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Chapter 3 The sculptor's tools and equipment.


After reading this chapter, you will be able to:

* Identify and discuss the tools used by traditional carvers in early ice carving

* Demonstrate and explain proper use of the traditional carving tools

* Identify and discuss tools used in modern ice sculpting

* Demonstrate and explain the use of modern sculpting tools

* Describe various router bits and modern attachments

* Discuss electrical considerations

* Explain the effect of wire diameter and cord length on cord capacity

* Discuss methods for maintaining tools properly

* List the gear and equipment needed for the safe practice of ice sculpting

Key Terms and Concepts





water bag

American Wire Gauge (AWG)


mice en place


chain saw

rotary tool

bits and blades





die grinder


voltage drop


Ohm's Law




Looking Back While
Moving Forward

  * The Past
  * The Future
  * The Present

Traditional Versus Modern

Tool Identification and Use

  * Traditional Tools Used
    for Carving
  * Modern Power and
    Other Tools Used for
    Ice Sculpting
  * Modern Bits and

Accessory Hardware
Considerations When Using
Power Tools

  * Electrical Circuits
  * Ohms Law
  * Extension-Cord Length
    and Capacity
  * Typical Amperage

Tool Maintenance

Safety Clothing and Gear

Artist Profile


The ability to use and properly cane for the tools available to the ice sculptor are paramount to the sculptor's success. This chapter will discuss the past, fixture, and present use of ice tools, and will focus on the identification, use, and maintenance of the equipment applied by traditional and modern ice sculptors.

The Past

As alluded to in the preface of this book, ice carvers borrowed their technology from other carving disciplines: chisels from the stone carver and chain saws from the woodcutter. For several decades these tools satisfied the needs of the ice carver. However, it was difficult for carvers to achieve truly lifelike representation of flowers, birds, animals, and other living creatures because these tools have a tendency to leave rough edges.

More recently, to eliminate the hard and chiseled appearance created by flat ice chisels, ice sculptors have expanded their tool repertoire to include die grinders, irons, hot water bags, and other devices that allow them to approach the creation of ice pieces as sculpture, not carving.

The authors, like most others of their generation, started working ice with tools typical of the decade. Throughout the 1970s, Japanese handsaws, chippers, and chisels were commonly used, although less expensive wood chisels from the local hardware store were often substituted. Gas and electric chain saws became commonplace in the late 1970s and into the 1980s, but their application was limited. Once improved, lighter electric saws, with reduced vibration and fume-free operation, became the saws of choice.

The 1980s became the decade of the power tool, and modernist ice sculpting was born. In addition to purpose-built chain saws, rotary tools, die grinders, drills, and irons were introduced, and sculptures could be created without using ice chisels at all. Surprisingly, power tools actually cost less than a quality set of ice chisels and saws. For example, a rotary tool bit is much easier to purchase or replace than a specialized V-chisel that costs almost 50 times as much--an economic reality that has contributed to the widespread acceptance and use of power tools.


The Future

Now, early in the 21st century it will be interesting to see what tools and machinery will be adapted and designed for use in ice artistry. As sculptors seek to push the limits of their own abilities and that of their tools, it is likely that new instruments, molds, and power tools will be developed. It is not difficult to imagine that sculptors will be working with finely directed streams of water, air, light, sound, or heat to etch and brand their works of ice in the near future. As sculptors seek to extend their artistic creation further and display works of unthinkable balance, perhaps new methods of strengthening and fusing water molecules will be discovered. Although a distant relative, science has always influenced art.

The Present

Ice sculpting tools have evolved over the last century to include many more devices than the original axe, handsaw, and multi-prong chipper. Today, the professional ice sculptor has a wide choice of tools. To achieve a certain effect, the sculptor chooses the tool specific to the task.


Although traditionalists still favor the pure form of carving using only handsaws, chippers, and chisels, few can argue with the efficiency and artistic results achieved with power tools. At present, there are two, sometimes opposing, philosophies surrounding the use of power tools in ice sculpting. A number of carvers, considered traditionalists, have chosen to avoid the use of handheld power tools. However, of those, a few will still use chain saws. But strictly classical or purist carvers believe that the art of sculpting is compromised when any machines are used. These carvers believe that the use of computer-aided design (CAD) equipment, such as computerized numeric controlled (CNC) routers, corrupts the an by introducing automated production capabilities. They believe that CAD equipment requires less skill to produce ice sculptures. In support of that position, there are even a few ice competitions that prohibit the use of all power tools.

