I have been trying to find ways of using up my little bits of clay and discovered that making canes out of them is a great way of doing this. I have so far made three different styles of canes. Bull's eye, spiral, or an abstract design.
But first, I have to condition the clay. If it is older, and a bit stiffer, it can take quite awhile to do this. At times, it means hours of warming it in my hands, squishing it, and rolling it out with a rolling pin. A number of people use a food processor to do this for them. I have considered purchasing one myself, and one day I just might! After the clay becomes more pliable (looks nice and shiny), I decide what type of cane I wish to make. If I have a lot of one colour, such as white, I tend to go more for the abstract design.
I am quite partial to these, especially the white and blue one. It reminds me of one of my favourite collectibles, the Copenhagen Danish Blue Plates (of which I have about 20 in two different sizes). They almost look good enough to eat!
After making the cane, I wrap it up in plastic, so that it can sit a bit. I have found that they tend to cut better if they have been sitting a few days. I make quite a few at a time, so that when I am ready to use them, I have a nice selection of colours and styles to choose from.
After a few days, and when I know I have a whole day to devote to it, I take a cane, and using a blade from a utility knife, I cut my slices. I do a bit of shaping (getting much better at this part!) and lay them out on a flat piece of polyfiber batting on a large glass tray from a microwave, and cure them in the oven.
I usually end up doing about 5 trays or so in a day. I like to have a nice quantity of buttons to work on throughout the week on my days off.
Sometimes, I will use a series of sandpaper to sand them, and sometimes not. It all depends on how well they turned out after curing and what type of look I want. The first grit I use is 250, and I use a palm sander for this. The first time I did that I ended up sanding off most of one of my fingernails without even realizing! It did not hurt, though. Then, I use (by hand) 5 more grits : 400, 600, 1000, 1500 and 2000. The higher grits I had to buy from Canadian Tire, as our local hardware shop did not carry them. I always let the sandpaper soak in hot water a bit before using it, as that helps keep it from clogging up with particles of clay. It makes it more pliable, and it will last a lot longer.
The final steps are putting on a light coating of Delta Ceramacoat. When I sand and buff them, I do not need to do this, but I decided to anyway since I want them to be able to be handwashed and last a long time. It also gives them a "wet look".
So far, I have only been making buttons with these canes. I am sure I may make other things as time goes on.