Sunday, June 28, 2009

Making 1mm Sculpting Tool Tips - Part 4

The next tool tip is one of my favourites in its 2mm version. I call it the sculpting knife because even it is not "sharp" it looks and you use it a little bit like a knife.

To start making this tool tip, you have to prepare your spring steel rod in a new way. This time you have to give the end of the rod the shape as it would be cut diagonally but with a light curve. I guess, that sound cryptic so I hope, pic. 21) can make it a little bit clearer.

If you god your steel wire prepared that way, you have to flatten it with hammer and anvil until it looks like in pic. 22. Take your time and work carefully, because this form is a little more difficult to achieve. And again: work equally on both sides. It’s the same as I said about the spatula tool tips: Don’t make it too flat, because you need some material left for grinding it later.

If you got the right shape, you have to grind the tool tip like you did with the spatula tool tips. I recommend giving this sculpting knife tool tip not a completely flat surface, but a slightly rounded one. The "edge" of the sculpting knife should be sharpened, but not as sharp as a real knife or the mini knife tool tip, I’ve explained before. You don’t have to cut things with it, just to push and smear putty from here to there. A "too sharp" edge might be a disadvantage here because it could leave marks on the putty that you do not want. After all it should look like in pic. 23).

This tooltip I call the finger tool tip because you use it like a small finger on your sculpting.
To start making this tool you have to prepare the end of your spring steel rod again. This time you have to give it a tip, but not a sharp, pointed one, but more a little rounded one like you see on pic. 24.

When you got this, start flatten the end of the steel wire with hammer and anvil after heating it up, like I explained above. But just flatten it a bit and not too much. Don’t flatten it as much as the spatula tool tips. The flattened sides will be rounded later and you need to have some material left for grinding to give it the rounded shape. After that you have to give the tool tip a shape like an "S" by first bending it in the one and after that into the other direction. Pic. 25a) and 25b) will explain better what to do.

If you got the right shape it’s time again for some grinding. You have to round the edges of the tool and also the flattened surface should have a slightly rounded shape. This time it is a little bit more work and it’s a bit more difficult, because of the form of the tool tip and because the edges should be much rounder as on the spatula tool tips for example. Once again an abrasive pad would make this job easier.

Again after completing the shape, clean all scratches from the tool with fine abrasive paper and polish it.

I found this tool really useful and it’s the other one of my favourite two tool tips (beside the sculpting knife). So it would be a good idea to have this both tool tips on each side of a two-sided tool holder. In a later tutorial I will show you, how to build such a two-sided-holder/handle.
The next tool tip is a quite simple one. You just have to start with a rounded end of the steel wire rod like I explained for the round edge spatula tool tip. This time, you have to do the round shape very carefully so it is really symmetrical and looks like the half of a ball. Then you just have to bend the top of the tip a little bit like you can see on pic. 26. You can do this with heat, hammer and the cone-like end of the mini anvil or with pliers. If you use the hammer be aware not to flatten the steel, but just bend it. While using the pliers, be aware not to leave too many scratches on the tool tips surface.

That’s all. Just clean and polish the surface and you got a fine tool that makes a good job when it comes to smoothing out the putty, because it’s a burnishing tool.

The last tool tip for in the 1mm size I call the rivet tool because you can make rivet-like structures with it while using it like a stamp. Even it is not really a sculpting tool, but more a sculpting aid and even you don’t have to do any bending or forging here, it fits perfectly into the 1mm tool tip-range and that’s why I explain it here.

The base of this tool is not steel wire, but a cannula. There are cannulas (hollowed needles) out there in different sizes and you have to get one with a 0,9 mm (or 1mm if you can find one) diameter.

First cut off the sharp end with the cutting wheel and the rotary tool. Be careful, the edge is very sharp and wear safety glasses for that. Then cut the other end so you got a tiny tube with a length of about 4 cm. It is important to use the cutting wheel or even a very fine saw if you got one. But don’t use nipping pliers or pincers for that, because they would press the sides of the tube together and make it worthless. All you have to do now it to refine the cut and to clean the edges of the tube. For that use very fine abrasive paper and maybe a needle that you slightly push into the tube and rotate it to remove all sharp metal pieces. I’ve found a very small cone-like grinding stone for the rotary tool for that (it’s from a dentist), but I guess, not everyone out there has such a thing.

