Art: Making Sculpture Tools

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  1. #1
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    Making Sculpture Tools

    Hey everybody,
    I've been looking around online a lot to find places that sell a good variety of modeling tools, but haven't been able to find any that sell everything I'm looking for cheaply enough. So, I started looking around on how to make your own tools, and came across this site, which seems to have a lot of good info including wire widths, lengths, types and where to buy them. Hopefully this will save you all some time and money.

    http://www.claysculptors.com/wires.htm

    -mole

    "You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body." ::c.s. lewis
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    Cool thread moleman,

    as far as my offer on the subject I have this link http://www.danperezstudios.com/works...king_tools.htm I dont know if it'll save you money because there are a lot of tools involved (including a hammer dremel rotary tool and small anvil.) but there are some good Ideas here.

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  5. #3
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    That's a good one too. I saw that one earlier, but yeah, he does have a lot of extra equipment, but his methods seem good...you could probably substitute the anvil for just a metal pipe or something.

    Any of you sculpting vets have any input on how to create your own tools?

    "You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body." ::c.s. lewis
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    Making your own sculpting tools is very satisfying but also remember to keep an eye out for tools made for other purposes. These are some of my favorite "found" tools.

    In the "Make Up" or "Beauty" section of a department store:
    Cutical pushers/cutters - These come in wood, plastic, metal and rubber tipped. They work very well as clay shapers and detailers.
    Files and Emory boards - These come in paper board, metal and foam blocks. I use them to sand cured polymer clay and to clean seam lines on resin casts.
    Blackhead remover - This is a sturdy metal tool that looks like a small loop tool. It can be used as a loop tool or ridges can be carved into the loops (with a Dremel tool) to make small rakes.

    In the "Dental Care" section of a department store:
    Tooth picks and plaque scrapers - The metal ones are the best. Of course, any dental tool makes a great sculpting tool.
    Gum stimulators - The ones with the rubber tips are best. These are nice clay shapers for small detail areas.

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  7. #5
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    mole,

    I have been dying to start a thread on tools and tool making!

    I took a cue from PERFECT TOUCH and started making my own. Heres a photo:

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  9. #6
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    I also forgot to mention that the spatula tool at the top was made using the teachings of Dan Perez. I can explain or demonstrate any of the methods or materials I used in making any of theses tools if you would like.

    Here are some of the larger tools I made with music wire and brass tubing. The fourth and fifth ones from the top are compliments of Smellybugs texturing tool from his awesome tutorial. Notice in the second photo that I solder rather than crimp. I did not have any luck crimping. The wires always came out or twisted eventually.

    Ray

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  10. #7
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    Hey Shrader,
    Thanks for those photos. Its always nice to know that this stuff can be done. If you find the time and would be willing to share any techniques/materials lists, I'm sure it'd be appreciated. Or if you just go over your images, and let us know the widths of wires/ piping, etc. you used. Thanks so much.
    Also, where do you usually buy your supplies? Hobby shops? Any online? Any resources would be helpful.
    Finally, that one rake tool you have looks like it came from a banding saw blade. Is that what it is, or did you just get a flat wire and file edges onto it?
    Thanks again.

    "You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body." ::c.s. lewis
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    Ok let’s start with the wooden handled loop tools. As I said before I first saw this type of tool at Perfect Touch tools. However, I decided I could make this type tool considerably cheaper than I could buy them.

    The wire is probably the most important part of the tool. Not just any wire will work. You must use hardened steel wire. I used two different sizes.

    For the finer tools I used a .015in/.381mm guitar string that I found at a local music/instrument store. The string cost about a $1.50. Photo A.

    For the larger size tools I used .020in music wire from K & S Engineering that a local hobby shop happened to carry in stock. I also found K & S wire at a university bookstore that sold supplies for the engineering and architecture students to work on class projects. See Photo B.

    The wood handles are just 5/16 hardwood dowels that I bought at Home Depot. I cut the handles to 5 1/2 inches in length. I cheated on these because I have a mini metal lathe that I used to turn the dowels while I hand sanded the tapered ends. Sanding by hand, without the lathe, would take longer but would work just as well or I would chuck them in a drill. I’m working on a resin handle blank to save time on sanding. See photo C.

    In the next post (I have to take the photos) I will show how I make the wire loops.

    The rake tool is made from a scroll saw blade. It was one of the harder tools to make because I had to heat the saw blade with a propane torch before it would bend. A little more tricky!

    Ray

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  12. #9
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    Awesome man...thanks for the post. I can't wait to see the rest. Do you have any particular preference to using the brass tools or the wood ones?
    I'm heading out to a local hobby shop tonight to procure necessary supplies. I've also read that for some other tools, you can contact local dentist's offices and see if they have any old dental tools they don't need anymore. You could probably pick those up cheap too. Keep it all coming!

    "You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body." ::c.s. lewis
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    I do not want to be the only person posting on this thread!LOL!!

    I want to see everyone's favorite sculpting tool! Your most heavily used sculpting tool! You know the one! The.....if I lost this tool I would cry for six weeks and need serious counseling tool! So post a photo for us!

