head for International Community Ice Art Exhibit_Technical Notes
Max Zuleta working on "Snowflake Wall,” Bruge, Belgium

Max Zuleta carving “Snowflake Wall,” Brugge Belgium.
Art Below Zero

Starting sculpture "Ulu" for Ice Alaska's World Ice Art Championships 2007. Abstract sculpture, shows artists using tool.

Work in progress, abstract, “Ulu,” World Ice Art Championships, 2007.

Mario Amegee works on a sculpture for the 2007 World Ice Art Champinships.

Mario Amegee (France) works with die grinder 15' up on a scaffolding, 2007.
Photo credit: Steve Iverson for Ice Alaska

Ice Tools

Most of the artists we spoke to loved the immediacy, and speed of sculpting ice. It is a “fast” medium, taking hours or days, rather than weeks, months, or years to carve. Power tools have profoundly increased the speed in which the sculptures are realized. Some sculptors still favor the traditional, non-power tools. Max Zuleta noted that many Asian carvers learned from their masters to use traditional tools and are some of the most reluctant to put them down. Japanese ice carving chisels, hand-forged and handmade from high quality steel, are some of the most sought after. Sets include flat, curve, and scoop chisels.

Tools for use with stone, like chisels (grooving and channeling), and wood or tree pruning saws; also scrapers for scoring and creating textures; braces, bits and drills for boring holes; compasses and t-squares for transferring designs from template to artwork, are some of the traditional tools still in use. (Amendola, Joseph, Ice Carving Made Easy John Wiley and Sons, 1994.) These tools were joined in the 1980s by power tools. Artists began opting to use chainsaws, die grinders, rotary tools, and power drills with specially adapted drill bits. Steve Brice is one of the main developers of new ice drill bits. Heating devices like hot air guns, hair driers, clothes irons, and acetylene torches were introduced to the process to melt away areas and create softer, glassier finishes.

On the far end of the technical spectrum computer-aided design equipment and computer driven routers help to automate production for commercial ice sculpting. CAD (Computer-Aided Design) equipment is not allowed in competition. Some competitions don’t even allow the use of power tools. However commercial ice artists use a combination of tools, blending the modern and traditional techniques to suit business needs.

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