Plaster carving, a form of subtractive sculpture, involves scraping and etching away at a block of plaster until the desired sculpture is created. Different tools create different effects on the plaster, so the tool you use depends on what texture or effect you hope to achieve. Shop for plaster mix and the tools to carve plaster at nearly any craft store or department store.
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X-Acto knives constist of a pointed, replaceable razor blade on a metal handle. Differently shaped blades, like concave blades or chisel blades, make speciality cuts easier. Use this tool to make small, precise incisions and grooves in your plaster.
Loops and Hooks
Assorted small, metal sculpting loops and hooks work well on plaster. These implements help scoop away some of the plaster and leave clean, rounded grooves. Use the larger sizes of these tools for rounding corners and scraping off excess plaster in areas where you plan to add detail. Use the smallest loops for creating rounded spaces and indentions, such as eye sockets or delicate ear structures.
Use rasps to remove large amounts of plaster quickly. These small tools function like graters, scaping away plaster evenly but roughly in places where the scuplture may have too much bulk. Sandpaper smooths small areas that a rasp or other tool may leave too rough.
Many sculptors also prefer to use household items like utensils, toothpicks and hair pins to create textures and shapes. Consider the effect you wish to achieve and what shape of object would work to create this effect. For example, a small spoon is excellent for scraping gentle, concave scallops into the plaster, while a simple salad fork produces grids, wavy lines or small holes.
Craft stores sell small tool kits used for many different kinds of carving, including plaster. Even if the package doesn't say "for use with plaster," most tools work in that medium. Clay- or wax-sculpting sets and small chisels intended for wood work equally well as plaster-carving tools. However, take care with steel tools, as the moisture in plaster eventually causes them to rust.
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