    I will do these next steps in seperate posts so they are easier to read.

    Next, we have to make the loops. In photo D, for the round loop tool, you can see Iím using an older mini table vise. You can still get these for about $15.00 to $35.00. You get an appropriate sized drill bit, in this case Iím using a No 34 or a 7/64 sized bit and clamping it into the vise with just the shank showing.

    In photo E I cut a short section of the .015 guitar string and wrap it tightly around the drill bit shank about halfway in the middle of the cut wire.

    In photo F] I grip the ends of the wire with a small pair of pliers or vise-grips and begin gently twisting while pulling. This part takes some practice.

    In photo G you can see the finished loop. I apologize for the photo being out of focus, but my camera is giving me trouble.

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    In photo H for the triangle shaped loop tool, I use this section of brass angle stock that I also purchased from the hobby shop. Notice that I crimped the opening slightly to make a smaller triangle.

    In photo I I use the same twisting method as I did before.

    As you can see in photo J I have used a small pin vise with the smallest drill bit I could find to drill a hole in the end of the handle. (In this case the resin handle) If you donít have a pin vise any power drill will work, just be careful. All that's left to do is super glue the loop into the end and your done!

    More on wooden handled tools to come later.

    Mole, each tool has a specific application. I use the both the wooden handled ones and the brass handled ones for the appropriate job. EBay is the best source for dental style tools. Search "sculpting tools".

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  15. #12
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    Mole

    It just dawned on me that I had not provided a size reference between the two tools! So, here you go.

    Ray

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    Last edited by RSchrader; July 4th, 2007 at 12:22 PM.
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    Wow man, very nice. I like the wrapping technique. I was thinking too, if you don't have the vive grip and drill bit, or the angled brass, you could probably just use nails in a wooden board. Hit in a single one for the loop, and three in the form you want for the triangle one.

    I just went to the hobby shop and home depot today and bought some materials. I picked up some basic .02, .04, and .06 music wire, some brass tubing, dowel rods, a Bernz-O-Matic mini blow torch to head the metal ends and to solder with ($15 bucks at Home Depot) some dowel rods, and dremel attachments for cutting the brass. If you can't do that, any hack saw that will cut metal should work. If you don't want to do the blow torch thingy, you can just cut things and pick up a soldering iron for cheap...like $10.

    So, I'm going to start playing with this stuff, and taking pictures along the way to see if I get anything vaguely successful. I've never done any of this before, so if anyone else is in the same position, I'll let you know how difficult it all was to do. I'll post pics later.

    "You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body." ::c.s. lewis
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    nice..
    I feel stupid now that I hadn't thought of puting a bit in a vice and twisting em that way..
    making new tools now.
    thanks a lot man =)

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  18. #15
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    thank you for that useful thread! i wanted to buy such tools a few days ago but it was too expensive, now i can make it myself

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  19. #16
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    Moleman Great idea with the nails! Just remember that any wire larger than .020 and your not going to be able to twist it very well if at all! I use the pliers you see in photo K for bending the larger wire. You can buy these for about $6.00 at a bead store. (a store that sells stuff for making your own jewelry, here they are called Friendze's. They have them at Michaels and Hobby Lobby as well)

    Your getting way ahead of me! I can't take photos fast enough to keep up! But that's OK! LOL!! When you solder, if you plan on using both ends, there is a special trick I learned when trying to solder both ends of the brass tubing! The first end solders just fine.................... but the second is a nightmare if you don't drill a tiny little hole in the brass tubing about 3/8 of an inch behind the second unsoldered end before you try and solder it! The reason for this is to allow the hot gasses to escape, otherwise, it will build up in the tube and blow the dam of solder out onto your leg or worse your face! Wear eye protection!

    Twitch Don't feel that way! That's why we have forums like this so we can all learn new things!

    Smoo Your welcome. Stay tuned. There's more to come.

    Ray

    (I'm having major trouble logging on!!)

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  20. #17
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    CAN ANYONE PLEASE TELL ME HOW TO GET THAT STUPID GREEN IM CRAP OFF OR OUT FROM UNDER MY AVITAR!!!!!!!!!

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  21. #18
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    Next.
    The tools in photo M are made with simple embroidery needles, photo N, that I found in the craft department at Wally World. Make sure the curved needle is what they call “Half Curved”. These tools are awesome for creating fur or hair as well as many other tasks.

    The tools in photo O were made from .020 K & S music wire that I just bent to shape with the pliers I mentioned in photo K.

    The tool in photo P was made using .020 K & S music wire as well. I attached the wire to the handle with super glue at first. Then I wrapped it with carbon fiber tow that I just had laying around. I did this by first tacking one end the tow to the tool with super glue. Next, I wound the tow tightly. When done, I saturated the wrap with thin super glue. This would have been sufficient, but I dabbed it with some epoxy just to make it look good. This procedure can easily be done with sewing thread!

    Ray

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  22. #19
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    I don't think you can remove the green IM thing. Its green because you're signed in. Its red if you're not signed in. That way, if you need to ask someone a question and they're online, you can just chat with them. Somebody correct me if I'm wrong.

