Saturday, September 12, 2009


Hi again,

Today I will not present any new tutorial about making sculpting tools.

But I have another goody for you.

When I have a look on my blog I discovered, that it is a bit hard to read, if you didn’t start right at the beginning with the first posts.

In newer posts I refer to what I’ve wrote in older posts sometimes and If you haven’t read this older post it might be hard to understand.

That’s why I come to the decision to merge all the posts and tutorials so far in one file and to offer the whole thing to you as a pdf-file.

So that’s the news for today:

You can download all the tutorials in this blog so far as an eBook.

This eBook has 128 pages and it is called:

“MAKE YOUR OWN SCULPTING TOOLS – a guide about how to build sculpting tools for sculpting in small scales”

The download is completely free for using it privately. Of course any reprint or any use in a commercial sense of the eBook itself or its content is only allowed with my explicit permission.

I’ve made two versions of the eBook with different resolution, one for reading it as an eBook on your screen and the other with a higher resolution for printing it out.

Here are the download links (right click, save target...):


MAKE YOUR OWN SCULPTING TOOLS – print version (pdf: 15.2 MB)

I hope you like this

Friday, September 11, 2009



Today I want to talk a little bit about armatures for sculpting miniatures.

I guess most of you are familiar with the basic aspects of sculpting miniatures. So you surely know that you’ll need a solid foundation for putting your putty on if you want to sculpt a humanoid miniature (and not only a “blob”).

There are two alternatives for such a foundation.

1. You can take a so called dolly. That’s a skeleton-like substructure cast from white metal. There are several different versions of these dollies available from different manufacturers (for example: Reaper, Ebob, or Hasslefree Miniatures to name a few).The advantage of the dollies is that you don’t have to worry about proportions, because you can use them just like they are. The disadvantage is, that because of the material, they are made of, they break quite easily when you try to bend them to get the limps into the pose you want to have. Because of that, some (more extreme) poses can’t be sculpted with these dollies. Another disadvantage comes from the preset proportions, because only small variants are possible.

2. The second way to build a foundation for your sculpt is to make an wire armature from scratch. Usually two pieces of wire are twisted together so the twisted part forms the torso, while the wire ends are bent to form arms and legs (pic. 2).

The advantage of these wire armatures is that you can do every pose you like. The wire can be bended easily into the needed position without breaking. You also can do every variant of size and proportions because you do it all from scratch and so there’s no restriction to pre-cast proportions. In reverse, the disadvantage is that you have to find the right proportion again every time you do a new armature. Another disadvantage is that it is difficult to get a “5 point armature” (1 head, 2 arms, 2 legs) from twisting two pieces of wire together. Usually you can choose between a “3 point armature” (head and legs) or a “4 point armature” (two arms and two legs). In both case you have to add an armature/wire for the arms (3-point armature) or the head (4-point armature) later.

So both, dolly and armature have their advantages and disadvantages and I thought about a way to combine the advantages of both, while eliminating the disadvantages.

So I came to the idea to cast my own “dolly” with cast-in wire parts for the arms and legs.
The advantage of this hybrid-armature is that you got a “5 point armature” with some proportions, but also with legs and arms, that could be bent without breaking.

I developed two versions of this kind of armature (I call it “Schellert-armature” because of my last name). The first version has a complete torso including hips while the other ones torso exists only of head, neck and ribcage.

The first has more given proportions while the other one allows more adjustments regarding the height. On pic. 3 you can see the two versions and their use.

I admit that it’s a bit of work until you get such a hybrid armature because you have to do a “master”, build a drop-casting mould from it and then cast the armature. Maybe it’s too much work if you just sculpt a few miniatures. But once you’ve got the mould, you can cast as much armatures as you like quite fast. So if you need some more armatures for your work, maybe it’s worth to invest the time.

So this is how you can make your own “Schellert-armature”:
I assume that you are familiar with the process of making drop cast moulds from heat resistant rtv-silicone rubber, because I won’t describe that. If not, there are lots of tutorials that can be found on the internet. It’s really not as complicated as it might look on first view.

First of all you need an “original” of the armature. Instead of wasting many words about how this has to be made, I just show you in pic. 4 how my master-armatures look like.

To fix the wire parts, I just drill in small holes into the sculpted part and glued the wire in. I used wire with a diameter of 0.8 mm for that.

