Sculpting Tools.

        Even if you have no interest in sculpting your own figures there will be times when you need to reach for the modelling putty. You may have thought of an interesting conversion, or you may just need to fill in some gaps. Working with putty is much easier if you have some tools, so here are some thoughts on the topic.

Why not roll your own?
        Before you part with your hard earned cash it might be prudent to have a look around at what you already have lying around. A lot of jobs can be achieved with a stout needle, bit of wire or straightened paperclip. If you want you can mount these on a bit of dowel or pencil to form a comfortable handle. If you are mounting needles this way then bear in mind the blunt end with the eye can sometimes be a more useful tool than the sharp point. You can quickly fashion a useful selection of tools this way and wire or paperclips are easily bent into the shape needed.
        Toothpicks are another useful source of tools, and the ends can easily be whittled into a shape to make exactly the tool you need at that moment. There is a nice article here on making more durable wooden tools from bamboo skewers. Plastic sprue can also be used to make tools. For example the end of a piece can be carved into a particular shape to act as a stamp to mark putty. The refills of biros can be used in this way. Plastic cutlery may be another potential source of material for custom-made tools.
        Useful tools can also be made from aluminium sheet, also known as cut-up bits of coke can. If this is too flexible it can be folded. Like wood these can easily be cut into exactly the shape desired for a particular job. The pull tab of the can may also be useful.
        And while we are whittling tools out of wood and sprue, let us not forget that our scalpel or modelling knife blade and handle are themselves useful implements for working putty.
        One of the most lateral pieces of thinking I have come across when making tools is to sculpt the tool tips themselves out of putty!

Brought tools.
        You can produce quite a respectable collection of tools using the above materials, but if you are a gadget freak or tool whore like me, you will doubtless want to buy some tools. The following are from my collection, with comments.

Wax Carvers.

        Probably these are the first tools a lot of miniature painters and would be sculptors acquire. This is a useful selection of tools, but generally you tend to end up using one tool for 90% of your jobs. The catch is you won’t know which tool that will be until you have acquired a few tools. My wax carvers have seen some use and are worth having, but I use my Clay shapers, Pergamano and dental tools more.

Clay Shapers.

        As can be seen these have a rubber-type material tip on a paintbrush-like handle. Clay shapers are widely used in sculpting on a variety of clays so ensure that the ones you get are not too soft for working modelling putties. As you can see, mine are “Extra firm” grade, but these are still fairly soft. Clay Shapers are very good for smoothing down putty surfaces or adding subtle detail.
        They come in a variety of sizes too, including those for working on full size and larger than life clay sculptures. These are Size 0 but bigger sizes may be useful for smoothing down large areas.

Wax#5 and Loop and Point tool.

        The Wax#5 tool (bottom) has acquired a certain amount of notoriety since an article in White Dwarf recommended it. Turns out that the Wax#5 is nearly identical to certain dental tools. The one I have is a Tiranti SG Dental Tool.
        The "Colour Shaper" tool pictured with it is one recommended by Andy Foster of Heresy Miniatures. It combines a clay shaper point with a small loop in one handy package. Most shaped loop tools for working clay are too big for miniature sculpting, so this is worth considering. Of course, loop tools are another tool you could attempt producing yourself from something such as heavy fuse wire.

Pergamano Ball Tools.

        Pergamano is a craft of punching and embossing paper or parchment. Several of the Pergamano tools may be of interest to the modeler, but of particular note are the ball tools. I initially brought two, which are 1.5mm and 3mm I think. These have proved to be very useful for working putty and creating any sort of concave surface or depression. Highly recommended.

More Pergamano Ball Tools.

        I thought the Pergamano tools were so potentially useful I treated myself to a few more. A very fine ball (about 1mm), a 4.5mm ball and a 6mm ball. They have proved themselves a useful addition to my tool collection.

Dental Tools.

        I inherited this set of tools from a colleague. The various picks, tampers and microspoons are very useful for packing putty into small crevices or sculpting fine detail. Several tools are of particular note.
        The uppermost one has a spatulate blade and another blade like a chisel. This is probably the dental tool I use the most. So much so that I actually keep it with my ready-mixed household putty rather than the other tools. The chisel end is very good for breaking up paint that is attempting to set in the pot. The spatula is used for smoothing putty into the gaps of slotta bases and various other jobs.
        You’ll notice that the second tool down looks a bit like the Wax#5/SG tool, but lacks the beveled edge. There is also a tool with a ball shape at each end. This nicely compliments the Pergamano tools. It can’t press as hard as the Pergamano tools if the putty has nearly set, but the angled stalk of the head makes it more convenient for some jobs.

Larger Clay Shapers

        I brought some larger-sized clay shapers (size 2). These are useful for larger scale jobs such as smoothing the putty on bases.

        If you have enjoyed this article or it has been helpful to you please feel free to show your appreciation. Thank you.