When Quality Pays

Just recently a colleague of mine decided to purchase a couple of clay mice from a renown German clay tool supplier, Kolb. He would collect them in England, his rational was, he was returning to the UK and it would be easier to have them shipped there and receive them quickly and bring the tools back with him. This way they would not be mislaid at the post office during his absence.

On receiving the items he was surprised to find out that they had been milled from aluminum extruded stock, the type of aluminum that is used for double glazed window frames. This type of aluminum is not the hardest grade but being purchased from a reputable supplier and coupled with German craftsmanship, he never questioned it but he did have his reservations. Generally you would never question the materials used or the workmanship, as in all German made equipment it is usually of the highest standard. These clay mice were machined nicely but would they stand up to the use on hard industrial styling clays, afterall they were manufactured for that very purpose.

The cost of these two items were 25.00 Euro’s for the small mouse (32.00 USD) and 33.00 Euro’s for the large mouse (42.50 USD) so the actual monies that were paid for these items was close to $100.00 with tax and shipping cost. When you consider that Industrial Clay Tool manufacture the same items made from steel, brazed together for strength and anodized for protection and aesthetic looks at a cost of an extra $50.00 then maybe the extra cost would be worthwhile. They are manufactured in the USA but the only drawback is you usually have to wait a while for them to be shipped. These tools tend to have a waiting period because of the popularity amongst the sculptors. They are what I call “The industries benchmark.”

OK, the small mouse from Industrial Clay Tool is $56.67 and the large one is $83.33, these can be purchased through Kochi Corporation who acts as the vendor for Industrial Clay Tool as they have no website of their own. My own clay mice are 20 years old and they have been used on the hardest clays known and have yet to let me down.

Industrial Clay Tools large and small clay mouse after 20 years of service.

The only visual thing with my mice is it appears that the anodizing is rubbed thin with a little rust showing now and again due to handling.

With his return to the studio my colleague shows us his latest purchase and we all agree that it’s a little disappointing that they were made from extruded aluminum but we thought they would do the job nevertheless. I myself have made the same type of mouse from aluminum T-bar stock and have found it to work quite satisfactory, maybe not as nice in the visual stakes as the Kolb tools but even so the dimensions are very similar. This is what I use to use before the purchase of the steel equivalent and I still keep it, just incase I happen to misplace my steel mouse. I have made the steel type mouse using the Industrial Clay Tool mouse as a guide which you can see on my Claysculptors website.

With the projects mounting up in the studio the new tools were soon put to the test. This particular instance was to cut in the cowl line on a 1/3 scale model, not a big job by any means just a case of releaving the clay and extending the glass plane forward. For this task he was going to use the large mouse because the depth was at the maximium point for the small mouse. The clay we are using is Chavant I307, a reasonably hard clay that can be milled with good results and finished to a high level.

The results of one swipe of the clay with the aluminum mouse.

On the first cut to the cowl line the large clay mouse promptly folded over to the astonishment of my colleague making the tool totally worthless, with no chance of straightening the cutting face without snapping the clay mouse completely. From that moment, the high regard for these particular tools hit rock bottom and confirmed his first impression. The material was not strong enough to meet the task at hand.

For me, what comes to mind is, why didn’t Kolb state what grade of aluminum was used to make the tools. Nowhere on the website does it state the material used for the clay mouse even though you can clearly see that it is some kind of aluminum extrusion. There are so many grades of aluminum, from the very soft to the very hard that a quick statement indicating what is used can easily be looked up on the internet so that the buyer can determine whether the product is a good deal.

Needless to say the company has been contacted about this inferior product and my colleague is awaiting the outcome. Hopefully it will be resolved to everyones satisfaction.

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