Have you ever tried to slice a polymer clay cane with a blade and found that all your slices were wonky and uneven? While it’s possible to use a blade alone, it does take lots of practice, skill, and attention to get thin, uniform slices. Having a slicer makes things easier. In 2015, the Czech company Lucy Clay Tools started producing the wildly popular LC Slicer. Make sure to read my review of the LC Slicer here. Lucy Clay Tools also created the first version of the LC Mini Slicer, which was intended to be a simpler, budget slicer. Now it’s four years later, and they’ve just released a much-improved and completely redesigned mini-slicer. Here’s my LC Mini Slicer review.
LC Mini Slicer Review Summary
The new second generation LC Mini Slicer by Lucy Clay Tools is a DIY kit made of laser-cut MDF that you can assemble in less than an hour. It has a very sharp blade on an arm that will slice polymer clay canes, slabs, and blocks. You can advance the slicing platform with incremental precision due to the addition of a knob and advancing system that the company calls the LC Ease. This allows for slices from paper-thin to super thick on canes as large as 3.5″ (10.6 cm). It’s customizable, it’s easy to use, and best of all it’s precise. If you need a polymer clay slicer, I heartily recommend this new slicer tool. Read on to get the details in my LC Mini Slicer Review.
LC Mini Slicer Materials
The very first thing to know about the new second-generation LC Mini Slicer is that it’s made of wood and you put it together yourself. Say what? Yeah, I know. I was thinking the same thing. You see, the other Lucy Clay Tools are made from an aluminum and plastic di-bond material. So wood seems a bit odd. Even more odd is that it’s a kit. You heard me. You have to put it together yourself. The LC Mini Slicer (aka the Lucy Mini Slicer) is made from laser-cut MDF fiberboard. I was skeptical at first, of course, but now that I’ve used it, I’m impressed.
The pieces are cut with a laser, so your kit will have pre-cut board held together with a masking-tape film on the back side. Because they’re laser cut, there’s a bit of black on the edges you’ll want to wipe off (though I didn’t bother and it was fine). Remove all the pieces, but don’t discard this one that looks like you should throw it away. It’s part of the base!
Once you remove all the pieces from the masking tape backing, here’s what you’ll have. (Plus, the picture should also include the item above. But mine was still in the trash can at this point, remember?)
The Lucy Mini Slicer also comes with sturdy glide rails that allow the slicing platform to glide back and forth. You don’t need to attach those rail. Thankfully, they come pre-attached to the bottom of the slicing platform.
Is MDF Okay with Polymer Clay?
I know, it was my first thought, too. We’re cutting raw polymer clay with this. Won’t the clay ruin the wood? Yes, it would if you left your cane sitting on the slicer for very long. So don’t do that. And you might want to varnish this MDF with polyurethane (see below) to allow the clay to stick to the slicing platform better. Also, if you’re one of those people who hates the feeling of raw wood (it’s a sensory thing), then you’ll definitely want to varnish this. Luckily, it’s easy to do.
One little thing to mention is that the MDF smells bad at first. I thought it smelled like a cattle barn. But my husband assured me that it smells like “engineering shop.” Whatever. I was not a fan. But that only lasted a day. The wood smells fine now.
The First Mini Slicer
Before we get into the actual LC Mini Slicer Review, I need to talk a bit about the first generation LC Mini Slicer. I didn’t review it when it came out in 2015. The pictures were enough for me to know I wouldn’t like it and I chose not to review it. (I refuse to lie. Remember I’m independent, and my reviews are always my own rather blunt opinions.) As it turns out, I was right. I’ve heard from many people that it was a waste of money and didn’t work very well. Thanks to a kind friend, I now have hers for this review, and I can tell you…they are right.
The first LC Mini Slicer was lightweight, small, and had the blade mounted on an arm. But the cane sat on a stage or base that you had to move by hand. There wasn’t any way to advance the canes with precision, and the base wobbled around. The blade was only held on one end so it would easily bend and even catch the machine itself as you try to slice a cane. While nominally better than using a blade by hand, it didn’t give the results people were hoping for, and many regretted their purchase. I’m happy to report that the second generation LC Mini Slicer is completely redesigned and does not resemble the first one in the slightest.
Dimensions and Size of the LC Mini Slicer
The base of the second generation LC Mini Slicer is 8.125″ wide and 7.75″ deep (20.6 x 19.7 cm), but will be much deeper if the slicing platform is moved all the way forward (as when cutting small canes). The top of the arch is 7.5″ (19 cm) high. If you remove the arch for travel (optional), the tallest part is 2.7″ (6.9 cm) high. (This might be a significant point if you are planning to use this as a travel slicer. The arch CAN BE removed for travel, though you’ll want to bring the little tools along to re-attach it once you get to the workshop.)
The second generation LC Mini Slicer weighs 1 lb 7.5 oz (666 g). As a comparison, the first generation LC Mini Slicer weighed under a pound at 11.6 oz (329 g), and the big LC Slicer weighs a whopping 4 lbs 14.3 oz (859 g).
