completely different to either of mine!)

Moorish tile bangle, pendant and earrings

Orange flower bangle, pendant and earrings.

 

You will need

  • 85g packs of white, turquoise and marine blue. Half that amount of black and orange. I used Fimo Professional.

  • Scalpel

  • Roller

  • Pasta Machine

  • Blade (I use a  Sculpey super slicer)

  • Worksurface

  • Small mirror

  • Small flat white gloss tile or similar for curing

  • Metal Ruler (not plastic as they are often affected by the clay

  • Transparent sandwich bag or similar

  • Sculpey Bake-and-bond

  • Metal cookie cutter (fits over your wrist – probably 6, 6.5 or 7cm diameter).

  • Greaseproof paper

  • Silver foil

  • Polyester fibrefill

  • Wet and dry sandpaper (400, 800 and 1000)

  • Cotton cloth or buffing wheel.

  • Tiny screw eye bails (I used 8mm which have approx. 4mm eye).

  • Superglue (Loctite Gel control works well)

  • Pin vice (miniature drill) with set of jewellers drill bits.

  • Glue-on bail

  • Navy blue rattail cord (2mm)

  • Buna / rubber cord (2mm black or dark blue) and cord ends to fit

  • Ear wires

  • Ear studs

Steps

1  Condition your clay using the pasta machine and roll out sheets on a 2-3 setting (no need to be accurate!). Make a skinner blend from one third navy blue and two thirds turquoise. Once the colours are graded evenly, make a long narrow sheet (running from turquoise at one end, to navy at the other) on a 3-4 setting, and ‘accordion stack’ it so that the turquoise is on one side and navy is on the other.

2  Roll the accordion stack into a cylinder (don’t elongate it – you want a short, fat ‘fig roll’ shape). Wrap the cylinder in a thick layer (1 or 2 on the PM) of white. Roll gently to smooth edges and joins and consolidate. Cut the roll in half to give you two squat cylinders no more than 6cm long each. Set one aside.

3  Wrap a thin sheet of black around the cylinder. Turn the cylinder on its end, and using a flexible blade held in a curve, slice vertically down through the cylinder to create a curved section. Wipe the blade with a baby wipe before each cut to make the sectioning easier. Keep cutting until you have five or six irregularly shaped sections. Recombine these sections along their long axis, trying to get as much contrast between the colours as possible. Consolidate the cane by pressing gently and, at the same time, turning it into a triangle.

4  Elongate / reduce the triangular cane until it’s at least 10-12 cm long. Slice it in half, pick up the cut edges and put them together. Find the symmetrical arrangement that you like best, and then align the two long edges and join gently. Turn the new shape back into a triangle, elongate again, and cut in half. A hand-mirror can be useful to work out the best arrangement. Recombine the cut edges, elongate, cut in half, and recombine until you’ve reached a pattern that you like. Set the cane aside to ‘rest’ and firm up for a couple of hours, which will make slicing easier.

5  In the meantime, sheet some navy blue on a medium-thick (3) setting. Using a metal ruler, cut the sheet to make a strap or ‘belt’ of clay 5 mm narrower than you want your bangle to be and around 22-23cm long. Slice one end obliquely to make a better join, and wrap the strap around a metal cookie cutter that (just) fits over your wrist. Trim the loose end obliquely and press to join to the other angled end. Smooth the join with your finger. Cure in the oven at 135 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from the cookie cutter and smooth any rough edges with sandpaper.

6  Create another strap in the same way. This will be the base layer underneath your patterned ‘tiles’. Take your rested cane and slice thinly and evenly – aim for 10 slices of 3-4mm each. Each tile should be slightly wider than the base strap. Position your slices on the bangle strap, butting them up against each other, and arranging them in the way that looks best to you. Cut more slices if you need to. Once your strap is covered, lay a sheet of greaseproof paper over the entire strap and rub firmly and smoothly to ‘burnish’ the clay and encourage the tiles to join with each other. This should also reduce the need for sanding.