To make it clear:
For the original, I took 4 pieces of wire and glue each of them into a hole that I’ve drilled into the “torso”. For casting the armatures, I only use two pieces of wire. These two pieces are twice as long as one of the 4 wires used for the original. These longer wires are bent and will be placed into the mould before closing it. Then the molten metal will be cast into the mould and around the wire parts, so they will be fixed tight into the torso of the cast armature.

I made two different versions of the Schellert-armature that I called x-type and y-type.

The x-type has a full torso with head, chest Spine and hips. So while the size of the torso is fixed on this “dolly”, you can do a little variation with the length of the arms and legs (wire parts).

The y-type torso exists only of the head and chest without casted spine and hips.
Instead of the spine and hips there are only the wire parts. On this version you can also do variations to the length of the torso, because spine and hips have to be formed out of the wire, so you can choose the length of the spine. So with this kind of armature, you can do miniatures with different sizes (see pic. 3 above).

So the trick regarding the wire parts is that when the metal is cast around them, they are perfectly fixed.

On the x-type armature, the two arms are made from a single piece of wire as well as the two legs.

On the y-type armature left arm and left leg on the one side and right arm and right leg on the other are each made of a single piece of wire.

If you have problems sculpting the torso or if you are unsure about the proportions, just buy the Reaper-dolly (the “advanced” ones), cut off arms and legs and use the rest as a starting point for sculpting the torso. When the torso is done, just drill in holes and add the wire parts.

Then you have to make a drop cast mould with heat resistant rtv-silicone rubber from it. In relation to a full 30mm miniature, the part of the armature that has to be cast with white metal is quite small and this could be a problem for the casting process. So the white metal that you’ll cast into the mould should have enough “pressure” to fill the whole cavity of the mould. To achieve this I recommend an extra-large gate (sprue) as you can see on pic. 5). If this gate is filled with molten metal, the weight of that metal will give the needed pressure.

While making the mould I also recommend the following:
You have to set the parting line on the object you want to make a mould from to define, what’s in mould half A and what’s in mould half B. Usually you try to set this parting line roughly into the middle of the object to get a well balanced mould.

But in this case you shouldn’t do this. Because later you have to put the wire parts into the mould it would be easier if the cavity that holds the wire is a little deeper. This helps to prevent the wire parts from accidentally falling out of the right place while casting the molten metal in. So try to create your mould in a way, where the wire parts are set predominantly into one mould half (see pic. 5b).

When you’ve got your mould with cut in gate, sprues and air vents you can try your first cast. Before you cast the white metal into your mould, you have to place two bent pieces of wire inside the mould as you can see on pic. 6a and 6b).

First you have to straighten the two pieces of wire. Then you have to bend them at the right point into the needed angle with a flat nose plier. You have to try a little bit to get the right angle. Place the wire parts into one half of the mould at the right position. Then carefully close the mould without letting the wire parts slip out of their positions.

Now fix the closed mould with rubber rings or a clamp or something like that and cast the molten white metal in.

The alloy I use contains lead. Personally I prefer this because the casted armature could be bent better when it contains lead and also the mould cavity is filled better because of the lead. If you don’t want an alloy with lead because of health issues, try a lead free alloy. Personally I’ve got no experience with lead free alloys for casting this kind of armature.

When the metal has cooled down and you open your mould, the white metal should have enclosed the wire parts. Remove the gate and the sprues and your armature is done (pic. 7).

If your armature didn’t come out right from the mould, it’s maybe because the mould is too cold in the beginning, so just try again. After some casts, the mould should get its working temperature. If the results are still not good, try to widen the cut, where the gate “touches” the cavity and/or cut some additional air vents.

That’s all. Now you got your mould and you can cast as many armatures as you like.
If you got plenty of them, you can use them also to do a pose study, just by trying out some poses to see how they will look. Because you already have the basic shape of a human (head, torso arms and legs) it’s easier to get an idea about how a miniature with this pose will look like.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Sculpting tool made from a dentist probe

Today I post just a quite small and simple tutorial about how to modify a dentist probe to get a sculpting tool that's quite similar to the "finger tool" I've talked before (see post about making sculpting tool tips from 1 mm steel).

But even this tutorial is quite simple, the tool you get is quite good. At least I use this tool quite often. So this tool might be ideal for those who didn't want to do all this tool tip forging and handle making I've talked about in former posts to get a sculpting tool.

