Saturday, December 31, 2011

Monday, December 26, 2011

Slot receiver

Fig. A: The full-size

Fig. B: Cut down

Fig. C: Marks where irises are centered
Fig. D: Magic-Sculpted in place

As I've said before, Buzz James from Braylu Creations is always experimenting with designs to make figure building easier, quicker, more fun, etc.  This time he sent me a slotted synchro bar.  The size was more appropriate for a full-size figure, so I cut it down to fit a 2T head. 

The slotted synchro bar allows the posts or springs to be spaced so that the irises of the eyes are centered properly.  The slotted synchro bar would replace a solid synchro bar with holes drilled at the (hopefully) perfect spots.  Of course, if I drill the holes in the wrong spots, I have to expand the holes, file the holes, or toss the solid synchro bar in the trash and try again.  The slotted synchro bar allows you to center the irises (I have the head facing a mirror), mark the proper placement of the springs, and then Magic-Sculpt the springs (or posts) in place.  And it worked!

Next I'll drill some tiny holes so I can install small screw eyes for attaching the nylon cord.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A wish from Santa


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Far East mystic

The first casting of my full-size Asian character arrived today.  Thanks to Buzz James at Braylu Creations for doing such a wonderful job.  The casting came out well and will require minimal exterior prep.   Should be a few weeks to build the figure.  There's also a separate jaw, but I plan to re-design it for this character.

I acquired a long gray wig (which my wife will cut and braid), a really nice Asian mustache and goatee, and a very slick-lookin' gold silky costume.  I still need to find a hat and slippers.  

As always, I will post my progress.

A customer asked me to design and build this character for him.  His act will soon incorporate this mysterious purveyor of Asian boogie-boogie. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

An Earl Christmas

Uncle Earl may show up under someone's Christmas tree this season.  He's hoping Santa wins the bid for him on Ebay.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Speed sculpting

Q: Hi, Kenny. I have a question. What do you use for sculpting plastic over Goldberger dolls? Like what kind of material will stick to the plastic?

A: I use Magic-Sculpt. The downside is you only have about 15 minutes of working time before it gets difficult to work with, so you need to know what you want to do.  Don't go too heavy with it because it adds weight. Also, rough up the areas with sandpaper that you want to cover with Magic-Sculpt.  That will ensure a good bond.  Magic-Sculpt smoothes nicely with a wet hand. - Kenny

Additional Note:  Be sure to wear latex gloves when handling Magic-Sculpt.  Some folks have an allergic reaction causing skin rash if you touch it with your bare hands.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

On the blink

Q: I'm a former vent and dummy maker. I caught a couple of your videos on YouTube. Pretty good. I learned how to make my dummies from Paul Winchell's book (you know which one) but it never showed how to make closing eyes. I'm not interested in blinkers, or side to side,  just closing eyes.  You got a simple diagram you can send me on how to construct this? 

Why the renewed interest? I'm constructing a new dummy for a horror flick we are planning to produce.. 
I started ventriloquism around the age of 11.  I haven't performed for more than 10 years 'cause I just got bored and got tired of playing straight man. What an ego! Please reply. Thanks.

A:  “Blinkers” is the term for eyes that open and close together. “Winkers” refers to eyes that can open and close separately, so I think you're referring to "blinkers" after all. Most instructions I've seen are installations over side-to-side eyes, but I suppose the mechanics would work with eyes that don't move.  However, I think the eyes would still need to be mounted on a tray of some kind.
Either way, the great Al Stevens' Fred Project is probably your best free source of information. Mike Brose’s book “Figure Making Can Be Fun” is also an excellent resource. Hope your horror flick figure turns out well. Keep me updated! Thanks again. - Kenny

Friday, December 02, 2011

From there to here

Last week
This week

Big Uncle Earl's jaw is finding form.  The lower lip is contoured to meet the upper lip.  I've smoothed some of the contact points' odd bends and twists. The interior has been smoothed. After it dries, I'll add the tongue.  There won't be any teeth since Uncle Earl will be a candidate for dentures. 

Also, I think I don't make jaws exactly like most folks.  You know, with precise parallel slits on either side.  With the old guy characters, I think uneven contours and overlaps make more interesting and expressive faces.  As long as the jaw opens cleanly, the funny angles add a lot of "character" to the character.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


Little Uncle Earl and Big Uncle Earl (under construction) are seen side-by-side. I worked on Big Uncle Earl's jaw, wrinkles below the eyes and neck wrinkles. Little Uncle Earl is almost ready for his headstick and body. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Bite down

Full-size Uncle Earl made a step forward today.  I temporarily mounted the jaw with axle inside the head so the jaw swings freely.  Then I sculpted a countoured lower lip with Paper Clay. 

