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Chapter 6 Sculpting with templates.


After reading this chapter, you will b e able to:

* Describe how early sculptors and painters used templates

* Discuss the application of templates in ice sculpting

* Discuss the uses for wood, plastic, and paper templates

* Describe how to make a paper template using several methods

* Explain how to make a multi-view template

* Explain the concept of master templates and production templates

* Explain the use of a sub template

Key Terms and Concepts

design template

opaque projector

overhead transparency


master template

sub template

plunge router


production template

scoring lines

A Time-Tested Method of

Design Template Styles

  * Wooden Templates
  * Plastic and Cardboard
  * Paper Templates

Template Design and

  * Tools for Making Templates
  * Making Paper Templates
Viewing the Sculpture's
Other Sides

  * Creating Four-Side-View

Master Templates

  * Creating the First Draft of
    the Master Template
  * Production Templates
  * Sub Templates

Applying Paper Templates

Artist Pro file

Design templates are used for assisting the sculptor in defining the proportion and shape of a sculpture within a limited space. Templates are regularly used with all media that are sculpted, including those media that are carved rather than modeled, like stone, wood, soap, and ice.


After finishing his beloved statue of Moses, the renowned Renaissance sculptor Michelangelo examined his work, then, in a fit of anger, struck at the stone knee of his masterpiece. Crying aloud, he passionately pleaded, "Why dost thou not speak?" It was Michelangelo's compulsive search for divine perfection that fueled his artistic drive to become one of the greatest artists, architects, and sculptors of all time.

The use of patterns or templates in art has been in practiced for centuries. The greatest artists in history, including Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Raphael, all used methods for tracing their designs onto their medium. Design Templates are a very accurate way to transfer a design onto a block. They are almost always used in ice competitions and whenever accuracy and uniformity are crucial.

In fine art, a cartoon is a full-scale preparatory drawing done on heavy paper. The term derives from the Italian word cartone, meaning cardboard. In the Renaissance period, the cartoon was placed over damp plaster and then holes were pricked along the outlines using a pinned roller device, similar to a pizza wheel, to transfer the design. A bag containing powdered charcoal was "pounced" across the template pinholes to create a dotted pattern on the plaster. After removing the cardboard, the artists used the charcoal dots as a guide to create their works.

Today, ice artisans create patterns, called templates, to transfer their designs onto the ice before cutting. The sensible idea is to make mistakes on paper, not ice.


Templates can be made of wood, plastic, cardboard, or paper, depending on what they will be used for and whether they will be reused. The following are the most widely used styles of templates. However, most sculptors use paper templates, although wooden or reusable templates are used for routinely made designs.

Wooden Templates

Wooden templates can be used many times, which is their greatest attribute. They can be put directly on the ice, and traced with an ice pick to delineate the silhouette. A limited number of holes and larger slits can be cut through the template to allow scoring of the strong lines that will help keep the sculpture components proportional. Wooden templates must be simple and without a lot of complicated detail. While their use is commonplace, paper templates are used more frequently.

Using Wooden Templates as a Jig

The sculptor may wish not only to trace a design around the wooden template, but also to actually cut out the pattern. To do so, the wooden template must have several metal screws drilled through it at regular intervals, with their pointed ends extending out the other side.

With the ice laid down horizontally, the template is positioned proportionately onto the block with the pointed tips of the screws resting on the ice. After a few minutes, the ice will temper, and the screw tips will sink into the ice thus securing the template enough to prevent its slipping.

Using a plunge router, the artist should adjust the end mill bit so that when it is resting on the template, the upper flat portion of the bit extends beneath to the exact thickness of the template. This will prevent the cutting blade of the bit from hitting the wood and damaging the template's edge. If blade depth is adjusted properly, the sculptor should be able to rest the router on the template so that the non-fluted edge of the bit can use the template as a guide to follow in cutting the template's shape.

Coating the wooden template with paint, varnish, or some other form of sealant will protect the wood from water damage and reduce the risk of warping, and therefore will extend the potential life of the template.

Plastic and Cardboard Templates

When using a hard template, such as plastic or cardboard, the design is cut directly out of the material using heavy shears. Although these templates are more expensive to produce and are somewhat difficult to create, they do have a reasonable life span. However, these templates are often difficult to trace, as they have a tendency to slide around on the ice.

Reusable Templates

Mac Winker, co-author of Ice Sculpture: The Art of Ice Carving in 12 Systematic Steps, uses a method of transferring template designs to blocks without destroying the template. He uses a chipper to poke holes through the Template, following the design lines. He then removes the plastic-coated paper template and scores the ice along the line formed by the holes. This process allows him to reuse these flexible and durable templates.


