“Attrezzi per la Scultura” An insider’s list of the tools used in the ancient art of marble sculpting – and where to get them in Pietrasanta

What follows is an insider’s list of “attrezzi per la scultura” – one personal overview of the tools needed for the ancient art of sculpting marble.
The complete list with the tools names in English and Italian – and photographs – appears after the jump.

The art of sculpting has not significantly changed since the days Michelangelo came to the Carrara area and to Pietrasanta to get the marble for his masterpieces – but the tools have continuously evolved. Here are some “attrezzi” – tools that you might need as a sculptor – both to produce an original work and to produce a copy from a model. This list is, of course, just one way to approach the material, and meant as suggestion. Everybody works in their own way, in whatever way makes them feel comfortable. Some sculptors prefer using only chisel and hammer, eschewing motorized tools – others go as far as relying on the help of state-of-the-art scanners and computer-aided machinery.

The city of Pietrasanta and neighboring cities, like Carrara, offer marble sculpting courses for beginners and advanced sculptors. Many marble laboratories have spaces available for rent where an artist can produce a work of art in marble, granite – even bronze.

We wrote about the courses here and here, and made a list of sculpture studios here.
The photo above is from a gallery of photographs of Pietrasanta’a artigiani and the its marble studios from Il Viareggino – we link to that here.
We give the tools names in English and in Italian to help facilitate your getting them.

After the jump the complete list of tools and the places, in and around Pietrasanta, where they are available.
Here is our list of “Attrezzi per la Scultura” the tools of the sculpture trade, and some useful stuff, with where to get them in Pietrasanta – at the end of the piece

Plaster model by Artis LimitedIl  modello – The plaster model

The model can be made from plaster, clay, or whatever material that is easy to work with by hand – that dries hard. The saying goes that it’s better to work more on the model than having to do your work on the marble. In this picture above you can see the “punti” … the points, that are used to reproduce it with the “macchinetta” (see below)

Rotating platfrom by Artis Limited

Piattaforme rotanti (due) –  Rotating platforms (two)

Rotating platforms are handy! You might consider having one for the model and one for the marble… – that way you can rotate each at will, and get the best perspective on … both, at the same time!

Glass lensed protective glass, mask and noice-reducing headphone by Artis Limited

Protezione – Safety gear

Cuffie – Noise-reducing headphones

Occhiali – Protective goggles (we recommend the glass-lensed variety)

Maschera – Mask

Guanti antivibrazioni – anti-vibration gloves

Scarpe da lavoro – work shoes… the steel-tipped kind.

Because marble is heavy… and the tools can bite! … Take good care of yourself!

Folding rule, pencils and right angle by Artis Limited

– Squadre di metallo – Metal right angles

– Metri – Steel rulers

– Matite – pencils

– Una prolunga – an extension chord

– Un adattatore – an adapter

Read the instructional manual to figure out the difference in voltage in Italy

Pointing machine by Artis Limited – La macchinetta – The “pointing machine”

The macchinetta is used when you want to reproduce a work 1:1 scale; here is a link to a wikipage that explains how to use it:

Steel carving calipers by Artis Limited – 3 compassi – 3 steel carving calipers

The calipers are used when you want to reproduce a work larger – or smaller – than your model. This is a very precise procedure and will require focus and concentration. It’s easier at first to have a 1:1 model

Calipers are also used when you are “lavorando a occhio” (working by eye…) sculpting freestyle – they’ll help you get some points for reference

Hammer, steel point and topping bits by Artis Limited – Una mazzetta – A hammer

– Scapezzatori –  Topping bits

– Subbia in acciaio – Steel point

These are tools used for the “sbozzatura” – the initial roughing out of the block of marble

Pneumatic hammers, by Artis Limited– Martelli pneumatici – Pneumatic Hammers

Pneumatic hammer with steel marble chisels by Artis Limited – Scalpelli – Steel marble bits – chisels

Electric grinder by Artis Limited

– Smerigliatrice piccola e grande – Electric grinders, big and small

For the small grinder… get one where you can adjust the speed – this will allow you to also use it for the “levigatura” the polishing

Electroplated diamnond discs by Artis Limited – Dischi diamantati per marmo – Electroplated diamond discs

These are used for the “sbozzatura” – the roughing out – always leave a couple of centimeters extra of marble, when using these discs; they can burn the marble! Finish your roughing out with a pneumatic hammer and a “gradina” a teeth chisel

Steel mallet with hand steel chisels by Artis Limited – Un mazzuolo – A steel mallet

– Scapelli a mano – hand steel marble-cutting chisels

For the “finitura” – the finishing work

Pneumatic die grinder with carbide burrs shank by Artis Limited – Smerigliatrice pneumatica – pneumatic die grinder

– Lime rotative – attacco metallo duro – Carbide burrs shanks

We’re loathe to use these instruments, though we’re tempted, because for as easy to use as they are they should be used AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE. And then only for the places you can’t get to by hand. We recommend using a “Mazzuolo” – the steel mallet – and some “Scalpelli a mano” – the hand steel marble-cutting chisels. 

Any grinder can burn the marble… and the end result is never as beautiful than when you do it by hand.
Pads, zec disc and smoothing discs hoop and loop by Artis Limited
Platorelli rigidi – plastic pads

– Platorelli in velcro – Velcro “hook and loop” pad

– Dischi zec– zec discs  (we recommend the 36 and 80)

– Dischi per levigatura con velcro – Velcro “hook and loop” smoothing discs, we recommend the 40-80-120-150-180-220)

All of these tools are for the “levigaura”  – the smoothing and poloshing of the marble.

With the small grinder use the slower speeds and remember to change the sandpaper OFTEN – it’s much better in the end than pushing the machine and burning the marble.

Wet sanding paper by Artis Limited – Foglio carta abrasiva a bagno – Wet sanding paper

Sanding silicon carbide by Artis Limited – Rottame smeriglio – Sanding silicon carbide stone (we recommend the 60 80 120 220)

Miniature rasps and wood and marble rasps by Artis Limited – Raspe per miniature – rasps for miniature work

– Raspe per legno e marmo – Wood and marble rasps

– Smerigliatrice da banco  – Bench electric grinders

And for that you can often use the one provided to you by the marble laboratory where you are renting your workspace.

And for when you want to “lucidare” – polish to a shine – the marble – first bring the “levigatura” to 600 or 800 and then use a polishing paste – with the polishing accessories, either on the small grinder or the small pneumatic grinder.

Here is a list of 5 places in Pietrasanta that each specialize in these tools. These guys are pros and will help you with your questions.
Tell them the blog “Art is Life” sent you!


Cervietti (for the rotating platforms)



Milani Utensili

We welcome your comments, questions and constructive criticism, and we, of course, invite you to write with any wonderful compliment!

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