Sculpting Tools For Prosthetics

Sculpting Tools For Prosthetics

Sculpting toolsSculpting tools are many and varied.  I have bought  – and made – a fair few too many over the years simply because I like them.

However, there are only really a few sculpting tools that you need despite all the choice available. Here I cover what you will actually want to simply start sculpting.

Tools are used to perform four basic tasks:

  1. To add stuff
  2. Take stuff away
  3. Move stuff
  4. Make marks in stuff

Some of this can be done with your fingers, but often you need something harder to bully the plastiline into the shape you want and get a wobbly-free surface.  Most prosthetic sculpture is done using an oil-based clay known as plastiline rather than a water based clay (such as a potter would use).

Many of the tools used in sculpting prosthetics may be found in an arts & craft suplliers or maybe a potters supplier, but some are found only at sculpture supply stores.  It may be that you need to shop around and many have websites.

The tools described here are the smaller versions for sculpting prosthetics, but they are usually available in larger-scaled sizes for bigger work.

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Wooden tools

Various wooden sculpting tools

Various boxwood sculpting tools

Usually have shaped ends to provide more scope for leaving marks in the material.  The kind I prefer are simple boxwood tools with a flattened, rounded ends.  Some have rounded, ball-type ends which are useful for interior hollows such as nostril and ear shapes. The flattened ends are handy for pushing wrinkles and lines into plastiline.

Wooden tools are easily re shaped and repaired using a sharp craft knife and wet or dry paper should you accidentally snap the tip off.  It is a good idea to treat wooden tools with a preserving oil such as linseed oil, as the dry wood can stick to clays and stain easily.  I will cover care and repair of tools in a future post soon.

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Loop tools

Loop tools pic

Various loop tools

Loop tools are quite simply a loop of metal held in a handle, and there is great variety of what manner of loop to have in the handle.  Usually they consist of a simple loop of round, hard wire such as piano wire.  This does a great job of cutting out little scoops of material.  However, this can be twisted to produce a more abrasive surface which can ‘rake’ the plastiline gradually.

A thin saw blade such as a fret saw makes a great little rake for larger areas, and bound bass guitar strings work well for finer stuff.  (Click here to download the free tutorial 0n how to make these.)

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Griffon hooks

griffon hook tool pic

Griffon hook tools

These little tools are great for carving imperfections out  of plaster lifecasts as well as sculpting.  The smaller versions are great for shaping and reducing, particularly for concave shapes which are harder to work otherwise.

 

 

 

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Steel tools – dental & wax

Various metal tools pic

Various metal tool - dental and wax working tools

These little tools are great for making marks in the surface, such as pores and little dents.  They are usually a little more expensive than most tools simply because they are stainless steel but are useful for working into plaster lifecasts as well as plastiline.


Wax tools are similar to the dental tools, except they are not usually stainless steel, so are susceptible to rust and tarnishing.  They are usually heated over an oil lamp and used to work wax models for sculptures intended to be cast in bronze.  The thinner bladed tools are great for thin lines and creases, and the pointed tools make excellent pore texture.

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Surface rakes

Surface rakes pic

Surface rakes made from piano wire & brass tubing

These are usually home made but you can usually find the bits easily enough.

They are used to create a smooth, unified finish by gently dragging and scratching thin lines into the surface of the sculpt, just before you texture.

These are made from thin lengths of piano wire and then crimped into the end of some brass tubing as a handle.  You can use a tuft of wire from a wire brush to do something similar, but I will cover making these in another post soon.

Most of these tools are not that expensive, only the stainless steel tools which are shiney and nice. (Hmmm – shiney!)  These are more of a luxury item though, and you can certainly get by with just a small wooden tool, a small wire loop and either a bass guitar string tool or a little serrated tool such as a griffon hook to help refine.

A few good suppliers that I have used include: 

UK based suppliers
Alec Tiranti (http://www.tiranti.co.uk/)
Potterycrafts (http://www.potterycrafts.co.uk/)
Mouldlife (
http://mouldlife.co.uk/)

USA based suppliers
Compleat Sculptor (http://www.sculpt.com/)
SculptShop.com (http://www.sculptshop.com/)
Sculpture House (http://www.sculpturehouse.com/)
Wayne The Dane (http://www.waynethedane.bizland.com/)

This is by no means a comprehensive list – there are too many all over the world for me to list here.  If you want to check out more, Google ‘sculpture supplies‘, ‘clay sculpture supplies‘ and ‘pottery supplies‘.

If you are having a tough time finding a supplier or want more advice, please feel free to leave a comment below or email me and I will do what I can to help!  If you know of a good supplier that I should include here, let me know and I will add it to the list.

Comments arrow pic

Happy sculpting!
-Stuart

All material, images and text © Stuart Bray 2011

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16 Responses to Sculpting Tools For Prosthetics

  1. Pingback: Making Tools | Learn Makeup Effects

  2. jay says:

    hey stu nice work as always thanks for all your help and advice look forward to seein you one day cash flow permitting lol

  3. Iris says:

    Thank you Stuart! You’re the best!

    Iris

  4. Marta says:

    Thank you, thank you very much for this information. This is the first time I read about sculping tools in a simple way.

  5. Rachel says:

    Thanks for the great post!

    Do you teach in the London School of Media Makeup? I really want to do the 3 month diploma!

  6. Dorota says:

    Hi Stuart
    Good as always 🙂 my first tools I had from dental practice 🙂 If they don’t need some instrument , they just simply throwing to bin 🙁 sometimes they just old and not good enough to be use as a sterile instruments by they perfect for sculpting 😉 and they
    for free 🙂
    I can’t wait for more of the series .
    Best Regards
    Dorota.

    • Stuart says:

      Hi Dorata
      Of course – great idea. Making friends with a dental laboratory is a great idea. So long as they are clean, (the tools, not the people who work there – although that would be a bonus) those tools should be great for detail and creating textures.
      -Stuart

  7. Bernardo says:

    Ciao stuart..

    vorrei sapere come posso fare per creare l’effetto degli occhi bianchi, se devo utilizzare delle speciali lenti bianche a contatto a copertura intera o c’è qualche altro sistema?
    attendo una vostra risposta..

    Cordialmente:
    Bernardo Iuliano

    • Stuart says:

      Hi Bernardo
      Using Balefish to translate (although translation sites always turn the text into Yoda-speech) I guess that you mean lenses to change eyes.

      I personally do not handle anything that goes into eyes. I leave that to a specialist lens-tech such as Richard Glass at The Reel Eye Company.

      You can of course buy lenses online and pop them in yourself, but there are naturally safety issues where performers eyes are concerned.
      -Stuart

  8. Stuart – this tool bit is wonderful! Very clear and concise. Love it. May I ‘borrow’ and credit you?

  9. Victor J. says:

    Hi Stuart

    Awesome! I’m so glad you are doing a series on sculpting! Can’t wait, been googling the whole week looking for something on sculpting and now youre doing it! Also, please think of doing a series on lessons on colouring and painting pieces, mixing paints,what you can use on what etc.

    Thanks for the great articles

    Vic
    South Africa

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