Saturday, December 26, 2009

Let there be light

I was blessed this Christmas with the company of my wife and Mom. We had a lovely day together.

And I got some really cool stuff.

Among my "ill-botten gootie", I received some underwear (boxers... I know... too much information), V-neck undershirts, a gorgeous cardigan sweater handmade by my power-knittin' wife Joyce, and a magnifier/lamp for my workbench.

Of course, I'm very excited about the lamp. I assembled it and attached it to my workbench. For about an hour I would sit back and admire it as I worked. My oh, my, what a wonderful tool!

And then it occurred to me.

Maybe I should actually turn it on!

Friday, December 25, 2009


Thursday, December 24, 2009

I'd give my right arm for a third arm

No, it's not a puppet. It's called a Dog Groomers Third Arm. The attachment you see in the photo is a hair dryer blower. I attached the opposite... a ShopVac hose.

I was watching a video about a local myrtlewood factory. I noticed that the craftsman had a powerful vacuum nozzle mounted just above the piece he was sanding. The vacuum sucked away most of the debris.

As I've mentioned before, I build my dummies in a bedroom in the house. When I sand or grind, the particles fly around the room and I'm left with a lot of vacuuming. When I saw the aforementioned video, a light went on in my head. (ding!)

I visited the local tool store, but didn't find anything inexpensive that would do the trick. Then I got on the web and poked around. That's when I found the gizmo in the picture. It was only $20. The clamps are very strong. They clamp to my work bench and the ShopVac attachment quite securely. Now when I sand or grind, most of the debris will be sucked into my ShopVac. (Of course, along with my gas mask and eye protectors, I'll have to add earplugs. I'm looking more Hazmat everyday).

Sunday, December 13, 2009

More Elmore

This week I received my first "Elmore" castings from Braylu Creations. I sculpted the model, then Buzz James (Braylu entrepreneur) made the mold and castings. I think the "Elmore" castings will be available for purchase soon on the Braylu Creations website. Meanwhile, I'm about to build my first figures from the "Elmore" castings. When completed, I'll forward the pics to Buzz so he can display them next to the raw cast so folks can see what a completed "Elmore" could look like.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


I have been encouraged to try my hand at sculpting a head suitable for a 40" figure. I've been scratching my noggin over what to use as an armature. I've seen some built out of wood. I've seen others built out of Styrofoam or foam insulation. Some folks use mannequin heads.

None of those caught my fancy. So I asked myself... what is shaped like a human head... but is slightly smaller... is hollow... and has all of the anatomical features in the right place? Hmmmmmmm. What could I use?

I KNOW! A skull! God used it with some success. Maybe I can, too! Does Ebay sell skulls? Why, yes they do. And mine arrived today!

Not to put too fine a point on it... actually somebody else's skull arrived today. My skull is still in use. (I need it for scratching.)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Better Winkle

I re-worked the lower portion of Mr. Winkle's face. I added Magic-Sculpt to round Mr. Winkle's head. He also has larger earlobes. I still need to work on his jaw to close the gap on the underside and then sand him.

Since a mold will be made, every mistake will be permanent.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Mr. Stinkle

The more I stared at my Mr. Winkle sculpture, the less I liked it. I've taken a pair of pliers (ouch!) , a pry bar (that's gotta hurt!) , and a pair of wire cutters (should leave a mark) to the lower portion of the sculpture and removed the Magic-Sculpt. I'm gonna try it again. I also need to make some adjustments to the top of the head.

One step forward... two steps back.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A new Winkle

I'm preparing a new sculpture to send to Braylu Creations for mold making. It's my character "Mr. Winkle". I've made several conversion versions of Mr. Winkle and he seems to be one of my most popular and best-selling figures. So I thought I'd add him to the collection of castings that can be purchased by do-it-yourself figure makers at Braylu Creations. I have a ways to go before I'm finished, but's he's coming along nicely.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Arnie with soul

A special order came in for my "Arnie" conversion figure. The order came with a special request. He wanted him to be black with brown eyes instead of white with blue eyes. I'd never mixed the paint for a black character, so it was a new challenge. I emailed some photos of the completed Arnie to the buyer and he liked him. Thought I'd share him with you, too.

