This blog is the 3rd in a series on clay modeling.
What is a Modeling Board?
A modeling board is simply a surface on which to make a clay model. In this figure, taken from Unwin’s A Manual of Clay Modelling for Teachers and Scholars, there is also a vertical piece called an armature. When I use the term modeling board, I am referring to this combination of a board and armature.
Is a Modeling Board Necessary?
As I was preparing to teach clay modeling in our co-op, I read and reread Unwin’s manual. Having no background in art outside of a few middle school classes, everything was new to me. While her principles and directions were inspiring and clear, the materials I needed were another matter. I have written about finding the clay. Another challenge was the modeling board.
The clay model must not be held in the hand after the first general shape is obtained, but fixed on to an armature (fig. D), or iron upright, 1 ¾ inches high, screwed on to the modelling-board. It is against all the principles of the art for the student to hold the clay model in his hand while he is working on it.
In my mind this paragraph did not leave much room to debate the need for a modeling board, so I set off to find one. I searched, and I searched, and I searched. No such thing nor directions on how to make one seemed to exist. There was no advice easily found within or without the Charlotte Mason community. This opened my mind to doubt. Was Unwin’s advice an antiquated and unnecessary hoop to jump through? If only I had my BS or MS in art perhaps I would be qualified to make such a decision. I felt defeated and was at a crossroads.
I came to a decision: independent of what a modern expert might have to say on the subject, I decided to trust Unwin. I was going to need to design and make a modeling board.
Making a Modeling Board
After consulting a woodworking and mechanical expert (my dad), we came up with following design.
I have since seen other designs, so this is not the only way to make a modeling board. But our boards held up well with seventeen kids between the ages of 6 and 16 using them over the course of a year.
I’m including links to give you an idea of the types of materials we used.
- Melamine shelving, cut to 11½” x 8″. At one time, Home Depot had a lower grade shelving in the store, but I am unable to find it online. It still may be available in the store.
- Hex bolt, cut to 2½”. Hopefully they can be purchased in a smaller quantity in the store.
- Chair felt pads, 4.
- Cut the shelf to the size you would like. Unwin recommends not less than 11″ x 9″. However, we cut ours to 11½” x 8″. Our shelf was already 11½” wide. The 8″ size was guided by the plastic tote that we bought to keep everyone’s materials in. This size fit perfectly in the bottom of the tote.
- Cut the threads off the hex bolt and sand the rough edges. Our finished bolt was 2½” including the head but AFTER the threads were cut off. This left an armature of 1¾” once we inserted the bolt into the board. It was most likely originally a 3½” hex blot. Ours had a ½” head with a 5/16″ diameter
- Drill a hole through board. My best guess is that we used a 5/16″ drill bit. We set the hole 3″ in and 4″ down.
- Push the hex bolt through the hole from bottom. We did not need to use any glue to secure the bolt. It fit tightly.
My only word of caution is to not store the board long term with clay or anything wet on the bolt as this may cause the bolt to rust.