Sunday, December 30, 2007

A look under the hood

Saturday, December 29, 2007


No, I'm not making reference to the conversion figure I'm working on.

I'm referring to the "cubic inches-to-US fluid ounces" conversion calculator now located on the bottom-left section of this blog (courtesy of Metric Conversions). I wanted to keep the calculator handy so I put it where I'd be sure to find it again.

I needed to make the conversion to calculate the correct amount of liquid plastic resin to pour into my hand molds. I measured the length, width and depth of the hand models in inches, multiplied those measurements to get the cubic inches, entered the amount into the top box of the conversion calculator, and the calculator came up with the US fluid ounces needed to make the hands. The reason I needed the US fluid ounces calculation was that the Dixie cups I used as mixing receptacles are measured in US fluid ounces.

If ever you need to make a similar conversion, now you know where to find a calculator.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A show of hands

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Monday, December 24, 2007

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Talkin' dummies

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Chester says hello

Saturday, December 15, 2007

I love my new webcam

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Look ma... hands

I still have to pick off the little bits of clay, but the first halves of my hand molds seemed to have worked out fine. The next step is to cover the silicone rubber with a layer of vaseline (avoiding the model), and then covering the hand models with more silicone rubber. The vaseline prevents the silicone rubber from bonding to itself.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

It's a mother

After reading about Al Stevens' safety casting of Chuck Norwood, I learned I could make a mothermold using plaster bandages. To me, that technique seems safer than using liquid plastic, mostly because of fumes. That's the method I've used for these hand molds. It was time consuming, but kinda fun. Now I'm waiting for them to dry and harden completely.

The frustrating part of the process is that I won't get a glimpse of my handiwork until I've already invested hours of work. While I've learned a lot, I won't be happy if I have to start over again.

The rubber meets the road

I finally did it. I mixed and brushed platinum-based silicone rubber over the two hand models. I used Smooth-On's product REBOUND-25 which comes with their brush-on starter kit.

The next step is to make a mothermold. I'll use plaster bandages, the material used to make plaster casts (like for a broken arm). After the mothermold hardens, I'll flip it over, remove the clay bed, and brush on more silicone rubber to mold the other half of the hand models.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Play with clay

They say the first step is admitting you have a problem. Okay... I admit it. I can't make a decision.

Now that I've come to grips with that, I step boldly forward and declare... here it comes.... SKIN MOLD! (It took a couple of weeks just to decide WHICH method to make my first mold).

I unpacked the five pounds of Klean Klay (a sulfur-free clay) and planted the hand models in it. I etched a gutter around the models as instructed by Mike Brose's book "Figuremaking Can be Fun". I made some keys with the end of the handle of my sculpting tool and a twirl of my little finger. (The keys are the round impressions near the edges of the clay forms. They will help to line up the two halves of the skin mold).

Next comes the application of silicone rubber and the making of the mothermold (either of hard plastic or plaster bandages).

This is a big deal for me in my quest to make vent figures from molds. We'll see how the next step works out.

Friday, November 23, 2007

It's always something

It seems every project has its successes and frustrations. I'll cover the successes first.

I have been working on a conversion figure to sell on Ebay. It's a Charlie McCarthy doll. I plan to keep the face stock and add pro-style mechanics (self-centering eyes, raising eyebrows and a jaw with brass axle). My conundrum was painting irises on the eyeballs that were close-to-perfectly round. After several lame attempts at painting by hand, I finally reviewed Mike Brose's suggestions in his fine book "Figuremaking Can Be Fun". One method he covers is printing an iris on a computer printer. Al Stevens has an oversized iris on his Fred Project website for folks to use (thanks, Al). So I sized it and printed it on an Epson printer. I carefully cut out the two irises and glued them on the pre-painted eyeballs. Then I varnished the eyeballs and irises with a glossy finish. Of all the methods I tried, this method provided the best result by a mile.

Now the frustration. Awhile back, I bought a pack of 1-1/2" wood ball knobs at Joann's Fabrics. I made eyeballs, around which I sculpted my models for molds. But then Joann's stopped carrying the 1-1/2" wood ball knobs. So I ordered a package of 48 ball knobs from a woodcrafts website, 1-1/2" in size. Well, as it turns out, the new ball knobs are ever-so-slightly larger than 1-1/2", and they won't fit in the models I've sculpted for moldmaking.

