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
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.
- Polymer Clay Cyclopedia- Polymer Clay Safety
An excellent treatise on the safety concerns of using polymer clay.
- Artrepreneur; The Collision of Art and Business: Fear and Hysteria in the Studio
Nearly every time I do a show, I have someone come up to me and ask me if I know about how dangerous polymer clay is. What is interesting about these encounters is that there is very little fact presented, just fear, and a sense that if I do not take
- Polymer Clay FAQ | Safety & Cleanup
How to work safely with polymer clay.
- ACMI (Art & Creative Materials Institute, Inc.)
The Art & Creative Materials Institute, Inc. (ACMI) is an international association, composed of a diverse and involved membership, and is recognized as the leading authority on art and creative materials. Founded in 1936, ACMI was organized to
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
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
Homemade Sculpting Tool Links
- Polymer Clay Stamps
Use polymer clay to create your own custom stamps!
- Stamp Tools
Stamps are not only easy to make, they're kind'a fun too! I made the below for certain things I needed done, and some were just learning what I was doing. It's not a learning process as in how do I make it, it's what do I make stamps from that's the
- Making Sculpture Tools - ConceptArt.org Forums
Making Sculpture Tools 3D & SCULPTURE
- HowTo Make a Better Dremel Mandrel
This page describes how I made a customized buffing Dremel spindle to hold more than one cloth buffing wheel.
- HowTo Make a Better Polishing Wheel
A fuzzy polyester felt buffing wheel.
- Alan's Texture Tool
This tool is designed to decorate clay, or any impressionable surface, with a pattern which builds into a finish which resembles fish, snake or dragon scales, feathers or even, with small adjustment, roof tiles.
- Clay Application to Refinement-Wires
The wire tool in its various shapes and sizes is extremely useful when intricate detailing is involved.
- Hello And Welcome to My Chibis from Kiki Valley Blog: Coool Toool!
Sometimes I just get all tickled with me-self when I come up with a silly little idea that works so well...LOL Well, today's one of those days. Here's a picture of my new Coool Toool.
- Textures in Metal Clay (Precious Metal Clay / PMC and Art Clay Silver and Gold)
One of the things that makes metal clay (Precious Metal Clay / PMC and Art Clay Silver and Gold such an exciting medium is its ability to be textured easily. Everything from rubber stamps to found objects can be used to impress wonderful details into
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.
Found Tool Links
- Polymer Clay Project Tutorials - Â» Fun Texture
This tutorial shows you how to make fun textures and designs on your clay projects using things you have around the house. I'm using lace leftovers that most people would normally throw away. Don't! There is plenty of use for them!
- CraftyGoat's Notes: Unconventional Polymer Clay Tools 1: The Pumice Stone
Using a pumice stone on polymer clay.
- CraftyGoat's Notes: Unconventional Polymer Clay Tools 2: The Herb Mincer
What It's Good For: Its original purpose is cutting up leafy herbs, but I think it works even better for slicing fixed-width strips of polymer clay.
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.
Pasta Machine Links
- Pasta Machines
All about Pasta Machines on Glass Attic.
- PoLEIGH Talking - Cleaning the Pasta Machine
Finally, a way to clean those Atlas Pasta Machines! The easy way and the thorough way, with lots of pictures!
- HowTo Pasta Queen and Atlas Pasta Machine Maintenance
How to reduce discoloration of your clay caused by your pasta machine, lubricate your machine and strip it down to the essentials.
- HowTo - Advanced Pasta Machine Maintenance
Pasta Machine - Extreme Care. Have you reached the end of your rope with your Altas or Pasta Queen pasta machine?
Using a Toaster Ovens and Heat Guns for Polymer Clay
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 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.
Toaster Oven Links
- 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 Links
Clay Extruders are devices for pushing polymer clay through holes in discs to create different shapes and sizes of clay ribbons.
- Polymer Clay Cyclopedia- Clayguns
Tips for using polymer clay extruders.
- Clay Gun & extruders
All about clay extruders from Glass Attic.
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:
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.
gods_grace_notes on June 25, 2008:
Sounds like your toolbox is as full as mine! Thanks for the great tool tips,