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A while back I spent a few months making a really nice sculpture of a hand out of crayola air dry clay. It worked fine, took details fine and barely cracked when drying. The problem arose in the fingers. Early in the sculpt I took five ovals, etched the contact areas, wet them and stuck them on to the main body. The fingers would occasionally fall off when the sculpture got too wet, but it wasn't much a problem until much later when the fingers simply wouldn't stick anymore. Not even wooden bones could keep the thing together. Eventually I had to scrap the whole thing.

So my question is, was that a problem of cheap clay wearing out over time, or is there some kind of technique for keeping the clay alive longer? Do you have any recommendations for good air dry clay? And do you have any advice on modelling techniques?

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Fine structures like the fingers of a hand are always problematic, no matter how cheap or good the clay is.

The general recommendation is to build an inner structure (like a skelleton) from a more stable material and coat it in clay. For your particular case of modeling a hand I propose making fingers from rolled up aluminium foil or thick aluminium wire.

Start making aluminum fingers that are longer and thinner than required and coat them in clay. Then make a ball of clay that is smaller than the palm and stick the aluminium fingers in it. Add more clay and model the hand.

  • Thanks! Maybe if I used a skeleton to begin with it wouldn't have unstuck the first time. Still, do you have any idea on why clay would stop sticking at all after a while? – Aristides L Feb 2 at 13:21
  • Even if you keep on moisturizing, it will be superficial: the centre will eventually dry out. The result will be more obvious in smaller parts like the fingers. – Joachim Feb 2 at 14:44
  • @Joachim So, what you're saying is, the reason the clay wouldn't stick together was because the inside was dry? If so that's extremely helpful. – Aristides L Mar 4 at 14:52

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