I still plan to sculpt yet another head, so I'll use the new ball knobs for that sculpture. Meanwhile, I'm still hoping to find "Creative Wood" brand ball knobs sold by Joann's Fabrics, preferably the pack of 9.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


The first shipment of molding supplies has arrived. I purchased tin-based silicone rubber, a thickening agent and casting material. The next box due to arrive will contain Klean Klay and plaster bandages.

The Klean Klay will be used primarily as a bed for a skin mold. The plaster bandages will be used to make a mother mold. I'm going to make a mold of the hands first. If they succeed, then I'll work on the jaw piece. Once I've mastered the process (or at least not really screwed it up), I'll make a mold of the two head designs I've created.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Back from paradise

Sorry, no blog entries due to a vacation in Puerto Vallarta. Though my mind would occasionally drift to moldmaking, sculpture, silicone rubber and other vent-building topics, mostly I read, ate, drank beer and sipped shots of 100% Agave Cassadora tequilla. My only ambition was to be as unproductive as I possibly could.

In this effort, I was entirely successful.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Now I know the drill

I fired up my new tabletop drill press yesterday. I bought it primarily to make my own eyeballs. I worked on ways to measure precisely, but in the end, eyeballing it (no pun intended) proved to be just as effective. The important thing is that all of the eyeballs be as close to the same in depth and iris placement as possible.

The rough unfinished product is pictured. Every eyeball will still require some sanding and precise iris fitting. I'm not sure this is worth the effort considering I can buy those gorgeous plastic pre-made eyeballs from Puppets & Props for a reasonable price. But there is a certain amount of satisfaction I get from making my own.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

I can't move my lips

He can't move his lips yet because he's just a model destined for moldmaking. He still needs lots of sanding and detail work, but now I can see who the fellow is going to be.

Today, I may fire up the tabletop drill press for the first time. I ordered and received 48 wooden balls from a supply house. I'll likely trash a few of them trying to set a correct hole depth to accommodate the plastic iris. I also plan to order silicone rubber for the moldmaking. Oh yeah, it's gettin' scary!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

On a roll

Al Stevens is doing a wonderful restoration on Bill DeMar's pal Chuck Norwood. Al's latest installment on his blog includes a 1-minute video demonstrating the eye movements and mechanics. Chuck can even roll his eyes. Very cool and worth a look. CLICK HERE to see it.

Sunday, September 30, 2007


I bought a tabletop drill press to make eye balls. The machine looms over the room like a monster we all know and love. I still have to bolt the drill press to the workbench. That'll probably make me sleep easier knowing the "alien" can't leave the workshop.

I know it's silly thinking an inanimate object could become life-like.

Oh... wait a minute.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Since I'm trying to segue from conversion figures to figures made from molds, I'm not completing any figures. I find that very frustrating and sometimes depressing. I'm making step-by-step progress, but it's slow with very little to show for it.

The process involves study, acquiring new tools, reorganizing work spaces, experimenting with new techniques and buying (sometimes expensive) raw materials.

When I was happily turning out conversion figures, I'd finish and sell one per month. The last figure I completed was "Cecil" in June. I can't even predict when the next project will be completed.

All I can do is keep leaning forward. I'll be much happier though when I finally turn out my first vent figure made from a mold.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Still crazy after all these ears

Now he has ears that stick out pretty far. I want this fellow to be funny-looking, so big ears are a must. It's a subtle change, but I added some upper lip. Next step... the jaw and lower lip.

In my quest to start building molds, I purchased a tabletop drill press. The tool won't actually have much to do with molds, but it will help me make my own eyes. I've been drilling and routing with a hand drill. I've done okay with it, but a drill press (with laser sighting no less) will result in more precision and fewer mistakes.

Now, if I could just get my wife to teach me how to run that sewing machine...

Thursday, September 13, 2007

What I antici-PATE

I covered the rest of this fella's head with Magic-Sculpt. Notice that I had to build up the right side of his head due to the part in Charlie's hair.

