Kendal

Putty and Tools For A Newbie

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I am going to try my hand at sculpting soon, but don't know anything. I don't know what tools I need, what putty I need, or anything! Could someone direct me as to what is a good putty to use, and what tools are crucial?

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Most of us start with Greenstuff, a two part epoxy putty.  if you get some try not to use the central strip where the two colors meet--it's very often too hard to cure properly (unless you're using if for filler of course).  Do mix it more thoroughly than you think necessary--it should be perfectly uniform in color.

As for tools...I use a bamboo skewer with a sewing needle shoved into the end (be careful), then wrapped with string and superglued.  My other favorite tools are bamboo chop sticks carved into a spatulate shape and one more of a rounded tip--double ended.  You'll pick up things like rocks and fabric and whatnot to press into the greenstuff for texture, but a lot of it is found materials.

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One word: Sculpey! Or Fimo, or other heat-hardened material.

Greenstuff, Milliput and the other epoxies require you to finish 'quickly' and yeah, time isn't on your side as a beginner. (I'm barely beginning myself.)

 

There's a site Green Stuff World that has a lot of sculpting tools.

Especially, check their 'roll maker'.

(Yes, shipping cost is an issue, some of their stuff is worth it anyways)

 

They also have 'sample sizes' of the more common sculpting materials so that you can try out more materials relatively cheaply.

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Alright, let's do this.  Full disclosure, I am primarily a Green Stuff/Epoxy putty sculptor, so I might be a tad bit biased against the polymer clays (Fimo and Sculpy).  That said, I will try to cover both.

 

First, you really need to decide what it is you want to eventually do with your sculpts.  The materials you choose will affect how they can be cast and who will cast them.  Larger houses like Reaper will take both polymer clay and epoxy based figures.  Most of the smaller boutique places will only work with epoxy figures (they are easier/cheaper to cast).  If it is just for yourself, it really doesn't matter, but as the techniques for working with the two are different, learning on one and then switching to the other later can be tricky.

 

That said, let's talk about what you need to sculpt:

 

Tools/Materials:

 

post-140-0-80343700-1413408106.jpg

 

- A rough-in tool, usually a larger metal tool.  I use a dental spatula that I ground down to be quite thin (second from bottom in the picture, what you can't see in that picture is that it is not pointy, it is flat and spear-shaped).  I know others who use a dulled X-acto knife.  Still others use sanded bamboo skewers treated with super glue.  Whatever you choose, the point of this tool is to apply the putty to your armature and other putty, smooth it in and build you basic shapes.

 

- Clay shapers (second and third from the top): necessary for smoothing the putty and blending areas together. Them come in different firmnesses.  Get Firm size 0.  You can get these on Amazon.

 

- Detail tool(s): like the rough-in tool, this can be one or many tools that you will use to inscribe your fine details.  I use a spear tipped tool I made from piano wire for 90% of my detail work (top).  Other detail tools include various sized needles (from very pointy to not-so-pointy) (bottom) and a burnisher tool (curved spoon end) I made for blending new putty onto cured.

 

- Scalpel: I use feather scalpel blades.  They are much sharper than X-acto blades.  You can get by with X-acto, but the scalpel blades at much better.  You can get them on Amazon. I put my scalpel blades in a round X-acto handle though, instead of the flat scalpel handles.  That allows me to rotate the blade as I work.

 

- Flat surface: you need a very smooth, flat surface for rolling out the putty and cutting on.  I use an old maple cutting board that I have sanded down to 400 grit, then rubbed in Vaseline as a finish.

 

- Vaseline:  you will read a lot of people on the internet telling you to avoid Vaseline as a lubricant, to use water or your nose grease alone.  While you can sculpt with those (and I do when I want my tools to stick to the putty a bit), they will make it harder to work with the putty.  I don't personally know any professional sculptors who don't use Vaseline. When mixing epoxy putties, ensure that you have a light coating of Vaseline on your fingers, this will get a bit into the mix and allow it to readily stick to other putty that had been sculpted with Vaseline.  If you plan to paint the green directly, degrease the mini with Simple Green or dish soap before priming.

 

- Silver-coated copper beading wire of various sizes:  For armatures, get it where they sell beading supplies.

 

- A small metal scale (ruler) that measures in mm (the minis industry uses mm exclusively).

 

- Small beading pliers set (needle-nose, round, and cutter being the necessary items): for making armatures

 

- Brass sheet or wire mesh if you want to make large flat areas like wings.

 

- Wine corks to secure the armature to while you are sculpting. Can also use screw blocks.

