Sunday, June 28, 2009

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.

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