This guy's working his way toward being another mold model. Next, I'll add those big ears and I'll work on the lips.

Photos to come.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Cheek tweak

I've added jowels to lessen the "walnut cheeks" effect. Also, the eye sockets have been completed. After the Magic-Sculpt dries, I'll remove the eye tray and cover the rest of the head. Then I'll add a pair of "taxi cab doors" for ears.

Oh, by the way. HOW 'BOUT THEM DUCKS! (Oregon 39, Michigan 7)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Walnuts for the winter?

It's been a week since I posted. We spent the weekend in Eugene. I had a budget meeting with my boss on Friday, so we decided to hang out all Labor Day weekend with our friends. I went to the University of Oregon Ducks football game, which was lots of fun. Especially since we won. Next week the Ducks face Michigan. If you follow college football, then you know we'll be walking into a buzz saw. Michigan is bound to be pissed off at us for two reasons. One... we beat them last time we played. Two... Michigan was defeated last weekend by a team no one had ever heard of, which caused Michigan to drop all the way out of the Top 25 from No. 5 in the nation.

But I digress.

What you're probably wondering is.... "What the heck is going on with those cheeks? Is he trying to swallow ping pong balls? Is he hiding Brussels sprouts? Did he get stung by a bee on both sides of his face?"

(I know, I know. I'm workin' on it.)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Ugly is as ugly does

I know he doesn't look like much now. And I know he might never look like much. But this is the next step in bringing forth a new personality in foam balls and Magic-Sculpt.

The next step will be covering those foam cheeks and forming the shapes around the eyes. I actually have SOME idea where I'm going with this, but it's half the fun not knowing EXACTLY where I'm going.

Remember, just because I don't know where I'm going doesn't mean I'm lost.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Fatter, but losing weight

I may make a mold of this guy when he's done. Maybe I'll finish him as a complete conversion figure.

Usually sculpting the cheeks and nose adds a lot of weight due to the thickness of the Magic-Sculpt. So I'm trying out a new idea.

I bought some foam balls at the craft store. I cut them in half and hollowed out the backs to contour to the cheeks and nose. Then I glued them to the face. I'll trim them up a bit when they're secure. Then I'll cover them with Magic-Sculpt. I hope to achieve fuller cheeks and a larger nose without adding so much weight.

Hey, it may be a conversion figure, but I want it to be a COOL conversion figure.

In the mold of Al Stevens

I've been flirting with moldmaking, but I've been very nervous about starting. Things like mess, fumes, undercuts, and fear of failure have resulted in procrastination. But I have been encouraged by Al Stevens' recent entry on his blog. He describes making a mold of a client's one-of-a-kind figure so that if that figure were ever lost, stolen or damaged, an exact duplicate could be made.

As with Al's "Fred Project" instructions, the process is explained quite clearly. There are photos of each step, too. If you have any interest in moldmaking, go to Al Stevens' blog and read it for yourself.

Thanks, Al.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Plastic rap

I mounted a pair of eyeballs on an eye tray and wrapped them in plastic wrap to protect them. I secured the plastic wrap by twisting the wrap tightly and using a paper clip. Then I glued the eye tray to supports (made of Magic-Sculpt) on either side of the head interior. I used just a touch of Elmers Glue so that I can pull out the eyeballs and tray after I've sculpted the eye sockets.

This technique ensures that the eyes will fit perfectly in their sockets and will move fluidly left and right.

By the way, the eyeballs are the first one's I've made myself using wood balls from the craft store and plastic irises purchased on Ebay.

Monday, August 20, 2007

So fun it's scarey

I hope headmaker Buzz James of Braylu Creations won't freak, but here's what I've done to his recent creation. No need to panic. I actually DO know what I'm doing.

I'm pleased to say that the new Braylu Creations head casting (now offered for sale on his website) is very easy to cut. Much easier than a Charlie head. As some followers of this blog might know, I cut out the eyes so I can sculpt around larger eyeballs mounted inside the head on an eye tray.

