Modeling and Sculpting Tools for Miniaturists

What Modelling Tools Should be in Your Miniature Toolkit?

For modeling and sculpting miniatures, there are a wide range of modeling tools that will help you work with fine details. If you plan to sculpt clay, creative paperclay, polymer clay, or epoxy putty to create or repair miniatures, there are some useful tools you may want to add to your toolkit. Many are available from the polymer clay section of your craft store or online. Others come from the art supply store, or miniature or modeling specialists and may take a bit more searching out.

Note: If...MORE you are working with polymer clay, epoxy putty, or metal miniature, you should use tools dedicated to their use. Do not use cooking tools or implements which are for food use when working with these materials.

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    Color Shaping Tools

    Rubber and silicone tipped color shapers
    Photo ©2007 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

    Rubber or Silicone Tipped Shaping Tools. Available from art supply stores, these tools allow very controlled shaping of paperclay, clay, epoxy putty, paint and softer polymer clays. They can be used to move moistened paper clay or thin epoxy paste around to fill tiny gaps when repairing or creating miniatures, and the larger tips will burnish dry paper clay and clay if the tip is moistened slightly.

    These tools come in a wide range of tip styles, firmness, and sizes so consider if you need...MORE rounded or sharp edges, and soft or hard tips before you buy them. These are one of my personal favorite modeling tools for a wide range of materials.

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    Dental Tools

    Two common dental picks have many uses when sculpting in miniature.
    Photo ©2007 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

    Dental Tools - Dental tools are useful for carving away flash on resin castings or carving out bits of cured polymer clay. They can also be used to create fine detail lines on items, or model all types of clay, epoxy putty and wax.

    Sharpened dental tools are often also used for some woodcarving and scraping. I prefer these for work on hard substances, where they will carve detail well. They are less effective on soft materials that can cling to the metal surface.

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    Clay Cleaning Tools / Knives

    Two double ended clay cleaning knives with various shaped blades.
    Photo ©2007 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

    Clay Cleaning Tools / Knives – Often used to clean up greenware, the various curved knives available are also useful for working with polymer clay, ​paperclay, and epoxy putty. They often function well as sturdy knives for working with hard modeling materials, but they will also work to indent materials like paper clay and polymer clay.

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    Mini Ribbon or Loop Tools

    Assorted Metal Loop or Ribbon Tools for modeling or sculpture.
    Photo ©2007 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

    Mini Ribbon or Loop Tools – These narrow loops of metal can be used to smooth corners and curves, pull out small amounts of clay, or create texture or patterns. These are useful tools where you need to level material across an area as the looped blades can rest on the raised areas while you draw in ​material to fill lower gaps.

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  • 05 of 11

    Clay Modeling Tools

    Set of Wooden Modeling Tools for Clay
    Photo ©2007 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

    Clay Modeling Tools – Wooden modeling tools are available from pottery and clay suppliers. They are also often available from craft suppliers or online. These tools are very useful for creating smooth edges, or curves on items to be modeled. They can help you control the curve on a three-dimensional shape as well as cut lines in most modeling materials.

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    Flexible Blade Knife

    Long Flexible Blade Knife for Polymer Clay.
    Photo ©2007 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

    Flexible Blade Knife - These polymer clay blades or tissue blades are great for slicing through canes of polymer clay, but they also work well for scoring lines for tiles in paperclay surfaces, or cutting through other soft structures including florist arranging foam. If you do a lot of work with polymer clay consider purchasing a blade with removable handles to make it easier to press down evenly on the blade.

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    Rolling Pin

    Piece of plexiglass column used as a rolling pin for polymer clay
    Photo ©2007 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

    Rolling pin - For rolling out thin layers of creative paperclay, clay, modeling material for casting, or polymer clay. Acrylic rolling pins such as this one are small, very even and easy to use and clean. If you cannot find an acrylic rolling pin in your craft suppliers, a plastic supply house may be able to cut you a length of plexiglass or acrylic material to use. In a pinch, small glass jars can be used as rolling pins.

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    Clay Extruding Gun

    Clay gun showing extrusion plates
    Photo ©2007 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

    Clay Extruding Gun - Clay guns are useful for pushing out particular shapes or long strings of clay, modeling material, or polymer clay. Some formers also work with Creative Paperclay, others catch on paperclay. These are an inexpensive tool available from a craft supplier which work similar to a cookie press. These generally work well with the softer brands of polymer clay. Firmer brands may need varying amounts of softener added in order to successfully press out a clay shape. Most of the...MORE shapes are too large for straight miniature work but may be helpful for shaped sections for canes.

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  • 09 of 11

    Rubber Stamps

    Rubber Stamp being used on polymer clay to texture it.
    Photo ©2007 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

    Rubber Stamps - Rubber stamps can be dusted with talcum powder as a release, and used with most forms of clay to create textures or designs. Paperclay and some brands of polymer clay will accept inks and embossing ink applied directly to them using a stamp.

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    Beads as Texturing Tools

    Ridged bead with a toothpick through the centre acts as a miniature rolling pin
    Photo ©2007 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

    Beads - Beads make useful texturing tools for miniature projects. A bead with a strong design can be turned into a miniature rolling pin by inserting a toothpick through the center. Using beads as texturing tools allows for all kinds of special effects.

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    Oven Thermometer

    Stand Alone Oven Thermometer
    Photo ©2007 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

    Oven Thermometer - Most ovens do not work at the temperature shown on the oven. If you will be doing a lot of work with polymer clay, you may want to purchase a stand alone oven thermometer which can be used to make sure your oven is reaching the correct temperature for the brand of polymer clay you are using.