As a starting point for this tool, you'll need a simple dentist probe like the one you can see on the following pic. 1). You can find it quite simple with Google or on eBay.

You have to cut the tip of this probe a few mm behind the first bending of the tip like you can see on pic. 2). Then you have to grind down the cut end of the tip to flatten it.

You can use a rotary tool with a grinding stone or just abrasive paper for that.

Just give it a smooth surface and round off all edges.

Finaly the tip should look like those you can see on pic. 3) and pic. 4).

Be sure to give it a clean surface with no scratches left.

Work with fine abrasive paper or even better with fine abrasive pads and finally do some polishing to achieve this.

As I said before, this is a kind of "finger-tool". It's quite similar to the tip that can be found on the famous "Wax 5" but it is much smaller. So you can do quite delicate work with it.

On the next picture you can see a comparison of this tool and the "SG" dentist tool from Tiranti ("Wax 5").

I hope, you'll like this tool.

It's only a little bit of work but you'll get a lot with it.


Sculpting tool tip made from a hobby knife blade

In this tutorial I want to show you how to make a very nice sculpting tool from a hobby knife blade.

Maybe some of you already know this or even use this kind of tool because it is quite common.

Even Tom Meier who is known to use only quite a few different tools to do his ingenious miniature sculptures uses this tool. If you want to know, how exactly Tom Meier’s tool looks like, have a look on his blog. He has posted a photo of his tools there.

It is quite simple to make this tool. All you need is a blade for a hobby knife (x-acto-style), some sheets of abrasive paper and a little patience. A rotary tool with a grinding tool would be helpful.

All you have to do is to blunt the edge of the blade over the whole length.

The blade’s tip is too pointy for sculpting. So you have to grind it down and to give it a slightly rounded shape. Instead of doing the whole process with the abrasive paper, you can try to carefully break off the tip of the blade with fine flat nose pliers and then to round up the line of breakage with the abrasive paper.

Finally you also have to grind down the sharp edges on the flat sides of the blade and to round them up, so they won’t leave ugly marks in the putty while sculpting.

On the following pic. 1) you can see how to do this.

Just refine the edges and the surface of the grinded blade with very fine abrasive paper or abrasive pads. You can finally polish it, if you like.

This blade has to be placed into a holder for those hobby knife blades (obviously).
You can also use a SCHELLERT-tool as a holder for this sculpting tool tip.

That’s all. This is a nice tool for basic sculpting, like blocking out the rough proportions of a miniature and for blending layers of green stuff or procreate together.

Monday, September 7, 2009



About the next thing that I want to show you, I’m not sure, if it’s really a useful tool, or more a kind of tool-fetishism. So it’s up to you to decide if it’s the one or the other.

The use of callipers is quite common in life size sculpting. It is used as a sculpting aid to check proportions and to transfer sizes onto the sculpting. On the following photo you can see such typical sculpting calipers (pic. 1).

I thought, even though we do quite small sculpts, such a tool might be also useful for us miniature sculptors, so I made this miniature-version of a caliper. You can see this caliper on the next photo (pic. 2).

With this, you can check the proportions of your sculpture (for example: have both arms the same length? Is the left biceps thicker than the right one?) or you can transfer the correct length from a ruler to the sculpt or in reverse, check the exact size of a sculpt-part by putting it between the caliper "claws" and then checking the length on a ruler (pic. 3).

It’s not difficult to build such a caliper. In short words, you just need to cut out the two "claws" of the caliper from a sheet of metal and to fix them with a bolt and nut. And that’s how it goes:

You need a sheet of brass with a material strength of 1mm. A piece 10cm x 10cm would be enough. There are different qualities of such brass sheets out there. You should take the "hard" quality so your caliper won’t bend too easily. Theoretically you could use other metal for that, but 1mm aluminium would be too soft and therefore would bent too easily and steel would be really hard to cut, so I recommend the brass. This kind of brass can be found in hardware stores or building centres or in model craft and hobby stores.

Then you need a bolt and a nut with m3 size of . Be sue to choose a bolt with a flat head, otherwise it might stand in the way when you hold the caliper later. You also need a special nut, a self-locking nut. This kind of nuts has some sort of plastic inside that prevents the nut and bold to accidentally unscrewing. The thread of the bolt would stick into this plastic. This kind of nut is important for your caliper to work properly. These nuts can be found in every hardware store or building centre. If you are not from Germany (and I guess, most of you are not) you don’t have to search for those nuts and bolts with metrical system. Just get those small nuts and bolts that you can find. The correct size isn’t that important here. You can also use bolts (screws) from the computer store (see below). You just have to be sure, that the hole that must be drilled in the calliper claws have the same size as the bolt you use.

