1.

I begin by making a 1 ½”/3.8cm clay block approximately 3”/7.6cm in length. I do this by rolling sheets of clay through the thickest setting of my pasta machine, then cutting 1 ½”/3.8cm squares from the sheets using a square cutter. I stack the squares until I have a block 3”/7.6cm tall. I smooth the stack with a brayer to eliminate air pockets. I used 6-8oz/170-226gram of clay for this step, although the actual amount of clay in the finished stack is about 5oz/141grams.

2. I score lines to indicate where I will cut the block to form an equilateral triangle with sides approximately 1 ½” /3.8cm. I used a triangle cutter to score the lines, but a ruler would work just as well, just make sure the sides are all the same length.

3. Using the scored lines as a guide, I carefully cut out the triangle shape.

4. I then cut the triangle block into 3 equal pieces of approximately 1”/2.5cm in length. These triangles will be used to make the 3 cane components.

5. I set the 3 triangles aside, and proceed to make a strip of black clay which will be used to make the lines. The strip of black clay is 3/8”/ 95mm thick, which is equivalent to 3 sheets of clay rolled at the thickest setting of my Atlas pasta machine. The strip is 1”/2.5cm wide (same as the triangles, and about 8”/20cm long, although I didn’t need it to be so long. Of course it is always better to have some clay left over than not enough !

6. The clay has been prepared, and these are the 3 triangular cane components I will be building.

7. I proceed to make the first cane component. I place the paper template directly on the clay triangle, and trace the lines using a thin knitting needle. This is where I will be cutting out the clay to insert the black line. Note that the lines are curved.

8. Cutting curved lines through a cane can be quite challenging with a straight blade! At first I experimented with a circle cutter, but it was not sharp enough to cut through the 1”/2.5cm of clay. I remembered a technique introduced by Mike Buesseler for making a curved blade. I bent a thin tissue blade as far as possible without breaking it, then heated the blade with a propane torch until it was red hot. I shut the torch off and held the blade in the bent position until the metal cooled. Behold, a curved blade ! You will notice the discoloration of the metal where the heat was applied

9. Using my bent blade, I carefully cut through the triangle, making sure to keep the blade perpendicular to the triangle while I cut. I position myself so I am looking directly down at the triangle , and check the sides frequently to make sure the cut is even from top to bottom.

10. I remove the piece cut out from the triangle, insert the strip of prepared black clay, and trim the excess clay on both sides with my (straight) blade. The first cane component is now complete.

11. Now I make the second cane component using the same procedures I used for the first one

12. On to the third cane component. This one is a bit more complicated than the first two because twoblack lines will be inserted, which requires 4 cuts instead of 2. Note also that there is a thin line of the background color separating the two lines, which I have circled in red.

13. After making my cuts, I insert the first of the 2 black lines. Note that I have placed a very thin (#6) sheet of the green background color on the bottom which will separate the black lines. I then insert the second black line, trim the excess clay, and replace the little green corner of the triangle.

14. The three components of the cane are now ready to be assembled to make the hexagon.

15. The three triangles are arranged as shown to form ½ of the hexagon. These pieces are stood up on my work surface, and carefully sliced in half. The 2 halves will be mirrored to form the hexagon.

16. Here is the hexagon cane assembled, but not reduced yet. It is approximately 2 ½”/6.35cm in diameter, and ½” in height. I allow the cane to rest for several hours before reducing it so the sides won’t reduce faster than the center.

16. Reducing a hexagon cane is rather challenging, because you need to reduce all 6 sides as evenly as possible. I squeeze the opposite sides towards the center, and keep rotating the cane squeezing each ‘pair’ of opposite sides. I also make sure to flip the cane over after a few rotations so the ends of the cane are reduce evenly. Squeeze, rotate, squeeze, rotate, squeeze, rotate, flip over………You get the idea !

18. Once the cane has been reduced to about 1”/2.5cm in length through the ‘squeeze-rotate-flip’ method, I place the cane lengthwise on my work surface. I use the brayer to smooth each of the 6 sides, and reduce it a little bit. I use some pressure, but not too much. My goal is to make the clay warm and pliable enough so I can stretch the cane by pulling (gently!) on each end.

19. Now that the cane is warm, I can stretch it to reduce it further. I also use the brayer periodically to keep the sides smooth and the edges nice and crisp.

20. When the cane is about 2”/5cm long, I trim the distorted ends off to see how well (or poor!) the design looks. Then I keep reducing the cane until it is about 5”/12.7cm in length and about ½” /1.3cm in diameter.

21. Here’s the completed hexagon cane. I allow the cane to rest overnightbefore slicing it, otherwise the design will distort. If the weather is cool and/or you are using a very firm clay like FimoClassic or Kato Clay, it might not be necessary to wait so long. But it’s midsummer here and I have used Fimo Soft, so I must be patient !

22. Here are just a few of the patterns that can be made with this one cane. It is so much fun !

23. These patterned sheets can be used to decorate metal tins, business cards, glass jars, etc. You could also make slices, bake them, and then use the baked slices like mosaic tiles. However, raw clay is a bit more forgiving..if the lines don’t meet exactly, you can nudge them together.

24. I had quite a bit of clay left over, so I made another hexagon pattern using my curved blade to cut the lines.

25. Here’s another pattern. This one has a 1950’s “Atomic Age” look to it. So start building some hexagons, you will be surprised at all the cool patterns you can make !

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