Friday, November 20, 2009


No, I'm not posting about Roy Rogers' beloved Palomino (the one he stuffed and put on display at the Roy Rogers Museum). No, I'm posting to praise the new and improved headstick trigger designed by and sold at Braylu Creations. It's thicker and sturdier than earlier models. It's very comfortable on the thumb and fingers.

If you're planning to build a figure, consider using Braylu's PVC pipe headstick with these new triggers. They work great and look great. (And no, nobody paid me to say that.)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Name that dummy

I don't have a name yet, but this is my latest character sculpture. He's supposed to be a slightly goofy cheeky-boy character. Like Uncle Earl and Elmore before him, he'll be sent to Braylu Creations for mold making and castings (assuming owner Buzz James likes him). I find that I enjoy sculpting character heads as much as dummy making. I hope to get better at it as time goes on.

By the way, name suggestions are welcome!

Saturday, November 07, 2009


I waited to post the photos of "Kyle", the figure I made for Kevin, the young gumball entrepeneur I mentioned in an earlier post. Kevin's Mom asked me to hold off on sharing the photos until her son received the figure so he would see it for the first time "in-person". The figure's mohawk haircut was a special request by the young ventriloquist. You see, Kevin wears one, too!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Uncle Earl

I'm very excited about "Uncle Earl" for a couple reasons. First of all, I really like the way he turned out. Secondly, he's the first figure I've made from a casting of a sculpture I did. Buzz James of Braylu Creations made the mold and produced the casting. He's also selling castings of "Uncle Earl" as the first in what we're calling the "Kenny Croes Collection". (A second character will be added soon).

This "Uncle Earl" figure will be auctioned on Ebay starting later this evening.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


Saturday, October 24, 2009

A near slip

Learned a great lesson the other day. Always check the packing slip when you receive an order. I recently purchased some wood pieces from a supplier. I didn't open the box right away. A week or so later, I opened it to retrieve one of the wood pieces. I was about to throw away the packing slip without reading it. But that little voice we all have that reminds us to be thorough suggested I take a gander at the slip before I tossed it. And there it was. I forgot that I also ordered some brass hook eyes. They were listed on the packing slip. Sure enough, the little bag of hook eyes was bureid at the bottom of the box.

"Hey", I said to myself, "I really needed these!"

Thursday, October 22, 2009

End of an era

By now, many of you have read that Mike Brose of Puppets and Props will discontinue his figure parts business at the end of the year. My current obsession of vent figure building started after I ordered parts from Mike and built my first "Fred Project". Much of what I learned came from his book "Figure Making Can be Fun". So the bad news is that we'll lose him as a parts resource.

The good news is that Mike will spend more time building figures, a passion he has honed into a splendid art form. He states that he'll still be available for advice. I imagine we'll still see his name and comments in the forums.

I admire Mike Brose's work and contributions to the vent community. I wish him well and really look forward to seeing his future creations.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Looking for Santa's helper

I think it'll be fun for children of all ages to tell him what they'd like for Christmas. He'll be available on Ebay today so he can be there in time to make his list, check it twice, and see who's naughty and nice.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Ho ho ho

Yes, I know it's not even Halloween yet. But I thought I'd give you a first look at my Santa Claus vent figure. I just added the mustache. All I have left to do is trim his mustache a bit, finish some detail on his hands, assemble the body and dress him in his Santa suit.

I think he'll be ready to slide down someone's chimney soon.

Monday, October 12, 2009

More Elmore

The Elmore sculpture is done. I sealed the back of the head today. After I sand the seam, he'll be packed and shipped to Braylu Creations for mold making. I hope folks like him.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Tell all

I'm managing several projects at once. The victories create elation. The failures make me crazy. And because I'm working multiple projects, the reactions are exponentially more intense. Weird.

But here's a progress report.

