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
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
" 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.
Step 2: Cut Your Tubing & Wire
Incidentally, if you don't have a pipe cutter, a sharp craft knife or blade will work. Place the tube on a hard work surface, and roll the blade on the tube whilst pressing down. Eventually, the scored line will cut through the brass, creating a nice, clean cut.
If you try cutting with a small hacksaw, very often the brass will bend and leave you with a jagged end.
Step 3: Give It a Squeeze
Step 4: Give It a Curve
Step 5: Get Gluing
Next, squeeze two equal size globs of epoxy glue onto a mixing surface. Make sure it is well mixed.
Step 6: Almost There...
You may have to hold the tool upside down for a while, and move it around until the glue thickens and begins to set. Speed this up with a hairdryer.
Step 7: ...and You're Done
Step 8: Acupuncture Needles
They have both a plain, thin wire and a bound section so both ends of the needle can be used. This is great wire for fine, detail work.
Step 9: Fret Saw Blades
You need to use a blowtorch to heat the blade white-hot in order to successfully bend it, otherwise the brittle metal snaps.
Step 10: Twist & Shout
Cut a 300mm (12 inch) length, and fold it in half.
Step 11: Get Twisting
Twist the ends in opposite directions, working against the resistance of the wire.
Keep going until the wire starts to buckle and loops onto itself. The more you twist, the tighter the ripples will become, and the finer the finish when using the tool
Step 12: Make the Loop
Insert the ends into the slightly flattened tubing, and apply adhesive. If you want, you can crimp it in place instead or in addition to the adhesive.
Step 13: Crimp the End
Make sure that squash the middle area between the two twisted prongs, as shown in the middle picture. Once you have squeezed the jaws tight, you should have a nice clean groove in the end holding your wire firmly.
Make thicker versions with extra wire. In the picture on the right, I used two loops of wire at the same time and repeated the procedure. Do this to create tougher loops for larger tools or for working with firmer sculpting material.
Step 14: And, Finally…
Step 15: Twist Again
Make sure they there is plenty of the rod in the jaws to be able to grip the brass while twisting, and maintain a firm grip whilst you do it. Molegrips or a vice are best, as this grip is held in place mechanically rather than by the strength of your hands.
Step 16: Nearly There
Voila- the finished twisted brass loop tool. These work really well with plasteline and clay, and should give you years of excellent service. You may as well make a few once you have all the bits you need. That way, if you lose or break any, you can just grab another to keep sculpting.
Have fun experimenting with different shapes and sizes, and create your own customised sculpting tool kit. If you ever break or lose any of your tools, you will be able to replace them with ease.
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