    "You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body." ::c.s. lewis
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  23. #20
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    Hey Moleman,

    I just knew that I was going crazy! The other day I checked about four or five other threads and no one else had a green IM thing! So.........I thought I was the only one with it and I wanted it off! LOL!!!
    Now I understand that they only show up on those members who are signed in! DUH!!!!!!

    How is the tool making going?

    Ray

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  24. #21
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    Hey RS,
    Its been going pretty well. I have the wooden pieces shaped now, and just need to go get some fine grit sand paper to smooth them all out. The dremel left them a little rough. I made different width tapers so I could see what feels best to me, aaaaand because I didn't have a lathe so it was hard to keep anything really consistent. I should be posting some pics later tonight. Then I get to start cutting and shaping the metal bits. That'll be fun. Blowtorches ROCK!! Thanks for checking in.

    "You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body." ::c.s. lewis
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  25. #22
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    Hey all, just found another GREAT tip. I just called a couple dentist offices and asked them if they had any old tools I could pick up from them to sculpt with. I just got a call back from one of them saying that they had some I could grab from them next Wed! Although I didn't say anything about doing this for a class, as I graduated in '05, they seem to have made that assumption, so it doesn't seem like they're going to charge me anything either. I may give them some compensation. I'll let you know. So call around and see what you can find. I'm sure they'd all be willing to help out an aspiring art student. I'll take a pic and post it once I get them.

    Last edited by molemansd7; July 6th, 2007 at 01:53 PM.
    "You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body." ::c.s. lewis
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  26. #23
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    Did someone mention my name?

    Cool tutorial stuff, Rschrader and Moleman--you guys taught me a thing or two! Kudos.

    As for my toolmaking tutorials, you don't need a ton of extra equipment. Most vises have a little flat anvil section (see pics above) and for the anvil "horn" you can just clamp a piece of larger gauge music wire in the vise and make curved tips like my mini-spoon that way.

    I think every sculptor should have a variable-speed dremel tool--it will pay for itself over and over and over in terms of time saved working on armatures and finished sculptures--it really has dozens of uses.

    And a propane torch is not expensive at all.

    Good luck and have fun making your own tools--it's great to be able to make something from scratch that is the perfect tool for the job!

    Last edited by DanPerezStudios; July 6th, 2007 at 08:23 PM. Reason: spelling correction
    "Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it."
    -- Goethe

    Visit my online portfolio: Dan Perez Studios
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  27. #24
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    Moleman
    Your tool handles are looking great! Having the lathe does make the sanding go a little easier. If you have a drill large enough to chuck the 1/2 inch dowel, it would work just like my lathe. Also looks like your going for the double ended tools. I forgot to mention that I always dip my wooden handles in some PU after it's completely finished.

    Cool deal on the dental tools! I hope you get some good ones.

    Dan
    Were your ears burning? I can't tell you how much I appreciate your site and your tool tutorials. Thanks!
    My vice does have a little flat anvil on it, but I prefer this heavy steel heel or body dolly used for car body work. I found it at Harbor Freight.
    I had not intended on adding any wire pounding to this thread since you cover it so well in your tutorial.
    I do enjoy making my own tools almost as much as I enjoy sculpting.

    Ray

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  28. #25
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    Thanks RS,
    I'll be posting my wire creations later today...I've knocked out four loop ends pretty quickly. You'll get to see how I did it.
    Also, you mentioned dipping your handles in, "PU." I'm assuming that means poly-urethane? I'm just trying to clear up any confusion someone looking on may come across.

    "You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body." ::c.s. lewis
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    lets vote to make this thread sticky!!!! Sticky please!!

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    How do we do that
    I think it's a wonderful Idea.

    there are a lot of good things here
    STICKY!!! STICKY!!!

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    Ok, on to the brass handled tools.

    In Photo 1 I show a tool I have already made and a length of new 5/32 brass tubing that you can buy at any of the chain art supply stores or at local hobby shops. In Photo 2 I measure and mark the brass tube with a pencil to 5 inches. In Photo 3 I am demonstrating one of many methods to cut the brass tubing if you donít have a Dremel tool. With this method, just use an Xacto knife blade, push fairly hard and roll the tubing on a flat surface. This tends to dull the blade but is very effective.

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  32. #29
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    In Photos 4 and 5 I am bending .032 K&S music wire with a pair of pliers. In Photo 6 I measure the length that I want the wire to protrude from the end of the tool. In Photo 7 I have bent the lower sections and cut the wire.

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    In Photo 8 I have placed the wire into the end of the brass tubing. In Photo 9 I am using an (old) crimping tool to crimp the brass tubing onto the wire. In Photo 10 The tubing is now crimped on the wire.

    This is an easy and fast method of attaching the wire to the tubing but it is somewhat flimsy. The wire tends to twist after some use and I was constantly re-crimping. This bothered me, but it may be OK for other folks. Crimp tools can also be purchased at most chain art supplies or bead and hobby shops. Even an electrical crimp tool from Home Depot would work on brass.

    My next posting, I will show how to solder the wire to the brass tubing!

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