However, a growing number of ice sculptors today favor the safe and proper use of power tools in ice sculpting. They believe that the craft has advanced with their use, and that it is the natural next step for ice sculpting. The analogy to using modern tools in other forms of sculpture is evident, such as with works in metal. It should be observed, however, that tool selection is very personal. The individual sculptor will choose the tools that he is most comfortable using.

The constant evolution of ice sculpting has brought about a challenge within itself. Keeping abreast of new tools and technologies should not be viewed as a dependency on machinery, but as an extension of our knowledge and talent. Customer satisfaction must be the highest priority for the artisan businessman, and developing efficient methods of producing ever-improved sculptures should be the goal for any commercial ice artist.


This book emphasizes the use of modern power tools, including electric chain saws, die grinders, power drills, rotary tools, and irons in the making of ice sculptures. They are our preferred tools in our day-to-day production of ice sculptures. Although we were trained in the traditional form of ice carving, using handsaws, chisels, and chippers, we believe power tools are more efficient and capable of producing the best sculptures. No chippers and chisels were used to make the sculptures in this book; however, all the sculptures illustrated can be created using either traditional or modern tools.


Although this book is geared towards using power tools, in the interest of introducing all the tools the sculptor has at his disposal we have included a section on traditional sculpting tools, as well as a section on modern sculpting tools, in this chapter.

Traditional Carving Tools

Prior to the practice of using power tools, the sculptor carved his ice pieces with the tools illustrated in Figure 3-3 on the following page. Traditionalists still use them today as a way to preserve the art of ice carving. They can yield beautiful ice figures when used correctly.

1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 10 Chisels--Originally, ice carvers used carpenter and stonecutter chisels for shaping and shaving. However, wood chisels had at least two faults: they usually had shorter, more impractical handles, and their bevel made them impractical for controlled cuts. Today, an assortment of high-quality ice chisels are available, with various blade shapes, including narrow, flat, wide, flat, round (gouge), and V (wedge) shapes.

4, 5, 6, 15 Handsaws--Long before ice carvers used chain saws to cut and split large blocks of ice, they used large-tooth handsaws. Handsaws vary in length and tooth dimension; large-tooth saws are used for rough cuts, and small-tooth saws for finer cuts.

11 Wooden Template--Permanent templates, such as those made of wood, were used before disposable templates became popular. Although their initial cost is higher, re-use of these wooden templates reduces their overall cost and improves design time.

12 Single-Prong Chipper/Pick--A common, old-fashioned household implement, the ice pick is used for chipping smaller sections, cutting and punching small holes, and for scoring the ice, and is useful in tracing and transferring template designs onto a block. The single pick must be kept sharp to be effective.

13 Ice Tongs--Used for safe handling as well as lifting, tongs are practical tools for securely grabbing large, heavy blocks. Tongs come in two styles: the Cincinnati, or compression, which requires only one hand once the tips are set in the ice, and the Boston, which requires both hands.

14 Mufti-Prong Chipper--Usually designed with five or six prongs, the chipper is considered the most fundamental of the traditional ice tools. It is primarily used to quickly shave off large sections of ice, scratch texture onto the sculpture's surface, and to transfer patterns. The chipper should always be kept sharp, as a dull chipper will tend to spread out the force of the impact. Spreading the force increases the risk of fracturing the block rather than cutting it.





Using Traditional Tools

Tools are useful only when the artisan knows how to use them. Although we no longer use the following tools for sculpting, our reputation in the ice industry was built using these hand tools. We recommend that students of ice sculpting familiarize themselves with their use and understand their potential. Although these tools can serve a purpose in entry-level sculpting, they may be utilized less when the sculptor moves on to power tools.

Using Handsaws

Handsaws are designed to cut in only one direction. For western-made saws, pressure should only be applied as the saw is pressed forward and facing the ice; applying excessive pressure when drawing the saw blade back is not only inefficient, it also dulls the teeth faster. The sculptor should try to make long, controlled strokes with the blade, letting the blade pass completely through the ice and allowing the ice debris to be released. Handsaws may also be used effectively for rounding and shaping ice. This is accomplished by holding the side of the saw against the ice surface and applying downward pressure while sawing.


