I love tools… Especially for carving clay. I am a sucker for wax carving tools, with their little scoops, spikes and shaped ends, but no matter how many I have, sometimes, they’re just not quite right. The flat edge isn’t quite thin enough, or smooth enough for what I want it to do. So I like to make my own. They’re not what you’d call pretty, but they will do what I need them to and are quick to make so you can create custom tools as you work.
They are made from lamp working mandrels in 2 sizes, 1.6mm and 2.4mm.
To make some of your own, you will need a blowtorch, an old hammer and an old bench block (my first attempt ruined both of my newer tools), files, and mandrels. Mine are old bent ones I’ve used for lamp working, it doesn’t matter if they’re a bit tatty to begin with!
Start by heating the mandrel at the tip until it glows orange. Obviously, keep your hands well away from the flame (hold the mandrel right at the opposite end) and don’t go near the hot end with bare fingers!
Place the glowing mandrel on to your old block and give it a good whack flat with the hammer. Try and get the surface as flat as you can turning to hammer each side evenly. This will save you too much filing later on. Quench in water to cool.
Take your file and square up any rough edges, make a curve or file a point. The mandrels are pretty soft to work with and you can create lots of different shapes and edges to suit the job you want to do.
And that’s it! Simple! The mandrels I have are 12 inches, so you can cut them in half and get two tools to each one.
If you have more patience than I do, you can continue to polish and sand your tools to make them perfect. I usually make them as I discover I need them, so they never get the chance to look pretty!