Another thing you’ll need to get your caliper work properly is a special kind of washer. It will be placed between the two "claws" of the caliper and prevent the two "claws" from scratching on each other and that guarantees a smooth movement of the caliper "claws". So the washer you should use has to be very thin and not to be made from metal (scratching!). So I found that the washer that works best are one of those that comes in connection with the screws (Bolts) for the computer cases and components. These red or orange washers are made of some kind of plastic and they are very thin (see pic. 4).

Beside that you’ll also need two ordinary washers made of metal that are made for m3 screws (see pic. 4).

Needed tools:
As tools you’ll need a jigsaw with fine saw blades made for cutting metal (pic. 5).

Power drill:
You’ll also need an electrical drilling machine (power drill) and a 3 mm metal drill. Also a small metal file and fine grinding paper will be needed.

PC and printer:
Then you need a computer (we’re getting high-tech now) and a printer that is able to print on sticker-foil-paper (nearly all printer can do that) and of course a sheet of transparent sticker-foil-printer paper. I mean these transparent foils on paper that are made to be printed with a pc-printer. Than you can peel the paper off and the remaining printed foil has a sticky side, so you can stick it on any surface you like. The official english term for that paper is "transparency film, self adhesive". At least that's what is printed on the box. You’ll get this kind of "printing-paper" in every shop, were you can by the ordinary printing paper for pc’s.
How to build the caliper:
The base idea is to construct the right shape for the caliper-claw in your pc then to print it out as a template with your printer on sticking-foil, stick the foil onto your brass sheet and cut out the brass around the shapes you see now on the brass with the sticker.

If you want to construct your own caliper shape, I recommend using the software called INKSCAPE. It is freeware and a very good vector-graphics-program for this kind of work.

You can find it here:

But maybe not all of you have the nerve to draw their own caliper shape, so if you like, you can use the shape I’ve made for my caliper and that you see on the next picture.

I made my caliper with two pairs of claws (one longer side and some shorter one).
I found, this will give it more variations to use it and -as a side effect- you can hold it in your hand much easier.

So first you have to print out the calliper shape on printable sticky foil paper.
To avoid problems with the printer settings, be sure that the printed shape has a length of about 4,8 cm. Do a test printing on ordinary paper and check if the size is correct before printing on the printable-foil-paper (pic. 8). Remember: You need two of these caliper-claws to make one complete caliper, so you have to print two of these shapes on your foil-paper.

After printing out the shapes correctly, just cut out the printed part of your foil-printing-paper roughly, peel off the paper and stick the remaining "sticker" to a corner of your brass sheet (see pic 8a-e).

Then, before cutting out the shapes with the saw, just drill in the holes in the middle part of the caliper "claws". For that, you’ll find in the middle of the little circle a tiny black spot that shows where the hole has to be (pic 9). This spot marks the centre point where you have to place the drill.

The reason for me to recommend drilling before cutting out the rest is that the "cutting out" is quite a bit of work. So if you would do the cutting first and the later drilling went wrong, all the cutting-work with the saw will be lost. So I guess it’s better to start with the holes.
Now after drilling the holes, you can start cutting out the shapes with the saw. You might find that the cutting will go on boring slow, but just be patient. Ah, and if your saw blade break at some point, don’t worry, that is quite normal. Just take another saw blade and go on.

After cutting out the two shapes, just refine the edges with a file and grinding paper and round them up except for the small edge at the top, where the two caliper claws meet. This edge should be left "sharp".

Now, all that’s left to do is to screw all the parts together. In the middle is the red plastic washer, than comes a caliper-claw on each side, followed by a ordinary metal washers on each side and then the nut from the one and the bolt from the other side (pic. 11).

Because the ends of the two caliper claws are not exactly at the same level, you have to bent the two "claws" slightly to each other, until the points exactly meet at the same level (see pic. 12).

Screw the nut and bolt as tight that there is some resistance while opening and closing the calipers claws while they can still be moved smoothly.

That’s it. Your caliper is ready to be used. I hope you’ll like it. As I told you before I’m not so sure about its real worth for getting better sculpts, but at least this little brass thing looks really cool, no?