Monthly Archives: October 2009

How to Make a Macadamian Squirrel

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So not too long ago I got the urge to get back into sculpting for real this time. I didn’t give it up in 2003 because I wasn’t serious about it, I gave it up out of frustration. Everything I made would fall apart and I didn’t know why. But the internet was a different place in 2003, and since then, many sculptors have made their way onto the web and willingly shared the secrets of successful pieces. By successful I mean pieces that don’t crack, crumble, shift, slide, flake or burn. Yes I said burn. I found their tutorials and here is the story of how I got back on my feet.

The Beginning

You have to start with a concept. I made a decision when I began sculpting that I didn’t want to make my own concepts. There are a lot of people who can make better cartoon characters than I can. I also decided early that I would focus on cartoon characters. There are a lot of guys out there making monsters and dragons and I don’t need to join them. Scott felt like a Macadamian Squirrel was a good place to start and drew me some turnarounds.


Armatures are the skeleton of any polimer clay sculpt. My previous armature experiments had been needlessly thick at the joints. A wire cutter and a tweezing tool took care of that. The joints are sealed together with a liquid epoxy that comes out of two tubes and mixes. Discarded to the side you can see an earlier attempt with way-too-thick joints.

Even more sturdiness is obtained with Plumbers Putty. NOT the kind that comes in a tub. That kind never hardens. The kind that comes in a tube. They sell it at ACE Hardware. Going into a hardware store and asking for Plumbers Putty and wire cutters made me feel kind of badass.


Adding the Super Sculpey is initially an additive process. Unlike some of my tutors, there didn’t seem to be a lot of point in adding the clay to simulate sinew and muscle. What I’m making has no connection with reality. I added in a shape that seemed squirrely.

Once I add enough of an initial layer the process is subtractive, using a bunch of tools specific to sculpting. I like a flat wooden stick and a tool I have with a metal hook for scraping away excess.

Some pieces, such as the hat and the tail, needed more added towards the end. When I was satisfied with the shape, special parts like ears, eyes and the nose were applied on top using tiny screws as armatures.


The final product before baking:


Sculpey bakes at 200 degrees and a small piece needs about an hour in the oven. Don’t follow the instructions on the box. I used to burn a lot of pieces that way.

Sculpey also bakes a darker color than it begins at and that clues you in that it’s done. I let it cool with the oven turned off and the door cracked open.

Next Post: Pictures of the baked piece and painting!

Author of Strawberry Shortcake: Return of the Purple Pie Man, Disney’s Frozen Comic Collection, Transformers: Robots in Disguise Animated and Littlest Pet Shop: Open for Business. She’s written for IDW Publishing, Hasbro, Lion Forge, American Greetings and Scholastic, and her work has been discussed in Comics Beat and The Washington Post. Subscribe to the newsletter