Hi all, budding sculptors! Let’s discuss the best sculpting tools for working with polymer clay! It’s versatility, strength, and many multitudes of colors and styles make it fun and enjoyable to work with, but we need to have the right tools in our toolbox to enhance our experience further.
When you’re first getting started you might find that a plastic knife will get you through some parts but after awhile, why stop there?
Polymer clay has a rather dense feeling to it, due to its plastic/PVC (polyvinyl chloride) composition which you notice right away after you start to knead it and get the “newness” worked out.
Pin to Your Clay Board 😊
Therefore, conventional sculpting tools may not always work as well (some will, but others, not so much.)
So if you’re looking to add to your Sculpey or Fimo arsenal, I’m sharing a list of all the different tools I used and how they can help you hone your craft a little, or a lot.
An X-acto Knife
This will come in handy because first of all -they’re very sharp, obviously – and you’ll need to be doing a lot of cutting if you really want to get the best of what polymer clay has to offer. A good x-acto knife should come with a protective cap and perhaps a replacement blade.
Polymer clay can be kind of stiff and a sharp knife is essential; my other clay tools don’t always make the job better for cutting more defined shapes.
You’ll also want to have an assortment of other knives, like a fettling knife, in addition, within easy reach. I have a set of plastic knives that don’t work as well when it comes to slicing out a defined shape, but are excellent for adding embellishments, like I’m doing in the image above, beveling the edge of this clay piece.
This transparent cylinder shaped object is what I use to roll out perfect slabs. A must-have if you plan to focus on things like making jewelry pieces, and other things that are slab-based , like decorative bowls, wall hangings, ornaments for your Christmas tree, and more.
It’s pretty much a smaller version of the rolling pin used for baking . If you really wanted, you could use one of those, but this nice little acrylic one is a much better size which is all you need for the smaller batches that polymer clay comes in.
It measures about 8″ so it won’t take up room in whatever place you choose to store it.
A sharp point tool like this one I found, is important for poking small holes in objects you plan on hanging up, like wall hangings or ornaments (one exception – I did use a gem clip inserted into the back of one of my wall hangings to serve as the built-in hanger, which is another good option…)
But you’ll still need to have something that can pierce teeny holes or allow you to carve tiny details into your work in progress.
Paints and Glazes
Some of your objects, you may want to leave alone if you’re using one of those awesome premade colors, or the kind with the metallic sheen to it – but others, painting will really bring it out. Here are all the types of paint I recommend that work best.
Varnishing of your finished projects can be a good idea too. Most things I have made, I have finished them off with a coat of glaze like one of these below.
They come in satin and glossy finishes, and are water-based and non toxic. Sometimes it can bubble up a little while drying, which I used a toothpick to break them up. It will give your items an extra layer of protection, plus they will have a nice finish, too!
Fine Grit Sandpaper
A piece of sandpaper can be helpful before you paint your objects, applying light pressure as it will help them stick better.
Wax Paper and Aluminum Foil
These two things will be very important as part of your work surface. I always spread out wax paper over my work area. Clay won’t stick to it and can handle all the rigors of rolling and kneading. (sometimes I use two layers just in case – a sheet can get worn out after awhile)
For the obvious reason you can’t use wax paper as a liner in the oven, I line the dish with aluminum foil; clay never sticks to foil. I think you could also use parchment paper, as I think it has a heat tolerance of up to 300 degrees and polymer clay needs 275.
A Separate Oven For Your Polymer Clay Projects?
I have heard a few professional clayers say that it’s a good idea to have your own small oven as the fumes from the clay as it bakes could permeate through. Now me, I always use my good ol’ conventional oven and if I want to eliminate the fumes I just turn on the fan above for a few minutes.
Whether or not you think you’d be sensitive to the smell is really up to you in which case, you may want to consider a small oven to use exclusively for your Sculpey work. Trouble is a toaster oven has small volume and may only accommodate small items easily. A convection oven is the best way to go here as they are made with built-in fans that keep the temp even – this one here is recommended the most as it has a temp max limit of 300 degrees and a 30-minute timer so you won’t have to worry about burning or unevenly baked areas.
Shape Cutters and Molds
These can be great for making figurines. Whenever I would go shop at places like Michael’s I would always see all these different molds next to the clay which enable you to create cute and funny faces. I used to make all my figurine parts from scratch but these little anatomy molds are really cool!
The ones I found were a little different from what I remembered, but they will enable you to form little people, animals, leaves, flowers and more!
If you’ve got a few cookie cutters laying around, scoop those up – they can also work great as clay shape cutters!
Of course, you are going to want to have a safe place to keep all of your implements – This is my tool box below – it resembles one of those “tackle boxes” with all the different slots and everything, but it’s definitely an art -type tool bin and keeps my tools in one place, of course, I do share it with other items, like tubes of paint, pencils, erasers, etc.
Practically anything waterproof and sturdy you’ve got lying around like a makeup bag or plastic carrying case will work.
Well, that should about cover it…if you have most of these you will be just fine. You’ll have everything you need to make the most of your polymer clay and take it to the next level!