High Detail with Natural (water-based) Clays? Possible? If yes, How?

Hi there,

First off, I'd like to give you an idea of my work process:
1. Sculpting/ Modeling/ Designing in natural clay
2. Mold Making: Using Smooth-On's Brush-On series (urethane rubber)
3. Casting in concrete

This process creates two main issues:

First; casting in concrete limits me in the rubbers I can use for the mold. Since regular silicons can't resist the concrete's heat, which is generated during cool-down, my choices come down to urethane rubbers only. Additionally, tear strengths are much greater with the Brush-On series.

Second; the urethane rubber doesn't work well with certain oil-, mineral-based clays, hence I use natural clay. Which has one great side effect: I can get half a metric ton for free of that stuff! Therefore huge projects are possible. On the other hand, creating detail with natural clays is a b**ch to get to work. (details like fine wrinkles and hair lines without causing the clay to crack)

The question now is, whether there is a way to treat natural clay (which used to create bricks with) so that details like wrinkles or small cavities are possible without causing the clay to crack, which other professional clays don't because they don't dry as fast as natural clay and they are much smoother.

Ideas I have come up with so far are:

- frequently wetting the clay before using sharp tools (classic)
- putting plastic wrap foil or cling film on the clay first and then using sharp tools (this massively prevents cracking the clay up along the tools' ends when creating lines, but for cavities I still have similar issues)

My goal is to achieve maximum detail at the lowest cost for each process without compromising the above-mentioned materials (unless you've got a cheaper solution ;)  ). Sounds unnecessary complicated but I've got my reasons  X )

I would be very grateful for any ideas, hints, remarks or actual solutions with this. I have already asked many professionals but none who could help me with getting more detail into natural clays. Therefore I come to you (StanWinstonSchool's Community)
for council ;P

Thank you in advance.

All the best,


  • Options
    There are some great videos and tips on the Reynolds Advanced Materials site on casting in concrete.


    As far as the clay goes, you may have better luck with something like WED clay, which is a water-based clay with additives to help slow drying.


    WED clay can be obtained from many suppliers, including some ceramic shops, so I'd look around locally before buying it online.  That way you may get a better price and not have to worry about shipping expenses.

  • Options
    if your using the clay i think you are; essentially mud in a bag, i have heard of people using paraffin wax as to make it more stable.
    i natural clay i had was a useless mess, it wasn't good for sculpting or mold making because it flakes apart as it starts to dry, gets everything reallllllly dirty.
    paraffin isn't exactly a dream to work with either.

    can we see the mold you want to make? 
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