I also cut out the jaw, though I'll have to add styrene plastic sidewalls on the jaw. The trapdoor came to me pre-cut, but I thought it was too small for head access. I reattached the trapdoor cutout with Magic-Sculpt and then re-cut a larger trap door. I'm pleased to say that the Magic-Sculpt bonded well to the Braylu head. I roughed up the contact points on the head with sandpaper and a file just to be sure.

My plan is to sculpt a new face on the Braylu head similar to the way I approach Charlie head conversions. I'll share my progress as I move my project along.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Fill 'er up

I was hoping someone would make a suggestion. Sure enough, Buzz James from Braylu Creations offered some ideas and observations about the hands I made. He thinks the spaces between the fingers will pose a problem when making a mold and casting. So, I filled the spaces with Magic-Sculpt to make it easier to build a mold.

Even though the filled versions look more like the original fingers I severed (ouch!), the fingers are actually longer and the hand looks more curved and relaxed. Each finger also has its own slightly different curvature, whereas the original Charlie fingers are quite straight, even and tense.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Okay... put your hands where I can see 'em

I added Magic-Sculpt to the hands to connect the fingers with the Charlie hands. I think they turned out okay. My wife said the fingertips looked cartoonish, but I actually think that's a plus.

Now I have to figure out the best way to make molds of them. There are several techniques, but I'm having some difficulty visualizing the best approach.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The kids

Thought I'd add a photo of "my kids". The four characters on your left are among my favorite vent figures I've built. The two on the top and the fellow bottom left are conversion fogures. The guy on the lower right is a familiar face to fans of Mike Brose and Al Stevens. My "Fred Project" (now called "Jackie") was my first attempt at building a figure.

Now I can't seem to stop.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

All hands

I'm not sure my latest brainstorm is going to work, but I'm too far along to turn back now. As mentioned earlier, I made each finger one at a time mounted on a length of coat hanger. I cut the fingers off a pair of Charlie hands. I stuffed the openings with Magic-Sculpt and inserted each new finger individually onto the hands. After the Magic-Sculpt dries, I'll add more to add flesh to the areas connecting the hands to the fingers. And if that comes out looking okay, I'll sand everything smooth. Hopefully, in the end it'll look good.

If not, there's always the round file.

Getting organized

I have organized my "Links" section into categories. After doing so, the first thing I noticed was how much is missing. It's not that I dropped links, but it's more obvious how many more meaningful links are out there still to be added. Also, I couldn't help but notice that several links would be just as comfortable in more than one category.

Friday, August 10, 2007


I'd show you a picture of what I'm up to, but the little fellas are so small, my camera can't quite focus. Even if the camera could give you a sharp image, the picture would look more like plant sprouts or leeeetle teeeeny phalluses.

I'm making fingers, one at a time, out of Magic-Sculpt. I'm forming them over small lengths of coat hanger wire. I'll be attaching them to the hand portion from an old Charlie figure (I cut off the original fingers). The replacement fingers I'm making are longer and will form a more relaxed cupped hand. Eventually I will make a mold of these new hands and use the castings for future 34-36" figures.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

A start part

Braylu Creations is another excellent source for dummy-making parts and advice. I purchase unpadded 2T wood bodies from Braylu, as well as custom control posts.

I noticed a new product on Ebay ; a cast head similar to Mike Brose's offerings. Owner and creator Buzz James has designed the casting so that it can be altered with Magic-Sculpt or like material, or used as is. The head comes to you in three pieces; a head, trap door and jaw. It's up for auction on Ebay if you'd like to take a look.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

New Brose character?

If Mike Brose had done nothing but write his book "Figure Making Can be Fun", he would have created an admirable legacy in the ventriloquist world. But he continues to open doorways for people to enter this wonderful art form. By designing, casting and selling his two unique characters, Fred and Little E, he's made it possible for folks to build and perform with a high-quality professional figure.

Now it looks like he's about to release a third character casting, at least that's my hope. On his website, Puppets and Props, there's a Senior Citizen figure next to the headline "What's New". As you will see, it's beautifully done.