Using Chisels

For many years, sculptors have used a variety of chisels to carve their works of ice. Usually made of high-carbon steel, chisels must be kept sharp and free of nicks to be effective. The polished blades shave through ice very easily and can remove large quantities of ice with little effort.

Chisel blades come in various shapes and widths; all are two sided, with an even side and a beveled side. When using a flat-bladed chisel, by holding the beveled side down, the sculptor is able to create sweeping smooth and flat or scooped surfaces. When using the same chisel with the beveled side up, the sculptor can create short but deep cuts.


Modern Power and Other Tools Used for Ice Sculpting

Modernist ice sculptors welcome the improvements in the quality of their tools, clothing, and ice made possible through science, and view the changes as progress and the sculpting they facilitate as "state of the art." Not unlike sculptors of other media, contemporary ice artists have successfully used new tools to advance their art. For example, modern metal sculptor Alexander Calder has used power tools to sculpt his oversized works that grace the plazas and lobbies of cities and corporations worldwide.

Most of the tools we use routinely to sculpt are pictured in Figures 3-9 and 3-10.

1 Ethafoam[R]--A brand name for polyethylene sheets. Ethafoam is used to pad work areas while sculpting small and delicate parts, and as a cushion to protect sculpting tools from hard surfaces while they're being used. It can also be used for padding and insulation during transportation of the sculpture.

2 Chain Saw--Sculptors favor electric saws over gas because they weigh less and can be used indoors without the danger of exhaust fumes. Electric saws also vibrate less and are therefore easier to hold steady. Originally used only for making larger cuts and to remove big portions of negative space, the chain saw also works for making straight and curved lines, rounding columns, gouging, and sanding. Removing the standard guide bar, around which the chain rotates, and replacing it with a specialty bar (which is manufactured without a guard at the end of the guide bar) is necessary for plunging deep cuts or scoring.

3 Die Grinder with Converted Spindle--A converted spindle has a threaded shaft for screwing on specialized or customized bits (e.g., rubberizers). When converting to a threaded shaft, the sculptor should refer to a licensed electrician or tool repairman to ensure that the integrity of the die grinder is not compromised.

4 Die Grinder with Normal Shaft--Die grinders have many attachments to vary the cut. These are primarily used instead of the classic V chisel to make clean cuts, lettering, lines, and other detailing. The collet, which binds the bit to the die grinder, accepts shanks up to 1/4".

5 Wrenches for Die Grinders--Wrenches are needed for installing or removing bits.

6 Rotary Tool--Rotary tools, such as those made by Dremmel[R], are used with a variety of bit styles for finer detail and delicate finish work, since the collet only accepts bits with 1/8" shanks.

7 Compass--Used to score various-sized circles into the ice.

8 Chain Saw Socket Wrench--Used to loosen or tighten the bolt holding the chain cover and guide bar when changing or adjusting the chain.

9 Chain Saw Phillips Screwdriver--Used to loosen or tighten the adjusting pin for the chain.

10 Coarse Rubberizer--A 16-grit cone rasp used to round, sand, and reach difficult areas of the sculpture. The rubberizer is ideal for shaping areas without removing too much ice by mistake. Using a rubberizer will result in a machined appearance, which may or may not be desirable. The machined marks will quickly smooth when the sculpture is displayed at room temperature.

11 Pine Rubberizer--A 36-grit cone rasp used for finer rounding and sanding. This attachment is ideal for more delicate areas and will leave a much smoother surface.

12 1/4" End Mill (Plunge) Bit--Used for roughing-in, shaping, and gouging in hard to reach areas.

13 1/2" End Mill (Plunge) Bit--Used for roughing-in, shaping, and gouging. It has a larger diameter than the 1/4" end mill bit. The shaft of the 1/2" end mill can be milled down to fit in a 1/4" colet. The sculptor must use this bit with caution, as it is very aggressive.

14 1/4" Straight Router Bit--Used for lettering, drawing lines, detailing, and shaping smaller objects.

