Sculpting Tools

In an effort to document my sculpting journey, I wanted to give a breakdown of the tools I've begun to amass. I figure I may as well write about what has me so preoccupied and excited creatively. Also, in the event that someone like myself begins to sculpt and is looking for information and resources, they may find this, and find it useful and guiding.

The picture pretty much captures everything I've needed to get going. The only items that are outside the picture frame is a tub of Monster Clay, a steel ruler, a can of duster, and a ring light. The tub of clay and the ruler are self-explanatory. The duster is for cooling. You can quickly cool the clay after you have heated it up with a good spray of duster. Obviously the ring light is not necessary to sculpt, but I am attempting to take better images for this site and social media. Suffice to say, I'm a shitty photographer and haven't had much success. I do intend on getting a standalone camera at some point.

I'm sure this series of tools will continue to grow, and some may be discarded. As I'm only on my second piece, I've certainly much to learn.

  1. 99% Isoprpyl Alcohol - for smoothing your piece, removing brush/tooling marks, and clean-up.
  2. Brushes for alcohol rub, and silcone brushes for shaping and smoothing. I find myself using the smaller, fine point silicone brush for getting into little crevices and smoothing them out. I found some of the silicone brushes at a local art store, and a variety pack on Amazon.
  3. Aluminum wire - I picked up a few different gauges (14ga, 12ga). You can easily find this on Amazon.
  4. Floral wire - for reinforcing your armature. It also helps give your clay something to grab onto instead of spinning around the naked wire. This is something I only recently learned and found it immediately useful and beneficial. It's one of those things that make perfect sense once you do it. I have seen the recommendation, from the Shiflett Brothers, of glueing it onto the armature with super glue. Purchased 110 yds on Amazon for a little over 6 dollars.
  5. Glass eyes - they bring a nice touch to the piece. You can find a variety of sizes on Amazon. For the size of what I've been doing, and foresee myself doing, I've bought 6mm and 8mm eye. Once again, find them on Amazon. The total for these two bags was around 14 dollars.
  6. A small crockpot for heating up Monster Clay. I found this at the thrift store for 5 dollars. Very helpful.
  7. Mini hot air gun for melting, smoothing, joining, whatever. I purchased a Seekone HG350 and it has worked fine so far. I see a lot of sculptors using small butane torches as well. I didn't want to mess with the butane. Found on Amazon for around 16 dollars.
  8. A Lazy Susan. You can buy these pre-made in a variety of materials or build them yourself. I built this one. Found instructions on YouTube. Probably came to around 25 dollars all in.
  9. Precision tweezers. I've found these enormously useful on my latest piece. I found them on Amazon. Purchased two good pairs for around 6 dollars.
  10. Exacto-Knife. Useful for all kinds of things.
  11. Variety of sculpting tools. This was a set I found at the local art store. It has a variety of shapes and scrapers. Probably more than enough to get anyone going. I have to admit, I prefer my steel tools, but these have interesting tips that I have found useful. I've also used the wood handles as a simple roller for smoothing out small sheets of clay to then cut into shapes.
  12. Needle nose pliers. Cannot do without these when it comes to the armature. Shaping, snipping, gripping, etc. A pair of snips would be useful as well...I'll put that on my list now that I think of it.
  13. Steel sculpting tools - this set comes with a variety of tips for scraping as well as one with wires that would be useful for creating wrinkles.
  14. You can barely see what I'm referring to on this one, but it is a self-made blending tool. It consists of a brass tube, with two different gauges of guitar string on each end in the shape of a loop. There are lots of instructions on YouTube for making your own sculpting tools. I use this little guy for raking/blending. I love it and it's indispensible. Found the brass tubes (K&S) on Amazon and used some guitar string snippets from the dusty acoustic I have sitting unused in the corner.
  15. Gorilla glue, or super glue. I just happened to ask my wife to pick some up at the grocery store. I think they amount to about the same thing. Useful for armature building, glueing your armature into a wood base, etc.
  16. Stainless steel sculpting tools. I love these. I got them from Monster Makers. They feel good in your hand, and have a variety of end shapes and uses. I haven't used them all, but imagine at some point I will. Fairly cheap when I purchased them.
  17. Hobby mat. Self-explanatory though not necessary.
  18. K&S brass tubing and rods. I purchased the rods by mistake, but have found a use for them. The tubes are for making tools. Picked up on Amazon. One tube is enough for two tools, which breaks down to four tools. Not bad for 6 dollars.
  19. Brass tube cutter. Found this on Amazon. I think it was around 8 dollars.

Alright, that wraps this up. I hope to get the progress, and finish, of my latest piece up this weekend. It's been a lot of fun sculpting it.

Author: Jason Jacobs

Jason Jacobs is an artist, project manager, and frontend web designer living and working in Boise, Idaho. Beyond work he spends his time with family, as well as reading, writing articles for Uhmm, and working on his art. All words and opinions, etc., are his and do not reflect the positions or beliefs of anyone other than himself.