I'll let this dry before I move to the next task. (See previous post  referring to "head-donking").

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I should cut this into small pieces

Grisly as this may look, this photo actually represents an epiphany.  Well... maybe a donk on the head for being impatient. 

I'm fitting the jaw for my full-size Uncle Earl.  I made axle slots in the head to mount the jaw armature.  The slots (made of Magic-Sculpt) were placed so the jaw swung freely in the head and opened at it's widest possible point.  From there(thinking the Magic-Sculpt would stay somewhat secure... and this is where I shoulda been donked), I proceeded to sculpt and contour with Paper Clay atop the jaw armature  (pictured).  Of course, the constant movement of the slots caused my lengthy jaw-sculpting a total waste of time.  But in the process... the jaw sculpting was enlightening and fun (kinda like a kindergartner with Play Dough).  But I realized I should sculpt the jaw in steps. 

First, let the slots dry completely. (Duh!)

Step one is to sculpt the bottom lip so that it contours with Uncle Earl's top lip.  Let it dry.  Step two is sculpt the front part of the jaw down to the chin.  Let it dry, too.  Next comes the bottom of the jaw where it meets the neck. You guessed it... wait 'til it dries.  After that, layer the jaw's interior with a nice smooth surface.  Let 'er dry.  Next-to-last step, add a tongue. (No teeth.  Uncle Earl eats lots of Jello).

Let it all dry. 

Final step:  Sand to taste.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Maybe if you Jimmy it

Having trouble figuring out what to get that someone who has everything?  There's always "Jimmy"!

This bright-eyed redhead hits the Ebay auction block this evening.  Hopefully Santa (or one of Santa's Helpers) will snap him up.  He should fit really well under someone's tree.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A soft touch

Though I love making and playing with hard figures, I'm quite fond of soft puppets, too. A friend, knowing I have a soft puppet collection of cuties from the animal kingdom, gave me this white rat puppet. (The little critter claims he's a mouse, not a rat).

Friday, November 11, 2011

Checking his bags

I hope you're not tiring of the subject matter.  But here's the latest photo of my full-size Uncle Earl.  I added bags under his eyes and a turkey neck. 

The thing I discovered is that when I put in wrinkle lines, as in the eye bags, it's okay to make them rather rough.  The trick is to go back, remove the "flakes" of Paper Clay, then add another thin layer of Paper Clay over the rough wrinkle lines.  The additional clay forms smoother, cleaner-looking wrinkle lines.  That's the next step after the bags dry. 

Wednesday, November 09, 2011


My two projects continue to make progress.  The Asian character on the right has been painted with two coats of primer.  I will sand it again after the second coat completely dries.  Then he may be ready to ship to Braylu Creations to have his mold made.  Uncle Earl on the left got a wrinkled forehead today.  Nerxt comes bags under his eyes. 

Saturday, November 05, 2011

I'm aging

It's hard to say how close I'll come to the original 2T Uncle Earl with my full-size attempt.  But I added his jowls and upper lip today. 

I'm nervous.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Chinese checker

If my new Chinese character were to give me sage advice, he might say, "Patience, grasshopper".  His words of wisdom, however, would be lost on me because I just can't wait until he's finished before I know what he'll look like. That's why I did this rendering of the figure based upon the sculpting I've done. It's a great way to check his eventual appearance and share the prediction with my customer.  (And it's fun to do, too). 

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Nose first

The stars have aligned in Uncle Earl's favor.  It seems that Uncle Earl's 2T mold is wearing out.  A decision had to be made whether to invest the time and money into re-making the mold or to discontinue the 2T head castings.  Almost simultaneously, a ventriloquist from Puerto Rico told me if I could make a full-size Uncle Earl (40"-42" tall). he'd buy it. 

I told Buzz James, Braylu Creations' owner about it.  So Buzz asked customers on his blog whether to continue the 2T Uncle Earl, or wait for a new full-size version.  The vote for the full-size version won out. 

Well... I have never tried to sculpt a full-size head from a small head model. Fate dictated it was time to try.  I'm altering my "Jackie" figure again as I did with the Asian figure. I've made a careful plan and I think it'll work. I started with Uncle Earl's big nose.  I sculpted it in Paper Clay.  (This stuff has changed my life!)  After that I'll recreate the wrinkled upper lip and jowls.  Then it's bags under the eyes, wrinkles in his forehead, bigger earlobes and a nice turkey neck for full effect. 

