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.

1 comment:

  1. this is great! Can't wait to see how you make your tool tips. I followed an example from Gene Van Horne to make my tool-- basically using a hammer to flatten the end of a paperclip and using sandpaper to shape. I never thought of using a safety pin, will definitely try that! I could use more tips with different shapes.

    I'm currently learning to sculpt 15mm and having a blast. Looking forward to your next posts. thx again.