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Make your own clay-sculpting loop tools-revised version (updated 7 Sept 09)

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Picture of Make your own clay-sculpting loop tools-revised version (updated 7 Sept 09)
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Sculpting tools are essential kit for sculpting in clay or oil based clays such as plasteline (a high grade plasticine), wax or chavant.

Usually, there are two main kinds of sculpting tools-the stick-like variety which usually are used for adding material, and loops which are used for taking away. They are not that expensive to buy, but there are some great tools which are not easily found but easily made. It's fun, too.

This article will show you how to make your own loop tools from scratch. Loops can be all shapes and sizes depending on the scale of the job. For blocking out life size figures, you will need something bigger, and for fine lines and wrinkles on prosthetics you'll need something smaller. The principle remains the same.

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Step 1: Get your materials together

Picture of Get your materials together
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The main materials you will need are brass or aluminium tubing (such as the K&S brand) and piano wire, which are available from good model shops, and bass guitar strings from music stores, or a guitar playing friend who may have a busted string. The rest is readily available from hardware stores.

You will need
" Brass or aluminium tubing
" Piano wire
" Bass guitar strings
" 5 minute, 2-part epoxy resin
" Wire wool or a dish-scouring pad
" Pliers
" Small adjustable pipe cutter, or a craft knife or blade (such as a Stanley knife)

Bass strings are available in different thicknesses (I have no musical knowledge at all, so could not tell you what notes to pick. Choose a selection if in doubt). They work well as the wire-bound string scratches little lines into the surface of your clay, skimming the surface without sinking in or creating little scoops.

The result is a three-dimensional cross-hatch effect which gradually smoothes forms without flattening them.
mbekker1 year ago
Brilliant!!! Really creative! Thanks!
dakellymon4 years ago
 Great instructions, Thanks for sharing

NastySpill4 years ago
Nice Photos!
Would other types of wire work? What about fishing line for intricate stuff?
stuartbray (author)  killimangnome5 years ago
I never tried fishing line, so give it a try and see. If you mean nylon or something, i'm not sure it would be strong enough, eventually bending under continued use.

You can get very fine piano wire, though. It is after all, for pianos and the higher notes have thinner strings. I've never needed anything thinner than an acupuncture needle, as detail that small is then wrinkles (pressed in through plastic sheet such as ceran wrap or plastic bag) rather than 'carved'.

These particular tools are mainly for removing material or smoothing. For tiny lines, try a sewing needle point either as is or held in a pin vice (from a model makers, or postiche (wig makers) suppliers or craft store). You can push thin lines of varying degree into the surface. Use plastic to avoid getting hard 'burr' lines at the very edge of the line as you drag the sharp tip through your clay or plasteline.
i was refering to a small gauge wire, steel or copper perhaps, but also for the use of removing.
stuartbray (author)  killimangnome5 years ago
I've never seen it, but I'll check it out! Bet ya could, though.
brandonssk5 years ago
Great instructable :) One of few involving anything to do with clay or sculpting I wish there were more sculpting tips :( there are pretty much none... I think I might make some, My first instructables if I do though.
theRIAA5 years ago
great job. I would do this but the main cost is the clay and glaze for me /:
for me its the glaze thats expensive, they clay is just a dollar a pound. Also, to gregr, theres a big process that you have to go through, involving crystalline silica in order to make your dug up clay suitable for sculpting and firing. I think theres a youtube video about it, and you have to add powdered silica and a couple other things i think in order to make your clay fire properly.
stuartbray (author)  theRIAA5 years ago
Hah ha. I hear ya. If I figure out a way of making cheaper clay, I'll post it up here!
Depending on where you live you can just dig it up... Where I live there is amazing clay just waiting to be dug up.
thepelton gregr5 years ago
I did that outside of Laramie, Wyoming. You just have to know where to look.
seamster5 years ago
Thanks for posting this--very nice, and useful!
canida5 years ago
Nice! This looks pretty easy to do.
Bongmaster5 years ago
nice :)
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