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I've seen many sculpting tutorials and recordings of works where the artist uses aluminum wire for the armature, with aluminum foil used where bulk is needed for the form.

However, as a beginner, aluminum wire is too expensive for me to essentially waste on practice projects. I've tried steel wire, but the thicker gauges are practically unworkable. Almost every hobby and craft store I've been to only sells aluminum wire in the floral section, at very high prices per foot, and online stores sell much more than I need.

Is there a cheaper alternative aluminum? It doesn't need to be as flexible, but sturdy enough to hold the clay and be safe in the oven.

  • I'm still trying to look for a reasonable alternative, but have you considered taking the problem the other way around? I'll give a short example for copper wire. Because of some its great conductivity, copper wire is (very) widely used in electrical circuits and so on. So, it might be interesting to take out the wire from old electrical devices. In the same vein: where I come from, the recycling centers do exactly that, they extract these metals from the trash and one can buy such second hand material very cheap there. – Surb Jun 10 '16 at 7:53
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A couple of alternatives.

Firstly, cheap and cheerful, use metal clothes hangers (normally given free from the dry cleaners). However, this would only offer you a limited range of gauges.

Secondly, pop down to your local DIY/Garden Centre. They will have a large selection of fencing & plant growth materials. You will find all sorts of wire used for fixing trellises, plant growth leads, etc.

Final alternative is to strip out the copper conductor from old electrical cable.

Make sure that the cable is disconnected from any electrical source

This will provide you with a selection of gauges depending on the conductor size. However, once you get above 4mm you find that the conductors aren't solid but in strands.

Of the above, the local DIY/Garden Centre will yield the best results.

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    Never thought to look at a gardening store. I will try that as soon as I'm able. I think a Home Depot is nearby – user24 Jun 10 '16 at 12:36
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So I asked a Tinsmith friend and he suggested the followings:

  • Iron wire: it is cheap and has the big advantage that it can be fold at the same place several times without breaking. So you can reuse it.
  • Chicken Wire:
    enter image description here
    This solution might be particularly interesting for you as it allows to make some more complicated complicated structures and, it is also cheap (I guess because they are massively produced). You can also consider variation of this idea with a different mesh shape or different thickness.
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    In the UK, the Wire Mesh is referenced as Chicken Wire and it is the predominant term to use when trying to buy it from Garden/DIY stores and websites. Initially designed to be used for chicken coops and pens. But, obviously, it has far more applications! – BeaglesEnd Jun 15 '16 at 13:02
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    That's also the name in the US. – pleurocoelus Jun 15 '16 at 16:11
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    @BeaglesEnd thanks, I edited (my english is unfortunately quite poor...). – Surb Jun 15 '16 at 16:28
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    At least in North America you are not limited to the hexagon pattern. Square wire fabrics also exist. And while chicken wire has a standard size square wire has several dimensions available. – Matt Jun 15 '16 at 18:45
  • @Matt I agree with you and this is also why I suggested that the idea can be "generalized". I will not edit it back as long as these comments stays (to avoid bumping the question). Feel free to edit, if you believe it is important. – Surb Jun 16 '16 at 19:34

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