How to make a geometric fish cane

I've been wanting to produce this tute for a long time. It's a trubute to Steve Wood, my first real polymer clay instructor. It's true what they say, you never forget your first! ;-)

I think this fish cane was the first project I created via a Steve Wood workshop he taught at Global Beads in 1992 in a bead store in Mountain View, CA.

I'd like to say exactly what we did in the workshop, for accuracy sake. But my memory isn't what is used to be. I do know the finished cane was an equilateral triangle created from several simple canes. I do remember we didn't use pasta machines, no color gradient sheets produced by using them. A supply list was simple, the load was light - a few blocks of clay, a tissue blade, a sprinkle of magic.

And an equilateral triangle lets you arrange six canes together to form a hexagonal cane (aka kaleidoscope style), you can create an awesome patterned cane suitable for so much fun.


  • polymer clay; black and red
  • tissue blade
  • pasta machine
  • ruler

To produce the geometric fish cane, you will need to make a collection of smaller canes that fit together to form a triangle. Once you start following the steps below, the outline template to the right may help you understand how they will go together.

Click this link or the template image to view several sized templates to use.




After conditioning all your clay, roll out the following sheets

  1. red sheet, approximately 12" long, 2.5" wide; widest setting on your pasta machine (e.g. #1 on an Atlas)
  2. another red sheet, same as above
  3. black sheet, approximately 12" long, 2.5" wide; a thin setting on your pasta machine (e.g. #5 on an Atlas)

Stack the sheets; roll the stacked sheet through the pasta machine on the widest setting.
Cut the sheet into 1" wide segments.




Compress one side of each stack to form triangular canes. Join the two stacks as shown. Finesse your fin cane so that it's about 2.5" tall, about 1.5" wide and a minimum of 3" long. Measure about 1" width for the pinched side and cut away that much. The larger part of the striped cane will be the tail fin.

The cutaway part will be used for the top and bottom fins. Shape the cutaway cane into an equilateral triangle and reduce the cane until you have at least enough for two 3" long canes that can fit into the appropriate locations in the template.



Make a radial gradient cane; from red inner to outer black from a 5" x 4" red sheet and a 5" x 4" black sheet each as thick as allowed when rolled through the thickest setting on your pasta machine.

Reduce the cane until it's between 3/8th" - 1/2" in diameter. Cut 12 1.75" long segments. Cut canes in half, lengthwise.

Now you should have 24 half circular canes. Set one aside, since you will only need 23. If you arrange them as shown (7 staggered rows; 2-3-4-5-4-3-2) there would be lots of gaps. Before pressing all the canes together, let's fill in those gaps.


Roll small diameter logs by hand or extrude small red triangular strips; enough to fill in the gaps between all your half circular cane segments.

Build the 7 layers then assemble them to form one roughly 6-sided cane. Reduce the cane until it can fit within the template and is a minimum of 3" long.


Fish Head

"Fish heads, fish heads, roly poly fish heads. Fish heads, fish heads, eat them up. Yum!"

Form a small bullseye cane with a black core, a very thick white wrap, then finish with a thin black outer wrap. That's your fish eye cane. Its final dimension - approximately 1/4" in diameter, 1.5" in length.

Form a red triangular cane; dimensions - approximately 1.5" long with each side about 1" wide (3" circumference).

Cut out a channel in the red triangular cane to insert the eye cane. Fill in the remaining space in the red clay you had removed. Smooth the cane to get it back into a nice triangular shape. Now you have a fish head cane.



Reduce the cane until it can fit into its location in the template and is a minimum of 3" in length. Or before reducing, for a bit more personality for your fish, you can cut into the cane to insert a thin strip of black for a mouth. Then reduce that cane.



Now you have a tail cane, fins canes, a scales cane, a head cane.

Create the two gap canes, the ones that fill in the gaps between the tail fin and the top and bottom fins (shown here as black triangular canes).

Use the outline template to size your gap canes accordingly. It's best to let all the canes rest for a few hours to a day before assembling them.

Finesse the cane shapes, if needed, and trim or stretch so all of the canes are the same length. Assemble your canes to form the fish cane.


If you're planning on a single fish cane, reduce the cane just enough to make sure all the separate canes are pushed together well enough to stick.

Cane slices can become beads themselves, used to decorate bead bases or decorate surfaces.



If you're planning on making a kaleidoscope version of your fish cane, you will need to reduce the cane until there's enough to cut the cane into at least 6 same length segments. You can arrange those smaller canes a couple of ways. Once you find an arragement you like, press them together to create a nice complex cane.






Larger views of the two kaleidoscopes fish canes so you can see more details.

"Fish canes, fish canes, cool and snazzy fish canes. Fish canes, fish canes, make those beads. Yum!"


Last update to this page: 1 Apr 09. Send comments, questions or suggestions to Desiree McCrorey.