15 V-Shaped Router Bit--Used for making V-lines or grooves. The width of the line or groove is determined by how deep the bit penetrates the ice.

16 Round-End Rasp Bit--Used to round and shape small surfaces.

17 Angle Grinder/Sander--Used to sand surfaces and shape contours.

18 Rubber Backing Pad--Attached to the angle grinder to hold sanding paper in place.

19 Sanding Paper:

a. 16-Grit--Very aggressive, used for quick and rough removal of ice.

b. 36-Grit--Used for smoothing and polishing surfaces.

20 Handsaw--Handsaws vary in length and tooth dimension; larger-tooth saws are used for rough cuts and smaller-tooth saws for finer cuts. Ice saws are used for splitting blocks and fusing and marking the base. By laying the saw sideways on a piece of wood or cinder block, the sculptor can guide the saw evenly along the base of the sculpture.

21 Plastic Bag--A plastic bag can be used to hold hot or warm water for smoothing, rounding, and polishing the sculpture in a controlled and uniform manner. It can also be used to collect dry, clean snow for later use in re-packing snow-filled lines in the sculpture.

22 Cordless Drill--Battery-operated drills that require no electrical power cord. Cordless tools tend to lose their charge faster in colder temperatures.

23 Power Strip with Surge Protector--When using multiple power cords, a heavy-duty power strip with circuit breaker is useful.

24 Aluminum Sheets--Aluminum sheets can aid in evenly melting and smoothing ice, as well as fusing ice surfaces together. Irons are used to heat flat, 1/2" or thicker aluminum sheets. If the iron is applied directly to the ice, steam holes in the iron result in uneven ice surface.

25 Freeze Spray or Gum Remover--Either can be used to join ice pieces together. Caution must be taken to spray the ice slowly and delicately to prevent ice fissures from forming.

26 Drill with 5/8" Spade Bit-Used to drill holes to drain bowls and vodka sockets. May use various-sized bits and hole cutters.

27 Hole Cutter--Used to drill larger holes.

28 Power Brush Wheel--Used to clean snow or debris off large areas. Attached to a power drill.

29 Power Brush Cylinder--Used to clean snow or debris out of hard-to-reach areas, such as sorbet dishes. Attached to a power drill.

30 Duct Tape--An all-around tool for the clever sculptor, duct tape is useful for a wide variety of repairs and inventions.

31 Hand Brush/Whisk Broom--Used to continually remove unwanted snow and ice chips before they refreeze to the sculpture.

32 Propane Torch with Auto-Ignite Trigger--Used instead of a heat gun to clear and clean up the sculpture. No matches or lighter are needed.

33 Ice Tongs--Used to lift, hold, or move large blocks. The two main styles are known as Cincinnati and Boston.

34 Ice Pick--Used to quickly break away sections of ice. Also used to scone and mark the ice.

35 C[O.sub.2] Tank--C[O.sub.2] gas can be sprayed onto ice to freeze two pieces together. Caution must be observed; otherwise fissures will appear in the ice. May be used in place of gum remover.

36 Clothes Iron--A cheap, versatile heating element used to heat aluminum plates for flattening and fusing ice surfaces.

37 Extension Cord with Rubber Casing--Should be long enough to give the sculptor room to move around the sculpture without obstruction. Must be rubber coated, brightly colored, insulated, heavy duty, and grounded to an outlet with a GFCI circuit breaker.

38 Heat Gun--The heat gun is used in place of the propane torch to round, clean, and gloss the ice.



Using Modern Power Tools

Power tools have proven to be a marvelous means for producing exquisite works of ice art. However, the sculptor must always remain aware that power tools have no sense of what they are cutting into. The artisan must wield the tools properly and safely, and maintain them for safe and effective use.


Using Chain Saws

Chain saws can be used to shape ice in many ways. Most commonly, they are used to slice into sections of ice or to cut straight lines with a high degree of control. Chain saws can also be used to create different widths of gouge cuts, for sanding, for smoothing, and for rounding surfaces. Note: You can monitor depth of cuts by marking measurements on the saw's bar with a waterproof permanent marker.