On pic. 28) you can see the final rivet tool tube.

As I said, with this tool, you can create a rivet like structure while pressing the end of the tube into the putty like you see on pic. 28. So basically it’s the simplest form of a "stamp-tool". In a later tutorial I will tell you a little bit more about the use of stamp tools for sculpting miniatures.

Making 1mm Sculpting Tool Tips - Part 3

The next tool tip I call the mini knife tool tip because that’s just what it is.
If you already made a straight edge spatula tool tip, this tool tip will be quite easy for you to build. You have to forge the spring steel rod as if you would build a straight edge spatula tool tip. Then you have to cut off a bit of the flat end of the flattened steel like you can see on pic. 17). You can just grind away the steel with the rotary tool and the cutting wheel or you can cut it off with nipper pliers or pincers and then refine the edge on the cutting wheel (which might be easier).

After that just make sure, to get a smooth surface on your tool tip without scratches by using the abrasive paper like I’ve explained before. If you are pleased with the surface, all that’s left to do is to sharpen the edge of this mini knife. To do this, press the knife tip along its edge on abrasive paper with a fine grind in a 45-degree angle. Then drag it in a direction of 90-degrees to the direction of the edge, like you can see on pic. 18).

This might sound a bit complicated because it’s not easy to explain it exactly but simple at the same time and because of the lack of my English (sorry for that). But it’s exactly the same thing as if you would sharpen a (real) knife on a sharpening stone.

Again you just have to polish the mini knife tool tip and your new tool is done.
This tool is much better than using a hobby knife (like x-acto) in some cases because you can work more precisely in very small areas without blocking the view on the details with a large knife blade.

The next tool is also a kind of spatula, but because it’s a little different to build, I give it a separate description. His kind of tool you can find quite often among the dentist tools, but not in this small size as we'll do it.

To build it, just prepare your spring steel and give it a rounded tip, like I explained for the rounded spatula tool tip. Then you have to bend the end of the tool two times, like you can see on pic. 19).

This time you can use pliers to bend the steel. Because it’ not flattened and wasn’t heated by now it should stand the bending. Because spring steel wire is quite strong, it took some strength to do the bending, but take your time and be careful not to hurt yourself. I found out, that the steel from the safety pin could be bent much easier this way than the conventional spring steel.

If you bent the steel rod the right way, you have to flatten the bended parts like you see on pic. 20). Again make sure to work equally on both sides of the tool tip to keep it symmetrical.

Again remove all scratches from the tool tips surface with the abrasive paper and you’re done.

Making 1mm Sculpting Tool Tips - Part 2

The next tool tips, I would like to explain, are spatula like tool tips in some variants.

To make the straight edge spatula tip, you have to take one of your 1 mm spring steel wire rods.
Remember that it might easier if you take an 8 cm long piece so you can hold it better in your hand while forging. Alternatively (or if you use the steel taken from a safety pin) you can fix your spring steel rod into a pin vice (pic. 8)

Before you start forging this steel rod, make sure, that the endpoints (were you cut the steel) are clean and flat. With flat, I mean, not rounded or pointed. You can achieve this best by grinding the end of the rod in a 90-degree angle with the cutting wheel on the rotary tool like you can see on pic. 9).

If you got your steel rod prepared, it’s time for forging. For that, hold your steel rod with the prepared end over the flame of your gas torch until it glows red. Then lay it on the anvil and flatten it by hitting with the hammer from straight above on the glowing end.
For forging 1 mm steel, I always use the 100g Hammer, but you should try for yourself, what’s best for you.

Because the steel rod is quite thin, it didn’t hold the heat and the glowing very long. In fact it will be only a few seconds, especially if you lay it on the cold anvil.
So you have to be fast to forge it, but don’t get into hectic pace. Preciseness is far more important than speed. If the metal gets too cold, just heat it up again with the gas torch.

Even I said, you have to be quite fast, don’t try to do too much forging in one turn. Also important is that you'll hit the metal equally on both sides. So when laying the steel rod on the anvil, I recommend to hit it for about five times, than turn it on 180-degree and give the other side (the side that lay on the anvil before) another five hits. Then stop hitting and heat the metal up again and start again until the steel is flat enough at the end. It’s important to work (hit) both sides of the "tool tip" to keep it symmetrical (pic. 10)

Some hints about forging spring steel wire:
When you forge spring steel by heating it up and hitting it with the Hammer you will discover, that the forged surface of the steel is not plane, but rough with some little holes and dints.

