Thursday, April 22, 2010


When I started this blog here, I made it about tools for sculpting in small scales like 30mm or 54mm scale. But there are also a lot of people around, who do sculpting in a quite larger scale. Especially comic-style characters are quite popular. A lot of these people do their stuff with super sculpey or super sculpey firm (grey). The height of these Marquette’s is 15 cm and above. I found this interesting and so I would like to try out some sculpting in a larger scale on my own.

For that I thought about a simple sculpting tool for getting started with larger sculpts.

I had a look on the web for tools that other people use for that kind of sculpting and decided to make my own two sided tool.

In the end it is just a two sided tool made of a stainless steel rod with 5 mm diameter and with a “finger-tip” on one end and a “sculpting-knife”-tip on the other.

I made it this way:

First I took a stainless steel rod with 5 mm diameter and cut of a piece with about 17 cm length. Maybe it’s a bit too long, so you do it just a bit shorter.

After that, I fixed the rod into an electrical drilling machine, set it into rotation and pressed it slightly onto a grinding machine, like you can see on the next picture.

By doing this, I formed a pointed tip on one end of the stainless steel stick.

After that, I just flattened the end of the stick. To do so, I heated the pointed end of the stick up until it glows and than hammered it down on an anvil. It’s just the same procedure as I’ve explained for making 1mm tool tips (look there: “the finger tool”) beside the fact, that this time the steel has a much larger diameter. The flattened end looked like that:

Then I moved to the other side of the stick. This end, I grinded down a bit as you can see on the next picture. The idea here is to give the end already the rough shape of the later blade of the sculpting knife. I use also the grinding machine to get this done. It’s better to “pre-shape” the steel that way because it saves you a lot of work later and helps you, to get the right shape.

After that, this end was also flattened with heat, hammer and anvil. Again it’s the same as I’ve explained in my post about the 1mm tool-tips for the “sculpting knife” just in a larger scale. The flattened end looks like that:

After doing the forging work, I had to refine the two ends of the tool with the grinding machine. After that, the tool looked like that:

Finally I used abrasive paper and a polishing machine to remove all scratches from the tool and to give it a clean surface. In the end it looked like you can see on the next picture.

After that, the new tool was done. As I said before, it has a diameter of 5 mm, which is ok for most hands (except troll and orc).

I made two alternative versions of the tool.

The first alternative was made of stainless steel which profile wasn’t round but hexagonal (like a screw nut). The screw-wrench size of this hexagonal steel rod was also 5mm which makes it a little larger in the hand than a round 5mm rod. Beside that some people prefer a hexagonal grip on their tools for having a better control over the tool.

If you want to use such a hexagonal steel rod, I suggest grinding down the tool ends to a round shape before forging the tool ends. This helps to flatten the ends more evenly.

The tool from the hexagonal steel rod looks like that:

For the other alternative I used a round profile stainless steel rod again, but this time smaller with a 4 mm diameter. There’s nothing special to explain here because the procedure is the same as I’ve explained for the first tool. This tool looks like that.

So the tools I’ve made by now have a diameter or “grip size” of 5mm and 4 mm.

Maybe you prefer tools with a larger diameter at least at the handle. If so, here are two ways to get a thicker handle on these tools:


You can just “add” a larger diameter to this tool, by using a heat shrink tube (I hope, this is the right word in English for it).

A heat shrink tube is a tube / hose made of some kind of rubber-like material. If heat is applied on it, the diameter of this tube shrinks down. There are different kinds of heat shrink tubes around. I suggest getting those with a high shrinking ratio. I took one with a 4/1 shrinking ratio. That means, the diameter of the tube was originally 16 mm. After heating it up, it shrinks down to 4mm diameter. The shrinkage in the length direction is much less. It’s less than 10% (at least for the heat shrink tube I use).

I also choose a heat shrinking tube with hot glue already applied to the inside of the tube. This helps to fix the rubber grip very tightly to the steel.

I bought this heat shrink tube on ebay.

I cut up a piece of the tube that is just a little bit longer than I want for the final “grip”.

I just pulled it over the tools handle and applied heat on it. I used a heat gun for that like that. That’s a kind of hard-core hair dryer that produce much more heat than a usual hair dryer. I guess you need about 120 to 150 ° (Celsius) for activating the shrinkage.

While applying the heat on it the diameter of the tube starts to shrink dramatically until it sits on the metal tool very tightly (even more because of the heat glue inside the tube).

Because I choose a quite large heat shrink tube, the final diameter of the tool grip was quite large. So after that my new tool has a diameter of about 8 mm, that’s the same as the handles of hobby knifes like x-acto or Martor etc. Finally you just have to cut of a part of the tube away on each end, if it is too long. The final tool looks like that:

Here you can see the relation of the original heat shrink tube before and after heating it up:

I just made two other tools in smaller sizes that way. One is made of 4 mm steel, and one of 3.5 mm steel. For those I took heat shrink tube with the size 12/3 mm (12mm before heating / 3mm after heating).


For the second version I used once again an aluminium tube as a handle.

I made this handle for the smaller tool made of 4mm steel, because this might be a bit too thin for the hands.

I took an aluminium tube with an outer diameter of 8mm and an inner diameter of 4 mm (Material strength = 2mm). I just cut off a piece of that tube with the desired handle-length and rounded up the ends. Once again I’ve done this by fixing it into the electrical power drill an hold it slightly onto an electrical grinding stone machine like I’ve explained above for giving the steel rod a pointy tip.

After that, I just cut the forged tool in the middle and glued each part into one end of the aluminium too with good metal glue.

If you want to make a lighter tool, just cut off a little more of the non-forged side of each tool tip before gluing it into the aluminium handle.

You can do just the same with a 5mm diameter tool. For that you just need an aluminium tube with an outer diameter of 8 mm and an inner diameter of 5mm (material strength = 1,5mm). If you can’t find that size, you can do it with a tube combination (a tube with outer diameter = 6mm and an inner size = 5 mm inside a tube with outer diameter = 8mm and inner diameter of 6mm).

I’ve explained that in the post about “tool handles”.

On the last pic for today, You can see all tools from this tutorial:

That’s all about my first excursion into larger tools for sculpting.