Then there's the jaw.  (Think I'm gonna be here awhile).

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Conversion for conversion

The new "eye clips" from Braylu Creations can be converted to mount eyeballs in conversion figures or smaller 2T heads.  The clips need to be shortened to fit the smaller head.  It's easy to do.  I sawed off the back half.

In this instance, I plan to hang the eyeballs below the clip.  (I chose to mount the eyeballs above the clip in my full-size figure).  To make the installation secure, I drilled small holes in the face of the clip that makes contact with the head's interior.  I drilled small holes (not all the way through) in the head's interior where the face of the clip and the head make contact.  That's so the Magic-Sculpt epoxy will anchor well. 

I will use Gorilla clear super-glue and a dab of Magic-Sculpt to secure the bolt axles to the clip.

Monday, October 31, 2011

I gave him a fat lip

No, I didn't smack him.  I applied more Paper Clay.  I gave my Asian figure model a fuller upper lip.  I curved up the left corner in a slight smile, and the right side in a flatter expression.  Paul Winchell mentioned this technique in his book "Ventriloquism for Fun and Profit".

This guy looks rough right now.  I'll be happy to get to the sanding phase so I can see if he really looks right.

By the way, thanks for the tips on dealing with the Paper Clay cracks.

Oh... and Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Crackin' up

True to the comment made by a reader, Paper Clay contracts as it dries and forms cracks.  The cracks are repairable, but it's still an extra step.  Still, I like Paper Clay for sculpting and altering cast heads. 

I'm making progress on my Asian figure.  I sliced off the end of the perky nose to form a flatter probiscus.  The wrinkled forehead is a little too "Klingon" right now, but sanding will bring it into line.  I will add a few more wrinkes and I may fatten his upper lip. 

This is fun!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

What about me

One of my many obsessions is tweaking my "KENNY CROES DUMMY STORE" website.  I've migrated the design to the screenshot on the left.  I also added an "About Kenny" link so folks can find out what I was up to before I started making dummies.  My past is somewhat checkered, but there was only enough room to brag and namedrop.  When you get a moment, take a peek.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Paper Clay eye

I purchased some Paper Clay awhile back with the intent of using it to sculpt a new figure.  Well, I am doing that... however... I'm using it to alter my first full-size figure, "Jackie".  I have a request for an Asian character, so I decided to use a "Jackie" cast as my armature.  I'll do the other eye, then make changes to his nose.  I may think up a few more transforming features.  After he's completed, I'll have a mold made, then make castings of my Asian character.

I really like the Paper Clay.  I've always sculpted with Magic-Sculpt, but it hardens quickly. (I call it "speed-sculpting").  Paper Clay stays pliable for a long time and takes 2-3 days to air-dry completely.  Then I'll sand the eye nice and smooth.  I may try it out to fill imperfections in the casting, too.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Shoe store

I'm not sure how many pairs of children's shoes I have (in various colors and sizes), but I've stocked quite a few. My wife always picks up a pair or two when she's out thrift store shopping. I also have a rack filled with 2T-4T outfits.

So why do my friends think it's a little weird?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

My Jackie

I finally finished my first full-sized figure.  Serial# FS-2011-0001.  I've named him "Jackie" after my first Jerry Mahoney dummy I got when I was 6-years old. I'm not going to sell this fellow.  He's mine.  However I took copious notes on his specs so I can build others and put them up for sale.  Of course, I'll take special orders, too. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Connect the neck

Q: I bought one of your heads from Braylu and I also bought a control stick with a cup and trigger. How do I attach it to your head? Do I cut your head at the neck or does it fit inside? I do not want to ruin your head.

A: The head comes with the rounded part at the bottom of the neck because some folks prefer to install a wood dowel or PVC pipe alone.  The control stick you bought comes with a rounded part (the cup is called a "transition").   Since the head you bought is rounded at the bottom of the neck, cut that part off. The transition on the headstick replaces the rounded part at the bottom of the neck. After I've built the mechanics in the head and attached the cords inside, I attach the headstick to the neck with Magic-Sculpt. Have fun with your project.

Monday, October 17, 2011

I need glasses

I shop the Dollar Tree store to buy socks for my figures.  I also check the toy aisles for odds and ends.  Because Halloween is just around the corner, they had these cool coke-bottle glasses.   I only bought two pair because I wasn't sure if they'd fit.  But as you can see, they work great on my full-size figure.  Today I'm going back to buy every pair they have in stock.

