Sculpting Tools




About: I'm a maker with a penchant for art and a love of sculpting the unsettling. I also appreciate the history of deep craft traditions and would be a good part of any post apocalypse survival team.

I never have exactly the tool I want for working with clay, so I recently searched out how to make a new set of rakes and loops for my tool box. While most instructions called for brass tubing, I found out that old paint brushes and knitting needles worked even better for the super small tools I needed.

Also, I have to give a shout out to this video for teaching me how to do this.

Step 1: Materials

I started with small saw blades from a jewelers saw and from a coping saw. The blades are relatively cheap but have the cerated edge I need to remove small amounts of clay without pushing the clay around too much. Also, I like that the opposite side is flat so I can smooth out the area as well. I also used wire to make some wire brush tools and generally messed around until I came up with some shapes I thought could work.

I had to go out and get a small butane torch. There were a few at the hardware store, but the one I liked I found at a restaurant supply store labeled as a creme brulee torch.

- Two needle nose pliers
- Wire cutter (can be on the pliers)
- Coping or jewelry saw blades, wire, or whatever you'd like for your tool
- Brass tubing, old paint brushes or metal knitting needles
- Small butane torch
- Epoxy
- Super glue

Step 2: Make Your Handles

Brass tube: To cut the brass tubing, I used an xacto knife and pushed down lightly on the tube rolling it back and forth until it was well scored. If it's scored enough, it should snap in two with light pressure.

Knitting needle: I assumed it was a hollow needle because of the weight and the sound it made when I tapped it. Then, I did the same as with the brass tube, but used a pliers for the small end to snap it off. There was a little bit of liquid inside the needle, but I tapped it out. It wasn't flammable, so I felt ok about moving forward.

Paint brush: I cut down the old bristles and then burned out the rest with a lighter. I cleaned out the burned interior with a pin. There were still bristles about 1/4 inch deeper inside that I couldn't get to, but it ended up that the jewelry blade fit more snuggly with the bristles still in there.

Step 3: Bend the Blades

I turn on the torch in it's stand facing it away from me. I had a blade snap, so I'd recommend putting on some glasses as a precaution.

Coping saw blade: Holding the the blade in a gentle arc with the pliers, I quickly moved it up and down at the end of the blue flame until it started to bend. It was kind of tricky to get a nice gentle loop because as soon as it got hot, it would bend into a point. That made the flat shape a bit easier, but that also was more bends. At the spot where I wanted it to go into the handle, I bent both sides again so it was a Y shape.

Jewelry blades: Dang these things like to break. While I almost didn't need the torch for the coping saw blades, these buggers can't take much torque at all. I ended up not arcing the blade at all before putting it in the heat and then when it hit temp, it would bend immediately. I also ran into an issue of getting it too hot and the teeth of the saw started to go flat.

Step 4: Attach the Blade to the Handle

Now that I had my blade, I trimmed down the ends with the wire cutter so it would easily fit into the handle.

I put the blade carefully into the end of the handle and clamped it down with a pliers. The blades moved around a bit on me, but I was able to wiggle them back into place. I used a dab of superglue to lock them in while I mixed up my epoxy.

Step 5: Epoxy

I used a 5 minute epoxy putty around the connection of the blade to the handle to lock it all in place. I only mixed up enough to do two ends at a time. I also found that a little bit of water would smooth out the putty but working it too much would make it loose around the handle. For the smallest paintbrush tools, I didn't need to use epoxy since the superglue was holding it in tightly.

Step 6: Mess Around

Once I had the tools I set out to make, I started playing around a bit and came up with some other tools using wire. I created a couple of wire brushes, a needle, a twisted wire loop and a face sculpting tool. Ok, that has no value other than adding character to my tool set. But it was fun!



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    25 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Ola amigo (friend) eu havia feito sabe como? com pinceis velhos e corada de violão bem amarrados, só que fiz um modelo e não sei como saõ os outros, mas valeu da dica agora posso fazer mais, pois adoro trabalhar com argilas

    1 reply

    5 years ago on Introduction

    Excellent Instructable.

    My father was an arts and crafts teacher who had to budget every year to equip his classes with tools and materials. Small tools would often 'walk' out of the classroom with students and replacements were expensive and hard to order.

    To keep the Department budget sane he would make many of the tools himself. The family would also wildcraft materials like lapidary stones, clay and glaze materials, wood, and scrap wire, plastics, and metal.

    Dad and I would bandsaw clay molding tool blanks out of hardwoods we found or scraps from the woodworking shop building. Shaping would be done with disc and belt sanders and final finishing by hand with sand paper.

    Most of the ferrules on metal tipped tools were wrapped in brass or copper wire.

    I just found some of Dad's modeling tools that he made in WWII of plexiglass from canopies of shot-up planes at his airbases in the Pacific. He was always willing to scrounge, adapt, and improvise to provide tools and materials for art.

    2 replies

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Ooh, please post some photos of your Dad's tools. I would love to see them. #toolenvy


    5 years ago on Introduction


    Ask a guitarist friend for the discards next time he/she changes the strings. Music wire makes nice loop and scoring tools. Chopsticks, pens and pencils can work as handles as well. Drill them, split the tip, or just wind some dental floss around the blades before you add the putty.

    Love the idea of using the epoxy putty for a ferrule. Brilliant.

    1 reply
    Ray from RI

    5 years ago on Introduction

    WOW excellent POST Leftmusing...!!! I would of used liquid epoxy to fill in the hollow stems and to anchor the wires in the event the 5 minute epoxy bearks or loosens some how....!!!

    Are you familiar with Vance Studley's 1979 book MAKE YOUR OWN ARTIST"S TOOLS AND MATERIALS...???

    Wow this has my creative fluids flowing to make a few of these kinds of tools...VERY COOL...!!!


    5 years ago on Step 6

    nice idea. I'm currently taking pottery classes and those would work well for trimming and decorating bowls and other objects


    5 years ago on Introduction

    How does the squiggly face sculpting tool work? And it might sound weird but they look beautiful!

    2 replies

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    I think it hangs out and cheers the other tools on with its innate coolness. :D

    Very nice job. I'm curious, could you use Sugru instead of the leak stopper? I have some Sugru but haven't experimented with it yet, but it seems like it might work here.

    4 replies

    I've made similar tools myself in the past to work with polymer clay. I think the Sugru might not give as much stability as the epoxy, since the epoxy tends to cure to a very solid finished product. I would imagine that the Sugru would end up more flexible, giving more wobble to the finished tool.

    However, the best answer to the question is try it and see! You may find it makes the perfect tool you haven't been able to buy!

    Interesting idea. The big difference is that epoxy becomes very hard and has no give when your using the tool. However, if the blades fit in the handle snuggly enough, it could work.