Wednesday, July 29, 2009

THE SCHELLERT TOOL - the hard way, part 2

How to Build the Schellert Tool:

If you have all your material at hand, you can start building the Schellert-Tool.

First you have to cut off a piece with a length of 7cm from the 8mm aluminium tube.
Then cut a slightly shorter piece from the 6mm aluminium tube with a length of about 6.6 cm.

If you want to know, why the second piece have to be shorter than the first one have a closer look on the metal-clamps of the knifes. The clamp is made of two parts, the clamp itself and the serrated little tube around the clamp where the finger will hold the knife (and later your tool). On the bottom side of this tube you’ll discover a very little second tube, which is even smaller. This small tube fits into the 8mm tube, so it holds the clamp exactly in the middle of the aluminium handle. Therefore, the 6mm tube inside the 8mm tube has to be a little shorter to allow some space for this little part from the serrated clamp-tube. So the exact length of the 6mm aluminium tube piece depends on the length of this little part. I saw, that this part has a different length on knifes from the different manufacturers. So if this part on your knifes is shorter, your 6mm tube can be longer. If this part is longer, the 6mm tube has to be shorter. On pic. 7) you might see a little better, what I mean.

If you got your two tubes with the right length you have to clean the cut and remove all scratches from the cut edges on both tubes.

After that, you have to glue the smaller 6mm tube into the larger 8mm tube by using strong glue that is suitable for metal. Be aware to place the 6mm tube in a way that leaves enough space on each side of the 8mm tube to fit the little part from the serrated clamp-tube (see pic. 7b).

Now give the glue some time to get hard. Be sure, that the glue is completely hardened before going on. I recommend waiting for two days before going on.

If the glue is hardened, it’s time to cut the threads into the handle (the two glued tubes). If you never cut a thread before, don’t be afraid of it. I also cut my first threads while building this tool. Just don’t get frustrated, if the first thread might not come out perfectly. Try again.

If you use the clamps with the M5 thread, you have to widen the handle now. If you use the UNC-10-24-threads, just go on with the next step.

So first you have to fix the handle into the bench vice, like you can see in pic. 8). Then drill carefully with the electrical drilling machine and the 4,2mm drill into each side of the handle. You don’t need to widen the inside of the handle over the whole length but just a little longer as needed to take the clamp later. You can hold the clamp beside the handle to see how long the thread of the clamp is and how deep you have to drill.

Before you start drilling, dip the drill a bit into the oil because that will reduce the chance of the drill getting stuck into the handle. Don’t rotate the drill too fast but even not to slow. Be very careful with that and make sure, that the handle doesn’t rotate with the drill in the bench vice because that would result in very ugly scratches on your handle.

Now you can start cutting the threads. Just fix the handle in the bench vice so it points upwards like in pic. 9. Be sure to use some kind of protection bars (braces) on the bench vice to prevent scratching and damaging the handle. Be sure that it sits as tightly as possible without damaging the tubes. Then dip the thread cutter a little bit into the oil. Don’t "oil" too much. A thin skin of oil is enough. And make sure not to drop the oil onto the vice where it holds the handle or you won’t get a tight grip anymore and the handle could start to rotate.

If you use the 3-piece thread cutter set, you have to start with the thread cutter (threader) that is marked with one line.

Place the thread cutter into the hole of the handle and slowly start rotating it in clockwise direction. You need nearly no pressure here, just rotating. Be sure –and that is MOST IMPORTANT- that you hold the thread cutter 100% straight and not in an angle to the handles hole. If you don’t work precisely here, your thread cutter might stuck after a few mm and later the clamp will not sit straight into the handle and that would be a mess. So work slowly and precise and control the position and the direction of the thread cutter all the time.

Even you need some power to drill (rotate) the thread cutter in, be careful not to turn it with too much power. If the thread cutter seems to get stuck or if it gets suddenly harder to turn, it might indicate that you didn’t hold the thread cutter perfectly straight, so control its position. But it can also indicate, that the little metal parts, that you’ve cut off with the thread cutter are getting too much inside the tube and blocking the thread cutter now a little bit. In this case stop turning the thread cutter and rotate it back in counter clockwise direction for a half or a full turn. When you do so, you might first notice a little resistance when you try to turn the cutter in counter clockwise direction. That’s normal and nothing to worry about, so try to turn it a little bit harder, but always keep in mind to control the power you use. Brutality is not an option here.
You will see that if you get the right point, suddenly the thread cutter will move as you want and you will also feel in your fingers, that some kind of obstacle has passed.

