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  #1  
Old 06-29-2007, 12:52 PM
Mikko Mikko is offline
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Question Achieving a smooth surface with plasticene

I have closely studied a lot of figurative pieces in bronze shown on the internet and have marveled at how it is possible to get skin surfaces so smooth or free of tool or finger textures. I use Prima plastilina and have tried bits of window screening (they fall apart), stiff bristle brushes dipped in odorless turpentine (still leaves underlying irregularities), and pieces of drywall screen (leaves little black debris). A bit of broken hack saw blade works fine for flat surfaces, but I need something that will follow the curves and recessed areas of the anatomy. Any suggestions?
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  #2  
Old 06-29-2007, 01:54 PM
Jamo Jamo is offline
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Re: Achieving a smooth surface with plasticene

scotch brite/synthetic wool dipped in mineral spirits
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  #3  
Old 06-29-2007, 02:12 PM
sculptr97 sculptr97 is offline
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Re: Achieving a smooth surface with plasticene

Also, you might try a softer brush with fine bristles in the odorless thinner, for larger surface areas those flat, silver, oval shaped hand tools can flex easily for arms legs etc...
www.joelrandell.com
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  #4  
Old 06-29-2007, 02:48 PM
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sculptor sculptor is offline
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Re: Achieving a smooth surface with plasticene

rubber pads-sold in any arts supply house
also rubber tipped sticks
also pencil erasers the kind you slip over the old eraser
I bought a can of 100 or so, -these, I shape with a knife or grinder to the shape needed---then glue them to dowels the size of a pencil

then
water keep 'em clean, and moist and spritz the clay while working

this is after I have smoothed the clay as much as possible
for large areas, I also like shaping/smoothing the clay with the free credit cards that come in the mail
too much water, and the clay surface gets a tad slurry-like
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  #5  
Old 06-29-2007, 04:32 PM
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Alfred Alfred is offline
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Re: Achieving a smooth surface with plasticene

Rubbing alcohol works great because it evaporates very quickly. Use very soft bristle brushes like sables (water color brushes work well). Personally I'm not a fan of polished surfaces for figurative sculpts, but if that's what you like to do try those tips, otherwise you can switch to water based clay and use a variety of brushes and sponges with a little bit of water. Good Luck.

Alfred
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  #6  
Old 06-29-2007, 06:11 PM
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fritchie fritchie is offline
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Re: Achieving a smooth surface with plasticene

Glad you got these replies so quickly, before I even saw the post. Most of what I do is covered above, though I don't try to remove all marks - mainly just shape details I want. I have trimmed rubber erasors, both large and small, and I especially like the flatish, slightly flexible steel blades or spatulas at art supply shops.

I also have a couple pieces of flexible thin metal (steel alloy?) sheet, that I have trimmed into semicircular or oval shapes. These can be flexed slightly on larger curves.
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  #7  
Old 07-01-2007, 07:00 AM
dilida dilida is offline
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Re: Achieving a smooth surface with plasticene

Also consider that you are looking at finished bronzes. Many times if the artists lets the foundry know that a smoother finish than they were able to create is desired, the waxes can be smoothed quite a bit, and then the bronze itself can be sanded a little or a lot. It just depends on the piece. Some artists want absolutly no smoothing or sanding, others ask for quite a bit. The artist can continue altering the sculpture even after turning it over to the foundry to obtain the desired finish. It's best if the artist can say "it's finished, change absolutly nothing about it" before the mold is made, but sometimes it is best to utilize the properties of the wax and bronze to get the end result.

I'm sure there are horror stories about a sculptures being oversanded at the foundry, as always good communication with your foundry is important.

lisa
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  #8  
Old 07-01-2007, 09:58 PM
Mikko Mikko is offline
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Re: Achieving a smooth surface with plasticene

Wow! Thanks for all of the responses! I will try these and see how the results are for me. I also generally dislike the highly pollished look. I usually include a bit of brush or scraper texture to increase visual interest, but have found that too many indentations or irregularities remain under this final texture, which under certain lighting conditions really detract from the image.
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  #9  
Old 07-02-2007, 08:36 PM
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GlennT GlennT is offline
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Re: Achieving a smooth surface with plasticene

It may also be that your patina is such that the imperfections are brought out to distraction. Too much rubbing on a patina can bring out the high spots and leave the lows which emphasizes these things.

Like Alfred, I prefer that the finished work retain the imperfect surfaces that show that the work was created by human hands rather than a machine-worked smoothness. Yet I do a considerable amount of smoothing in the clay and the wax. Not to the point of using brushes or fluids, except the occaisional scotchbrite pad with a little bit of motor oil added if needed, when working the wax.

GlennT
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  #10  
Old 07-02-2007, 11:16 PM
BMBourgoyne BMBourgoyne is offline
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Re: Achieving a smooth surface with plasticene

One important point to remember is the difference between achieving a clean, clear form, versus simply smoothing a surface. It is a question of recognizing the scale involved: A well finished surface can be very textured but still have a clean consistant contour, while one less well done can be smoothed with all texture erased but still have lumps and dips in the contour that make it look sloppy or crude. Often, we try to simply smooth a surface by rubbing or sanding, not realizing that the imperfections are more significant than just texture. The contours have to be actively shaped and sculpted to remove imperfections-- adding bits of clay in low spots and scraping bits off the high-- and not just "smudged around" (as a professor once informed me). These kinds of imperfections can be clearly seen when the contour is viewed in profile, or with a lamp held to cast a grazing light and moved around to check all angles. Only once these are sculpted away, can the forms be smoothed to perfection-- but of course by then it is often evident that the smoothness of texture is not what you need for a finished look, but the clarity of form already achieved (and enlivened by its worked texture).