My project for the 10-year-old entrepreneur is going along quite well. I'm using a Braylu casting for the head. I've cut out the jaw and added sidewalls and a platform for the lower teeth and tongue. Now I'm working on the eye sockets and I've installed the brass eyebrow tubes. I've added the first layer of Magic-Sculpt to the under-portion of the jaw so that it will open and close without showing too much space.

My Elmore sculpture is almost finished. After some sanding, he'll be shipped to Buzz James at Braylu Creations for mold-making. Buzz will be selling Elmore castings as the second in the so-called "Kenny Croes Collection".

My Santa is also nearing completion, though he's presented a few challenges. I think he'll turn out fine, but not without some consternation.

In between, I'm sanding and painting hands so the body assembly can be completed.

Oh... and in between that, I go to work every day.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

A Winkle in time

Someone (I hope) will decide to take in "Mr. Winkle" after winning the auction on Ebay. I warn you, he's as crotchety as ever. Will someone claim him for their own? Only time will tell.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Busy hands

I'm busier than usal with my dummy makin'. Between special orders, my own projects destined for Ebay, and my Elmore sculpture for Braylu Creations, I've been reeling with work.

The jaw I mentioned is pictured to the left. Teeth and tongue have been added. I did a bit more jaw-opening adjustment last night. Just one more "plug and play" addition to the head, and I'll be ready to start sanding. I want to add side walls inside the jaw opening with slide-in slots for the tube n' axle placement.

My first Uncle Earl, now being built with the Braylu-supplied casting from my sculpture, is well underway. He's been painted and the eyebrow mechanics have been installed.

I'm also nearing the final stages of my Santa Claus figure.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

If the jaw fits...

I've enjoyed sculpting a new Elmore character. Braylu Creations is going to make a mold of him, sell the castings to ambitious vent figure builders , and sell the castings to me, too, so I can make completed Elmore's to sell.

The easy (as in fun-easy) has been sculpting the nose, ears, forehead, eye sockets, etc. The really challenging part has been scuplting and fitting the jaw. Besides wanting to end up with a good look and a good fit, I've wanted to understand how I got there so I can do it again. After trial and error, study, trial and error... error... (and many bad words), I've made a jaw that fits well and looks good, too. And I think I can do it again. I'm not ready to give y'all a peek just yet. But soon I'll post a photo.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

No email

Bummer. No email for 24 hrs. Host is changing servers. Withdrawls are starting already (or maybe i've had too much coffee).

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Kids today

I just received the down payment on a special order. It’s a figure for a 10-year old entrepreneur. Two years ago, he bought, then refurbished and redistributed 32 old gumball machines to earn money. He owns his gumball business, donates some of this earnings, saves the rest and buys himself something special once a year. This year, it's the figure I'll build for him.

And that's not all.

The young fellow is a state champion second-degree blackbelt in Taekwondo, sports a mohawk haircut , and performs as a ventriloquist. Yes, he's a very impressive young man.

I have a feeling I'll be making a first hard figure for someone who'll be rich and famous someday.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Bumpkin in New York

Seems Elmore has made a friend in the Big Apple. He's winging his way east to his new home.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Think ahea....d

I'm the kind of guy that paints himself in the corner, runs out of room when handprinting a mailing label, saws off the tree limb I'm sitting on, and seals the dummy head before I've figured out the axle placement of the jaw mechanics.

I'm sculpting a new head for Braylu Creations. He'll be a goofy guy somewhat resembling Elmore, the fella in the video below (and for sale on Ebay, by the way). I was saving the jaw sculpting and placement for last because I thought it would be the most difficult part and I wanted to have fun first.

So I finish the second ear and begin to stroke my chin in wonderment about the jaw. Then it hits me. I've sculpted the head... completely. What's worse, the back of the head had been sawed off, but I glued it back on so I could Magic-Sculpt the entire pate. "How am I gonna get inside the head to place the jaw?" I ask myself while slapping my forehead with an open palm.

So this morning, I took my hacksaw and sawed off the back of the head... again. Fortunately, I accomplished the task without doing too much damage to my previous efforts.