So after you’ve rotated the thread cutter back (counter clockwise) for a half or a full turn, and there’s no obstacle anymore, just try again to go on with cutting the thread by now turning the thread cutter in clockwise direction again. In most cases now you can go on without getting stuck. If you’re getting stuck again, repeat the procedure.

But sometimes even the "half-turn-back-trick" didn’t work right and you still get stuck at the same position. If this happens, don’t try to go on rotating too hard or it could happen, that the handle starts to rotate into the vice and that would result in ugly scratches on the handle. When getting stuck, remove the thread cutter completely from the handle by turning it into counter clockwise direction (not only a half turn, but get it completely out of the handle this time). You will see then a lot of little aluminium pieces stick to the thread cutter because of the oil. "Clean" the thread cutter by removing all those little metal pieces. You can for example use an old toothbrush or a stiff-bristled brush for that. After removing all these aluminium parts dip the thread cutter once again into the oil and try again to go on with cutting the tread, where you’ve stopped before.

When you place the thread cutter into the handle again, be sure, that it finds exactly the thread that you’ve already cut. Otherwise you would start a second thread right from the start "beside" the already cut thread and that would make the whole thing useless. Just turn the thread cutter slowly into the hole of the handle with no pressure like it would be bolt and nut and the thread cutter will find its way. Now you should be able to go on with the cutting.

The problem with this "getting stuck" appears more often with the single-turn-thread-cutter. If you use this, I recommend not to try doing the whole thread in one turn, but to stop at say halftime and to clean the thread cutter like explained above. With the 3-part-thread-cutting-set you have to face this problem less often.

Go on with cutting the thread until the thread is long (deep) enough. How long it has to be depends on the thread of the knife clamp you use, so hold this part beside your handle to see how deep the thread has to be. To be sure, you should make it a few mm deeper than needed.

If you use the single-turn-thread-cutter, you’re done now with this side and you can go on cutting the thread into the other hole of the handle. If you use the 3-part-tread-cutting-set, you have to repeat the procedure with the second cutter, that’s the one marked with two lines and finally with the third cutter, that’s the one marked with no lines.

The procedure for the other hole of the handle is exactly the same as described above. Just be sure, to avoid getting oil on the safety bars (braces) of the bench vice or on the handle, because that would extremely reduce the bench vices ability to hold the handle tight.

If you got your threads done and if they hold the clamps perfectly straight (try it now), you’re nearly done. You should clean the handle and especially the inside of it to remove all the left aluminium particles and of course all the oil. This is important, because otherwise the remaining oil will get hard, starts to smell (when you use the sunflower oil) and might "glue" the clamps in your tool. To clean it use a lot of water in combination with liquid dishwashing soap (fluid) and those cotton sticks usually used to clean the ears.

If you have done all that, and if you have fixed your clamps to each side of the handle…
Ta dah… your very own Schellert tool is done.

Ah, sorry one thing left: If you used the pure aluminium tubes and not the anodized ones, you have to give your handle a good surface. Just remove all those scratches with abrasive paper and polish the handle after that. To polish the pure aluminium isn’t only to achieve a better look, but also to prevent those dark grey stains, that you would find on your hand, if you work with unpolished aluminium.

Now you have to fit your 1mm tool tips into the clamps of the Schellert tool.
Any of those clamps from hobby knifes I saw were able to hold 1mm tool tips without any modification. If this would not be the case for the knife clamps you’ve used and if the space between the "clamp jaws" might be too thin to fit a 1mm tool tip into its cross section, you can widen this cross section by carefully drill in with a 1mm drill. If you have to do this, remove the serrated clamp tube before drilling. Otherwise this little tube might press the "clamp jaws" together while drilling and that would result in a drilled hole, that’s much larger than the 1mm you want.

If you unscrew one of the clamps, you can place the 1mm tool tips inside the handle and store it there. There should be enough space to store 6-7 tool tips, maybe more.