If history is any indication, the casting may appear soon on Ebay.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Virtual vent

I was turned on to a very unique website today. It's Click on THE NET DUMMY and a virtual vent figure will appear on your computer screen. He even has controls! You can move his mouth, eyes (self-centering!), raise his eyebrows and even operate winkers and blinkers. It'll make you laugh out loud!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

New eyes

In a previous post I told you about my refurb project of a converted Charlie McCarthy doll I bought. The original maker used cylinders instead of spheres for eyeballs. I repainted the eyes and attempted to reinstall them. However, when the refurbished figure was sent to the new owner, the eye mechanism shook loose during shipping. The buyer sent the head back so I could make a repair. Rather than try to re-install the original eyes, I opted to start from scratch. I built a self-centering mechanism using hand-painted wood balls. The result is that the eyes look better and work better. I used furniture feet pads to quiet the mechanism inside the head. Today I'll install the new eyes using glue and Magic-Sculpt to anchor them solidly and permanently.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A new beginning

Though I may make the occasional conversion figure by request, my intent is to stop. I'm slowly and methodically working on sculptures that I can use to make molds. I plan to work on three or four character models. I plan to specialize in 34-35" figures, though I may eventually work on a couple of 40" figures, too.

While the vitriol from the Ventriloquist Central forum took some air out of my balloon (even though I didn't think it would), the other reason for going to molds and castings is weight. While some folks (perhaps they could be called "purists") objected to my figure-building approach, there was one critique they never mentioned that would have been completely legitimate and justified. Conversion heads with new faces using Magic-Sculpt or like products tend to be heavy. They are still relatively easy to manipulate atop the bodies, but mine are still heavier than heads of similar size made from urethane or some other plastic casting material.

It will probably be quite a while before another new Kenny Croes figure hits the Ebay marketplace, but I'll still be working on figures and blogging as I do it.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Convention video blog

Though I've had some recent disagreements with a few forum contributors at Ventriloquist Central, I still very much like Dan Willinger's site. He is filing online video reports from the VentHaven Convention. He summarizes the day's activities, the performances he's enjoyed, and previews upcoming activities. He does a very nice job. Click HERE to go to the convention reports.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

I caught a break

You may recall that I refurbished a Charlie McCarthy conversion figure that I bought on Ebay. My primary purpose was to examine the mechanics. The little fellow came to me in pieces, but I was able to repaint him, remount his original eye mechanics and provide a good wig. After his clean-up, he was purchased by a fellow who had earlier bought my "Carlisle" figure.

Unfortunately, the eye mechanics were shaken loose from his head during shipping. But the damaged figure will actually provide me with an opportunity. Though I offered to refund the buyer's money, he prefers that I repair or replace the eye mechanics and send him back. I think I'll replace the original eye set-up.

The original eyes were actually cylinders rather than spheres. I plan to replace the cylinders with spherical eyes; wood balls purchased at a craft store. I will very lightly rout the eyes for an iris. I will drill a hole straight through the eyeball where the cornea would be. I'll fill the cornea side with wood putty and mount springs on the back side. Then I'll paint the iris inside the lightly routed circular area. I think the new owner will like the look of these new eyes better the old ones. Plus, they will be mounted more securely. The remounting of the original cylinder eyes was difficult and apparently ineffective.

Meanwhile, I'm excited about the Smooth-On Molding Kit on the way to my workshop. I hope my first molding project will be hands.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Hellllooooooo... anybody there?

No news is sometimes good news. And sometimes no news is no news. This post is somewhere in between, I suppose.

I've been reading and viewing videos about moldmaking. The Polytek site has an online video that demonstrates three techniques for moldmaking with their products. Click HERE if you'd like to see it, too.

I've read Mike Brose's book "Figure Making Can Be Fun", but as good as it is, there's nothing quite like seeing the process demonstrated right before your eyes. Viewing the video helped to demystify the process somewhat.

I've decided to order a small Starter Kit from Polytek and build a mold of a small object. If successful, I'll move up to vent parts. The thing is, you want to make sure you know what you're doing, because silicone rubber mold materials are very expensive.

This may be too ambitious a technique to perform in an upstairs bedroom, but I'm edging ever closer to giving it a try.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Two sides

The jaw has been reshaped to fit the jaw opening in the head. I still need to sand the jaw here and there to get the mouth to close perfectly, but you can see the direction this guy's heading. To Assisted Living! I also added ears with giant ear lobes. Again, it's that cartilage thing. I want it to appear as though he has no teeth, so I etched little wrinkles above and below the mouth opening.

