Greetings fellow geeks!
I recently found myself in New York, yet again with Ray Villafane and a phenomenal sculptor/carver that’s quickly becoming one of my favorite dudes to work with, Patrick Burke. Each year, we create a large scale pumpkin display at the Bronx Botanical Gardens. This year celebrated Frida Kahlo, Dia De Los Muertos, and Jose Posada. As such, we created a tribute to one of Jose Posada’s famous calavera (skull) illustrations. For more on that, check out the Villafane Studios Facebook page, or visit the NYBG website.
On my way back home from a pumpkin carving event in Arizona, my entire bag full of every carving tool that I own, as well as a few new sculpting tools I picked up, was stolen right out of my luggage. So, shout outs to Newark, New Jersey for being such a nice airport to stop off at on the way back home. Hoping to replace a few key tools quickly, I had the chance to hit up the sculpture megastore, The Compleat Sculptor. I ended up picking up a few sculpture only tools and and just using some of Ray and Patrick’s tools to get by.
I went straight there from my bus in, so sadly, Ray and Patrick were already at the venue and weren’t able to accompany me. Although, I don’t think it would have been much different. Patrick comes with a plethora of fine wood carving chisels so, I can’t imagine he would have bought much and Ray, well, he appreciates fine tools but I have yet to see that man use anything incorporating sharpness, or precision and I constantly find myself harping on him about some of his primitive, caveman-like tools. Of no consequence, of course, as I’m sure you’ve all seen his work and while he might be better suited to use a rock, duct taped to a stick, than some of the tools he has, they seem to work great for him. That’s proof positive that its really more who’s wielding the tool, as opposed to how fancy the tool is. That said, to me, there’s nothing like a finely tuned, precision instrument, made specifically for the task at hand. Carving and sculpting are hard enough, why struggle with inferior tools?
Anyway, I wanted to share with you my pick ups. I have yet to use them, but I may end up writing a review on them after I give em a good run. I normally like to make my own tools from scratch, but I can’t resist grabbing some if they look real useful or just plain fun to use. Yes, I have a tool fetish and its a problem -I guess. Ive known sculptors who only use a few tools and get by just fine, but that’s not me. I really like tools… like, a lot.
So, incase you were interested in checking out some of the same tools, here’s what I picked up this time around.
-Stainless Minarette 1705S
-Milani Steel Wax Tool 37W05
-Wax Tool 17156
-Stainless Tool Fox 43281001
-Hax Scraper (set of 2) 4226813 – not listed on the website but in this category
-Handmade Hickory Rib – not listed on the website but in this category.
-Steel Tool #37 37W37
-Kemper WT12 Wood Modeling Tool
The last time I was able to visit, I was with a few of the guys from NECA about 6 or 7 years ago. If you ever have a chance to go to this store, DO IT! Its fully loaded with just about anything a sculptor could want, and then some. The staff is friendly and helpful. They will let you shop in peace, and walk behind the counter to take a closer look, if need be.
Now, I believe a sculptor should make the majority of their own tools because its usually the best way to get what you need. However, I do pick up some ready made stuff from time to time. When I do that, its usually a tool that can’t be made easily without proper equipment. This usually includes teeth that have been precisely and evenly cut in or something that has a weird bend in it.
I would also recommend visiting the store yourself since a lot of the tools there are handmade, so the edges vary slightly in their stock. While I will probably go in and tune up the edges of my new tools even further to what I want, its nice to have a better starting point.
I’ve been asked many times to share my process of making tools so, look forward to that. In the meantime, I’ll be scraping away at the Deathclaw sculpt with these new additions in anticipation of the release of Fallout 4.
If you haven’t already, be sure to sign up to the Sculpture_Geek newsletter for some special offers and discounts coming up. You can do that Here. Until next time,
Smoke, and Garlic!
Since they are already made, I can’t really do a full blown tutorial so I’ll just show you how I did it and what I used. They’re both simple enough and shouldn’t take longer than an afternoon to make both. Let’s get started.
Ok first up, We have a run of the mill clay warming oven.
