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Clay Sculpting Tools & Preparations

Clay Sculpting Tools & Preparations

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Sculpting with clay is a craft that reaches out across the ages. From seniors to pre-schoolers, everyone can enjoy this fun craft. Using the right tools is they key to creating beautiful clay sculptures. Tools are used in sculpting to smooth, reduce, embellish, texturize, cut, blend, poke, and otherwise sculpt the clay. As well as giving you a few ideas for homemade clay sculpting tools, here are a few of the most common tools and how to use them.

Clay sculpting tools you might have around the home:

Wooden dowels and toothpicks


Steel wool

Sharp edges such as razor blade or X-acto knife

Music or fishing wire

Makeup application sponges

Knitting, tapestry or other types of large needles

Metal tubing

Cookie cutters

And of course, clay

You can even use household items such as a rolling pin or potato masher. Note, though, that whatever tools, surfaces and trays you use for your clay projects should not be reused for food items.

Armatures: Large figures would benefit from armatures, as would finer details or precarious angles. Armatures are a skeleton or frame used as an internal base for a sculpture. This can be made from a number of materials including aluminum foil, wire, and mesh. Armatures are great for giving a project a strong foundation, filler, or support for more delicate parts. Wire armatures are twisted into the basic shape of your subject. Armatures are then attached to a stand or base. Foil balls can also be used an armature for round or egg-shaped projects or parts. Make sure it is packed down really hard and cover the ball with tape and/or Elmer's glue so the clay will stick properly. Use epoxy for super strong armatures but work fast. Wire is both flexible and malleable.

More specialized clay sculpting tools include: cutting tools, rolling tools (a pasta machine can work great), modeling tools, loop and needle tools, as well as a stand and bar for armature. Molds are used to create uniform pieces and duplicates that look exactly alike. You might want to do this if you are making a set of dishes, creating party favors or if you have a particular favorite in shape or design. Hands and face are often made using a mold. Rub powder such as baby powder or corn starch into the mold, bang out the excess powder, and press the clay into the mold. Don't fill the mold all the way, just press against the surface of the mold. Then use a stick of clay to press against the thin layer of mask within the mold. This will slowly loosen the edges until this comes out nicely from the mold. Now you can add details with various tools such as cutting open the mouth, adding smile marks, flatten nose, round cheeks or forehead, thin the chin and face, and more (be careful not to squish the nose).

Now that you have your sculpting tools, you can read our how to sculpt article to begin making new and exciting projects with your clay. Also check out our sculpting techniques and tips for additional pointers.

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