And one more thing: Most of these knifes come with those safety caps, like you can see on pic. 11). Don’t throw these caps away, because they are ideal to protect your tool tips if you didn’t want to store them inside the handle.


The "original" Schellert Tool was made for 1mm tool tips, but it is very easy to build a version for larger tool tips like those made from 1,5mm or 2,0mm Steel wire. All you have to do is to widen the cross section of the cuts in the clamps with the right drill.

For the knife clamp that I use, I found out that a clamp, that I widened with a 2mm drill will not only hold 2mm tips, but also 1.5mm or 1.6mm tips perfectly.
Remember to remove the small serrated clamp tube before drilling.

To say it right from the start: I don’t recommend to just widening up the cross sections of the clamps to 3mm as I described above for 1,5mm and 2mm. The reason is that this would make the clamp itself too thin and it might break. So the usual clamps from those hobby knifes I always talk about in this tutorial are not ideal to make a 3mm tool tip holder from.
But there is a solution. If you search a little bit, you’ll find another version of that hobby-knifes. These special versions not only have a cross cut on the clamps to hold the blade, but a real cut-out hole, where you also can fit in tool tips with a round diameter. Have a look on pic. 13) to see what I mean.

I found this kind of hobby-knife from the German manufacturers MARTOR and ECOBRA, but if I’m not completely wrong, even X-ACTO produce such a knife. The knife made by MARTOR (it’s called "grafix" by the way) has a clamp, that could hold tools made from 3mm steel wire. I’m not sure about the other manufacturers, so you have to look for yourself. Unfortunately these knifes are more expensive than the usual hobby knifes.

With those special clamps you can build a Schellert-Tool for 3mm tool tips. There are just some differences in building it. Most important is that these knife clamps have a different thread size. The MARTOR Grafix-knife has a 6mm M6-thread. I don’t know the thread-sizes from the other manufacturers.

Because of this larger thread size, you’ll need a handle with an outer diameter of 8mm and an inner diameter of 5mm, as the base-hole for cutting an m6 thread is 5mm.

So here you can’t do the trick with the two aluminium tubes glued together, because the m6-thread is 6mm wide, so the smaller aluminium tube with the 6mm diameter would be too small to cut an m6-thread in.

So what you need here is a single aluminium tube with an outer diameter of 8mm and an inner diameter of 5mm (material strength: 1,5mm). Unfortunately it’s not easy to find aluminium tubes with that size. At least it took me quite a lot of time googleing around until I found someone here in Germany who sells it. Maybe it’s easier in the country where you live.

If you can’t find this size of aluminium tubes but you desperately want a Schellert-Tool for 3mm tool tips, there’s one other thing, you can do:

You can cut off the handle of that special knife at the backside, so the handle is about 6-7cm long. I mean the opposite part of the side that holds the clamp. What you have to do then is to drill a 5mm wide hole into the cut side of the handle. The problem is that this hole has to be placed exactly in the centre point. This isn’t quite easy to achieve.

So first you have to find exact position of the centre point first. There’s a trick you can: Place the handle into an electrical drilling machine (power drill) and let it rotate (not too fast). Then touch slightly the cut end of the handle with a pointed pencil. When the lead of the pencil leaves a circle, you are not in the middle, when it leaves just a point you are exactly in the middle (centre point). This point marks your centre point now and this is where you have to drill in.

Take a thin drill (like 1mm or 2mm) now and drill a "guiding hole" exactly in the centre point. After that you can try to drill in the 5mm hole and hope, that the "guiding-hole" keeps your 5mm drill exactly in the centre. I tried this several times and sometimes it went fine and sometimes it did not. Maybe you know a professional metal worker, who has machines to do this kind of work more precisely.

When you succeed in getting the hole in, you just have to cut the m6-thread.
The good thing is that you only have to cut one thread, because the other is already there. Of course the handle of this tool isn’t hollowed, so you can’t store the tool tips in.
But this isn’t a problem, because this tool-version is for 3mm tool tips and those are too big anyway to fit into that handle even if it would be hollowed (except for a straight needle maybe).
On the following picture you can see all three sizes of the Schellert tool

So that’s all about the Schellert-Tool. I hope you’ll like this tool.