 

- Putty (see here for a write-up on the various putties)

 

I am afraid you will have to make up your own mind on what putty to use, but I do recommend Green Stuff (Kneadatite) or Procreate for beginners.  Why?  Because it forces you to work small, taking small steps and working one piece at a time.  The number one cause for failure I see in a lot of new sculptors is that they try to do way too much at a time and end up with a mess.  With green-stuff or procreate, you only have an hour+, so you need to budget that time and work one muscle group at a time, which typically leads to a much better sculpt in the end.

 

 

Some More Resources:

 

I strongly recommend James Von Shaick's video on Miniature mentor (where he sculpts a sci-fi lady).  It covers all the basics and shows you really how to manipulate the putty.  It is where I started and it was worth every penny.

 

You can also work through my BMPC tutorial.  I designed it to give new sculptors a series of tasks that they can use to hone their skills without diving full in to anatomy and such. I also cover a lot of my tools in there.

 

To make tools, check out this guy's blog. Everything in his e-book is great, except that you don't really need to hot forge the tools.  piano wire at that size deforms very well with a hammer and your really do not nee to heat it with a torch.  Otherwise, his method is how I make most of my custom tools.

 

Finally, if you have any questions, please feel free to PM me directly.

 

Andy

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Anybody familiar with bees putty?

 

Yes, it is a polymer based clay that is mixed with a sticky wax.  Unlike other polymer clays, it will stick directly to a wire armature without first needing a coat of uncured GS put down. Pattrick Kieth of Bombshell minis uses it.

 

I have some, but have only played with it sparingly as I have another 15 tubes of GS waiting for me in the freezer.

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EXCELLENT POSTS! I really appreciate it, this is exactly what I needed to see, big thanks!

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Also someone here has mentioned before to not try and start sculpting people right off, but go with something more ambiguous, like TS's BMPC or rocks or something.

 

I started with a tree.

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I pinned this topic, since this seems to come up about once a year or so.

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My issue with green stuff is I feel like when I roll it and use it, I have to make my tools wet so it doesn't stick. Then I can't pay attention to detail.

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Light coating of Vaseline and well polished tools.

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Light coating of Vaseline and well polished tools.

Polish the tools with fine sandpaper?

I forgot what you said in class...

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Anybody familiar with bees putty?

 

Yes, I've tried it and it is pretty darned excellent. Buuuut.. I can't use it yet. The only medium I am any good with is Greenstuff (aka Kneadatite - very cheap on eBay) but if you want to try using polymer clay I'd say it's easier to use for a beginner than Fimo and other similar polymer clays because BeesPutty is firmer and has a curious wax-like quality to it. That's not to say it is better than Fimo, it's just different. Fimo is cheaper too.

 

Everyone sculpts a little bit differently so what works for me may not work for you. For Greenstuff, I mainly use an orange nail stick, a wooden stylus (made from a paintbrush handle and the same shape as an orange stick, a size 0 half-round clay shaper, a size 2 clay shaper, a fine needle mounted in a pen casing, an extra-fine needle in a pen casing (good for sculpting eyes and mouths - make sure it is absolutely sharp and clean) and a size 0 flat clay shaper.

 

You will also need a craft knife and spare blades to remove unwanted bulk... expect to do this A LOT.

 

If you can afford it and you can find one, I can thoroughly recommend buying an uncompleted Greenstuff armature made by a professional sculptor. I currently own four (and I've just bought some more) by Kev White which cost about £20 each - one is probably enough but it helps to have both a male and a female. I cannot express how much simpler it is to be able to hold the armature in my hand and see up-close how it all fits together. It's proven to be a huge time-saver.

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My issue with green stuff is I feel like when I roll it and use it, I have to make my tools wet so it doesn't stick. Then I can't pay attention to detail.

 

Greenstuff goes-off eventually especially when exposed to the air. Make sure it's still sticky and hasn't gone weird and waxy. Except for needles and maybe embossing tools, I don't use metal tools very much with Greenstuff because they're heavy and they do tend to stick unless you are very light with them. I mainly use wood and silicone. Keep the tool moving, Greenstuff is sticky and things will stick to it. I don't use Vaseline anymore, I just use oil from my skin.

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Light coating of Vaseline and well polished tools.

Polish the tools with fine sandpaper?

I forgot what you said in class...

 

 

I work through fine sand paper and eventually to rubber polishing points on my Dremel.  Gene goes a step further and uses polishing compound on a buffing wheel for his final stage. His tools are shiny.

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