A Simple Way to Make Your Own Super Sharp Sgraffito Tools

Cristine Boyd demonstrates using her homemade sgraffito tools.

Cristine Boyd demonstrates using her homemade sgraffito tools.

Today we are presenting one of the Honorable Mentions from our recent D.I.Y. Clay Tools Video Contest. This one comes from Cristine Boyd in Denver, Colorado. Cristine was having trouble finding a nice, sharp, affordable sgraffito tool that retained its sharpness so she took matters into her own hands. She discovered that spring steel – the stuff that is in metal tape measures – is the perfect material for sgraffito carving blades.


Watch the video to see how she does it! – Jennifer Harnetty, editor.

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To see images of Cristine’s work or learn more about her, please visit http://www.allclay.com.



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  • Gerard C.

    In the spring, I often pick metal hair from the heavy brushes from tractors or trucks used by firms or municipal works to clean deposits of sand on roads during winter. They are aprroximately 10 inches in lenght, 1/16th of an inch wide, made of strong and very flexible steel. They make excellent miniknives for cuting shapes through leather hard clays. The best handles are the top toggles of discarded old flags. Their shape is ideal for handling. Gerard Carriere, Noelville, Ontario

  • Patricia G.

    Wow, how fun was that to watch. We can buy tape measures in many sized widths and make carving tools that are small & precise and ones that are large. Christine just saved us all a lot of $$$ not to mention entertaining us with her knowledge and great sense of fun and humor. If this woman gave classes, I’d go in a minute. Where is she from anyway?!

  • Kassim N.

    Beautiful and interesting ideas. Thank you

  • Cristine B.

    On the double layer of press and seal I trace the image on with a sharpie. After the image is drawn on the press and seal it is then laid on top of the slip covered piece and traced on with a ball point pen and it shows on the piece as indented lines, a guide for the carving.

  • Cristine B.

    Hi. Sorry I have not answered the questions. I’ve been gallivanting around NYC for 12 days or so. The press and seal is used as the template after the sticky sides are pressed together. The double layer gets rid of the troublesome sticky stuff and makes the template just that much stronger. I don’t cut it there is no need as you can see through the press and seal which makes it very useful for layering images. Just carve the first lines and lay the template over that. Email me directly if you have more questions. I have no secrets.


    Crostone Boyd

  • Gwen U.

    nicely done video, but I would have liked to see the final product.

  • Likgwang T.

    thank you for sharing the wonderful idea

  • Dennis T.

    How did this one not win! Great tutorial, excellent tools. Thank you.

  • Brenda M.

    Lots of great ideas in this video! Will try them out soon. Good idea on the press & seal also. I’ve been using wax paper, but it wears through after a few times. And, the waxed dental floss idea….I make a lot of my own brushes and am going to try it instead of using upholstery thread. Since it more or less sticks to itself, it will be easier to wrap the brush hairs.

  • Fraser L.

    Great video! Best instructional video I’ve seen. Thank you. Fraser

  • Subscriber T.

    So funny, I was flossing my teeth while catching up on these videos, guess I’ll save that piece for my next clay tool. Silly me, I’ve never thought of spraying hot glue with water. That’s one of those tips
    that you smile about every time you get to use it. Thanks for all these great ideas all!!! S. Bildsoe

  • great additional ideas, everyone! thanx! here’s mine: you know that thin strip of flat copper than is inserted in wooden rulers? ya, baby! i looove copper tools! another is the memory wire used by jewelers to make necklaces, bracelets, etc.. strong, bendable, but will hold its shape. great for tiny details, fine sgraffito-ing. bobby pins? love it, will have to try them…

  • Patricia S.

    Great video with simple, inexpensive tip. I would love to know what music was playing, it was very good, spunky?

  • Nicely done video, gives one thought on creatively making more tools. Thanks.

  • It is a good idea to make own tools for carving purpose.

  • Thank you for the helpful tip about making carving tools. It is generous of potters to give their time and advice to others.

  • Christine—what a great idea! luv ya enthusiasm/innovative spirit!

  • Carlene A.

    I believe that she draws directly onto the folded Press’n Seal, cuts out around the drawing leaving a border, and that becomes the template which is traced onto the clay.

  • Cheryl W.

    I’ve been spending a fortune on tools. Thank you so much. I am confused on the wrap and seal or what ever that was. I can’t wait to try this. Thanks.

  • Christine, I have been doing this for years… its a great money saver… I also use bobbie pins… Thanks for sharing…

  • Laurie F.

    I cannot tell you how timely this post was for me. I purchased sgraffito tools for my highschool classroom and was disappointed with the cutting edge when I tried them out this week. It was too late to get more, we were already starting the project and all I had were a couple decent ones that had been hanging around in the back of a drawer. Today was the day my kids were to start cutting their designs and I was stoked to get this post and discover I had everything I needed to make new, better tools for them (all through recess). Of course I had to drop by the faculty lounge and steal a few chopsticks for handles. ; )

  • Sabrina W.