Paper Templates

By creating a template with paper, a sculptor can perfect the design before applying it to the ice. Paper templates can then be frozen onto the ice, and the sculptor can use either a die grinder or a chain saw to cut through the lines on the paper, and thus transfer the lines directly onto the surface of the ice.

Paper templates have several advantages over other types. They are cost efficient, lightweight, and much easier to transport than other kinds of templates. Due to the fact that they are frozen to the ice, they can be applied faster and be traced with the actual cutting tools, which reduces on-site prep time. Another great advantage is their ability to be modified, refined, and reproduced quickly and inexpensively. The use of paper templates allows for more detail to be traced onto the ice, which makes it easier to see the scoring lines.

These scoring lines can be color coded, and written notes can be applied to the paper template regarding cutting depths and tool usage. Their size and flexible material also allows them to be stored folded or in a small artist's valise.

The paper template's one slight drawback is that it is destroyed by tracing and so has to be picked up, piece by wet piece, and discarded. While paper templates must be used when the raw block is still very cold, their advantages far outweigh their disadvantages, making them the template of choice for many modern ice sculptors.


When making a template, the sculptor needs to know the dimensions of the ice block. Additionally, the sculptor must have a sketch or picture of the design.

Drawing the template can be done freehand or using a grid pattern like graph paper; however, the most efficient way is to use a projector to capture a design on template paper. The projector displays the design onto paper that has been taped to a wall. The paper is the same size as the block of ice being sculpted. The sculptor then traces the design onto the paper, creating the template.

Tools for Making Templates

Sculptors use the following instruments to prepare templates, as shown in Figure G-2:

1 Opaque Projector--More versatile than an overhead projector, the opaque projector can project any images, from photograph, magazine, or drawing, onto template paper. It is imperative that the projector be positioned so that it rests squarely centered in front of the template paper onto which it will project. If the projector is at an angle, the projection will be distorted. The further the distance from the projector to the paper, the greater the distortion. Using a larger original design will reduce distortion, so it is best to use designs to the capacity of the projector.

2 Template Paper--This is the paper on which projected images are traced, and which is later placed on the ice. Template paper comes in basically two forms: newsprint, and on large, white rolls. Newspapers are printed on newsprint, and partial rolls are often left over which are too small for the newspaper printer to use for a "run." The local newspaper often makes these end rolls available at a reasonable price. White rolled paper is used by butchers as table coverings and for crafts. It is readily available from craft stores and butcher supply stores. We prefer the white paper, as it is more convenient and substantial and less likely to tear during use. The paper comes in 24" rolls, and it is recommended to cut the roll to a width of 20". The sculptor will then only have to roll the paper out and cut it to a length of 40" to have the standard frontal dimensions of a raw ice block on which to trace projected images for use as templates.

3 Waterproof Marker--These pens are used to mark the design of a sculpture onto the template paper. Brands such as Majic Ink[R] are oil based and are preferred because they do not bleed into the ice.

4 Square--This is an L-shaped carpenter's tool used for making right angles. The larger all-metal squares are the most useful.

5 Metal Yardstick--This provides a means to draw a straight edge or to measure distances and dimensions.


Making Paper Templates

The sculptor may choose from a variety of methods for enlarging, sizing, and transferring his designs onto paper. Depending on what equipment may be readily available, the sculptor has several options. The following list represents the most common and acceptable methods of transferring patterns onto paper for template construction. We have used all of these methods, but prefer to use the Opaque Projector Method and CAD Method.


Opaque Projector Method

This method of making templates is a very simple, one-step method of projecting the desired image onto the paper. The sculptor either draws his own design on a small 5" square piece of paper, or uses an existing design, logo, clip art, or photograph. It is then projected onto the 20" x 40" paper mounted to a wall. The projector must be square to the wall or the image will be distorted. Using a waterproof marker, the artist then carefully traces the pattern, which must fit within the paper's (and ice block's) dimensions. The obvious advantage is the flexible use of any design, as long as it fits into the viewfinder of the projector.

Overhead Transparency Method

This widely used method involves two steps for projecting the image onto the template paper. The artist must first make an overhead transparency of the selected design. This is done by placing transparency film in the paper tray of a copy machine, then making a photocopy of the picture, logo, sketch, or other design source onto the transparency film.

The sculptor then projects the image, captured on the transparency film, onto the 20" x 40" paper mounted to a wall using an overhead transparency projector. As with the first method, the artist traces the pattern with waterproof markers.

The advantage of this method over the opaque projector method is the availability of overhead transparency projectors and copy machines. Nearly all hotels, banquet halls, and colleges have them; opaque projectors are not as readily available.