By the way, I also started work on my first "Uncle Earl" from the Braylu casting. I'm pretty excited about that. (There's a casting for sale on Ebay, too!)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

"L" of a deal

Say "hi" to Elmore. He's named that because the MORE he talks, the MORE "L" he creates. (Thank you, Paul Winchell). Soon he will be looking for someone's world to confuse and complicate. If you think he'd be perfect in your world, you can locate him soon on Ebay.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Collection of one

Braylu Ceations is now offering for sale the first casting in the "Kenny Croes Collection". We're calling the character "Uncle Earl". He's an old guy and should be fun to make into a vent figure. Click here for a look at the feller.

Owner Buzz James is sending me the first castings so I can build a complete figure. We'll add a photo of a completed figure and possibly a video, too. Braylu Creations also can sell you everything you need from head to toe to make a completed figure of your own.

Of course, a collection intimates that there is more than one item. So I'm feverishly working on a model for a second character. As they say... COMING SOON!

Monday, September 07, 2009

A good goof

This goofy fella is nearing completion. He needs a little more touch-up, but he's nearly ready for his debut on Ebay. He's the first using the new Braylu headstick design and he works very smoothly, too.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Kicks from sticks

The new headsticks made from PVC pipe have worked out really well. Here are a couple of photos showing how I set up the stick. (You can see the many experimental holes I drilled). :-])

In the end, the holes nearest the top worked best. I also drilled two holes at the end of the triggers for the cords, but the angle was too severe. So I re-drilled holes in the center of the triggers and that angle worked much better. I had to drill two because I double-up on the cords and the width of the trigger wouldn't allow for a hole large enough to thread two strands. The double-hole set up works fine, however. I'll smooth the edges of the triggers with my Dremel for more finger comfort. You can also see the hole at the bottom of the pipe where I’ve inserted a rubber band for attaching to the eye hook in the body to keep the head erect.

I really like this new headstick design. Want to try one out? They're available now at Braylu Creations, and they're very reasonably priced, too.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Will it float?

I love that silly Letterman bit when he and Paul Schaffer bet on whether an object will sink or float in a Doughboy swimming pool. Well, I'm wondering if an idea a friend of mine has will sink or float.

An unnamed friend in the vent supply business has offered to make a mold of a head I sculpted and make castings. Then he'll market the castings on his website and sell me castings at a steep discount so I can make and sell completed figures.

I love the idea. As you know if you read this blog, I make conversion figures from Charlie McCarthy toy vent doll heads. To acquire the heads, I used to buy used Charlies on Ebay. Then I was tipped off about a close-out of new Charlie McCarthy dolls at a great price, so I scooped up a bunch. But sooner or later I'll have to start buying them on Ebay again. My arrangement will allow me to make vent figures from castings of my head sculptures, too.

The above headshots might be the first character we try. He's a little different from my Mr. Winkle character, but he's in that generation. One interesting feature of this head is that he has a slight smile on one side of his mouth, and a slight frown on the other. If I recall correctly, Paul Winchell liked Jerry to have a smile slightly bigger on on side than the other. This figure will also use larger eyes (1-1/2").

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A sharp stick

Buzz James of Braylu Creations and I have been trading ideas for a new headstick design using PVC pipe. I have been trying to reduce the amount of woodworking in my figure building because of the limitations of my in-home workshop. Here are some photos of what Buzz came up with.

Buzz sends me the pipe with neck transition attached, the top cap, the triggers and screws to mount them. I drill all the holes, cut the slot and assemble the stick.

Though the photos show the use of rubber tubing, I've actually 86'ed the rubber tubing. I use doubled-up cords and the tubes were too small. I do insert the brass tube n' rod eye control in a clear plastic tube, however.

The brass n' rod eye control will be secured at the top with a little Magic-Sculpt.

To secure the eye control at the slot, I have inserted ethafoam. The sharp-ended screws that mount the triggers penetrate the ethafoam and hold it in place.

This is still a work in progress (as you can see by the extra aborted holes drilled in the stick), but this first one is pretty close.

