Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Polymer Clay Tutorial: How to Cover a Pen with a Translucent Flower Cane

Okay, so I showed you how to cover a pen in my tutorial here.  And I showed you how to make my blue flower cane tutorial  here.  (For more tutorials, click here.)  Today, we're going to put them together.  (I'll get back to the caning next week.)

I decided that if I'm going to show you how to make all of these canes, maybe I'd better show you what to do with them as well.  So here's the first one.

~1 oven-safe pen- I'm using a Bic Round Stic (they're actually transparent black now); there are other brands that will work, I'm just not sure which ones
~1 flower cane with translucent background, about 1 inch in diameter and 1.5 to 2 inches long
~translucent clay
~"mud" clay- scrap clay that's been all mixed together so you get a solid (usually muddy) color
~white acrylic paint

~small round-nose pliers
~pasta machine or acrylic roller
~tissue blade
~small paintbrush
~bamboo skewer

Now, some of the instructions for this pen are exactly the same as in my previous "covering a pen" tute so I will provide a link to it and gloss over them here.  If you know what you are doing, you may not need the link.  If you don't, you will have a place to refer to for more information.

Step 1: Get the pen ready.
Use the pliers to pull the ink part out of the pen as seen in the first photo here.
Roll a medium-thin (#4 on my Atlas) sheet of "mud" and cover the pen with it, trimming the seam flush.  (Sorry, I accidentally deleted the photo for that step.)  Smooth the clay over the back end of the pen and trim the clay at the opening.  Roll everything smooth. 

Stick the pen on the skewer so you have something to hold on to while you paint.  Use your paintbrush and white acrylic paint to paint the "mud" (yes, raw clay) white.  This will show through the trans clay a little and we don't want a yucky brown background.  Now, you could just paint the pen white but I've found that the paint doesn't like to stick to that kind of plastic very well.  Also, the mud underlayer makes a thicker layer of clay that is easier to roll the cane-slice seams out of later. 

Step 2: Prepare the cane.
You need a fairly short fat cane for this because it will make it easier to add clay to it to make it square.  If you've read the other pen tute, you know that I prefer to make my pens with square canes.  Well, most flower canes are round and you could just squeeze and pinch to make it square but that would distort the flower.  So I came up with another way to do it that I will show you here.  So, stand your cane up on the work surface:

Roll out a thick sheet of translucent clay and give your cane a couple more layers.  Make sure you cut the ends flush so they butt up against each other and don't over lap.  I've used two sheets- you might want more, depending on how much background you want.  Don't worry if you don't get it thick enough, you can always add more later.

Score the top of the cane with two parallel lines on opposite sides of the flower.

Lay your cane on it's side and make a mark from the end of each score (on the top) straight down the sides of the cane as shown.  You will have 4 marks around the sides of the cane.

Using your sharp tissue blade, make a cut straight down, using the lines you made in the top and sides of the cane as a guide.  Go slowly and watch those side lines to make sure you are cutting where you need to. 

Do this on both sides.  Now score the top and sides again, just like before, only on the other two sides of the flower.

Make the cuts as before.  If you find you didn't put a thick enough layer of clay around the cane, you can add a wedge of trans clay to each corner and trim again.  Reduce the cane to about 5/8 inch across.  (Check out this tutorial if you don't know how to reduce.)

Step 3: Cover the pen with cane slices. 
In my other pen tutorial, I said to make the cane about 1/2 inch across.  Here, I said to make it about 5/8 inch.  Anyone know why?  Anyone?  Anyone?  Okay, it's because of the mud layer.  (You already said that didn't you?  Sorry, I couldn't hear you.)  The extra layer makes the pen thicker and so you need a bigger cane slice to go around.  So I probably didn't need to explain that...

Anyway, so start slicing your cane and adding the slices to your pen, butting them up against each other.  You should be able to fit 2 slices around on each row.  If they're too big, squeeze the sides toward one another so they fit, too small, stretch them. 

Now, another (very talented, might I add) polymer clayer and I got into a mini-debate a while back over whether it's more important to have your slices thin or to have them even. She said that thin is better because you don't use as much clay. I said even is better so you have less distortion when you roll it out.  Really, if you can achieve thin, even slices, go for it.  If you are new to claying or have trouble with thin slices, just concentrate on getting them as even as possible.  It really will make for less headache later on. 

Keep adding cane slices...

...until the entire pen is covered except for the tip.  Go here (starting at the 8th photo- the one with the funny-shaped cane slices) and follow the intructions to finish covering the pen and smoothing it.  I've included a few extra photos for those who know what they're doing and/or who just follow the pictures anyway. :)

Bake the pen on a sheet of paper at 265 degrees for 30 minutes.

Here it is, all ready to be sanded and buffed:


  1. Wow! I didn't know that was so complicated to do... but you explained it so well!

    Pretty :)

    I pinned this, too!


  2. ditto on tiffany's comment above. Wow. very cool. Just found you through etsy blogs. off to read the beef recipe below :)

  3. Thank you for another lovely tutorial! what a great idea to cut the cane into a square first so much easier to make a neat pattern.

    I have a blog post about melting pens which has a list of pens which are 'oven safe' here http://www.carajane.co.uk/2010/06/melting-pens.html

    I agree with you about the evenness being more important, ideally they would be thin and even but you don't want distortion.

    I tend to use a sheet of translucent underneath, saves the painting stage and I tend to have many other uses for my mud clay.
    thanks so much for your tutorials, so generous of you to share. I will do a blog post about your blog sometime soon so more people can enjoy them!
    Cara x

  4. Thank you for sharing, beautiful work!! You did a great job explaining, the tutorial is great. :)