The two main functional components of the saw's chain are the rakers and cutter. A raker is a guide plate located on the front of each blade, set slightly shallower than the cutting edge of the blade. The raker keeps the blades from digging too deeply as they pass through the ice. Reducing the raker's height will allow the blades to cut more quickly but will damage the ice as it cuts, resulting in a rougher finish. It is best to keep both heights relatively even, since uneven spacing can result in "chain bounce" and compromise the safe operation of the saw.


Warning: Reducing the raker height may produce kickback!


The cutter, also known as the blade, is the L-shaped, sharpened metal surface of the chain that tapers backwards at approximately a 35-degree angle. When having the chain blades sharpened, it is important to consider the angle at which the blades are sharpened. The greater, or sharper, the angle, the more quickly the chain will cut. However, for this reason, the chain will also dull more quickly because the thinner cutting blade is exposed to the ice.

Some sculptors customize their chains by adding additional cutters and removing rakers. They essentially remove every other raker, resulting in a chain that has a pattern of three cutters followed by one raker. The effect is that the chain cuts more quickly.

The cutting edges of the teeth alternate, and they extend beyond the dimension of the bar. For this reason, all surfaces of the chain can be used for sculpting. The ice artisan views the chain saw more as a "cutting wand" than a slicing saw.



Modern Bits and Accessory Hardware

One of the greatest advantages of using modern power tools is that they can be adapted to the needs of individual sculptors. Rotary tools and die grinders have different bits that can be changed as required, whether for improved usage, or as the bit becomes worn. Some of the newer bits and accessory hardware pieces now available on the market are illustrated in Figure 3-16.

1 Custom Shaft for GE0600 Makita Die Grinder--Designed to replace the stock shaft in the Makita die grinder for safe and smooth operations when using large bits. As new tools come to market, more and more large bits will fit these custom shafts.

2 Large Silver Burr--The same design as the rubberizer, with the same benefits, but the silver burr is faster in many applications and leaves a smoother finish. It is also more expensive than the rubberizer, and has a tendency to ice up on the tip in certain weather conditions. Use the large Silver Burr when speed is the primary issue. This bit fits the custom shaft.

3 Dagger Knife--Designed with a concave cutting edge that allows a wide range of angles when shaping and detailing. The most versatile bit available for shaping and finishing, this bit fits the custom shaft.

4 Brice Bit--Designed as a super grinder to perform end mill functions. It removes ice many times faster than the rubberizer. For delicate cutouts it is much smoother than an end mill. This bit fits the custom shaft.

5 Long Roscoe Bit--Designed for floating template lines and delicate detail and cutouts, this stainless steel bit is 4.25" long and fits the custom shaft.

6 Custom Shaft for GD800 Makita Die Grinder--This shaft has the same threads as the original custom shaft, but fits a larger-model die grinder. The larger die grinder has adjustable speed and more than three times the power of the smaller model, but weighs only one pound more.

7 Metal Nail Sander--This tool is the fastest for shaping ice, other than a chisel. It removes chisel marks twice as fast as heavy sandpaper. However, for safety purposes, a grinder handle (handle extension) should be used with the nailsander to protect the fingers, since the edge cuts ice as well.

8 Layout Jig--One of the most helpful ice carving tools ever for precision layouts, it makes parallel lines quickly. Similar to a smaller chain saw mill.



Although modern power tools are relatively simple to operate, the informed sculptor should have a basic knowledge of electricity. It is important to understand the basic terminology used by electricians and to understand electrical circuits and their capacity. The modern sculptor must be able to calculate the amperage needs of his power tools and grasp the effects of cord length, wire gauge, and voltage drop.

Electrical Circuits

Electrical current travels a path of conductors and conducting devices. There must be a complete path, or, one with no breaks. Current flows in an electric circuit according to several laws of electrodynamics. The basic law of current flow is Ohm's Law. Ohms Law applies to all electric circuits for both direct current (DC) and alternating current (AC). There are two classifications of circuits: parallel and series. All circuits, including appliances and power tools, use either parallel or series circuits, or some combination of both.

Circuits are designed to handle only a limited amount of electrical amperage. Circuits incorporate breakers or fuses to interrupt the flow of current in case the demand exceeds the capacity of the circuit. Breakers or fuses are sized according to electrical codes and the electricians that install them. They are rated as 15 amp, 20 amp, or 30 amp and are used to prevent the wires from overheating when the combined total of all connected appliances exceeds those amperages.