Next time I tell you about an "easy way" to build a tool that is quite similar to the original Schellert-tool.

THE SCHELLERT TOOL - the hard way, part 1

THE SCHELLERT-TOOL –the hard way -part 1-

Welcome back. Today I want to show you how to build the "Schellert-Tool". The Schellert-Tool is basically nothing more than a small tube with a metal-clamp-system on each side, where you can fit sculpting tool tips in. The tooltips could be stored inside the hollow tube (pic. 1). This tool has some advantages over the pencil tool because it is a two-sided tool and the sculpting tips are fixed more tightly in it, so they won’t rotate. You can make versions of this tool for all steel wire diameters (more about that later). I called this tool "Schellert Tool" because I didn’t found another name. "The-two-sided-sculpting-tool-with-exchangeable-tool-tips" was a little bit long for my taste. So I gave it my last name, that’s all.

If you ask yourself why I wrote in the title of this post "the hard way", it’s because you have to do a little metal working like cutting threads for example. There is also an "easy way" to get a kind of a Schellert Tool which is nearly as good as the original one with a minimum of work. I’ll tell you in a later tutorial how to do this.

The basic idea behind the Schellert tool is to grab two of those hobby knifes (like x-acto, excel, proedge, martor or ecobra to name a few), get the clamps from these knifes where usually the blade is placed in and fix them on each side of a small aluminium tube by cutting threads into the tube. Of course you can just use the hobby knife as it is and fix a tool tip instead of a blade in it, but that’s only a one-sided tool, you can’t store the tips inside the handle and hey, it’s not so cool.

Material and tools needed:

Two hobby-knifes (pic. 2):
First you need two hobby knifes to get the clamps. Here’s where the "trouble" begins.
These knifes are produced in different countries and therefore the threads of the clamps of these knifes are different. The knifes from Germany like those from Martor and Ecobra are using a metrical thread-system. In fact they have an "M5"-thread. The knifes from Excel and I guess even the knifes from x-acto and proedge (I guess they are from the US) using another thread-system. They have a UNC 10-24 thread. You have to know which thread your knifes have because you need the right thread-cutter (threader) for cutting the thread. I recommend using 2 knifes from the same manufacturer.

Regarding these knifes it is worth to look a little bit around for the prices, as there are great differences even for knifes from the same manufacturer. So for the ECOBRA-knife for example I found the range from 2.10 EURO to 9.90 EURO and it was always the same kind of knife. So google until you find an acceptable price. As far as I can see (here from Germany), the prices for those knifes (especially EXCEL and PROEDGE) are a little bit lower in the US, so lucky you, if you live there.

Thread cutter and holder (pic. 3):
As I said before, you need a thread cutter (threader) with the right size. Depending on the knifes you use you’ll need either a thread cutter for M5-threads (German) or one for UNC 10-24-threads (US).

You have to take those thread-cutters for cutting threads by hand, not those for machine-thread-cutting.

There are two types of hand-thread cutters around. The first exist of only one drill-like tool, and you can cut the complete thread in just one turn with it.

Then there is also a set available that exists of three drills- like tools. One for pre-cut (marked with one line), one for the second cut (marked with two lines / cuts a little deeper) and the last one for the final cut (marked with no lines / complete thread).

If you have the choice, take the 3-piece-set. It’s a bit more work because you have to cut three times instead of only one time, but cutting is easier with the set because you’ll need less power. And because the forces that work on the tube while being cut aren’t as high, it’s not so likely, that the tube will rotate in the bench vice while cutting the thread.

And of course you’ll need a holder for your thread cutter like you can see in pic. 3.

Aluminium tubes (pic. 4):
You need two aluminium tubes like those you can found in hardware stores or building centres were you can buy them in 1m or 2m length. The 1m size is more than enough.

You’ll need

- one with an outer diameter of 8mm and an inner diameter of 6mm and
- one with an outer diameter of 6mm and an inner diameter of 4 mm.

The strength of the tube walls is 1mm on both tubes (just to make it clear).

There are two kinds of aluminium tubes that can be found, those with a pure aluminium surface and those with an anodized surface. In hardware stores or building centres (in Germany) most of the times the anodized ones can be found. You can use both versions. The anodized ones have the advantage, that the surface of the tubes has already a finish, so it’s less work later. The "pure" aluminium ones have to be grinded and polished to remove scratches, but this will result in a very beautiful shiny surface.