7  Slide your blade under the entire strap carefully to remove it from the worksurface. Trim both ends to give you completely flat edges. Add a thin layer of Sculpey Bake and Bond or liquid clay to the outer surface of the bangle ‘inner’, and then wrap your patterned strap around it. If it’s too short you can stretch the strap gently to get the ends to meet. If it’s too long, remove a tile-width or two. Once the ends meet, press gently around all joins and edges. Trim away excess from inside the band using a scalpel and smooth again. Lay on a bed of fibrefill, tent with silver foil to avoid browning, and cure.

8  Pendant and earrings: Roll out navy blue clay on a 3-4 setting. Slice some more ‘tiles’ from your cane, and arrange them close up against each other (like tiling a wall!) on the backing clay. Burnish as before using greaseproof paper until the tiles are joined into a single unified surface with no gaps or bumps.  Lay a piece of transparent plastic (a piece of sandwich bag is ideal) over the surface and smooth over. Using a metal cutter, cut down through the plastic – this takes a bit of pressure, but will give you attractively rounded edges.  Do the same to make your earrings. Place the pieces on a small flat tile, and cure as before. 

9  Wet-sand all three pieces using wet’n’dry sandpaper. If your piece is fairly smooth, start at 400, then 800, and go up to 1200 if you want a high shine.  If it’s quite “rustic” you could start at 240 but be careful you don’t sand through your veneer! Polish to a shine using a soft cotton buffing wheel or a cotton cloth.

10  Drill pilot holes in the top edge of both earrings, put a drop of superglue on the thread of a screw-eye, and screw in. Attach ear wires.  Alternatively if you’d prefer stud-earrings, simply glue stud ear fittings to the back of each piece.  For the pendant, glue a bail onto the back and hang with a leather or rubber cord fitted with cord ends and a simple clasp, or a silver chain.

To make the second “orange flower” cane :

11 Take the remaining accordion stack roll and add a medium thick (setting 3-4) wrap of navy. Turn the roll on its side and reshape it as a triangle. Elongate until it’s around  10-12 cm long, and gradually pull the top edge of the triangle upward to make it taller and thinner (an isosceles). The top edge of the triangle should be quite tall and thin, and floppy enough to fold over a little.

12  Roll a conker-sized piece of conditioned orange clay into a slim, even sausage, a little longer than your blue triangular cane. Position the orange sausage just under the ‘crest’ of the triangle, and roll the top of the triangle over it. It doesn’t matter whether it completely encloses the orange or not, but get it over as far as you can.

13  Pendant and earrings: Roll out navy blue clay on a 3-4 setting. Slice some more ‘tiles’ from your cane, and arrange them close up against each other (like tiling a wall!) on the backing clay. Burnish as before using greaseproof paper until the tiles are joined into a single unified surface with no gaps or bumps.  Lay a piece of transparent plastic (a piece of sandwich bag is ideal) over the surface and smooth over. Using a metal cutter, cut down through the plastic – this takes a bit of pressure, but will give you attractively rounded edges.  Do the same to make your earrings. Place the pieces on a small flat tile, and cure as before. 

14  For the pendant, create a backing sheet of navy blue, arrange your tiles as before, overlay with the plastic sheet, and cut a largish circle out. Reposition your plastic sheet and cut a smaller shape from near the top of inside the circle.  Finally take two thick (5mm) slices of your cane, and gently round the edges until they are thick discs approx. 12-15mm across, to act as the closure on your pendant. Cure, sand and polish all three pieces as described above.

15  Using 2mm navy blue rattail cord, loop knot the cord through the hole in the pendant and then cut the cord to the desired length. Using a 2mm drill bit, carefully create a single 3-4mm deep hole in one side of each closure disc. Using a drop of superglue in the hole, glue one closure disc onto each of the cord ends.  Then drill two similar holes next to each other on the opposite side of ONE of the closure discs. Cut a 4cm piece of cord and glue one end into the first hole and the other into the second to create a loop. NB the loop needs to be a fairly snug fit for the closure disc.

And that's it!

Questions / comments welcome - click here to contact me