Parallel Circuits

Parallel circuits are circuits with many branches. These branches actually become separate circuits, and electricity flows through each one. In this type of circuit, electrical devices, such as a power tool, are arranged to allow all positive poles (for DC) and terminals to be connected to one conductor and all negative poles to another. AC uses a system of black and white wires, while DC uses a system of positive and negative connections.

Series Circuits

In a series circuit, electricity flows from one device to the next in a series. The elements of the circuit are arranged in such a way as to allow the entire current to pass through each element without branching into parallel circuits.

Ohm's Law

Named for its discoverer, George Simon Ohm, Ohm's Law states that the amount of current flowing in a circuit (made up of pure resistance) is directly proportional to the electromotive force impressed on the circuit, and inversely proportional to the total resistance of the circuit. The law is usually expressed by the following formulas:

I = V/R or V = I x R

I is the current, measured in amperes

V is the electromotive force, measured in volts

R is the resistance, measured in Ohms

Extension-Cord Length and Capacity

The size of wire, insulating jacket or shield materials covering the wire, and voltage drop are all frequently overlooked considerations that affect power tool operation. Although sculptors (and the general public) often assume that all extension cords function alike, it is important to note their differences and limitations.

An extension cord's wire gauge and length affect the power supply available to the power tool. Similar to a gas pipe, the diameter of the conduit determines its capacity to carry the fuel. The greater the wire's diameter, the more electricity it can carry. Smaller wires have smaller capacity and greater resistance. In addition to diameter, wire resistance is also affected by cord length, composition (type of metal), generation source, and demand on the other end. Generally speaking, with extension cords, the wire's diameter and cord length represent the two most important factors to evaluate.

Wire Diameter

The diameter of each wire encased in the jacket of an extension cord is classified by a national standard, the American Wire Gauge (AWG). A typical extension cord uses a three-wire system consisting of hot, neutral, and ground. Most extension cords used on construction sites and in sculpting studios are made from wire ranging in size from 10-18 AWG. The most commonly used sizes are 12-3, 14-3, and 16-3. The first number denotes the gauge of the cord, and the second denotes the number of wires it contains. These cords are readily available from home construction and maintenance retailers, and their sizes are generally stamped on the cord's outer jacket. Each gauge wire has a recommended amperage capacity.

Note: The largest diameter wire has the smallest AWG number.

Cord Length

In addition to the diameter of wire used in making the cord, the length of the extension cord affects its functional efficiency. An extension cord that is too long can create a form of resistance called voltage drop. This type of resistance will increase as the cord gets longer, similar to the effect of distance on a runner's energy. The longer and further the runner is from the starting line, the less energy is available to the runner at the finish line. This decline in energy eventually creates a form of resistance and a reduction in speed.

Voltage drop can have severe negative effects on motors. Voltage drop can make a motor run slower, creating carbon deposits on the motor's brushes and decreased efficiency. To avoid voltage drop, it is wise to use the shortest length of cord necessary to complete the sculpture.

Note: Voltage drops should not exceed 10% of the voltage requirement posted on the nameplate. For example, the total voltage drop for a 115-volt chain saw should not fluctuate more than 11.5 volts from the stated requirement. Motors do not perform well on low voltage, although the effect on heating devices like irons is only that they heat more slowly.

Typical Amperage Requirements

In some instances, the sculptor may need to share an extension cord with a fellow sculptor or two. It is not unlikely that an extension cord will be connected to a power source 50' from where the pair of sculptors are working. They may wish to operate their chain saws, die grinders, circular sanders, or irons simultaneously, and with all of these tools tied to that single extension cord. However, the sculptors must first determine how much amperage their tools require and whether the available cord can handle the necessary draw of current.

Consider the hypothetical situation of the two sculptors, both wanting to be able to operate any of their power tools without limitation. Additionally, one artist wishes to keep an iron going continuously to warm an aluminum sheet for fusing. By checking the amperage rating printed on the motor-housing faceplates of the iron and the power tools, the sculptors can calculate their total amperage requirements and compare that sum to the amperage rating of the extension cord. They may discover that the cord is rated too low for the number of tools they wish to operate simultaneously. The typical amperage requirements in Table 3-1 illustrate typical amperage requirements for standard power tools used by ice sculptors. The information on current limits on extension cords in Table 3-2 illustrates the relationship between cord length, cord size (wire gauge), and current limit (measured in amps).

