Sculpting a clay castle at home may sound like a daunting task, but it can be quite simple when you break it down into small steps. To help keep the process less demanding, use air-drying clay – it requires no firing and no sourcing a kiln. Whether making a castle for a school or weekend project, give yourself ample time, as the clay will need 24 hours to dry before you can paint it. Design your castle ahead of time by drawing it on paper so you’ll know which pieces you’ll need to sculpt to build your castle.
Things You'll Need
- Wax paper
- Air-dry clay
- 2 yardsticks
- Utility knife
- Plastic knife
- LEGO bricks
- Empty paper towel tube
- Small bowl or cup
- Paint, tempera, acrylic or watercolor
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Tape sheets of wax paper to your work surface. This will prevent the clay from sticking.
Scoop a mound of clay from the container onto the paper. Flatten the clay with your hands. Push the dough flat towards the work surface. This will soften up the clay. Work your clay until the mound is about 2- to 3-inches tall.
Place two yardsticks on either side of the mound. Take your rolling pin and place it on the yardsticks. Roll the rolling pin over the yardsticks and the clay to make the clay a uniform thickness. Roll back and forth until the clay is smooth and flat.
Use the yardstick to measure the walls and base of your castle onto the clay. Score the lines with a pencil. Cut the clay with a utility knife using a ruler next to the blade to help you cut straight lines. Do this for all of the walls and the base. Roll out more clay as needed.
Lay the walls flat on your work surface. Cut any windows or doors into your wall pieces with the utility knife. Add details such as stonework or scroll work with toothpicks and a plastic knife. Stonework can also be replicated by pressing LEGO bricks into the clay. Beads and stones can be added to embellish the clay.
Create a turret by wrapping a triangle of clay around an empty paper towel roll. Cut a scalene triangle with a left 90-degree angle. Add detail to the triangular piece. Flip it over and place the paper towel roll on the tall, left side. Begin rolling the clay around the tube. Sit the paper towel roll up on its end and slide it up away from the clay. Pinch the end of the clay to keep it from unrolling. Place the turret on a piece of rolled out clay. Trace around the base with a knife. Remove turret. Extract the cut circle from the clay and place on the bottom of the turret. Pinch the clay together to adjoin so that the turret now has a base.
Roll small pieces of clay into cylindrical, snake-like pieces as tall as the walls. You will need one for each place the walls will adjoin. These pieces will help hold the wall joints together. If you are making a castle with four walls, you will need four cylindrical pieces as tall as your walls.
Mix a small amount of water with 1/4 cup of clay in a bowl or cup. You want the mixture to be the consistency of heavy cream. This mixture is known as “slip.”
Take a toothpick and run it along the top edges of the base of your castle. You are trying to score the clay so the sides will adhere. Brush the score marks with slip. Place the base of your castle on your work surface.
Pick up your first wall and score the sides and bottom. Brush the bottom edge with slip. Place the wall onto the base. Line up the edges so they form a right angle. Slide the wall from right to left a bit so it will help the clay bond. Hold until the clay does not feel like it will shift.
Repeat for the next wall. Add slip to the side and the bottom to adhere it to both. After the walls are adjoined, gently press one of the cylindrical pieces in the inside corner to strengthen the joint.
Place all walls and reinforce all corners. Attach any turrets with slip as well.
Sculpt any additional pieces or characters. Knights, gatehouses, stables, horses or even a bridge could be sculpted out of clay and added to your castle. Let the castle and all additional pieces dry for 24 hours.
Paint the castle with tempera, acrylic or watercolor paints.