Tracing Method

This "low-tech" method requires only a large window or a light box. However, the artist must first create a full-size original or master template, with darkened lines, from which to trace. The master template is taped to one side of a large clear window, with its design showing through the window. A piece of transparent template paper is mounted to the other side of the window, squarely facing the original. Looking through the new piece of paper to the design behind it, the artist traces the original design onto the new paper with a waterproof marker.

This method is practical for making production templates from master templates once the full-scale size of a template has been made. However, someone has to create the full-size master template first.

Copy and Poster Machine Method

Although not the most common method for making a template, this is the most accurate method for enlarging and reproducing a design. The artist merely takes the logo, sketch, photograph, magazine page, or clip art to a copy center where they make enlarged copies and posters. For a fee, they will make a precise enlargement on their paper stock. Most copy stores and many colleges and schools have these machines, but the cost for this service makes this method impractical when making many templates. And the final product may not be on paper that is exactly 20" x 40".

CAD Method

The computer-aided design (CAD) method requires someone skilled in CAD software to design the template on a computer. It is then either printed in full scale on a plotter or printed in reduced scale on a traditional printer for use with a projector method.

This method provides very accurate sizes and shapes, and is a preferred way of making multi-view templates that correspond well with each other. These templates are very useful in competition for their accuracy, and for allowing the artist to create often very original designs. They are also useful when planning large, multi-block sculptures. CAD allows for the master template of original works to be stoned on a computer for later access or modification.

Although not often accessible to sculptors on their own, most colleges have computer and technology departments where CAD is taught. The serious ice artisan can take classes to learn this skill, as we have, or they can befriend someone already trained in CAD (also, as we have).


Making appropriate templates for each side of the sculpture will enable the sculptor to preview the finished design. This helps the sculptor to develop a mental image, as well as provide cutting guidelines for each side of the ice block.

The side templates will show the sculptor where to cut into the ice. He must score the inside of the ice so that, once the front silhouette view is cut, these cuts made on the left and right sides of the block can act as guidelines for the side-view rough cuts.









Creating Four-Side-View Templates

To accurately represent a subject to proper scale, and to aid the sculptor in fitting the sculpture into the available ice, several corresponding templates are designed to address the multi-dimensional nature of their work.

Step 1: About 4" in from the left side of a piece of tracing graph paper, which is placed in the landscape direction, draw a rectangle exactly 2" wide X 4" tall (Figure 6-4a).

Step 2: Draw one box directly to the left and one directly to the right of the first box; both should be 1" wide X 4" tall. The top and bottom of the new boxes should line up with the top and bottom of the first box (Figure 6-4b).

Step 3: Draw another box 2" wide and 4" tall directly to the right of the existing three boxes (Figure 6-4c).

Step 4: Label each box left front, right, and back. These boxes now represent the "material surface' and, in this case, represent an ice block measuring 20" x 40" x 10" (Figure 6-4d).

Step 5: Using a photocopier, resize the original design to fit within the box labeled front. Now trace the original design into the box (Figure 6-4e).

Step 6: Determine which of the features from the original drawing will be visible from the right and left sides. With a pencil and a guide ruler, draw a light line from the top and bottom of the components that will be visible from the right side of the sculpture through the right box (Figure 6-4f).

Step 7: Repeat the same procedure with the left box, only drawing lines from components visible from the left view. Note: Use these lines to show the exact positioning of these features on the two new side views now being created. A three-dimensional model or actual pictures of these new side views may be necessary to fill in the blanks (Figure 6-40.

Step 8: Fold the tracing paper so that the front and back view drawings line up. The sculptor must keep in mind that he is creating the back view drawing. This means that even though the silhouette will be the same, he may need to add or eliminate certain lines depending on the configuration of the subject matter (e.g., positioning of limbs and other detail 'work) (Figure 6-4h).


When sculpting, ice artisans regularly use paper templates to transfer designs onto ice blocks. The process involves wetting the ice block and laying the paper template against it. With a chain saw or router tool, the artist traces the template's pattern; the paper template is destroyed in the process.

Often the sculptor is to perfect a specific sculpture, or he has a favorite pattern he frequently sculpts. In either case he repeats the same design, or one very similar, on a regular basis, and it is convenient to have a master pattern from which to trace. A master template is one which is not destroyed and on which small variations, improvements, and sculpting directions can be noted for future reference. It is not unusual for a sculptor to have between five and ten generations of templates that originated from one master template.

Saving the template for future reference and modification makes it the, first draft master template. Future alterations to the design will be noted on the master template.

Creating a Master Template

The following method is commonly used to create a template:

Step 1: Cut four pieces of paper to the actual size of each side template needed:

2 each 10" x 40"

2 each 20" x 40"

Step 2: In a room that can be darkened, tape one of the pieces of template paper to the wall. If you are using the outside wall of a galvanized steel freezer, use magnets to secure the paper. Magnets are preferred, since they reduce potential damage caused when readjusting the paper.