cheers,
Brad
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  #11  
Old 07-03-2007, 06:18 PM
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fritchie fritchie is offline
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Re: Achieving a smooth surface with plasticene

Excellent points, Brad. Form is what counts, not smoothness alone. And the techniques of using glancing light, rotating the piece in a fairly dark room, are ones I use myself.
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  #12  
Old 07-08-2007, 04:45 AM
furby furby is offline
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Re: Achieving a smooth surface with plasticene

You could look into how auto bodywork is done. Those auto people can contribute a few tricks to a sculptor's repertoire. i worked for a bit as a fibreglasser doing bodywork for bikes. to ensure a form was sanded well without divots caused by the sanding process, i was taught to sand from different directions & criss cross over a bit i wanted to remove. I don't know how auto body repair people get the bodywork as smooth as they do though. but i guess reading a few auto body repair books might give you some pointers. or if you can find out how auto designers get their plasticene models that smooth. its not so much the glossiness but rather the form being complete.
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  #13  
Old 07-11-2007, 01:00 AM
BobClyatt BobClyatt is offline
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Re: Achieving a smooth surface with plasticene

I agree with Furby's point. I am always humbled when I see the caliber of sculpted work coming out of industrial applications shops and animation industry. Hope it doesn't all go the way of the computer -- something will be lost.
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  #14  
Old 07-11-2007, 06:23 PM
Mikko Mikko is offline
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Re: Achieving a smooth surface with plasticene

These are great replies. I like how Brad put it, that it is the underlying form that must be worked out first. I too use a hand-held light (utility lamp) in a darkened studio, held at various positions. I think I will try making a smaller version of the flexible steel serrated scrapers (for use with 1/4 life size figures, details) first, and go from there.
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  #15  
Old 07-17-2007, 09:18 AM
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dondougan dondougan is offline
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Re: Achieving a smooth surface with plasticene

Mikko,

I find that when I want a uniform smooth surface in clay first I work it with toothed tools — handled metal toothed/leaf-shaped wax scrapers, flexible stainless flat scrapers with teeth, hacksaw blades, etc.
Seeing the furrows and how they follow (or don't) the intended surface contours allows me to add bits of clay where there are hollows, and trim-off high points or bumps that don't belong. Only after the surface looks uniform and regular with all these little furrowed surfaces do I come in with the smooth-edge of the (stainless, plastic, or rubber) flat scraper and lightly remove the texture.

The texture is not removed all at once, but in multiple very light-pressure passes made from as many different directions as possible given the form — these changes of direction in attack prevents irregularities from developing with each subsequent pass of the scraper. For best results the scraper is held loosely and allowed to follow the contour of the surface with a little bit of spring in the grip —if held too tightly or applied with too much pressure the subtle degrees of control are lost, thus resulting in irregular surfaces.

Each type of flat flexible scraper — stainless, plastic, or rubber — will work best on clay that is in a corresponding degree of relative 'hardness.' By that I mean that I find hard stiff plasticene is best worked with the stainless scraper, medium grade plasticene gives best results when worked with a plastic scraper, and very soft plastic plasticene is best worked with a soft flexible rubber scraper.

For what it is worth, those car body models the auto manufacturers use in the initial stages of 3D design are made out of very hard/stiff plasticene and worked almost entirely with scraping/cutting actions.

Don

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  #16  
Old 07-17-2007, 10:54 AM
MarkNewman MarkNewman is offline
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Re: Achieving a smooth surface with plasticene

I've used a propane tourch with a light touch on Chavant NSP after smoothing as much as I can with the other techniques listed.
It gives the clay a very glassy finish.
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  #17  
Old 07-19-2007, 04:46 AM
Darius Darius is offline
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Re: Achieving a smooth surface with plasticene

for smoothing i use white spirit works greate and cheap
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  #18  
Old 07-21-2007, 04:25 AM
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Berinje' Berinje' is offline
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Re: Achieving a smooth surface with plasticene

I do a lot work in the wax smoothing out any ripples. Then I put back in texture if I want the bronze to have a textured surface or keep it smooth if I want the smooth bronze casting to glow through a classic patina. There's only so much smoothing one can do in the clay.
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  #19  
Old 03-28-2008, 08:39 PM
Baraka Baraka is offline
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Re: Achieving a smooth surface with plasticene

Thanks to all of you for sharing this information. I find this forum to be a real treasure of information.

I use Classic Clay and get so frustrated by all the little balls, and bumps that seem to be a characteristic of clay. It's fine in some places, but just looks messy in others, such as edges that need to be sharp. I had no idea what to use to help smooth some of these areas out. So far, it's been my fingers, which do nicely, but not the right "tool" for some places. I'll experiment with mineral spirits, alcohol, etc. and see which does the trick for my purpose.
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  #20  
Old 05-07-2008, 10:40 PM
Richard Smith Richard Smith is offline
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Re: Achieving a smooth surface with plasticene

I like to use my fingers and cooking oil. Anything chemical you use can be absorbed by the skin. I used to use paint thinner and wound up with the taste in the back of my throat from the fumes. You can also heat any oil based clay with a hair dryer to soften it a bit. Note: a bit. The oil seems to fill in my fingerprints so I don't get striations on my clay. To "flame polish" my waxes I use a heat gun set on high.
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  #21  
Old 05-09-2008, 10:53 AM
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realsculpt realsculpt is offline
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Re: Achieving a smooth surface with plasticene

I have had to smooth out Roma on alot of occasions, and use either alchohol, or Acetone with a "stensil brush" which is a short semi stiff round brush, or a cut down CHip brush works well after using fingers, sculpting rakes, or plastic or metal screen from a hardware store like screen used for screen doors.
But use good qulity brushes or the bristles will fall off and make things worse.
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