As I write this, the country is at almost full shutdown because of COVID – 19. So many people are stuck at home trying to fill the days and nights with anything to keep our minds off of what is happening outside of their homes. Many are finding solace in making things.
For me life isn’t that much different. Being a maker in rural Vermont means a lot of isolation even when the world is ‘normal’. I’ve been working in the studio playing with new techniques and designs, re-organizing, and coming up with new class ideas. All while watching movies and YouTube to avoid the news. I am usually a cable news junkie. But this is even too much for me.
I recently released a class on CraftCast.com about designing and making quilt block polymer clay canes. In that class I showed off the clay slicer that I had made from Lego-like building blocks. Because of the way I was using the quilt canes I needed a really accurate thickness of clay. Normally I just slice by eye, but I needed something more consistent. I’ve looked at all of the slicers out there. Some were too expensive, some were scary dangerous, and others just were ‘meh’. I came across one on Pinterest that I finally tracked down to Cat Szetu’s Flicker account. There weren’t any instructions, just a few pictures. So I headed off to the Dollar Tree Store to get some knockoff building blocks to give it a go.
You can download a PDF of the step by step directions from my Google Drive.
You will need one MAKE-IT BLOCKS base unit that is 5.625 x 7.375”. Get several packages of the MAKE-IT BLOCKS building blocks. I think that I used 5 packages, but having more on hand wouldn’t hurt. Each package comes with single layer blocks and double layer blocks in the following configurations: single, double, 4 x 1, 4 x 2, 2 x 2, & 6 x 2.
I have highlighted the various components below to make it easy for you to follow along.
The reason this works best for me is because the slicing blade is trapped between the front towers (yellow) and the main walls (green). The blade doesn’t bow and I get a pretty consistent slice. I use two 2×4 blocks (blue) to join the towers to the walls to hold the blade very firmly. Of course, you need a nice firm, sharp blade to get the best result.
2 x 4 connecting blocks 2 x 4 connecting blocks in place to trap blade
The outside wall (pink) serves as an additional brace for the blade. I press the blades against the wall as I slice for additional support.
I created my slicing base on my Silhouette ALTA 3D Printer. But you could make a base from wood, polymer scrap clay, or have a piece of acrylic cut to fit. Then I created slicing guides for 2mm, 2.5mm, 3mm, 4mm, 5mm, and 6mm. I printed them on cardstock and laminated them. If you don’t want to make them yourself, you can purchase the slicing platform and guides in my Etsy Shop: https://etsy.me/2XwiGNt
To use the slicer, you choose the slicing guide for the thickness you want and I use some double stick tape to attach the guide to the slicing platform. Since they are both slick they will release from each other without too much trouble. I place the polymer clay cane on the guide and press down firmly, making sure it is straight. Then I position the slicing platform on the slicer base so that the cane is behind where the blade will be. I put the blade between the towers and the walls, then attach the two 2 x 4 blocks to lock in the blade. I then pull or push the slicing platform forward until I can get a full slice – which will be scrap because it is uneven. Lift the blade above the cane and then pull/push the platform until the next line matches up with the space between the towers and walls and then slice. Keep repeating until you have as many slices as you need.
I hope you found this post helpful. Stay home, stay healthy, and create!
You can see me using a previous version of this slicer on Craftcast.com.
You can contact me with any questions or comments at mags@MagsBonham.com