Greetings Epoxy Crafters!
I was trying to decide whether to write this article or not to write this article. I figured that if anyone was interested in procuring the tools/materials I highlighted, they would probably just look them up on the Internet, but, in case you're lazy or you're looking for some direction, I'll go over where I found the tools and materials I recommend.
First off, in case it is necessary to state this, what follows are just suggestions. I, in no way, endorse the majority of the suppliers I'll highlight or link to here (well, with the exception of Sculpture Supply Canada as I've been going into their store and dealing with them in person for some time now), and I assume absolutely no responsibility for your dealings with them. The experiences I've had with retailers and am relating here should be taken as anecdotal and could differ greatly from your own dealings. Though I'm trying to give you the best advice I can, you take it at your own risk.
Now that we've got that out of the way, let's get onto the shopping list:
Shopping List Item #1: Tools!
In the Tools of the Trade article, I already touched on how the cheapest and easiest solution for an up-and-coming sculptor looking for some tools are the sets of wax carving tools that you frequently find popping up on eBay. I bought my own set of tools from ebay, and a quick search for "wax carving tools" should bring up some options. There are a number of things that come up in that search that are not the kind of thing you're looking for, so, once again, here's a picture of the kind of thing you ARE looking for:
I previously commented that tools like the spoon and knife that I'd bought one-off are duplicated in the above set. However, when comparing my one-off tools to the set's equivalent, it is easy to see that the workmanship on the tools in the set (top of the two spoons) is not as high (check the shape of the two spoons in that photo). That isn't to say that the tools are un-polished hunks of iron, just that these cheap tools will do you fine, but don't be surprised if the tool ends are not perfectly symmetrical/have a nick in them here or there.
You can buy the tool sets in different quantities (4, 6, 12, 18, 20 individual tools), but I'd recommend a set of 12 like I have. Though I mentioned that you won't wind up using every tool in the set, I also mentioned that the tools you use most are based on personal taste, so it's best to have a few more from which to choose your favourites. Plus, at between $10-$20, it's not like you're breaking the bank to buy the set of 12. What's more, a set of 12 is actually a set of 24 because each of the 12 tools has two different ends on it.
Though the wax carving tool set will put you in a good place in terms of having the tools you need for the job, I mentioned a few others that can contribute significantly to this set. First were the ball burnishers/embossing tools. They also go by the name "ball stylus tools," and they commonly come in double-ended varieties with a different sized ball on either end of the tool. They look something like this:
found on eBay. I have two, they provide me with four different sizes of balls, and that is all I need.
Which brings us to the real Pièce de Résistance: the silicone colour/clay shapers that I can't say enough good things about. I was handed one by Hydra, but I went into the local Deserres art store to look for a few more of them as the one he'd given me was a little large.
As with anything, you can go the eBay route, but after snooping around it seems as though these colour shapers are more meant for large amounts of paint than small amounts of putty. Thus, I'd be wary of buying a set of them online and having them turn up on your doorstep only to discover that they were WAY BIG for the kinds of sculpting you were wanting to do. To eliminate that possibility, why not nose around your local art stores before committing to something that you've never had the chance to handle from an online store.
One warning: these tools are kind of expensive. I bought a smaller one at the local art store after I had fallen in love with Hydra's, and it cost me nearly $10 CDN for the one tool:
If you've never used one before, it may be tough to anticipate how soft/hard you want them, but--to be completely subjective and unhelpful--I'd recommend a medium to soft shaper. What I love so much about my shapers is that they have a far softer touch than the metal tools to which I'm accustomed, and the difference in sculpting is something akin to the difference between a D-Pad on a Nintendo and the sexy analog joystick of a PS-whatever. You can get things done with the D-Pad/metal tool, but you've got far more subtle control with the joystick/shaper. Thus, it seems silly to go out and buy a hard shaper as you might as well stick to metal tools!
Shopping List Item #2: Putties!
As I assume everyone has been using greenstuff for years, I figure it's also safe to assume that you all know the cheapest/easiest way to get it in your neck of the woods. That being said, if this hasn't been made abundantly clear to you already: don't ever buy greenstuff from Games Workshop. You will be paying about 2 to 3 times the price of the stuff since they package it in such small quantities. Even if you're thinking you only need a little of the stuff to start with, as you get more comfortable you will be wanting more.
I tend to use eBay to find mine as it seems to be cheaper and more readily available than anywhere else. The full name for the stuff is Kneadatite Blue/Yellow Epoxy Putty, if you're having any trouble finding it, but a search for "greenstuff" should bring it up as well. One thing I mentioned before: if you can manage it, go for the type that is packaged with the blue and yellow components in separate tubes (I think Kneadatite likes to call this kind of packaging "bars").
When it comes to buying Apoxie Sculpt, Aves, fortunately, packages the Part A and Part B putties separately in tubs, usually with the two tubs shrink-wrapped together. Whereas Greenstuff comes in one colour--green--Aves makes Apoxie Sculpt seemingly in all the colours of the rainbow. That being said, I've not found another colour that I like so much as the standard, unadulterated "natural." This is the neutral colouring of the chemicals/compounds that make up Apoxie Sculpt, and it hasn't had any pigments added to it.
You'd think that pigments couldn't, really, affect the workability of the putty; however, Hydra once bought some of the super white by accident, and he swore that the pigment did something to change the consistency of the putty. So, unless you've got some good reason to buy blood red Apoxie (which you are probably just going to paint over anyway), best to stick with the "natural."
You can buy Apoxie Sculpt in a number of sizes. The smallest is a "sample," 1/4 lb variety that you can waste your time with if you're short on cash, but what I'd recommend would be to invest in the 1lb/16oz container set.
(YES. THAT IS PINK APOXIE SCULPT. I BOUGHT IT ON A WHIM, BUT YOU CAN SEE I SPEAK FROM EXPERIENCE WHEN I SAY COLOURED APOXIE ISN'T AS GOOD!)
Now, if you've got a bit more cash lying around, and you have any interest in ever getting into sculpting anything larger (scenery, monsters, etc.), you might as well just invest in the 4lb size.
In terms of where to get Apoxie Sculpt, I get mine from a Canadian retailer by the name of Sculpture Supply Canada (SSC). They've got a bricks-and-mortar store out in the west end of Toronto that I frequent, but if you're not in Toronto, you can shop online via their e-store. I've never done it myself, but I expect their service would be just as good online.
If you're not in Canada, I've had luck going straight to the source. Whether looking for it in Germany or Japan or England, I've always emailed Aves to ask them for a list of suppliers in those countries. They've always been both kind and helpful.
Now, though I'm not getting paid by either Aves or SSC to promote them on here, if you decide to contact them, please let them know that Mr_Pink over at modernsynthesist.blogspot.com sent you :)
I think that, pretty much, covers all you need to know to get started with buying sculpting materials. However, I've been doing this so long that I've probably missed something, so if you have any questions about where to find particular tools/materials, please post them in the comments section so everyone can learn from them, and I'll get back to you with as good an answer as I can come up with.
If you've stuck with this article through to the end, and you haven't learned anything you didn't already know, well then I apologize, and I promise that the next How to Sculpt Miniatures article will get back to actual sculpting. That being said, it may not be up for a while as my Norn Queen is about to leave the country, and we'll be spending most of our free time cramming in fun things before she does. In the interim, I'll try to keep folks interested with a new series entitled "Deepthought", which are Hobby Editorials when they're at home. I know that words, words, words are not as instantly gratifying as tentacles, but these are things I've put a lot of thought into, so I hope you'll find some value in them.