Step 3: Using an opaque projector, project the drawing so that the outside box of the original drawing lines up perfectly with the outside edges of the paper on the wall.

Step 4: Trace all lines. When you have finished, take a moment to make sure all lines are traced before moving the projector or actual template. One way to check is to turn on the lights and compare the template to a photocopy of the design being enlarged. Do not remove the design from the projector for comparison. Exact repositioning can be difficult.

Step 5: Remove the template from the wall and place the next full-size piece of paper in its place. Continue this procedure with each side view, making sure to label each one.

Note: It is very important to keep the projector angle and distance as consistent as possible in relation to the template. The projector should be at a perfect right angle to the paper to prevent distortion. Care should be taken to mark the surface of the table where the projector is sitting to ensure consistent distance from the wall.

Production Templates

Master templates are used to trace production templates. Tracing the master template can be done using a light table or a window with light behind it. In either case, make sure that both the master template and the paper on which the design is being traced are secured so they will not move during tracing.

Production templates are destroyed during design transfer. They are applied to the raw block, and then cut as the design is traced onto the block. Any remaining paper can be ground off using a circular sander.

Sub Templates

Sometimes the details of a certain area of the design maybe lost when removing bulk ice during the initial rough-cuts. In these areas, sub templates can be used. Sub templates are smaller templates that contain only the detail needed for a small area of the design, such as a face, wings, or hands. Like production templates, sub templates are usually destroyed during the sculpting process.


After the artist has created a paper template, he has to apply it to the ice. Successful transfer of designs from paper templates to ice, as demonstrated in this text, can only be achieved when the temperature of the ice block remains below freezing.

The ideal conditions for attaching a paper template, etching the pattern, and sculpting the piece would be in temperatures below freezing from start to finish. This happens in the great outdoors of the North Country on a cold winter's day, or within the confines of a spacious walk-in freezer. (Thermoshock, as discussed in Chapter 2, only occurs when the temperature outside the block varies from that inside the block.)


However, we realize it is likely that many people will not be sculpting in sub-freezing conditions. For them, a few adaptations can be made. Templates can be applied to the raw block before it leaves the freezer, or immediately upon removing it from the freezer. Either way, the trick is to apply the Template quickly to the frozen block.

To set a paper template, the artist sprays cold water onto the ice, then immediately applies the paper and slides it into position. The edges of the paper should be squared evenly to ensure proper alignment.

Templates will tend to tear less by using a chain saw than by using a die grinder. Once the outlines are marked onto the block, approximately y" deep, the template can be removed and the block allowed to temper (when sculpting at above freezing temperatures) to the ideal stage for sculpting.


Meet the Artist--Mac Winker

Many ice artisans consider Mac Winker to be the "father of template ice sculpting." In 1989, Mac and his wife Claire published their text, Ice Sculpture: The Art of Ice Carving in 12 Systematic Steps, which gained wide acceptance within the ice sculpting community, especially regarding the use of design templates. Mac, one of eleven Master Club Managers in the world, is Owner/Operator of The Racquet Club of Memphis, and manages an ATP men's and WTA women's tennis event in Memphis. Among his many ice-related accolades, Mac was captain of the U.S. Ice Sculpture Team, representing the NICA at the Fairbanks, Alaska International Exposition in 1989. He is a certified ice-carving judge for both the ACF and NICA. Mac Winker has been asked to do many unique pieces, including the LPGA U.S. Open's Championship Trophy, and, most recently, the 2002 Ryder Cup in Belfrey, England, where the ice replica was featured.

Ask the Artist

Q Where did you get the idea of sculpting ice with templates?

A After struggling to do a perfect vase or the neck of the swan every time, I was fortunate to receive a gift of The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone, one of the books about Michelangelo. After discovering that he used line drawings and sketches extensively, including when working on the Sistine Chapel I developed many drawings of animals, fish, birds, etc. into Winker Design Templates.

Q You have been very successful in ice sculpting do you sculpt fulltime?

A No, certainly not. For me, ice carving is a hobby that I dearly love. There have been weeks when it seemed fulltime, when I was carving between 20 and 40 sculptures in a week, with several for charity. I still practice this exciting art form but now I usually only sculpt for my business interests, demonstrations, charitable causes, social occasions, and high-end sporting events such as the Ryder Cup.
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Title Annotation:Part II Working With Ice
Publication:Ice Sculpting the Modern Way
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2004
Previous Article:Chapter 5 Mastering shapes and forms.
Next Article:Chapter 7 Fusing: joining ice to ice.

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