What is oil based clay?


Oil based clay was produced by sculptors to provide sculptors with a malleable material that didn’t shrink, crack or dry out. This was and is desirable for many reasons within the process of model building. Because of the properties within the clay, it’s possible to build sculptures with suspending parts over an armature. The clay also holds up for a countless number of years if stored in the appropriate environment, much like wax.


Clay Properties  


There are many oil based clays available to the sculptor today. The base properties that make up the clay are hydrocarbon waxes and resins mixed with polymers, natural waxes and natural clays.


Hydrocarbon is  a compound of hydrogen and carbon, the chief components used to make petroleum and natural gas. Using a petroleum based product is more stable and less likely to go rancid unlike it’s earlier versions made primarily with animal fats, vegetable oils and beeswax.  

Some oil based clays contain sulfur which will oxidize over time and become hard or crumbly. These clays can’t be used with silicone compounds required for mold making.   


Clay Workability 

Oil based clay can be made or purchased in three hardnesses. This is firm, medium and soft. The soft is ideal for fast sculpting such as sketching out an idea. It’s very pliable and will take quick motions of the hand easily. The medium is similar but requires slightly more strength. It’s advantage to the soft is that a higher level of detail can be achieved over a smaller surface. The firm can be carved and lightly sanded if done with care. An acute level of detail may be achieved with the firm.  

Clays can be warmed to acquire comfortable workability. You can do this in a saucepan over heat or with a heat lamp. Because of the oil components within the clay it’s important not to over heat or liquify the clay to prevent it from catching fire. 


Washing Up 


It is said that an application of vegetable oil to the hands will help remove the clay from the skin. Follow by washing with a grease removing hand soap to break down and wash away the oil.


We offer oil based clay in our Starters Kit at a competitive price along with a ready to use armature and wooden sculpting tools. Start sculpting today! 


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