Sunday, July 5, 2009

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".

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