That’s because of the way spring steel reacts on such a treatment. When you heat up the spring steel, some particles of the steel burn off, especially when you hit the glowing steel with a hammer. This is quite normal and can’ be avoided (at least not for you and me working at home). In pic. 11) you can see the difference between a freshly forged 2mm-steel rod and the same after cleaning up the surface with abrasive paper.

So this material issue leads to two recommendations:
1. Don’t "overheat" the steel and don’t heat it up too often.
2. Don’t flatten the steel too much, because you need to have some material left for grinding
down the tool tip to remove the holes and dints and to give it an even surface.

Another thing with spring steel wire is that sometimes it is quite brittle after you’ve forged it. So don’t try to bend a tooltip, that is forged hard (like the spatulas) with pliers without heating it up. Your steel might break then. (It might even break, if you heat it up before).

After some forging your tool should look like on pic. 12). Now you can refine the shape a little bit with the rotary tool and the cutting wheel (or other grinding tools on the rotary tool). After that, grab your abrasive paper and drag your spatula over it to get a smooth and even surface. Again start with rougher abrasive paper and go on to finer one. Go on with this grinding until there are no holes, dints and scratches on your tool anymore.

There are two alternatives for the flat sides of this spatula tool. You can leave the flat sides really "flat" with a sharper edge or you can give it a slightly round surface (see pic. 13). It’s easier to get a rounded surface if you use the abrasive pads in addition to the abrasive paper. Both versions, "flat" and "rounded" have their advantages, so you should try both. Of course you can have both in one spatula: give one of the sides a flat surface and the other one a more rounded one.

All that’s left now is to cut your tool tip to the right length, refine the cut end like explained above and polish your tool tip (more about polishing later).
Ta-dah… Your first forged tool tip is done.

The next spatula variant is nearly the same as the one above, except one little thing.
This time you have to prepare your rod in a different way before you start forging.
This time you give the rod not a clear, straight 90-degree cut end, but a rounded one like you see on pic. 14.

Again, it’s quite easy to achieve this rounded end with the rotary tool and the cutting wheel. Be sure to rotate the rod slightly between your fingers while holding it onto the cutting wheel. You could also use just abrasive paper for that, but it’s much more work and it’s harder to achieve a "clean" rounded shape.

If you got the rounded shape on the end of your steel rod the rest of the work is exactly like explained for the straight edge spatula tool tip above.

After forging the spring steel, your tool tip should look like on pic. 15. Again you have to work on the surface to remove the scratches and hammer marks before polishing it.

Like on the tool tip above, you can give the flat sides on your tool a really sharp edged
flat surface or a more rounded one or (that’s what I recommend) make one side "flat" and the other more rounded.

You see the difference between this tool tip and the one explained before is just the rounded edge at the top instead of the straight edge on the tool tip before. This difference may look small, but while sculpting it makes a big difference.

There is another variant for both of the spatula tool tips, I’ve explained before.

To start you need the two spatula tool tips I explained above as bases. Then you just have to "bend" them a little bit so the tip is no longer straight but rounded like you can see on pic. 16. As I mentioned before, don’t try to bend the spatulas with pliers while they are cold. They will break. Just do the "bending" with heating up the tool tip and use the hammer to carefully bend the tip on the cone-like end of the micro-anvil or the edge of a larger anvil. You can also try to bend the tool tip with pliers when it’s hot, but as I said above: It’s a bit tricky and the tooltip is delicate now, so don’t get frustrated when a tool tip breaks. That happens sometimes, so if it happens, see it as something on your "experience-account".

If you get it, your tool tips should look like on pic. 16.

These curved variants of the spatula tips could be really useful in some sculpting situations.

Making 1mm Sculpting Tool Tips - Part 1

While I talked about materials and tools in the last blog entries, it’s now time to explain how to make the different tool tips. I will start with tool tips made of 1mm steel wire.

As you can imagine, there are thousand of possible tool tip shapes that could be made and I don’t want to bore you with all that, so I will just explain the few tool tip shapes that I did for myself and that I found useful. I start with simple ones and getting then to the more complicated ones.