But one thing is very important about these tubes. The smaller 6mm one should fit easily into the larger 8mm one! That’s not always the case, because those tubes have never exactly the sizes, they claim to have. So before you buy the tubes find a pair that will work. I mean you need a quite large 8mm tube and quite small 6mm one. Try every 8mm tube with every 6mm tube until you find a 6mm one that fits into the 8mm one. If you don’t do that you’ll get into trouble because you have to widen the 8mm tube later, so the 6mm will fit in. And believe me, this is something, you didn’t really want to do if it can be avoided, because it’s really a mess (you shouldn’t make my mistakes).

Bench vice with protection bars (Braces) (pic. 5)
You’ll need a bench vice, where you can fix the aluminium tube in while cutting the threads.
To protect the surface of the aluminium tube, you need some kind of protection bars (braces).
The one you see on pic. 5 I made on my own from strong felt.

Fine metal saw or tube-cutter (pic. 6)
You have to cut off pieces from the aluminium tubes. To do so you will need a fine metal saw or even better a tube cutter or pipe cutter (see pic. 6). The tube-cutter is a very fine tool and not even is cutting much easier with it; you’ll always get a clean 90-degree cut from the tube. So when using the tube cutter you’ll have less work to do to clean up the cut.

Electrical drilling machine (power drill) and 4,2mm metal drill:
If you use the knife-clamps with the M5-thread, you will also need an electrical drilling machine and a drill with the size of 4,2mm. This must be a drill for metal (not for wood) of course. You’ll need this drill to widen the inner diameter of the small aluminium tube from 4.0mm to 4.2mm because for cutting a M5-thread you need a base hole of 4.2 mm.
If you use the other knife clamps with the UNC 10-24-Thread, you are lucky, because for this thread-size a base hole of 4,0mm is fine and that’s the diameter, the small aluminium tube already have. So no need for a special metal drill or the electrical drilling machine in this case.
Good glue for metal:
You’ll also need good glue for metal. It’s not important, that it is fast, but it is important, that it is really hard and strong in the end. I recommend those two-part epoxy glues.

Abrasive paper:
You’ll also need some fine coarse grinding paper to clean the cuts on the tubes.

When you cut the threads into the aluminium tube, you need to dip the tube cutter in oil before. Otherwise cutting is much harder and the tool might get stuck into the tube, so ALWAYS use oil when cutting threads. When I did the first thread cuttings, I just used ordinary sunflower oil that is used in the kitchen. Later I bought an expensive special super metal drilling and cutting oil. But believe me or not, I found the sunflower oil works better, so I’m now back to that. Maybe some metal-working-professionals will get a heart attack now, but that’s what I found out for me. So there’s no need for you to buy special cutting oil. Just try what you’ll find in your kitchen (and don’t tell your wife).

Monday, July 20, 2009


As I promised before, today I will explain how to polish your sculpting tool tips. Because polishing isn’t such a complicated thing, I won’t make many words about it; just some hints.

Before polishing, make sure, that you’ve cleaned up the surface of the tool the best you can, by removing all scratches with fine abrasive paper. Fine scratches can be polished away, but deeper ones have to be removed with the abrasive paper. Even better than abrasive paper are abrasive pads.

For the polishing you need some kind of polishing tool (pic 1).

If you really want to do a lot of tool tips, maybe you should get a cheap polishing machine. That’s a machine similar to the grinding-machine that I’ve talked about before, but just with two felt-wheels instead of the grinding stones. If you already own such a grinding machine, it’s most likely, that you can buy separate felt-wheels to replace the grinding stones on your machine. That would be cheaper than buying a second machine.

But if you just want to make a few tool tips for yourself, you won’t need that.
If you got a rotary tool, you can find small polishing wheels to fit into it that makes the job quite well and they aren’t very expensive.

If you haven’t got a rotary tool (Dremel or Proxxon or something like that), you can also find such a polishing wheel made of felt to fit in an ordinary electrical drilling machine (power drill), that can be found in most houses.

