Alabaster is a soft, delicate stone. It is almost transparent, and exists naturally in pale shades of pink, yellow and white. Due to its delicate nature, alabaster has a tendency to scratch and bruise very easily. A bruise occurs when, using a mallet, the rock is hit too hard, leaving a mark. Bruises may be difficult or even impossible to remove from alabaster as you continue to carve. This stone is a good choice for small sculptures.
Things You'll Need
- Hammer or mallet
- Alabaster stone
- Clear paste wax
- Dust mask
- Pencil or crayon
- Wrist guards
Don protective gear to prevent injury. Eye goggles and a dust mask will keep particles out of your eyes and lungs. Fingerless leather gloves will protect the palms of your hands from sharp slivers of stone while allowing you to use your fingers for detail work. Wrist guards may guard against the strain of repetitive motions.
Wet your stone with water and look for the fault lines, or grain. These lines act as a divider between different shades of color within the stone, or varying textures.
Draw your design directly on the alabaster using a crayon or pencil. This will serve as a guide of where to remove chunks of rock, and where detailed carving will be. This is called "roughing out."
Set your piece of alabaster on sandbags. The sand will absorb the vibrations that will come from using the hammer on the rock, and prevent breakage.
Use a pitcher, also called a pitching tool, along with a mallet to remove large pieces of unwanted rock.
Start the shaping process by using claws. A claw is a toothed tool with a wide head. Apply the claw to the stone going in one direction only, with the grain.
Move to the smaller, finer tools next such as points and chisels. Thin chisels work well on alabaster because it is a soft rock. Rasps and files may also be used for smoothing.
Use a wet/dry sandpaper to finish your sculpture once you are happy with the shape and details. Starting with 120 grit paper, sand your work. Work your way up from coarser to finer grits. Depending on how high a finish you prefer, this can be anywhere from 600 to over 3000 grit. Change the water each time you start with a new sand paper.
Allow your alabaster sculpture to dry completely after sanding.
Apply a clear paste wax to your sculpture, using a soft cloth. This brings out a high glossy shine that is characteristic of alabaster.
Tips & Warnings
- It may be helpful to create a version of your sculpture out of clay, plaster or wax before you carve the stone. This will help you envision your work and makes changes, if necessary, before you start removing sections of stone.
- Do not use magic marker or felt tip pen on your stone in the planning stages. Using inks may leave permanent marks on your material that are impossible to remove.
- Alabaster does not withstand heat or dampness well. Keep your alabaster sculptures indoors, away from direct heat sources.