What Size Canes Can You Slice?
What good is a slicer if you can only slice things of a certain size? You’ll be delighted to know that the LC Mini Slicer is very, very flexible and you can slice a wide range of cane sizes. And not just canes, but blocks and slabs, too! When the slicing platform and backstop are moved all the way back, the largest cane the LC Mini can accommodate is 4.625″ (11.75 cm) and with it moved all the way forward, it can cut canes as short as 1.625″ (4.13 cm). Because the shape of the opening is not square, I can’t give a size limit on the size of canes that can be cut. But it can easily cut a triangular cane (such as a master cane) up to 3.5″ (8.9 cm) across. You can easily cut a square cane 2.125″ (5.4 cm across.
Assembling the LC Mini Slicer
It took me about an hour to assemble the LC Mini Slicer. (Doing it a second time would take me about 15 minutes, however.) Since mine was an early release, I didn’t have instructions in my box and tried to “wing it”. Please, please, learn from my mistakes. Go to the instructions page and watch the videos. Find the link to the PDF (currently at the bottom of the page) and print out the instructions. The assembly is NOT difficult. But if you don’t do it in the right order, you will use many swear words, and in some cases might make it impossible to put together. Follow the assembly instructions!
There are no tools required. The only tools needed are supplied in the kit. You will, however, need some simple white glue or wood glue. If your bottle doesn’t have a small nozzle, use a brush. The orange tip of a bottle of Elmer’s glue doesn’t fit down into the notches very well. You’ll also need some Q-tips to wipe the glue and make a neat job of it.
If You Want to Varnish the Slicer
Because this is unfinished MDF, you might want to paint or customize the slicer. At the very least, I do recommend that you varnish the slicing platform and the backstop. It’s easier to do this before you assemble it fully. Unfinished MDF needs a wood primer before you can apply paint. I tried using a spray varnish (lord knows I have plenty of it on hand), but the MDF just sucked up the spray, leaving the surface apparently unchanged. Instead, I opted to use brush-on Varathane. You could use any polyurethane. I found that three coats gave the perfect finish, but make sure to sand between coats to get a smooth finish. (No, we don’t do that with polymer clay. I know. But this is wood. The varnishing rules are different.)
The adjustment knob (it’s called the Ease) can go on the left or the right. And the blade’s handle can be on the left or the right as well. This makes a difference for some people and if you want it a certain way, decide before you use glue. You can switch the blade direction at any time, but once you use glue, you cannot change the side you put the Ease on. It’s suggested that you assemble it without glue and give it a try so you can make this decision. Then, reassemble using glue.
Easy to Assemble
While the Lucy Mini Slicer is easy to assemble, there are some things to be aware of. I recommend that you attach, but do not tighten all four of the bolts that attach the slicing platform to the base. Tighten them after you get all four bolts in. And make sure that when you attach the backstop that you put it INSIDE of the Ease. Yes, ask me how I know. (I did swear a lot when assembling this.)
Make sure that you adjust the blade to be flat to the slicing platform. Otherwise, you’ll have a gap underneath it. It’s easy to adjust at any time because it’s just a thumbscrew that holds the blade in place.
Safety During Assembly
That blade is sharp! And there is a time when you have to attach the triangular handle pieces to the end of the blade. Leave the blade inside the sleeve when you do this. You don’t want to cut yourself. Seriously. I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but trust me on this. I didn’t even know I cut myself.
The Ease confuses people. Due to lack of space, I won’t explain it here. But follow the directions. If the knob is too tight, loosen the bolt at the end of the Ease. You want the knob to turn, and while it should turn freely, it should not be stiff. Even so, it’s not as solid-feeling as the Ease on the LC Slicer (the big slicer), so if you’re coming from that one, you might be frustrated with this one. It does work just fine, though.
Safety of the LC Mini Slicer
I have to mention safety. This is a slicer with an extremely sharp blade. Caution is required, and this is not a toy that you would let children use. However, the design of this Mini Slicer is much better than the big LC Slicer or the first generation Mini Slicer. The blade “hides” inside the arch and is locked in place with a thumbscrew. It stays up on its own (if not, adjust the tightness of the thumbscrew on the hinge.)
But the easiest way to pick up the slicer is by the arch. That’s where the blade is. If you didn’t lock the blade in place, you could conceivably cut yourself. So always lock the blade in place. Just make it a habit. The manufacturer did an excellent job of designing a solution, but we have to be wise users and use the safety features! BTW, there is no blade guard needed.
Using the LC Mini Slicer
This slicer works much in the same way as the original large Lucy Clay LC Slicer. You put your cane or clay block on the cutting platform, pressed against the backstop. Then you turn the knob on the Ease to advance the front of the cane to the blade. Next, you lift the blade and advance the knob the desired amount. Then lower the blade. Remove the cane slice, THEN lift the blade. Repeat.