    This is great! Thank you! I’m going to cut up my husbands tape measure now! There should be an entire section called D.I.Y. tools for the Starving Artist! That’s me!

  • Barbara P.

    Great technique, Christine. You’re charming, also. Showing us how to stick things onto handles… teach a man how to fish.

  • Kathleen C.

    Maybe the press and seal is there to protect the piece from your hands pressing on the slip while you trace the design on?

  • An alternative material for making cutting tools of this type would be the tempered “blue steel” that’s sold as shim stock. Most real hardware stores & industrial supply houses have packaged assortments, with many different thicknesses of blue steel or stainless steel sheet stock….machinists use it to make flat springs, shims, and thin washers.

    Be careful working with tape-measure steel, as it can split or snap if bent too agressively.

  • She uses the press-n-seal to make the template — puts the design between layers and cuts it out.

  • Florence W.

    Can the same method be used for trim tools? Or is the metal too “bend-y” for that?

  • Great idea.
    For a sharp and inexpensive, often free, tool for trimming clay I use small lengths of industrial metal banding tape, which is thicker and less flexible than the spring metal in this video but perfect as a sharper alternative to a wooden trimming tool. I have a few cut at different angles.

  • Outstanding video! Very useful and easy to follow. I can do this!! I will do this!!

  • It’s early Saturday morning in Sydney and I’m raring to get out in the garage and make some of these tools!! Thanks for a fun video….after reading all the comments above – I didn’t even think about the press and seal because I thought it was used to do the drawing on and she was just explaining how to actually use the piece by folding it in two…might be wrong

  • How very clever you are! Can’t wait to try it.

  • GREAT! Fun to watch and VERY helpful. I do not do this type of carving, but do carve a number of my pieces. My husband used to be a builder so now I have a PERFECT use for all of his old broken tape measures! Thanks for sharing, it is great to see someone with so much enthusiam toward the creation of their work. Loved watching you. http://www.bigdogpots.net.

  • A Pauline H.

    Very interesting. Thanks for sharing your tips and advice for keeping our pockets fuller.

  • Roxanne H.

    Yes THAT ONE BURNING question.. what are you using the press n seal for? a laminate over a paper drawing?… But she did not show putting the drawing in the plastic! HMMMM? WE just GOTTA KNOW….. and why? We think MAYBE WE MISSED A BIG POINT? I am going to look for her on facebook!

  • What was the press and seal for, confused??? Maybe that is what she wraps it in when she talked about letting the clay sit loosely for a day? Please clarify, thanks.

  • Also have a question as to what the press and seal is used for. She’s very fun to watch.

  • Subscriber T.

    Invaluable! Thanks so much for sharing. ( Any chance you can share the cello music artist/arrangement?)

  • Great idea! I have a couple of elderly tape measures I can now put to better use.

    If you want a smaller tool for scraffito, single strand guitar strings (the high E, B & G strings)work well. Bend them into the shape you want with needle nose pliers, then stick the ends into a hole on the end of a dowel and glue them. I have a special holder for these wire tools that I bought long ago, but I think the dowel would work fine. Another thing that might work to hold the wires is an exacto knife handle — I haven’t tried it, but it may be worth an attempt,and would be easier than gluing up a new tool every time the wire wears through.

    Most of my sgraffito work requires a smaller tool for finer detail, but it will be great to have a variety of large tools on hand, and I can do that now. Thanks!

  • I use the bamboo chop sticks too, but I create amazing tools when I sharpen and form them on my grinding wheel…bamboo does not swell or splinter when it gets wet….you can actually get very sharp edges too….

  • Nice video, but what did you use the “Press & Seal” for? To laminate your drawing? Lee

  • Thomas E.

    Nicely done video. Very informative, well explained, and good camera work. The cello was a great addition besides. Thanks, and now I no what to do with a broken tape measure.

  • Christine P.

    Christine.. thank you for sharing. Tools are rather spendy, and I’m always happy to find another way to save a few $$
    I like to use chop sticks… put them in a pencil sharpener to make a stylus type thing, or hot glue found items to the big end to make stamps.

  • Elizabeth M.

    I love this idea! Thanks! I am going to make some now. My favorite videos are the ones that incorporate things I already have around my home.

  • very cool, thanks! one question.. are you using the press n seal as a laminate over a paper drawing?

  • What a great idea! Cristine is so fun and expressive to watch. I can really tell she loves what she’s doing 🙂

  • I liked this video and idea much more than two of the winning ideas! I think she gives us a practical tool made inexpensively! Everyone I know who LOVES working with clay, doesn’t necessarily like to spend tons of money when they don’t have to!

  • I have used the cutting edge of plastic wrap, tin foil and like that to make similar tool but you get a wavy edge;-) Thanks!

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