I prefer the polishing machine or the rotary tool over the drilling machine because of the higher rotation speed (and the lesser noise they produce).

Second you need some kind of Polishing Agent. For the small rotary tools, it is usually available in small plastic boxes. For polishing with the larger polishing machine, they are also available in form of a bar, like you can see on pic.1. If there are different types of those polishing agents in the shop and you are unsure which one to take, ask someone from the store which is the best for polishing steel.

All the tools and the polishing agent can be found at hardware stores or building centres.

If you got your polishing tool, let it rotate.
Then first press the polishing agent slightly onto the rotating wheel, so the felt can take up some of it.

Now take your tool tip and slightly press it onto the polishing wheel (pic. 2). Be sure, the tool tip point into the same direction as the rotation of the wheel. If you have problems to hold the small sculpting tool tip in your hand without letting it fly around, you can fix it in some kind of pin vice to get a better handle.

Soon you will see that the polishing agent gets fluid and turns into a dark grey colour because of the steel particles that were polished off. That’s good because it means that it works.

Once again, wear safety glasses and NOT your best shirt while polishing, because this black fluid drops (and sometimes even the tool tip) tends to fly around.

Check your progress from time to time, by whipping off the black fluid from the tool tip with a tissue or some fabric to see the surface under it. If the surface is perfectly shiny and no scratches can be seen anymore, your tool tip is done and you can start polishing the next one.

That’s all about polishing from my side.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Tool tips from 1.5, 2 and 3mm steel - part 2

This is a tool you might also find among the tools for dentists or dental technicians even in small sizes. So you don’t have to forge this tooltip necessarily on your own, if you can find it somewhere else. But if you want, this is how you can do it:

You can do this tool tip from 1,5, 2,0 or 3,0mm steel wire, but I think, the 3,0 wire would make a tool tip, that’s a little bit too big. For me, the 2mm v2a steel wire works best for that tip.

So first give your steel rod a long pointed tip. Make the tip, like I’ve explained for the long probe tool tip. But this time make the pointed tip shorter (about 5mm).

You can make the pointed tip like a cone (pic. 6a) or more like a bossed cone (like a cone that has been "blown up" with rounder edges, pic. 6b).

Then cut in a circular furrow under the tip. Don’t make this furrow too deep but just enough to form the cone-like tip. You’ll have to bend the steel later. If you make the furrow too deep, it will break. To get this furrow with an even depth is a bit tricky. For me the best way was to use two rotary tools (or one rotary tool and a power drill). The first rotary tool with a cutting wheel was fixed into a bench vice, while the other rotary tool holds the steel rod with the pointed tip. Then, while rotation both, the cutting wheel and the steel rod, touch slightly the edge of the cutting wheel with the rotating steel rod at the right point. Don’t press too much and try to avoid the steel rod starting to vibrate (pic. 7). The space between the tip and the furrow should be about 4-10mm, depending on the steel rods diameter.

In the next step you have to bevel the edge of the furrow that faces away from the tool tip. You can do this also by slightly touching the rotating cutting wheel with the rotating steel rod, but be sure, not to accidentally damage the already shaped tool tip (pic. 8).

After that clean up the surface of the tool tip and remove all scratches with abrasive paper and abrasive pads (keep the steel rod rotating in the rotary tool and drag it slowly over the abrasive paper).

At last you have to bend the tooltip, because then it’s easier to reach difficult areas on your sculpt. Do it like you can see on pic. 9.

Finally polish this tooltip and you’re done.

This tool is quite good especially while working on drapery and wrinkles.

THE DIAGONALLY CUT TOOL TIP (or "the eye tool")
This kind of tool tip I first saw on sculpting tools made by the German sculptor Stefan Niehues.
You can do this tool tip with every steel rod diameter you like and it always makes a nice addition to your tool set (even the 3mm version), because every size can be used for different sculpting needs.

With the smallest version, you can also form eyes, because with its special shape you can work out eyeball and eyelid quite well (if you got a calm hand of course). That’s why this tool tip is also called "eye tool".

Basically the tool is just a steel rod that is diagonally cut, so it gets an angular (bevelled) tip. And that’s how you can do it. For a larger diameter tool tip, just make a diagonal cut into the steel rod with the cutting wheel and the rotary tool. If that doesn’t work well, you can also make a straight cut and grind it down with the cutting wheel, so it gets an angular shape (pic. 10).