I am toying with the idea of adding a new animation. The "devil" on my shoulder is urging me to make this figure stick out his tongue. The "angel" on the other shoulder is advising me to "keep it simple, stupid". The "devil" side knows that great consternation will ensue and a stunning variety of bad words will come flying out of my mouth as I attempt to make the tongue animation function and the jaw to open in coordination with tongue extraction. Even the "f-word" might sneak out (though I will, of course, substitute the consonant with the soft "th" sound).

I believe the "angel" is also aware of the dire possibilities.

Monday, July 02, 2007

A matter of degrees

My wife Joyce is a trained illustrator and sculptor. On occasion, she'll inspect my sculpting and make constructive suggestions. For instance, see the way the nose and upper lip connect on the profile photo? I originally had the nose and upper lip connect at a 90-degree angle. But Joyce pointed out that as we age, we grow cartilage in our faces (probably elsewhere, too. But we won't get into that). At a certain advanced age, the connection between nose and upper lip is more of a 45-degree angle. So I added Magic-Sculpt and indeed, the guy looked better and older!

"jimmy from kansas city" (of Smith & Jones fame) commented on the picture below that this fellow resembled Bella Lugosi. I had to laugh because he was right! Now that the Charlie hair has been covered in Magic-Sculpt, I think he looks less like Dracula, but I really giggled at jimmy's observation.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Which side am I on?

I have scuplted the left side of this guy's face. I had to cut down the jaw more than I ever had to before to fit the jaw opening. I'll be adding Magic-Sculpt to the jaw piece as well. It will get some addtional treatment on the lower sides to match the contours of the jowels. The jaw's pivot points will be higher in the head than the original spot, so I'll extend the jaw's bottom portion to cover the jaw opening in the head.

Thursday, June 28, 2007


Take a look at the schnoz on this guy. My intention is to make him an old fart. (They say our noses grow as we age. He must be ancient!)

I want to make him ornery looking, too. We'll see how close I get.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Kinda scary lookin'

Awhile back I was asked why I saw away the entire eye area rather than just cut out eye sockets. As I mentioned, the larger eyes (1.5" in diameter) usually don't fit that well when the eye sockets are cut into the head. I prefer to sculpt my own eye sockets so the eyes fit and operate properly. Here's a look at the progress of my current project.

I lightly glued the eye tray in the head and sculpted around the upper portion of the eyes. I tried a new technique on a flat surface where I used a round plastic washer about 1.25" in diameter and formed the Magic-Sculpt around the washer to make the eye socket very round-shaped. Then I lifted the Magic-Sculpt off the flat surface away from the washer and applied it to the head. I left some room above the irises because I intend to add an eyelid flap across the eye just above the iris.

The next step is to sculpt the lower portion of the eye sockets. I'll use the same new technique with the plastic washer to form a nice rounded lower socket. Then comes the nose, cheeks, etc. I intend for this character to be an old-timer. More progress reports to come!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A night at the museum

If you've never explored Bob Albano's website, "A Tribute To Ventriloquism", I highly recommend spending some time there. It's like walking through a wonderful museum of ventriloquil relics. You'll see every manner of vent figures, from ancient to modern-day. I was also amazed at the number of local and regional ventriloquists pictured on the website. It makes me feel like... well... like I'm not alone.

I've also streamed many of the videos. Very cool and very educational. Treat yourself to an inspiring tour. Click on "Tribute To Ventriloquism" in my Links section.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Trevor is clever

I dub thee "Trevor". He looks like a "smarty-pants" to me. Hopefully, he'll be trading witty barbs with someone soon. He's on Ebay looking for a partner.

Saturday, June 16, 2007


I had to make my first repair on a vent figure I built. Luckliy, the repair had to be made before I sold the little fellow. The jaw cord slipped off the pulley inside the head after the head was sealed and the wig was attached. When I sell the figures, I include a photo of the inside of the head with instructions on how to get inside the head if a do-it-yourself repair is attempted. I finally had to follow my own instructions.

