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
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)
• 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!
• 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!
– 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
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:
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
– Scapezzatori – Topping bits
– Subbia in acciaio – Steel point
These are tools used for the “sbozzatura” – the initial roughing out of the block of marble
– 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
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
– Scapelli a mano – hand steel marble-cutting chisels
For the “finitura” – the finishing work
– 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.
– 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.
– 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!
We welcome your comments, questions and constructive criticism, and we, of course, invite you to write with any wonderful compliment!