For the smaller diameter tool tip, it might be a good idea, to take a larger diameter steel and to grind it down so it gets a long tip before shaping the angular tip from the narrowed rod (pic.11).

Then you have to clean the surface from the scratches as always.
But be sure to leave the edges at the narrowed tip "sharp".
So don’t use the abrasive pads here, because they will round the edges.
Just take fine abrasive paper, place it on a hard surface with the grind-side facing up and drag the narrowed face of the tool tip over it, so it gets perfectly flat (pic. 12).

Finally as always polish your tool tip but be sure not to round up the edges while polishing.

Stefan Niehues told me, that this tool tip is even better, if its narrowed face isn’t just 100% flat, but a little bit concave (dished). To achieve this, you would have to work with a ball-shaped grinding stone on a rotary tool and a very calm and firm hand. But if you like, just try this.

There’s one last tool tip that I want to explain for now. I call it the long sculpting knife and some sculptors told me, that they prefer to work with a tool tip like that.

Basically it looks like a knife blade. Maybe you’ve seen sculpting tools with similar tips among the tools for dental technicians. Even Games Worksop sells such a tool, but I didn’t like that so much because it’s quite rough and not shaped tidily (at least the one I bought some time ago).

To build a long sculpting knife tool tip, basically you have to start like I’ve explained for the straight spatula tool tip. But this time flatten the steel over a longer part of the steel rod. Remember, not to make the tip too flat (thin) because you also have to grind some material off for a good surface. After flattening the steel, just give it a knife-like pointed tip like you can see on pic. 13). Then "sharpen" the curved edge of the sculpting knife.

Keep a smooth rounded surface while doing that, so that there are no edges on the flat sides of the "blade". Remember: "Sharp" doesn’t mean razor-like here. Just give it a thin edge. You could leave the straight edge of the sculpting knife (the backside of the "blade") blunt or you can also sharpen it. After that remove the scratches from the surface and do some polishing and you’ve got another tool tip.

So I think, for now, there are enough tool tips for you to build, and I think it might be good to stop here for now. I guess, from time to time I will present some more tool tips in my blog. If you have made a special tool tip, that you want to share with the community, just send me an email.

Next time I will tell you about polishing the tool tips and then I will explain how to build handles for the tool tips.

Tool tips from 1.5, 2 and 3mm steel - part 1

In the last tutorial, I told you about how to use 1mm spring steel wire to make quite small sculpting tool tips. But you don’t have to stick to this very small tool tips. As I told you before, I also recommend tool tips made of 1.5-1,6mm, 2mm and 3mm steel.

Basically you can build all the shapes of the 1mm-tool tips I’ve explained before also with those steel wires with larger diameters. All these tool tip shapes are also useful if made a little larger with maybe the exception of the curved needle tool tip and the mini-knife. In my eyes these shapes make only sense in very small versions, but you have to decide for yourself. Also those spatula tools in larger sizes can be found around, as they are used by dentists, so maybe there is no need to build them on your own if you can buy them cheap somewhere else. But if you want to make all your tools on your own and if it’s not too much work for you, just do also the spatulas from steel wire with a larger diameter.

Personally I think the 3mm steel wire is a little too big for making most sculpting tools for 30mm sculpts. So I only made a few tool tips from 3mm steel wire. The sculpting knife tool tips made sense if made from 3mm steel, because sometimes you need a larger flat surface for getting the putty into shape (especially in the beginning while "blocking out" the basic shapes on the armature).

What I definitely recommend is to have the finger tool tip and the sculpting knife in every size (I mean made from 1mm, 1,5mm, 2mm and maybe even 3mm). Especially the versions with 1,5mm and 2mm I found very useful.

While you can build all the 1mm tool tip types also with larger diameter steel, there are a few tool tip shapes, that make only sense if they are built with larger diameter steel. Some of those I will discuss now. I’m sure, you will discover more tool tips for yourself if you work a little with hammer and anvil but don’t make too many different tools or you might get lost between them all. Remember that not the tool makes a good sculpting, but the sculptors hand and mind. Even the best tool isn’t a guarantee for a good sculpt. But on the other side it’s also true, that bad or the wrong tools make it even harder to get a nice sculpt. So that’s why I want to point out some ways to make useful tools that at least doesn’t make sculpting harder as it is anyway.
So enough of small talk now, let’s go on to a few more tool tips.

