Carving Soap Stone with Kids

Renaissance Unit Study

Week 8: We carved soap stone like Michelangelo carved marble.

The marble which comes from a quarry near Florence, Italy is some of the purest marble in the world and it was during Michelangelo's day too. It was removed by inserting wedges of wood into chiseled rock, and then swelling the wood with water. Once it was free from the hillside, it was rolled onto a mound of sand under which rested a series of logs which acted as wheels for moving the block.

Among the numerous famous works of Michelangelo is the Sleeping Angel which comes with an entertaining story. In order to receive a higher price for the statue, it was buried in the ground for a period to obtain an aged look, thus appearing antique. The plan worked and it was sold.

When carving marble Michelangelo often began with fired and sealed clay models. Chisels, drills, rasps and files were used to shape the marble. The video Carving Marble with Traditional Tools gives an excellent description of how the work was done.

Michelangelo by Diane Stanley describes his pieta, David and work on the Sistine chapel. Michelangelo's surprise was great the Laocoon was unearthed. The ancient Roman statue from Nero's house showed body structure detail and people moving. It was a great contrast to the non-moving statues of Michelangelo.

Carving Soap Stone

Soap stone is a soft rock which contains lots of talc and sometimes feels soapy or waxy to the touch. It has been used for carving throughout history since it is relatively easy to chisel and cut and can be found at craft stores.

Soap Stone
Hack Saw
Safety Goggles
Leather Gloves
Modeling Clay

The kids each began with a small chunk of modeling clay which was used to  form their plan.

My 12 year old daughter's flower

My 7 year old daughter's hedgehog

 Next, the kids began hammering away at their soap stone with chisels.

Hack saws were used to remove large chunks. Files were used to smooth out rough edges and drills were used to remove large interior sections.

This was an ambitious project which I never imagined doing. Now that we've been through the process, it doesn't seem much different than learning to sew a quilt. Both are skills which require time and effort, but are achievable. My girls really enjoyed this project and worked to complete their carvings after the afternoon class was over.

Flowers in stone by 12 year old girl

Ring Holder by 15 year old boy

For activity ideas from others visit these blog hops.

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1 comment:

  1. They did a great job. I did this once with my older kids and they got very frustrated.


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