If you’ll notice the glass dish there. That is a Pyrex dish that is microwave safe. I throw some clay in that and stick it in the microwave. This gets things moving quickly. Just be careful when doing this because you don’t want to over heat the clay. It also heats from the inside and can deceive you into thinking its safe to touch. It has the potential to turn to molten lava in the inside with the appearance of being an unwarmed brick on the outside. So unless you’re trying to do your best T-1000 impression, avoid acting like its some sort of sculptor’s prom night, by reaching in and getting too handsy as soon as things heat up. In other words, take it slow big fella 😉
Moving on, broken down, this is basically a cardboard box with a hole cut in the top and front, lined with foil and a few add ons. Easy peasy!
I’ve added a “floor” to the box to raise things up and move the clay closer to the heat source. These are just two pieces of insulation foam (also known as pink or blue foam).
To attach the foil, I used a little spray glue and double stick tape.
The clip lamp on top has a 75 watt bulb inside of it and to get the hole in the top, I put the lamp on top of the box and traced it. When it came time to cut the hole, I was sure to cut around the inside circumference of it by about an inch. In other words, make the hole a little smaller than the lamp so that it doesn’t just fall through while its resting on top.
For the door, I cut three sides and left the fourth, to create a hinge so the door can open and close. I also threw a little handle on the front of it by cutting, stacking, and hot gluing some smaller cut pieces of cardboard. (see photos).
Now, this will keep your clay at a great working temp after its been heated. You can use an oven to heat oil clay but a microwave is much faster. If you heat the clay too much, you can actually start to cook the ingredients which will change the properties of the clay. While microwaves can vary greatly as far as power levels and size, I can’t tell you the magic number but as a guideline only. My small microwave takes about 4 and a half minutes to heat up a 2lb brick of chavant enough to put in the clay oven and use for the day. If you leave the door open and its cooler in your studio, you may have to re warm the clay once or twice during the day. but if you leave it shut, it should stay workable all day. I may add a small dowel to actually clip the lamp to so that it doesn’t slide around on me but I haven’t had any issues yet with the light falling off.
We have a sculpting stand. This takes a little more effort but is so worth it and you’ll be happy to have one of these for years to come. I love my little stand, and I love it even more because it didn’t cost me upwards of $300.00 ;b
Broken down, we have a bar stool, a few extra pieces of wood to help stabilize and add adjustment, a large cutting board, a ceiling fan down rod, a threaded flange for the downrod, a small piece of rubber hose and a hose clamp.
You can find bar stools cheap all the time at thrift stores. I painted and stained mine to match my studio. Doing so, makes me feel like what I’m working on is important – so there’s that.
I’ll work my way down from the top on how I made it.
The top is an old cutting board that I also found at a thrift shop. I sanded, stained, and waxed it. Then I screwed a small block of plywood (also stained) to the center of the board. I attached a flange to that small piece just to help distribute some of the weight when I’m working on something. These are the same flanges I use in my armatures. I found a hollow, brass, down rod from a ceiling fan at my local hardware store. it happens to be threaded and fits right into the flange.
Then I used a hole cutting bit to just drill a hole through the center of the seat part of the bar stool. On top of the first set of cross braces, I attached another small cut piece of plywood, I drilled a hole in it so I could insert the downrod into it to keep the table straight up. This adds stability as well. I had to cut a square notch out of the corners of this little piece so that it would fit. Then screwed it in to the cross braces. In order to make the height adjustable, I slid a small piece of rubber tubing with a hose clamp onto the downrod before I slid it into the bottom. There’s another clamp on the top so I can have an alternate height adjustment. Tightened it all up, and vi-ola!
Ok, first post here, lets make it a good one!
I’ve been working on a tutorial for the past few months and its just about ready to be released. You can see a preview of the project on the Sculpture_Geek YouTube page located here (link will open in new window) so go check it out.
Here, I plan on posting lots of tutorials, tips, videos etc.. lots of fun stuff on the way. Be sure to follow me on all the appropriate social media platforms and subscribe to the Sculpture_Geek newsletter located here. As a subscriber, you will receive first dibs on tips and techniques, tutorials, news, products, discounts, new projects, and exclusive behind the scenes photos and more. I plan on even having some guest posts as well.