Note: The amperes rating may not be listed on the motor-housing faceplate of the power tool. In this case, the watts and volts will be listed instead. The sculptor merely needs to make a quick calculation to discover the amps. The following formula is used to calculate amps when watts and volts are known WATTS/VOLTS = AMPS

For example: 1100 WATTS/120 VOLTS = 9.2 AMPS

Extension Cord Accessories

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations require the use of ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) on any non-permanent cord used on a construction site. Since ice sculptors use some of the same tools, but often in worse climatic conditions, it only makes sense that ice artisans also comply. Similar to household GFCI, these portable units compare the incoming and outgoing current traveling through the cord and can shut off the power instantly if there is a difference, preventing possible electrocution.

Locking and lighted cords have gained in popularity. The male and female ends maintain a tighter connection, sometimes by being twisted into place. This tighter connection is valued when working around ice and water.


Proper maintenance of tools is vital to the success of the sculptor. Tools must be sharp, rust-free, and in working order. Maintenance is not only essential to the longevity of these expensive tools, but can also directly affect the quality of the finished sculpture. The Japanese, among many nationalities who sculpt ice, have long believed that one should spend as much time caring for one's tools as in the sculpting itself.

Proper care begins with the sculptor's raise en place (everything in its proper place). Orderly arrangement of tools, prior to beginning to sculpt, allows for more organized work and prevents unnecessary delays while sculpting. Tools should be placed on foam or towels to keep the blades off the table surface and keep them from rolling around or falling.

Bits and blades of power tools should be inspected for their sharpness prior to their use, and after the sculpture has been completed, in case any need to be repaired or replaced. Most of these are relatively inexpensive and are designed to be disposable.

The following procedure for cleaning bits, blades, and chisels should be carried out immediately after each sculpting session:

1. If rust is present, rub rust remover on the surface, then warm the bit, blade, or chisel with boiling water--cold metal will collect condensation quickly.

2. Wipe the item completely dry with a soft cloth.

3. Coat the metal item with a light film of oil.

4. Wrap each piece individually, or place in separate slots in a storage tray so they will not damage each other.

Saws and other power tools need to be oiled regularly, and their power cords need to be inspected frequently for cuts, cracks, and exposed wires. A damaged power cord can cause shocks and arcing of electricity.

Attention to the condition of the chain on the chain saw is also vital. A normal chain can be used about 10 times before the cutters need to be sharpened. This can be done by the sculptor or by a hardware store employee; however it is highly recommended that a skilled professional sharpen chains and other cutting tools. An improperly sharpened chain can be a safety hazard and can also negatively affect the quality of the sculpture. Uneven rakes and uneven angles on the blades can cause the chain to grab the ice, creating a dangerous kickback instead of smoothly cutting through the ice. Carbide tip chains can last 10 times longer than standard chains, but are much more expensive. Either way, the chain must be sharp to produce a good sculpture.

It is advisable to keep additional sharpened chains on hand, since chains can dull or break. The guide bar of the chain saw should be flipped over occasionally because sculptors tend to favor the bottom of the blade, and guide bar rotation prevents uneven wearing.


In addition to using the proper tools while sculpting, the ice artist protects himself from the elements and possible accidents by dressing appropriately and defensively. Proper selection and care of clothing and safety gear is a vital part of successful sculpting. The most important items are shown in Figure 3-18.

Sculptors must be able to move unrestricted by their clothing, which should also have no dangling or loosely tied straps. They must also protect their extremities from the elements without impairing vision, movement, or dexterity.

And, of course, keeping the body warm and dry is extremely important. The sculptor has to be able to work comfortably for several hours in chilly and wet conditions. Periodically changing gloves, socks, or any other article of clothing that may become wet during the course of sculpting is a proactive means of remaining warm and comfortable.