Another tool tip, I call the long probe, makes a lot of sense when it’s made from 2mm steel. It’ a long curved rod that gets thinner the more it comes to the tip and ends in a little rounded tip (not sharp or pointed). In some ways it’s a bit like the curved needle tool.
To built this tool. You have to place the 2mm steel rod into the rotary tool. Be sure, that the rod sits tightly into the tool. Then it would be best, if you’ve got a GRINDING MACHINE like you can see on pic. 1). This can be bought quite cheap sometimes. But if you haven’t got one, you can also use a belt sander or an electrical drilling machine (power drill) with a grinding stone. If you use the drilling machine, be sure, it is fixed securely.

Be sure to wear safety glasses when doing the next step!
Set the rotary tool with the steel rod into rotation and press it slightly onto the grinding stone from the grinding machine or the drilling machine. Be sure, that the grinding stone rotates in the direction the rod points. That’s important, because otherwise it could be dangerous, as the grinding stone might "hit" the rod away. So slowly grind down the rod over a length of about 2-2,5cm so it gets a long point. Be sure, NOT to give it a sharp pointed tip like a needle. The tip that's left should be still rounded (pic. 2).

After grinding down the wire rod to the right shape, as always, you have to smooth the surface and remove all scratches. You can do this quite easily if you leave the rod into the rotary tool and drag it slowly over abrasive paper. It would be better if you place the grinding paper on a soft surface (like rubber for example), so the paper can be pressed down a little bit. Even better would be the use of an abrasive pad, if you got one. It might take a little while to smooth the surface, but don’t hurry.

I recommend grinding the rod before bending it, because a smooth surface can be achieved easily and fast by using the rotary tool and the abrasive paper as long as the steel rod is straight. After you’ve bent the rod, you can’t use the rotary tool anymore that way and it would be much more work to do all the grinding by hand.

After cleaning up the surface, you have to bend the tool tip to the desired shape. For me a kind of "S"-shape works best, but some people just prefer a simple curve (pic. 3).Here you have to try for yourself, what fits best for you. You can do the curve with hammer and the cone-like end of the mini anvil or by carefully bending it with pliers.

At last again do some polishing and there it is your new tool tip

The pointed sculpting knife is quite the same as the sculpting knife I’ve explained for the 1mm steel, but instead of the more rounded point of the sculpting knife, the pointed sculpting knife has a sharp point.

To make such a tool tip, you first have to do the normal sculpting knife as described before. Then you have to cut or grind away a small half-circle like shape from the back of the sculpting knife, so it will get a shape that is similar to that of a Bowie-knife-blade (see pic. 4). You can do this by using the cutting disc in your rotary tool or a tiny grinding stone that is also available for those rotary tools.

After getting the right shape, you also have to sharpen the new edge that you’ve created with the grinding stone. Because this edge is concave, it’s a bit tricky to sharpen is. One way to do it is to wrap fine abrasive paper around an object with the same diameter as the half-circle you’ve cut out (like a screwdriver or a larger nail or something like that).
This you can use now as a kind of fine file to sharpen the concave blade (see pic. 5).
As I said before, "sharp" doesn’t mean here it has to be like a razor blade. You don’t have to cut something with this tool tip. "Sharp" means here, that the tool gets thinner, as it gets to the edges.

Again do some polishing and you’ve got a new tool tip.

By the way: If you combine this pointed sculpting knife tip and the finger tip, both made from 2mm steel wire on one handle as a double sided sculpting tool, you got something, that is quite the same as the famous "Wax 5".

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Some miniatures I've made with my tools

Before going on to explain some more sculpting tool tips made of steel wire with 2mm and up in the coming blog entry, I just want to show some of the miniatures, I've made with my tools as an intermezzo.

Just a halfling...

and the cast version

A dwarf ...

and the cast version

An elf with a pet dragon...

and the cast version

Something different

Give-away for a Coffeeshop (cast in lead free pewter)
Height including base: 2.5 cm