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Make yourself some tools for sculpting, really do it, don’t wait.

Making your own tools for sculpting in clay is, at least in my opinion, way more important as a skill and habit than most people think.

A huge proportion of sculpting teachers and tutorials online will repeat the same thing. “Use your hands, the tools nature gave you exclusively as much as is possible. Don’t resort to sculpting gadgets unless your fingers simply can’t do the job“, and I could not disagree more. I don’t think tools are so inferior to bare hands. I don’t think using tools is a problem, I think your tools are the problem.

Tools can make it easier to work at different sizes, can help you make a wider range of marks and surfaces, and if you are using them right help improve your creativity by broadening the ways you manipulate your materials.

The key is using tools the right way, and that means making them a part of your creative problem solving. I think making tools a part of your creative process means just that, making tools.

I simply can’t sculpt my best without my tools, and I do mean MY tools specifically. I make the majority of the tools I use myself.

I do certainly purchase tools. They just always look so cool when I visit the ceramics or sculpting supply, and catch my eye online. Professionally made with nice materials handsomely finished and recommended by artists I respect. Can’t wait to get this baby into the studio, and get to work. And then…dissapoinment. Almost every time. Do I just buy crappy tools cause I’m cheap, would throwing money at it solve this problem and end the cycle of abusive relationships. I doubt it.

Store bought tools are, well, generally pretty nice. Sure you get a loose glue joint or a little rough spot on occasion. However usually a nice Kemper or Xiem tool is made pretty well, certainly better than I can make easily. But they just don’t work as well, and it isn’t because the makers did anything wrong. It’s because MY tools address the specific situation I need them to address.

Like monster clay?
You need stiffer tools.

Wet clay?
A more delicate touch might be what you need.

Bigger sculpture?
You might want big broad working surfaces and a longer handle so you can make stronger statements and keep an eye on the whole piece.

Working small?
On a project thats going to get handled? Detail tools and something to soften ragged edges. manufacturers just can’t make stuff for my specific situation, or yours.

They make tools for what they guess will be the average situation. ok thats probably a bit too kind, they make tools that they think the most consumers will buy… they really rarely care too much how well they work. It’s about price, and an appearance of quality. That’s why you see shiny handles that are too slippery, and exaggerated bevels that look sharp but cut poorly. But I digress.

Developing the habit of making tools to suit your needs, means you are in control. Make em suit the material you like to work with, and the size you want to make things. Small details, broad planes, whatever texture, whatever shape not a problem when you diy.

In upcoming posts I will go over some of my favorite diy tools specifically.

How I make some of them. Why I like my diy versions over store bought, a few exceptions that I like to buy. Detailing some of the stuff I like to make tools from. But for now here is a nice shot of some of my go to tools.