I have fat fingers. Or big hands, if you prefer a more flattering term. But that means that it’s really hard for me to use my fingers to sculpt clay without it looking like something I might have done in kindergarten. Sure, I have lots of fingers, in a whole array of sizes. But each one comes with a hard little edge, called a fingernail, that always seems to poke and gouge my clay creations. And on the other side of each finger there’s thing handy texture stamp called a fingerprint. Hmm. Not the best sculpting tools, are they? Wouldn’t it be fantastic to have tool that is kind of like a finger, but with even better features? I recently found a new tool that I already love so much I just had to share it with you. It’s called the Kemper Wipe Out Tool.
I learn a lot from joining the various polymer clay groups on Facebook, and one day Tracy Boland mentioned the Kemper Wipe Out Tool and how she’d never give hers up. I’m always eager to learn about people’s must-have tools, so I didn’t waste any time ordering one for myself. I found it on Amazon for about $7. There is also a cheaper “generic” version on Amazon for $5, but there’s so little difference in price that I went for the name brand product. I like the Kemper tools that I have used in the past. (Kemper makes those lovely little brass Klay Kutters with the plunger. They’re another must-have tool, by the way.) And if you’re also shopping for clay and other supplies, don’t forget to check out Poly Clay Play and Linda’s Art Spot. And if you’re in Canada…head over to Shades of Clay. Wendy has them there. And, this just in…Penny has the in the UK at Clayaround.
What is the Kemper Wipe Out Tool?
From tip to tip, the Kemper Wipe Out Tool is 6.25″ (160mm) long. It features a wooden handle, stained and varnished, that is smooth and doesn’t have any irritating splinters or roughness. The wood handle is a bit thicker than a pencil and is easy to hold. Each end has a rubber tip that’s held in place by a brass ferrule that seems to be tightly fastened to the wood. The rubber tips themselves seem to be made from regular brick-colored rubber, though I’m not sure if they’re a sort of soft plastic instead. They don’t have the typical rubber smell that rubber stamps have. The rubber (or plastic) is soft but not squishy.
One end features a round cone shape that comes to a fine point. It does have a raised seam that you can, indeed, feel. I’m not sure if it will be a problem or not. You might be able to remove it by gently sanding with a high grit sandpaper. I’m thinking 800 or higher. I’ve not tried it, however.
The other end features an angled chisel tip that is both angled and wedge-shaped. It comes to a fine point and the chisel shaped wedge itself creates straight line. The seam on this tip runs along the line of the wedge, so it actually works as a plus, because it makes the edge very fine.
Why the Kemper Wipe Out Tool?
So you already have toothpicks, needle tools, dental tools, and a whole array of sculpting tools, why in the world would you need another tool? And why this one?
I’m not a sculptor, so I can’t tell you with certainty what’s the best sculpting tools. But I can say that the Kemper Wipe Out Tool does things that metal tools can’t do. It doesn’t carve the polymer clay. Rather, it pushes it. Just like your fingertip, but without the fingerprints and the “fat finger syndrome”. When you use a metal tool to remove clay, it tends to create little bits of excess clay that always end up making things look messy. Just like when you use your finger, though, this wipe out tool smooths the clay, rather than removing it. So there’s no lump or little bit that you have to remove. It just smooths the clay down, in the way that you want.
Also, when you use your finger to smooth an area of polymer clay, you always run the risk of creating more damage because your fingernail gets in there and pokes things it shouldn’t. You know what I mean! With this wipe out tool, you can get in close and be very precise.
Even if you don’t sculpt, you still have to smooth out seams and clean up your work. When adding a clay bail to a pendant, how do you smooth the clay right up next to the bail? Your finger’s too thick to fit in there. The Kemper Wipe Out Tool comes to the rescue. I’ve tried using sculpting tools for this and it’s never very smooth. Using the angled tip of the wipe out tool is like a little squeegee for clay….it just smooths it right out.
What if you want to have a nice clean edge on an inside angle, like when a floor meets a wall? Fingers aren’t shaped like that! Well that angled tip of the wipe out tool is like a little trowel that creates a smooth, straight line and cleans up the edges too.
And when your fingernails make a ding in the clay, how can you clean it up? Just give it a swipe with the wipe out tool. Easy peasy.
Cleaning up Edges
When I use a cutter on my clay, there is always a bit of excess clay around the edge. This tool is great for cleaning it off.
I once knew a guy who was so good at painting houses that he never used masking tape or even a drop cloth, because he never made a mess. Well, that’s not me. I’m a fairly careful person and I STILL make messes. Paint is always spilling over where I won’t want it to go. You guessed it, the Kemper Wipe Out Tool is magic for wiping up errant paint and sealer, and far more precise than a Q-Tip.
The Kemper Wipe Out Tool is wonderful for polymer clay, but you’ll use it in your other crafts too. The Kemper company itself makes tools for ceramic clays, so if you happen to do ceramic work, this will obviously work well. But it would also work nicely for removing areas of oil paint or acrylic paint. Or scratching details into paint. I’ve also read that the wipe out tool works nicely to blend areas of pastel chalk in a pastel painting.
You might have tried the Colour Shapers that are a similar product. Usually sold to fine artists, these tools are a rubber tip attached to a handle and appear very much like standard artist’s paintbrushes. For one thing, they’re ghastly expensive! Typically only single-tipped, they come in a range of sizes and shapes just like artist’s brushes. They also come with tips that are soft or firm. I bought one of these a few years ago and never use it for my clay because the tip is too soft to move the clay around. A firm tool might work better. I’m sure there are generic versions of these tools on the market, too, so perhaps they’re worth looking into if you do a lot of fine sculpting. Update: This set of Rubber Tipped Sculpting Tools looks promising and the price is right.
If you like the Kemper Wipe Out Tool and do a lot of sculpting work, you might be interested in this line of double-ended clay shapers. One end is a rubber tip and the other is a metal ribbon shaper. But again, even the smallest of these tools is far more expensive than the Kemper tool.
So…do you have the Kemper Wipe Out Tool? What do you think of it? And what’s your favorite way to use it? I’m truly curious, and of course we can all learn from each other! Share your experiences in the comments.
How I Use the Wipe Out Tool
I use my wipe out tool when making Rustic Bead Components. It’s perfect for making sure the clay is snugged up around the wire when making connectors and headpins. Haven’t seen the Rustic Bead Tutorial yet? Go check it out here!