Wednesday, August 19, 2009

HANDLES - general aspects


Until now, I’ve talked a lot about different kinds of sculpting tool tips and explained the Pencil-Tool and the Schellert-Tool as handles for those tool tips. While the Pencil-Tool and the Schellert-Tool have the advantage that the tooltips can be changed easily and fast, this might sometimes be a disadvantage. After working with your sculpting tools for a while, I am sure you will find your preferred tool tips and you will do 75 % of the sculpting work just with a few of them. In this case, you will surely want to have these preferred tools always at hand, without having to change tool tips permanently.

Therefore, I will explain in this tutorial how to do handles in which the tool tips can be fixed permanently.

Maybe you might think there is not much to talk about. Just take a piece of wood, drill in a hole, glue the tool tip inside the hole and that’s it. You are right. If you are happy with a simple handle, just save your time and just do it like that. I will also explain, how to do such a "simple" handle.

But maybe your have already spent quite a lot of time in forging very fine sculpting tips and you didn’t want to see all your work spoiled by mounting them on crappy handles.
If that’s what you think, I will show you in the following tutorial some ways to do a little bit more sophisticated handles.

Generally, I create nearly all of my handles as two-sided-handles. That’s not a must. You can also do handles with just one tip and this might be indicated with very sharp and / or pointed tool tips to reduce the risk of injury. But in general, I prefer less tools lying around on my work desk while sculpting to keep my workspace clear arranged. So having two-sided tools means half as much tools on your table.

Regarding profile and diameter of the tool handles, I found out, that a rod with a round profile and a diameter of 8mm works best for me. That’s the same diameter as the Schellert-Tool (and these hobby knives like x-acto or martor) has. Beside the fact that I can hold it quite well in my hand it has the advantage, that “8mm” seems to be a kind of standard-size, so it would be easier to find material with that diameter in hardware stores. Alternatively you could use 6mm (also a standard-size), but I recommend that only for small tool tips.

Regarding the length of the handle, I found out, that 10cm (without the tool tips) is a good length for me. If you’ve got the hands of an elf, maybe a shorter one will do better but if your hands are more troll-style even a little bit longer might be adequate.

As material for the handles, there are two good options (for me): wood of aluminium.
Plastic is something, I didn’t really like for my tool handles. Some sculptors also use brass, but a handle with 8mm diameter made of brass could sometimes be a little heavy. So I recommend using brass-tubes only for handles with smaller diameters, like the one, I will explain later.

I tried beech-, walnut- and oak-wood for handles by now and all work well (pic. 1). Beech has the advantage that it can be found in poles of 1m length and 8mm diameter in nearly every hardware store or building centre (at least in Germany). Walnut has a beautiful dark brown colour and looks really nice if you give it a finish with clear varnish. Oak has a quite interesting surface structure if you give it a clear varnish and it is quite hard. Unfortunately, 8mm-poles of walnut- or oak-wood are hard to find. In Germany I found this shop: for that. If you are not from Germany, try Google to find the wood you need.

Aluminium tubes with 8mm and 6mm diameters can be found in most hardware stores or building centres, as I told before (see: “The Schellert-Tool”).
As I already mentioned, there are two qualities available, the untreated “pure” aluminium and the aluminium with the anodized surface. Handles made of untreated aluminium tubes have to be polished finally. A not polished oxidised aluminium surface would leave dark grey marks on your hand. The surface of anodized aluminium on the other hand is just fine, so you can take it as it is without the need to polish or modify it.

Next time: a simple handle version 1

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