I "permanently" seal the head with dabs of Magic-Sculpt in three places. The seals can be easily sawed through, which I did. Then I had to peel up the wig, which as you know from the previous post, is glued down with Elmers Glue. I peeled up the wig without too much difficulty and no damage. (I left the wig still firmly attached to the trap door, however). Once inside I analyzed the problem. I decided the slippage could be fixed by reducing the play in the lever on the control post. A touch of wood putty in the lever slot tightened the cord. Problem solved.

I've reattached the trap door with three more dabs of Magic-Sculpt and I'll re-glue the wig around the head later tonight. By tomorrow, he'll be ready to rock.

Still, I think my new approach to the trap door on all future figures (as explained in an earlier post) will allow me to use screws to attach the trap door. I'm considering a couple of approaches to accomplish that. More later! (maybe with photos!)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Cutting down a wig is pretty hairy

I'd show pictures, but frankly it's a mess. It's never pretty. But here's how I cut down an adult wig to fit my Charlie projects:
  1. First, I buy the wigs at thrift stores. Goodwill usually charges $5.99. Salvation Army has 'em the cheapest... usually $2.50. And these are high-quality adult women's wigs.
  2. Secondly, lay out some newspapers to catch the flying gobs of hair.
  3. I start by lining up the hairline on the forehead. Then I glue (with Elmers Glue) the wig to top of the head only. I glue the hairline down, too. Then I let it dry fully. Remember, I haven't cut down the wig at all, so yes... it looks ridiculous.
  4. After the wig is firmly attached to the top of the head, I take a good sharp pair of scisssors and start cutting toward the ears. I cut the sideburns and around the ears. IMPORTANT: The trick is to cut the webbing underneath the hair rather that the hair itself. Some of the hair will fall away on it's own. I don't cut the hair itself just yet.
  5. After I cut one side, I go after the other side in the same way.
  6. Then I cut the back of the wig shorter to the desired length. Again, I try to cut the webbing rather than the hair.
  7. I fold the back of the wig over on itself to tighten the wig to size. Then I cut a dart out of the folds from the bottom of the wig to just about halfway to the top of the head. Be very conservative with your cut! You don't want to cut away too much. After the cut, you'll have a split in the shape of an upsidedown "V". But when you pull them together, they close up and fit the head right. Trim away a little more if the wig is still a bit loose. Remember, try to cut the webbing first!
  8. Then I do some moderate hair trimming, but not a lot.
  9. Last step is to glue each section to the head one section at a time (upper left side and left sideburn, upper right side and right sideburn, left back, then right back). To hold each section in place, I roll a towel and lean the glued section against the towel to keep the pressure on it. As soon as one section dries, I move on to the next section.
  10. After the wig is glued, I do the final haircutting. Again, go slow and be conservative. If you cut too much, it ain't growin' back!

I may be crazy, but that's how I do it!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Wigged out

This fellow is almost ready for adoption. I need to touch him up with a few paint dabs, sew the slits in the back of his shirt and jacket, and dress him. Later in the week, he'll make his debut on Ebay. This guy sure taught me a lot. He's been a joy to work on.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Why and what?

I received a couple of questions:

1. Why do you cut out the eyes completely rather then just the eye sockets?

First of all, I use larger eyeballs than the standard Charlie sockets will accommodate. Secondly, even when I cut out larger eye sockets, the 1-1/2" spheres never fit right.

  • I start my process by epoxying a length of popsickle stick between the eyes to serve as a base for resculpting a nose bridge.
  • I mount the eyeballs on an eye tray inside the head free of any rubbing on the sides or front of the head.
  • Once the eye tray is temporarily mounted inside the head, I wrap the eyballs in plastic wrap for protection, then sculpt (with Magic-Sculpt) the eye sockets around the eyeballs. In this way, I'm assured the eyeballs will fit the eye sockets precisely.

2. Do you buy something to use for the ball of the neck or do you shape it from wood?

I purchase the control posts from Braylu Creations. They are pre-made to fit the Charlie heads. I have a link to Braylu Creations in my blog's "links" section.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Cecil is my name

I have dubbed this little fellow "Cecil". Though his name may be changed by his ultimate partner, he looks like a "Cecil" to me. He's now available on Ebay!