The advantage of working in soapstone is that it can be worked with hand tools. Other stones that can be carved are alabaster, onyx and serpentine.

  When I first started carving, I had very little money but a lot of enthusiasm I relied on working with hand tools. I became so proficient with the files and rasps, that when I could afford power tools, I found I did not want them. The tools below are from my studio and are some of the tools I work with dailly.

  Carving tools have basically always been the same, the chisel, the rasp and the mallet. Time may have improved the steel that the tools are made of, but the techniques remain the same.

  At the left top, is the Combination rasp. A combination of a flat file on one side and a half round rasp on the other.

 The second down is the Cabinet rasp is a wider version of the wood rasp. It also has finer teeth to give a smother finish before sanding.  

  Third down is the Wood rasp is available at a local hardware store. I say that with tongue in cheek, because in today's modern technology, the powers that operate the modern hardware stores, they are getting harder to find. Generally the 10 inch rasp is available. The 8 inch and 6 inch rasps are harder to find. Shown is the 6 inch rasp.
  The bottom three are various sizes of Round files that can also be an excellent file for fine and detailed work. You require a single cut file. Other variations like the second cut file or chainsaw file are too fine for your purposes.  

  Riffler rasps are probably the most valuable tools you will have. The variation of shapes and sizes allow the carver to follow the shape of the sculpture more effectively.

  These rasps are not commonly found in the average hobby store. A sculpture supply house is your best bet. Check
the list at the end of the page.

  At the left you can see the five basic shapes of the Habilis Rasps. Starting at the top, there is the triangular, flat, square, round and half round rasp.

  These rasps are cheaper then the riffler rasps, but give the diversity of shapes.

  For cutting the stone, I have found the "mini hack", a type of hacksaw made by "Stanley" to be a very versatile saw. By using carbon steel hacksaw blades and cutting, grinding or breaking the end off, you can have a saw that cuts into a drill hole or any other difficult area.

  Eventually, a sculptor finds that he has to create some of his own tools to complete a sculpture. At the left, you can see three knives that I have made to help create effects by shaving the stone.The top two are knives created from power hacksaw blades designed to be used as an extension of the arm. One is sharpened with a left hand cut and the other has a right hand cut.

  The bottom tool is made from a triangular file. The tip is ground at an angle to form a triangular shaped knife. The handle is formed to fit into the palm of the hand

  A hand drill or power drill should be available for "pointing". This is a technique for removing large amounts of stone from hard to file or chisel areas. I have used the term pointing for a method that involves the removal of stone in by studio apprentices. My method is different, but the result is the same. A description will be found elsewhere in these pages. 

  The chisel and mallet are still the prime tools of sculpture. You can purchase the sculpture chisels from a sculpture supply store if you are working on the harder varieties of soapstone. Generally, I find the common wood chisel to be equal for using with the softer stones. I prefer a mallet to a hammer for the control it gives me. At the left are some of the mallets, hammers and chisels that I use in my studio. 

  Francis Okie, a printing ink manufacturer from Philadelphia, invented wet or dry sandpaper. In pursuing his idea for waterproof sandpaper that would reduce the amount of dust produced while sanding.

  Wet or dry sandpaper solved two serious problems caused by traditional abrasives. The reduction of dust produced while sanding meant sculptors and carvers could breathe more easily while using the product. It also allows sculptors and carvers to rinse away material removed from the sanding surface.

  SILICON CARBIDE: A black (sometimes gray) abrasive, produced from silica sand and coke (a coal product). This abrasive is very hard and sharp, good for use on Soapstone (e.g., hand sanding). Silicon carbide is the abrasive most commonly used for wet/dry sandpapers. Sandpaper for wet sanding has a flexible, waterproof resin backing, and is usually coated with silicon carbide. It is used for fine finishing and polishing. 


Sources for Tools

 Sculpture Supply Canada
345 Munster Avenue,
Etobicoke, Ontario
M8Z 3C6
Phone: (416) 234-1075
Fax:(416) 234-1516

S B Simpson Group Inc
Address: 3210 Mainway, Burlington, Ontario
(905) 335-6575
16 Rutherford Rd S, Brampton, Ontario
(905) 459-1312
799 Farewell St, Oshawa, Ontario
(905) 723-1151
Habilus rasps and Cabinet Rasps
H.A. Ness & Co. Inc.
60 Royalavon Cres, Etobicoke, Ontario
P.O.Box 11, Stn 'U'
Toronto, ON M8Z 5M4
Outside Toronto 1-800-668-6377
Milani rifflers
Tabularasa srl
Viale dello Scalo S. Lorenzo, 40, 00185 Rome
40 - Roma -00185- Italia
+39-06-4456760 fax
Milani Riffler Rasps, Sculpture tools
Excellant shipping
Otto Frei
126 2nd St,
Oakland, CA , USA
phone: (510) 832-0355
Sculpture House
155 W. 26th. St.
New York City, NY 10001
Toll- Free Order Line
(888) 374-8665
24 Hour Fax (212) 645-3717
Western Sculpting Supply
2855 West 8th Ave.
Denver, CO 80204
fax: 303-623-8439
Standard stone tools, Milani tools
The Compleat Sculptor Inc. ,
90 Vandam St.
New York City, NY 10013
Toll-free # 800-9-SCULPT
Alec Tiranti Limited
70 High Street, Theale,
Reading RG7 5AR, UK.
Tel: +44 (0)118 930 2775
Fax: +44 (0)118 932 3487
Foster's East Ltd
2085 Whittington Dr,
Peterborough ON, K9J 6X4
tel: 705-745-0535 fax: 705-742-8971
Klingspor Wet/Dry Sandpaper
Pothier Enterprises Ltd.
#4 -7187 Honeyman Street,
Delta B.C.
V4G 1E2
Ph. (604) 946-3811 Fax (604) 946-3788
Palm Beach Sculpture Supplies
1400 Alabama Ave. Ste 1
West Palm Beach, FL 33401
Art City Sculpture Studios and Supply
31 Peking St.
Ventura, CA 93001
805-648-1690 800-490-0746
fax: 805-648-1295
Renaissance Stone Sculpture Studio and Gallery
Rose and Robert Black
751 Moorpark St.
Oakland, CA. 94603
(510) 638-2404
Discount Marble and Tools
PO Box 2721
North Hills, CA 91393
800-2-SCULPT 818-891-1909
Stone supplier, tools, hand tools,
Stone Sculptors Supplies
970 Cunningham Rd.,
Sebastopol CA 95472
(Open by appointment)
Sculpture House
405 Skillman Road
PO Box 69
Skillman, NJ 08558
Phone: 609 466-2986
Fax 888 529-1980