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Sculpting 101

Sculpting is the art of creating or representing a subject by casting, carving or shaping. To create a sculpture, artists use two main processes; adding and subtracting. To understand this art form better, let’s look at the four basic sculpture techniques used.

Modeling – This additive process uses malleable materials that are built up into an armature or skeleton that has been shaped to create the desired form.

Casting – Another additive process, a melted material is poured into a mold to create a desired form.

Assembling – Also an additive process, assembling involves the gathering of materials or parts to assemble a product.

Carving – This is a subtractive process that requires chipping or cutting away of parts the source material, such as wood and stone, to create the desired form.

Materials for Sculpting

The techniques listed above use different sculpting tools and raw materials. For example, clay is the most popular medium for modeling, while an example of assembling is the practice of creating customized action figures.

If you want to try sculpting, you will need sculpting materials, sculpting tools, and armatures. There are a lot of materials to choose from, so the possibilities are endless. The list below only covers the basic items.

  • Wood
  • Marble
  • Granite
  • Any metal
  • Clay (oil-based, polymer, air-dry, homemade play dough, oven-bake, or porcelain)
  • Glass
  • Technical ceramics
  • Plastics

Sculpting Tools

All sculpting tools are divided into four functions, such as cutting, scraping, shaping or smoothing, and detailing. The type and size of tools will depend on the sculpture materials you will be working on.

For wood sculpting, you will need the following tools: chisels, U and V gouges, chip-carving knives, mallet, fish tail, parting tool, spoon and bent gouges, rotary tool, band saw, drill press, planer and joiner, belt sander, and burs and accessories.

For clay sculpting, you will need the following tools: silicone or rubber-tipped shaping tools, dental tools, knives, clay-cleaning tools, loop tools or mini ribbon, wooden modeling tools, rolling pin, clay extruding gun, rubber stamps, beads for texturing, and oven thermometer.

For stone sculpting, you will need the following tools: tooth chisel, point chisel, hammer, flat straight chisel, pneumatic tools, carving stones, and sharpening stones.

Creating Armatures

The armatures provide the skeleton or the foundation for your sculpture. Most sculptors prefer the aluminum wire for creating armatures, although others also use steel and wood. The aluminum wire or almaloy is valued for its pliability, non-staining, non-corrosive, and lightweight characteristics.

To create an armature made from almaloy, you will need the following items: a base for the armature made from plywood or other material, wire cutters, pliers, apoxie puttie, marker, and 1/8 and 1/16 aluminum armature wires.