All the tool tips I made have a length of about 4 cm. I found this length fits best to my needs, but you might found out, that a shorter or longer version would be better for you. If you are not sure about the right length, do it like me with 4 cm or leave it a little longer. It’s always possible to shorten the tool tip later, but not to lengthen it.

The typical thing of all tool tips is that they have the forged tip only on one side, while the other side fits into the tool handle. You can imagine that forging a 4 cm steel rod with hammer and anvil didn’t leave a lot of space between the hand that holds the steel and the hammer. So I found out, that it’s much easier to take a steel rod with a length of about 8 cm and forge a tooltip on each side before cutting the rod in the middle like you see on pic. 1). The example shown on pi. 1) is made of 2mm steel.

Another thing that belongs to all tool tips, regardless if made of 1mm, 1,5mm, 2mm, or 3mm is how to treat the back-side of the tool tips, I mean the side that fits into the handle. I recommend, to
1. Clean the cut and
2. Give this end of the tool tip a round or cone like shape.

You can do this best and easiest by using the rotary tool with a cutting wheel.
Instead of cutting, you use the wheel as a grinding disc, by pressing the tool tip very lightly on this disc, while rotating the rod between your fingers into the opposite direction to the rotating direction of the rotary tool (see pic. 2).

Please be careful and don’t press too much on the rotating disc, because they are quite delicate and break easily. And be sure to always wear safety glasses.

I recommend that because it makes sure, that you won’t have any sharp edges left and it helps to change the tool tips in the handle because it’s easier to fit the tool tip into the handle.

Ok, now it’s enough with pre-talk. So let’s start with the most simple tool tip, the straight needle tool tip.

This is very simple to do and in fact you don’t even have to use hammer and anvil.
As I said before, you have to use spring steel wire for the 1mm tool tips. All you have to do is to give your spring steel rod a needle like tip. You can do this with the rotary tool and the cutting wheel like I've explained before in regards to the backside of the tool tip (see pic. 2). Even easier and more precise is to use instead of your hand that rotates the steel rod a second rotary tool, if you got one. If you just got only one rotary tool, you can also place the steel rod into the rotary tool and use some king of grinding stone or even a band grinder to give your steel rod a needle like shape (pic. 3).

After your basic shape of the needle tip is ok, you have to give it a smooth surface by using the abrasive paper. Work from coarse grain to finer grain until the surface is free of all scratches. It’s easy to achieve this by dragging the rotating steel rod (in the rotary tool) in an angle over the abrasive paper (or the abrasive pads, if you got them).

If you use the steel taken from a safety pin (See the blog entry about: Material) you are lucky, because all you have to do is to take the pointed part of the safety pin and cut off the rounded end at the right length. Just clean the cut (see above) and you are done.
In most cases you don’t even need to polish the needle tip taken from a safety pin, because usually it already is.

Otherwise, you have to polish your tool tip at last. Because this applies to all tool tips, I tell you later, how to do this.

That’s it: Your first tool tip is done. So let’s go on to a very useful variant of the straight needle tool tip: the curved needle tool tip.
The next tool tip is just a modification of the needle tool tip, I’ve explained above.
So first you need a needle tip like I explained before. Then you have to heat the pointed tip up by holding it over the flame of your gas torch. When it glows red take your lightest hammer and forge the tip carefully to one side by using the cone like end of the small jewellers-anvil. Be careful and make sure, that you just bend the steel but not flatten it.
You can also try this without heating the steel. Sometimes this works.
As an alternative to hammer and anvil, you can also try to bend the pointed tip with special pliers that are used to bent wire into round shapes. You can also try this without heating, but bending it with pliers is a little tricky, so you will have to practice a little bit (see pic. 5). Bending the steel taken from a safety pin would be easier than bending the conventional spring steel.

You could end here and just use this tip as it is, but I recommend the following:

This tool tip is even more useful, when you "sharpen" the outside of the rounded tip like a reversed "V". Its s little bit hard to explain, but you should drag the outer side of the rounded tip over fine abrasive paper on both sides as if you would like to sharpen a knife blade. BUT don’t give it a real sharp edge. The outer edge should still be rounded, but just a little thinner as before. In the following pic. 6) I try to show that a little bit clearer.

