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Modeling Tools and Tool Sets

Although the thumb and fingers are excellent modeling implements to get your basic geometric shape framed out, additional modeling tools are often times needed to complete your work. These sculpting tools will act as extensions of your fingers and will enable you to perform the more intricate sculpting techniques. As with choosing the best modeling material, the tools selected by the sculptor is a personal one. You can narrow your choices by asking these questions:

  • What do you want to do with this tool?
  • Do you have a preference for the materials used in constructing the tool?
  • What sculpting medium will you be working in and what size model will you be creating?

Sculpting tools come in a variety of shapes, styles and sizes and each tool has one or more specific purpose. The principal uses for these tools are:

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-- cutting
-- scraping
-- shaping and smoothing
-- detailing

The most commonly used tools for cutting and scraping are wire end tools; those made from solid plastic or wood are typically used for shaping and detail work.

If you are sculpting in ceramic (pottery) clay, which is soft moist clay, a wire end tool will not require the same cutting ability as that used when working in other mediums. A somewhat sharper cutting edge is necessary when working in wax and Plastilina since the material is firmer and detail work may be performed. And a tool that is ground extremely sharp or has very strong cutting edges will be necessary if working in plaster. The same theory holds true for tools made from high impact plastic, chrome, stainless steel and hard woods.

The size of the tools you choose to sculpt with will also be determined by the size of the finished model. For example, a small medallion or bas-relief will not require the same modeling tools you might use to sculpt a head that is twice life size.

You may have guessed that some of these modeling tools are interchangeable. That is, a tool that is used for working in Plastilina and wax may also be used when working in plaster or in mold making and casting.

Sculpture House has been designing and producing modeling tools and sets since the late 19th century. Many of these tools have resulted from collaborations with professional sculptors who requested that specific tools be made to their specifications. Drop us a line if you are unsure of the tool(s) you should choose – we will be glad to help with your selection.


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