The final test will be attaching the stick to the head and seeing how smoothly the controls operate the mechanics.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Writing jokes that make me blush

A performing ventriloquist (yes, there are non-performing ventriloquists... like me) threw out the net on a ventriloquism forum for help with writing a routine. The ventriloquist is gay and all of his characters are gay, too. He sent me a photo of the four figures and a description of their personalities. I decided to write some jokes for a purple furry fellow named "Stan".

The ventriloquist likes to perform adult humor and even encouraged gay jokes. Not being gay, I was concerned I might offend accidentally, but he told me to go for it. So I wrote a short routine with double entendres, a little shock here and there and some general goofiness. Well... the ventriloquist actually liked it! So I've begun to add to the routine so that the act might eventually run for 10 or 15 minutes.

But I gotta say, I'm not used to writing or performing raw humor, so I find that I'm embarrassing myself. (But I'm also giggling).

At the same time, another ventriloquist who performs for kids and Christian audiences has asked for some funnies. Talk about switching gears!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Three amigos

Here are three fellas I'm currently working on. The guy on the left is a special order. He's my "Arnie" character with an African-American skin tone. He'll get black hair and brown eyes instead of the brown hair and blue eyes shown on my website.

The old feller in the middle is familiar to some. He's another incarnation of "Mr. Winkle". He has a few new features, but he's basically the same old curmudgeon.

Finally, the silly fellow on the right is a new face in my stable of characters. He's a goofy-looking fellow in the tradition of... well... goofy-looking fellows.

I'm about to start a 4th figure. The character? Santa Claus!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Using our heads

I've had a lot of fun trading ideas, drawings and photos with Buzz James, owner of Braylu Creations. We've been working on plans for making the next batch of control posts for me. I have an opportunity to help with the design because I'm switching from a wood headstick to a PVC pipe headstick. I want to run all of the mechanics down the center of the PVC pipe. Buzz is very helpful with his advice. We've both been trying to think outside the box, and we think we have an interesting approach to the headstick. He's sending me a prototype to work with, and if it's a successful design, he'll make all of my headsticks that way. I'm kinda excited about this!

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Gotcha covered

Here's what Mr. Winkle looks like after applying the Magic-Sculpt over the foam. The forehead is a little more textured than I'm used to, but I think it's going to work out fine. I used the foam rods on his jowels, too. That worked great.

This version of Mr. Winkle will sport more detail on his baggy eyes.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Anonymous experiments

This scary lookin' freak is actually a victim of my most recent experiment. (If you hear a spooky Vincent Price laugh in the distance, don't be alarmed). One of my blog readers named "Anonymous" occasionally gives me excellent advice and tips to try. The latest suggestion was to use Poly Foam Caulk Saver to make wrinkles and save weight. The material comes in a roll of 3/8" foam rod, which I measured out and cut in half. Then I hot glued the foam on the forehead (flat side down) to create wrinkles. I'll cover the foam with as thin a layer of Magic-Sculpt as possible. I've either discovered a wonderful new technique or really screwed up my project. The beauty of it is that it really doesn't matter!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


Mr. Winkle will contradict every little thing his new partner utters. And he will do so in Kansas, the very center of America's heartland. Hope the old grouch enjoys his new home.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Nailed it

The styrofoam carving didn't work as well for the ears. I still think it has possibilities. Rather than use a ball, I think it would be better to carve an ear shape from a thinner styrofoam rectangle. I'll check out the craft store to see if they sell something close.

Meanwhile, I cut out an ear shape from a thin sheet of styrene plastic. I drilled two holes in the styrene ear and used Magic-Sculpt like a nail to secure it over the Charlie ear. After the Magic-Sculpt dried, I covered the stryrene with Magic-Sculpt to form the ear. There was some weight savings because this tact allowed me to make a bigger ear with less Magic-Sculpt.

Saturday, August 01, 2009


No, not wood. You may recall my diatribe about woodworking. Nothing against it. It's just that it's messy and not an appropriate activity for my bedroom workshop. No, I'm talking about carving styrofoam.

