Paint by figures | The craft of the sculptor is very complex and requires a great preparation
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The craft of the sculptor is very complex and requires a great preparation

The craft of the sculptor is very complex and requires a great preparation

The craft of the sculptor is very complex and requires a great preparation and decision not only physical. The first phase concerns the choice of the block that can not be delegated to others, we go to the quarry and, once we find the one that best meets our expectations, first we wet it , to clean it from dust and hardened mud, this operation is fundamental to bring out the so-called ” hairs of the stone ” or very thin fractures (such as to look like hairs) that could be found on the surface of the block. Once identified, the affected parts must be removed with the scapezzatore ( particular chisel with a thick and wide cut ). If the block without the parts just removed, it is still right for us , you have to “make it sound” or with a big hammer, you hit it. If the sound that comes out will not be dull, the block is ready to be carved. Once the first guidelines are drawn on the stone, we proceed with the roughing , or with the removal of more or less coarse parts that we are sure do not need.

Today this phase is quite fast regardless of the hardness of the stone thanks to the invention of diamond disks. At one time, however, we approached the volumes of the work, with the help of pointed chisels and a great physical effort. Substantially, from antiquity to today, the chisels used in sculpture have not changed much ; if ever what has changed is the metal . The first were very ineffective bronze and copper on hard stones, so often used at right angles to the block producing “orange peel” surfaces with more or less deep holes. Subsequently, with the discovery of iron, the processing possibilities increased.

Today we produce many types of tools with excellent metal alloys, with the final part in vidia: very hard alloy capable of attacking also very hard stones. 
There are three main models , mentioned by order of use according to the traditional procedure.

  • Tip : (today often confused with the fog) can be used at right angles to produce a rough surface with little damage to the stone. Producing a 45-degree angle instead, we would have the possibility of being more effective. Thanks to Michelangelo, this instrument has been deeply re-evaluated; he, he did not consider it only as a rough instrument, in fact, he often practiced more or less deep furrows that ran parallel to each other and that would characterize above all the period of the “unfinished”.
  • Gradina : more or less wide chisel with a certain number of pointed or flat teeth. This tool is used to better define the still very raw volumes. Clear the signs of the fog leaving behind a trail of parallel lines more or less fine as many as the teeth. With the step you can begin to define the edges of the volumes in a more brooding way. It was the tool par excellence of Michelangelo who used it as a pencil; producing a play of light-shadow given by the crossed use of the chisel. The result consisted of a series of “clarifying lines” that allowed for maximum understanding of the volumes, but above all guaranteed the infusion of the vital breath to his “unfinished” figures.
  • Smooth chisel : in antiquity it was also used in the roughing phase allowing to remove more matter with less effort. In a more academic use, however, it could be used to erase the lines of the step if you wanted to get a smooth surface. It can also be used to obtain even greater sharpness of the edges.
  • Bocciarda : in antiquity it was a flat hammer on both sides lined with triangular prisms. Today, in the modern variant is a chisel with the final cylindrical part that houses the same prisms. The use, allows to have an “orange peel” surface much more uniform than that obtained with the tip used at right angles.

Today, thanks to the aid of the technique, there are many variations of these tools, you can have flat chisels with rounded corners, sharp edge, single or double cut and so on.

Proceeding with the realization of our sculpture, we have reached the point where “surfaces have to be pulled” ; that is, thanks to the aid of rasps and limes, the surfaces of the stone are made uniform and homogeneous. In this way, the sculpture will be prepared, now in an advanced state, to the eventual polishing and polishing (if it is marble or hard stones).
Such procedures in the past required a great deal of mechanical work because they were practiced with the use of sands frigid for a long time on the surfaces of the stone. Today there are the abrasive papers of various grains to be divided into two categories: dry, used in a first phase, water (if we are using marble or hard stones) in a second. Then the polishing can be achieved, which can be facilitated by some harmless chemical powders which, by rubbing, “crystallize” the surface of the marble.

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