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Polymer Clay Sculpting Tools

sculpting_tools

There are lots of great sculpting tools around for polymer clay.

I'm absolutely addicted to getting new sculpting tools, both buying and making them. If you need some help deciding on what tools you need to get started, want to make some of your own, or adapt household and hardware finds for sculpting.

Polymer Clay Safety

Safety First

Sculpting tools should be dedicated to clay work and should never be used for food afterwards. That includes rolling pins, baking sheets, and knives.

Clean your oven thoroughly after baking polymer clay unless it is dedicated to polymer clay use or if clay was baked in a sealed container like a roasting bag.

The Bare Essentials

Tools every sculptor should have.

These are my recommendations for a very good starter kit for sculpting.

  • X-acto or similar craft knife
  • Rolling pin or large dowel
  • Set of wooden modeling tools
  • Loop tools
  • Needle tool
  • Tool box or similar for storing your tools
  • Smooth work surface such as a sheet of glass, baking sheet, silicone craft mat, or smooth ceramic tile
sculpting_tools

Making Your Own Tools

Sooner or later you're going to need a tool that you either can't find or can't afford to buy. Making your own tools can be intimidating at first but it's very rewarding.

Most of the tools I make are carved from hardwood dowels. I use guitar strings to make my loop tools because music wire is extremely tough and springy.

Common Materials for Making Sculpting Tools

  • Hardwood Dowels
  • Music Wire
  • Tapestry Needles
  • Brass or Steel Tubing
  • Polymer Clay
  • Sculpting Epoxy (such as Aves Apoxie)
  • Hardened Spring Steel

Found Sculpting Tools

There are plenty of items that you can get for free or very little money that aren't designed to be sculpting tools but are very useful. Here's a few that I've used.

  • Knitting Needles
  • Dental Picks - Ask your dentist, sometimes they'll give you old ones.
  • Paint Brushes
  • Embossing Stylus - Usually a double ended tool with different sized metal ball on each end.
  • Tooth Picks - Especially good to applying glue.
  • Cookie Cutters - The smaller basic shapes (round, square, teardrop) are very useful
  • Razor Blades
  • Makeup Sponges - Use to create soft textures for skin or fabric.

Pasta Machines

Pasta machines are a must for anyone who is mixing polymer clay or needs even thickness sheets frequently. Trying to knead polymer clay by hand is guaranteed to leave your hands very tired and sore. Pasta machines are great time savers and are fairly inexpensive.

Tips for Using a Pasta Machine

  • Work from the thickest setting down the thinness you want.
  • Run damp paper towel or baby wipes through the pasta machine rollers to clean them.
  • If the the handle of your machine comes out easily wrap the end with a little electrical tape.

Using a Toaster Ovens and Heat Guns for Polymer Clay

Toaster Ovens

Toaster ovens are the preferred method for baking small polymer clay pieces because they use less electricity and with concerns over chemicals in polymer clay it's easier to dedicate a toaster oven to polymer clay than a full sized oven (unless you never cook in yours).

Tips for Using a Toaster Oven

  • You must use a toaster oven with an adjustable temperature control. Those without temperature control are much too hot.
  • Use an oven thermometer to double check the temperature in your oven.
  • To keep the temperature from spiking too much use ceramic tiles or broken ceramic pieces in the bottom on the oven to absorb and radiate heat evenly.

Heat Guns

Heat Guns are designed either for craft embossing or removing paint but they also work on polymer clay. A heat gun is not for final curing of polymer clay, it's impossible to tell if the heat gun has cured the clay all the way through. What they are useful for is to partially set an area of clay so you don't damage it while working on other areas.

  • Polymer Clay Cyclopedia- Baking Tips
    This is an ever growing INTERACTIVE collection of tips and information directed at the Polymer Clay Beginner, compiled by all the friends and members of Polymer Clay Central.

Silicone Tipped Tools

Silicone tipped tools are pretty new. The flexible tips will not stick to clay or paint. I use mine mostly for smoothing clay in areas my fingers or rigid wooden tools can't do the job.

  • CLBcreations: The Clay Shaper Tool
    Always looking for the latest and greatest claying tools in the claying world, I was briefly introduced to clay shapers in an instructional booklet. It was listed as one of those , "when you become really involved in it" kind of tools.

Clay Extruders are devices for pushing polymer clay through holes in discs to create different shapes and sizes of clay ribbons.

Sculpting Tools

Leave a Note - Go ahead and and leave any comment or questions you have. If you like this lens please rate it up at the top of the page!

GreenfireWiseWo on August 24, 2013:

Great lens-wonderful information. Thank you.

renagirl on March 13, 2013:

Great Lens!!

poldepc lm on May 30, 2012:

great lens...with a lot of information

myraggededge on March 15, 2011:

Just beginning to use polymer clay and your lenses are really helpful. Thank you.

spider-girl on December 17, 2010:

Quite useful lense!

three c86a4 on February 06, 2009:

Great lens. I love buying new tools for my polymer clay projects. 5 stars!

anonymous on August 22, 2008:

Thank you so much for the time and effort you put into the piece on the 'dangers' of clay! I've yet to find such a wealth of sound reason and research as yours!

Besides my 'mini missionaries' I also make animals to jewelry! They're all created in polymer clay!

There are too many things in the world that can bring us down, so my site is all about lifting us up and reminding us that the world is full of precious treasures waiting to be discovered!

Take a magical trip to the land of 'Latter-Day Creations' today and see if you don't walk away smiling!

click here to see all of my work

Lou165 from Australia on July 17, 2008:

I've just 'discovered' polymer clay, although I'm only using it to make unusual pendants for my jewellry.

This lens is really helpful, I can't wait to see your other ones on polymer clay.

Thanks

Lou

gods_grace_notes on June 25, 2008:

Sounds like your toolbox is as full as mine! Thanks for the great tool tips,

Connie

: )

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