After that you just have to refine the surface of the tip and to polish it.

To tell the truth, the idea for that kind of tool tip is not mine. I saw that first on an illustration that Tom Meier did to explain on a forum the tools he uses.

For me, this tool tip is great for very fine and delicate work, like faces for example. It’s like a needle, but because of the slightly sharpened edge also like a spatula. With it you can push the putty to the right place and you can also blend to layers of putty together even in very small areas. So just try this tool tip out. If you get to use it, it’s a really great tool.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Making Sculpting Tool Tips: TOOLS

Part: 2

Today I will discuss the tools that you will need to forge the sculpting tool tips.
You don’t have to be a metallurgist to do this, but some tools are definitely needed and other are at least very useful.

What you definitely need is hammer and anvil. Most of the time I use two different hammers, a 100g and a 200g hammer (pic. 1). On the 200g hammer I rounded the edges of the hammer head, because I read that advice in a book about forging knife blades. This is something you surely don’t have to do necessarily. Just in the case your hammer has a little bit sharp edges, grind it down a little bit to avoid leaving marks on the steel wire when forging it. For some work, especially for forging 3mm Steel wire, you might also find a heavier hammer like 400g or even heavier useful. When you do the forging of 3mm steele wire without heating it up (more about that later) you will surely need such a heavy Hammer. But to tell it right here: I personally didn’t use 3mm steel wire very often. The reason is that with that diameter, you will make quite large sculpting tool tips and I still have enough of such larger tools like dentist tools. So personally I concentrate more on the smaller sculpting tips made with diameters of up to 2mm. For that the two lighter hammers (100g and 200g) are ok, if you heat the steel wire up before forging it.

You also need an anvil because you have to place the wire on a strong surface that can stand the blows from the hammer. Your desk isn’t ideal for that (believe me).

Of course you don’t need necessarily a typical anvil like on pic. 1). You can also use an anvil plate that often can be found on a bench vice (see pic.2) but be sure, that it is strong enough.

I use the two anvils that you see on pic. 1). On the small one I only use the cone like end to give the small tool tips a curved shape if needed.

What you also need is a gas torch to heat up the steel wire.
In the beginning I used a little gas torch, that my wife uses to make crème brullée (pic. 3)

But its flame was a little too small and my wife wasn't amused to see me using her kitchen stuff that way. So I went to the hardware store and bought the simple gas torch, you can see on pic. 4).

As I mentioned before, it’s possible to forge the steel wire without heating it up.
At least the V2A, V4A steel could be cold-formed that way, just by beating it with the hammer. With spring steel this would not work, because it’s too hard. I recommend heating up every kind of steel, you want to forge, because then it’s easier to get it into shape. If you don’t heat it up, you’ll need much more power (and a stronger anvil) and that might result in some lack of preciseness because it’s difficult to hit hard and precise at the same time. But to be fair at this point I have to tell you, that I know someone who is a well known sculptor and who uses 3mm steel wire for all his tools and never uses heat to forge them. So maybe you should also try this way when you've got a little experience.

What you also need is abrasive paper (sand paper). You will need that to grind the pre forged tool tips down and to give them a good surface before polishing them. There are grinding papers with different grind sizes. Be sure to take the one for metal (and not the one only for wood).
And you should get a selection of papers from rougher to finer grain sizes (pic. 5).

A very good aid and addition to abrasive paper are abrasive (grinding) pads and blocks (pic 6).
These are made of some kind of foam rubber, covered with a kind of grinding sand. Because these pads and blocks are flexible, it's much easier to achieve a rounded surface on a sculpting tool tip. So if you can find them, you should get some of this. The finest of those pads make a surface of nearly polished quality. For the pads, take the thinner ones that are only sand-covered on one side because they are harder. The two-sided pads are too soft. The blocks are hard anyway. If I tell you in the later tutorials to use abrasive paper I also mean the use of these grinding pads.

What makes the work much easier is a rotary tool like from Dremel or Proxxon (pic. 7).
For that you should get some grinding stones and cutting wheels (pic. 8a). With such a tool, it’s easier to grind down your pre forged tool tip into shape. Also you will do the polishing work with it (pic. 8b).

That’s no joke and you should take this point serious. You have to get a pair of safety glasses and wear it while forging and while working with machines, especially a rotary tool. A cut in the hand might cure easily, a cut in the eye will not.