As you know, I've been trying out different ways to reduce weight in my dummy heads. I've tried using strips of foam padding with mixed results. But this time I tried something new.

I used a styrofoam ball sold in craft stores. I cut it up and carefully carved it into a rough shape of a nose. I carved the back of the styrofoam nose so it would contour and fit when glued to the top of the Charlie nose. I carved the nose so it would be larger than my intended finished size.

After the Elmer's Glue dried overnight and the styrofoam nose was secure, I carved it further so the size and shape would be slightly smaller than I wanted. Then I covered the styrofoam nose with Magic-Sculpt. The result is a large nose, the center of which is mostly air and styrofoam. It turned out pretty good.

Next I'm going to try it on the ears. (I'm so excited!)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The grind

Today I spent a couple of hours doing what I call my "industrial dummying". It's among the messiest and least fun tasks in my dummy-makin' process. Essentially, I rip apart the Charlie heads to make armatures. It involves sawing off the back of the head, poking out and grinding the eye sockets, pulling out the jaw and trimming it up, and drilling indentations in the interior so the Magic-Sculpt mountings will remain secure. I've done six at a time so I can start turning the heads into characters.

My Dremel tool gets a real workout.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Ready to be riled up

"Mr. Winkle" is finally ready to raise a little cane. Soon he'll offer his pessimistic opinions to the highest bidder on Ebay.

Monday, July 20, 2009

You are my sunshine

This little goofball "Wesley" is headed for his new abode in sunny Florida. I hope he makes the Sunshine State's audiences giggle uncontrollably as they sip their cool beverages under the swaying palms.

Adios, little fella.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

...and "Action!"

Today I'll prepare my newest "Mr. Winkle" for his Ebay auction. I'll choose his clothes and dress him. I need to do a minor repair on his curly fleece wig. Then he goes in for his photo sessions.

I use a Nikon digital camera on a tripod so I can shoot without a flash. That way his color is captured more richly. I also prefer to use a timer so the camera doesn't shake when the photo is snapped. Besides having photos of him for the auction, I also get detailed photos of him for archiving.

After the still photo shoot, I set up a Canon FS10 video camera on the tripod and shoot a couple minutes of me operating the little fella (me off camera). Though audio gets recorded, I don't use it because I like to leave the voice of the character to the imagination of the potential buyer. I edit video for a living, so I'm able to import the video into my computer and produce a final video presentation with a few graphics and simple effects.

I actually enjoy preparation of the visual presentations as much as building the figures.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The virtual convention

I have never been to a VentHaven convention. I'd like to go one year. It's a long way from where I live, but it would be fun to meet so many of the ventriloquists, vent figure builders and fans in person that make this great art form prosper.

Like last year, Dan Willinger and Steve Hurst work together to bring us a virtual VentHaven convention experience. Go to Ventriloquist Central to play the audio and video clips of convention activities.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


This funny-lookin' guy is now officially looking for someone who'll play the straightman (or woman) while he gets all the laughs. Find out more of his story by visiting his Ebay auction.

They break a leg one leg at a time

I watched a wonderful documentary titled "Show Business: The Road To Broadway". It's a behind-the-scenes look at the launching of four Broadway musicals; Wicked, Avenue Q, Caroline Or Change, and Taboo.

Though the film showed only isolated scenes of each musical, Avenue Q was my favorite (which features Muppet-like characters-big surprise). Two things about the documentary made the deepest impression on me.

First, there were several scenes showing New York Broadway critics having dinner together and discussing (often ripping) the four shows. I was surprised they socialize frequently. (And my gawd they can be cruel in their comments).

Secondly, I was amazed at how similar the backstage activity and dynamics are to community theatre productions of stage shows. Of course there's a difference in talent and production complexity, but I easily recognized the anxiety, frustration and joy.

Show Business: The Road To Broadway is fun to watch and probably available at your local video store.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Winkle, winkle little star

My most popular character to date has been Mr. Winkle. I recently shared with you the steps I take transforming a toy Charlie McCarthy head (my armature) to a completed Mr. Winkle. Here's a composite of all the steps.