1 Weight Belt--Gives added support to the lower back when lifting or bending.

2 Rubber Rain Suit--Worn as insulation against wet elements, such as chipped ice, slush, and water.

3 Rubber Boots--Known as "Wellingtons" or "Wellies" in the United Kingdom, any version of these oversized rubber boots keep feet warm, dry, and protected from electrical shock. An Army Navy surplus store is a good place to find very high quality rubber boots at a fair price.

4 Gloves--An absolute requirement when using power tools, leather gloves help protect the sculptor's hands from abrasions. However, dry cotton gloves are best for holding and carrying finished ice pieces. Rubber gloves that extend well beyond the wrist can be used when handling wet slush or holding an area where water is being applied.

5 Ear Protection--Either actual rubber-like plugs or coverings similar to headphones, they protect the sculptors' eardrums from the extremely high decibels produced by power tools. Most sculptors prefer the head phone style since they also protect their ears from flying ice chips, and can be easily slipped off and on.

6 Eye Protection--Protective eyewear should always be worn when using any power tool. Flying ice can be a dangerous projectile. Plastic goggles for wearing over standard eyeglasses, or safety glasses with wraparound sides are commonly available. Standard eyeglasses are not impact resistant and are not sufficient to protect the eyes.

7 Knee Pads--sculptors often wear knee protection when sculpting close to the ground. While the preferred position for sculpting is standing with the ice at eye level, it is not uncommon to kneel when applying finishing details.



Meet the Artist--Julian Bayley

Canadian Julian Bayley came to the ice hospitality business by way of a 25-year career in advertising and marketing, in addition to off-premise catering. His skills in business have enabled him, with the help of his family, to build a company of 28 employees that specializes in ice block formation, commercial ice sculpting, and the development and sale of specialized ice sculpting equipment. His CNC router and ice lathe have been distributed across North America and Europe. Much of the commercial awareness that ice sculpting has received in recent years can be attributed to Julian's innovative approach to ice production and marketing.

Ask the Artist

Q Where do you see new developments in the industry?

A Transportation will be a key area. Other developments will take place in the business sector, addressing liability and food safety.

Q What other developments do you see occurring with ice-sculpting tools?

A We have modified a drill press to work in cop junction with a lathe. That machine, for instance, can hollow out vases that can be turned on the lathe. These sculptures will work nicely as centerpieces to hold flower arrangements. Other developments include a number of specialized accessories for power tools used every day in freezer studios.
Table 3-1. Typical amperage requirements
for sculpting power tools

Heat gun           11.7 amps
Chain saw          11.5 amps
Clothes iron        9.2 amps
Circular sander     7.0 amps
3/8" drill          5.5 amps

Table 3-2. Limits of electrical current on extension cords

Cord size            Cord length

             25 ft.     50 ft.     100 ft.

18-gauge     7 amps     5 amps    2 amps
16-gauge    12 amps     7 amps    3.4 amps
14-gauge    16 amps    12 amps    5 amps
12-gauge    20 amps    16 amps    7 amps

Figure 3-17. Comparison of voltage drop between #12 and #16
gauge extension cords

Comparison of Voltage Drop Between # 12 and # 16 Gauge
Extension Cords

# 12 Gauge Wire Voltage Drop

                              25 foot     50 foot     100 foot

Heat gun (11.7 amps)            0.97        1.93        3.86
Chain saw (11.5 amps)           0.95        1.90        3.80
Clothes iron (9.2 amps)         0.76        1.52        3.04
Circular sander (7 amps)        0.58        1.16        2.31
3/8" drill (5.5 amps)           0.45        0.91        1.82
Die grinder (2 amps)            0.17        0.33        0.66

# 16 Gauge Wire Voltage Drop

                           25 foot   50 foot   100 foot

Heat gun (11.7 amps)        2.44      4.88       9.76
Chain saw (11.5 amps)       2.40      4.80       9.60
Clothes iron (9.2 amps)     1.92      3.84       7.68
Circular sander (7 amps)    1.46      2.92       5.84
3/8" drill (5.5 amps)       1.15      2.29       4.59
Die grinder (2 amps)        0.42      0.83       1.67
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Title Annotation:Part 1 Learning About Sculpting in Ice
Publication:Ice Sculpting the Modern Way
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2004
Previous Article:Chapter 2 Understanding the medium: the science of ice.
Next Article:Chapter 4 Safe practices and procedures.

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