There are some other tools that might be useful if you already have them or if you can get them cheap. Especially machines to grind down stuff are useful. On pic. 10a-c) you can see some of these tools.

Pic. 10a) and pic 10b) are belt grinding machines, pic 10c) is an electrical grinding stone

But even, they are useful, zhey are not essential.

Also an electrical drilling machine (power drill) will be useful, if used with a grinding stone instead of a drill. But always be sure to respect the safety aspects. Be sure, the machine is fixed safely when using it (pic. 11).

That's all about tools so far.
So next time we'll start forging the first tool tips.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Making Sculpting Tool Tips: MATERIAL


In this tutorial I start to explain, how to make sculpting tool tips from metal.

In the last tutorial I explained the sculpting tool that I called Pencil-Tool. For that pencil-tool you would need tool tips that are made of steel wire with a 1mm diameter to fit into the tool. But in this tutorial I will not only explain how to do such sculpting tips from 1mm steel wire, but also how to do larger tool tips from steel wire with a larger diameter.

In addition to that, in the coming tutorials I will show you how to build holders or handles for those larger tool tips too.

Maybe you will make your own experience with material and material sizes while building your own tools and maybe you will find a better way than explained by me.
That would be great and if so, please let me know. I don't claim to have the one and only way to make this stuff. I just want to explain, how I did it.

That said, I basically would recommend sculpting tool tips made from steel wire with four different diameters. These are:

1 mm,
1,5 (or 1,6) mm,
2 mm,
3 mm

I always use steel wire with a round diameter. Sometimes you can also find steel wire with a square diameter, but I never used it.

Maybe here starts the first little problem. Even if I try to write this blog in English, to address it to a larger audience, I 'm from Germany. In Germany we have a metrical system that measures in meters, centimetres and millimetres. I guess, in the US, in Great Britain and some other countries, there is another system of sizes (inches and so on).

So I'm not sure, if in those countries, it would be easy to find steel wire that is sized in millimetres (maybe eBay could help). If not, you should try to adapt my tutorials to steel wire that you can find in your homeland. It should not be too difficult.

Until now, I always said "steel wire".
Now I want to explain exactly what I mean with "steel wire". The steel wire used to make sculpting tool tips should be strong, so it will not bend while sculpting with it. On the other hand, it has to be workable, that means, it has to be flexible and formable to a certain degree. Otherwise you will not be able to form a special-shaped tooltip from it.

So for the tool tips made of 1mm and 1,5 -1,6 mm Steel wire I recommend the use of so called spring steel. At least the word "spring steel"
is a translation of the German word "Federstahl". I do not know, if this is the correct word in England / the US. I mean this quite hard and elastic kind of steel that is used for all kind of springs because it "springs" back into form when you bend it. This kind of steel is a little harder to work with, but it has the strength to keep tool tips with such small diameters in form while sculpting.

You have to know, that spring steel is not stainless! That may sound like a problem, but in fact it is not. At least I never had a problem with that. You have to be sure to polish the tool tips to a high degree finish (more about that in a later tutorial). If you do that and if you dry your tools before storing them, it would be highly unlikely that your tools will catch some stain. There are some additional things to keep in mind when forging spring steel. I will tell you more about that later, when it comes to forging.

For the larger tools made of steel wire with larger diameters, so the 2mm or 3mm you could also use spring steel. But because spring steel is hard to work with, especially when the wire has a larger diameter, I recommend the use of V2A or V4A steel. That is a kind of stainless steel. This steel is quite easy to flatten with hammer and anvil and of course it is stainless. But on the other hand it is not as strong as spring steel, so you might run into problems, if the final tool tip is too thin, because then it could bend. If this should be the case and if you cannot make the desired tool tip thicker, you should take spring steel for that special tool tip. Generally you should not have any problems with 3 mm V2A or V4A steel wire because this is strong enough. With the 2mm wire it depends more on the shape of your tool tip. But with the tool tips, that I will show you in the coming tutorials, you will not hat problems with that.

So now you know, what you need, where to find it?

Spring Steel can often be found in hobby- and model craft shops. Maybe you should Google for it and also eBay might help.