To get even slices, you just turn the knob a specific amount. There are no markings on the knob, but just like with the LC Slicer, you can count the number of turns (or partial turns), or you can look at the ruler on the top of the Ease. Yours might have a sticker or have the markings etched into the wood. I found that holding the cane when I slice and again when I lift the blade means that the cane doesn’t roll around as much. It helps keep the cane from distorting and stretching as the blade goes through it.
How Thin Can It Go?
I was able to repeatedly made paper-thin slices with the LC Mini Slicer. I was honestly quite surprised how well it worked. Not only that, but I could make paper-thin slices with a large master cane. It’s probably less useful for making thin slices of slabs of mokume gane, however, because the opening is triangular and won’t hold a large slab.
That Ease Knob – SIGH!
Just as with the LC Slicer, the Ease knob takes forever and a day to wind all the way down. In fact, it’s worse than the big slicer. For one thing, the LC Mini Slicer has a longer Ease bolt, so you have farther to go. And the clearance around the knob is quite tight. My fat fingers and knuckles can’t hold the knob during a turn. So you really only can move it by quarter turns. Annoying. Really annoying. (Did I mention that it’s annoying?) Yessir…it’s my one huge hatred of this otherwise fantastic machine.
The Backstop Issue
The Ease bolt is quite long on this new Lucy Mini Slicer. And that means that you can slice canes that are surprisingly long. Longer than with the LC Slicer. But it also means that you have to wind the Ease all the way to the front to cut small canes. And you can’t cut tiny canes. Nothing shorter than 1 5/8″ (4.13 cm). That’s pretty big. So you need to put something in front of the backstop as a spacer to move canes and blocks of clay farther forward. Just as I recommended with the big LC Slicer, you could use the LC Angle Base (an additional item that you can get on Amazon here), or you could make something by putting an acrylic block into that space. But because the backstop is wooden, the magnetic sheet solution I suggested in my LC Slicer review won’t work.
My solution this time is to attach a magnetic strip to the backstop and also to the back of an acrylic block. This allows them to stay in place, tight to the backstop. They also act as a “sticky” surface so that canes will adhere better since they don’t stick to raw wood very well.
Sticky Blade or Wobbly Arch
The arch, which holds the blade, also allows it to be adjusted easily on the hinge side. But on the handle side, the fit is a bit tight. The solution is to loosen the bolt attaching the arch to the base bracket. But then that means the arch is a bit wobbly. This could be solved with a washer or something, and I look forward to the manufacturer addressing it in the future.
Suggested Hacks for the LC Mini Slicer
There are a few modifications that I think would make this into a better machine. I’ve already mentioned that it should be varnished. Also, you could add a magnet and acrylic blocks to help take up space in front of the backstop. I’d also add some rubber or cork feet to make it non-skid. I’d also look into finding a way to be able to use your cordless drill on that knob to make it easier to advance quickly from front to back (and vice versa).
Many people want a mini slicer to take to workshops. At 7.5″ (19 cm) high, it won’t pack well. You can easily remove the arch for travel, but it would be even simpler if the bolts had a quick release feature. Right now they’re attached with nuts that require a wrench. But if used small wingnuts, I think you could travel with it much more easily.
Overall Impression of the LC Mini Slicer
While it’s not perfect, it’s much better than I expected and performs even better than the big sister, the LC Slicer. It’s precise, it’s lightweight, it doesn’t take up too much space, and you can customize it the way you’d like. That’s a win. I think the difficulty turning the knob on the Ease for longer distances severely limits my patience with this tool and it’s the first thing I’d change if I were the designer. But it’s not a deal-breaker. It functions beautifully. (It’s just an annoyance.)
While this new Mini Slicer can accommodate canes much longer than the big LC Slicer, it can’t slice canes as short. This slicer can’t go shorter than 1 5/8″ (4.13 cm) and the LC Slicer’s limitation is 3/4″ (2cm). That’s a significant difference, and it’s in the size range that most of us likely use. Most of my canes were too small to be cut with the LC Mini Slicer without using an adapter as explained above. Plan for buying some acrylic blocks and some magnetic strips to help take up this space.
If you’re in the market for your first slicer, I think you’ll love having this LC Mini Slicer as your main slicer. It does what the bigger LC Slicer can do. But if you have arthritic fingers and can’t turn fiddly knobs easily or if you need to cut large rectangular slabs of polymer clay, then go for the bigger LC Slicer. You can buy the LC Mini Slicer here from the Lucy Clay Tools website or here on Amazon.
Disclosures and Acknowledgements: Thanks to Krithika Parthan for sending me her unloved first gen Mini Slicer so that I could make more accurate comparisons for this article. And thanks to Jiri Strunc of Lucy Clay Tools for sending me the slicers for review. He’s been a good sport listening to me tell him exactly what I think about his products, both good and bad. Oh, btw, there’s an affiliate link or two in here, too, for Amazon. But as always, my rather straightforward opinions are always my own.