V2A or V4A steel wire or steel rods can often be found in building centres, hardware stores and do-it-yourself-stores. You can use those steel rods that are used for welding. But be sure not to take those used for welding aluminium because that's not steele.

For the 1 mm wire, I have a very fine alternative for you. Instead of searching for spring steel you can use the steel from safety pins. For that you need safety pins with the right size. I found out, that those with a length of 50 mm will do best for me (pic. 1). I don't know exactly, what kind of steel these safety pins are made of, but the characteristics of that steel is like spring steel, but it's a little bit easier to work with. Maybe you will have to try some different safety pins and have to find out, which one are long enough and has the right diameter for your needs. And I guess, not all are made of the same sort of steele, so you have to try to find the best.

Cut the safety pin in the middle of its spring, like you see on pic. 2. While doing that, you will get two parts of the safety pin, each with one curved end. This end -while being cut off later- is useful to hold the wire in the hand while forging it. So don't cut it off now. Then you have to remove the metal-sheet-part of the safety pin with a fine forceps or pliers. This is a little tricky. Take care not to hurt yourself.
After that you will have left two wire parts, one with a pointed tip and the other one with a bent tip. You can cut off the bent part of the one piece unless you want to make a sculpting tip with a bent tip (like a curved spatula for example). The same applies to the pointed end of the other piece. You can cut it off or leave it as a starting point for making a straight-needle- or curved-needle-tip (pic. 2).

In the next part, I will tell you, which tools you need to forge the sculpting tips and which tools might be helpful.

The Large Pencil Tool

Hi again,
I' m back from holiday and wrote some new tutorials for my blog. So soon I will start a quite longer tutorial about making those sculptiong tool tips.

But before, just a little addition to the pencil tool tutorial.
In the last turorial, I explained how to use an mechanical pencil to make a handle for sculpting tool tips made from 1mm steel wire.

But there are also larger versions of mechanical pencil around that could also be used to make a nice tool tip holder. On the picture below (pic. 1), you can see one that is made for holding 2mm leads, so this would be fine for tool tips made of 2mm steel wire.
Nothing much to explain here, because you can use this kind of mechanical pencil just as it is without any modification.

There's another thing, I want to talk about regarding the pencil tools. Maybe you will come to a point, where you discover, that the grip of the metal clamps inside the pencils didn`t hold the sculpting tip tight enough, so it start to rotate some times (see pic. 2). This might not happen with straight tool tips, but more often with curved or angled ones.

if this happens, you can modify the back ends of your tool tips a little bit.
Most of the pencil clamps are made of three parts (jaws) like you see in pic. 3.

So just file or grind down the back end of your tool tip, until it get a slightly triangular shape (pic. 4). In most cases, that should solve the "rotating-problem", but I have to admit, that this rotating thing is a weak point of the pencil tools.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Pencil Tool

in this tutorial I will show you how to make a sculpting tool by using a mechanical pencil.
The idea behind that is, that you use the mechanical pencil as a holder and instead of the lead, you place sculpting tool tips made of 1mm strong spring steel wire into the pencil.

So first you need a mechanical pencil. There are lots of those pencils around. some of those you can see on pic. 1).

- You should get one which holds leads of an diameter of 0,9 mm (pic. 2).
If you find one for 1mm leads it would be even better, but I can´t find that size.

- Inside the pencil is a clamp, that holds the lead. Sometime this clamp is made of plastic and sometimes it is made of metal (brass). You should take one with a clamp made of metal (pic. 3).

- The lead-storage inside the pen should be large and the opening under the pushbuttun should have a large diameter (pic. 4). That´s because later the tooltips, that are not actually in use will be stored here.

- If the pencil has a clip (and most have) the clip should be removable of at least rotatable (pic. 5). Otherwise it might become disruptive when you rotate the tool in the hand.

- The pencil you take should have a strong spring. The harder to push it down, the better it holds the sculpting tip later.

When you found your mechanical pencil, in most cases you have to cut of the tiny little tube at the point of the pencil. Then you have to widen the hole at the point with a 1mm drill. Be carefull, not to damage the pencil (Pic. 6).You have to do that because later you have to place tool tips here that have a diameter of 1mm.

After that, your "sculpting-tool-handle" is complete.

What´s left now are the tool-tips to place inside this holder like those you see on pic. 7).

Next time I tell you how to do those tooltips.