As a bonus, each pair of glasses comes with a big red clown nose. (Oh good... something for me to wear.)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Been away

We spent the weekend with friends in Springfield, Oregon.  My buddy Raye's wife Janie gave up her seat so I could go to the Duck Game with Raye.  Snapped a picture, of course.  (Oregon Ducks defeated Arizona State last night 41-27).  So not much work got done around here.  But the pair of hands you see are where I left off.  They've been primed and ready for their paint job and manicure.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


A funny story from a friend...

I just turned 65 yesterday, and a couple from church (longtime friends) asked my wife and me out for dinner to celebrate.  I’m trying to get my friends involved in putting on a show. Consequently, I took my first vent doll with me to dinner.  This is a younger looking vent figure as was evidenced by the fact the waitress wouldn’t sell my dummy any beer when he asked for a bottle.  She asked for his ID, but unfortunately my dummy (who I call Ian) left it at home (according to him). 

The best laugh of the night came later, however, when Ian continued to flirt with the waitress.  He asked her when she got off work, and could he come back to take her out.  The waitress was quick witted however, and didn’t skip a beat when she replied, “Sure…I’ll go out with you, but if you come back, come back ALONE!” 

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Keep looking

My first full-sized figure's head is finished.  I really learned a lot making this fellow. His mechanics are very smooth. (mouth, side-to-side self-centering eyes, crossing eyes, raising eyebrows).

I still have to finish his body and hands.  I also need to get him some clothes.  (Wouldn't do to leave him in his skivvies) 

Please draw it out for me

In case you haven't noticed yet, there are very nice drawings of the eye clip on the Braylu Creations blog

Friday, October 07, 2011

Clip tip

Eye Clip (front side is on the left)
As I bogged earlier, Braylu Creations' new gizmo, now called an "eye clip", works well.  But the order of installation is very important.  So here's what I recommend:
  • Before you start, it's best to have already installed the back springs or posts in the eyeballs.
  • Mount the eye on top of the clip.  Insert a bolt axle and washer in the slot from the underneath side.  Screw a washer and nut (we'll call it Nut and Washer A) on the bolt on the top side of the eye clip so it's snug against the eye clip's top side, but don't tighten it too much. Slip the eye on the bolt axle (with the eye's indented side down) over the Nut and Washer A
Eye Clip. (front view)

  • Now screw a nut and washer (we'll call this one Nut and Washer B) on the top of the eye (atop the flat portion of the eye). Slip the eye and bolt forward in the slot toward the front of the eye clip, then tighten Nut and Washer B so the eye can't turn.
  • Insert the eye clip and eye in the head.  Loosen Nut and Washer B just enough to slip the eye forward or backward in the eye clip's slot until the eye is in the right spot in the eye socket with the iris centered.  The front of the eye clip should be as close to the front of the head as possible.  The closer it is, the less Magic-Sculpt you'll need to mount it.
  • Once the eye is in place in the socket, tighten down Nut and Washer B and clearly mark the bolt location on the underside of the eye clip. Then remove the eye clip and eye from the head.
  • Remove Nut and Washer B, then remove the eye from the bolt axle.
  • Apply a glue or "Lock-Nut" to Nut and Washer A or bolt, then tighten the bolt permanently in the marked place with Nut and Washer A. Let the glue or Lock-Nut dry before the next step.
  • Slip the eye back on the axle.  Apply a glue or "Lock-Nut" to Nut and Washer B or bolt, then screw and permanently fix in place with Nut and Washer B so the eye turns freely. Let the glue or Lock-Nut dry before the next step.
  • Place it all back in the head so the eye is back in perfect position in the eye socket. Then Magic-Sculpt the front-side of the eye clip to the front of the head's interior.
  • By the way, I used 1-1/2" eyes and 10-24 size bolt 2 inches long.  Refer to the picture below of the installed eyes and eye clips on my previous post.  However, remember that I made the mistake of not installing the back springs first. (Do as I say, not as I did).
  • The final step is to attach a synchro bar to the eye posts or springs.

Monday, October 03, 2011


This little feller is named "Harlan".  He's a hobo moonshiner.  He loves his "XXX Bonafide Homemade Hooch", which he's holding.  Harlan is an Elmore head with an altered upper lip, jaw and nose.  His hat is a Charlie McCarthy doll top hat that I crushed and painted.  He's now looking for a podner on Ebay.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Porch pals

Uncle Earl is keeping my friend Wally company.  They both look relaxed, don't they?  I bet together they spin some interesting (and humorous) tales. 

I bet they argue, too. 

Friday, September 30, 2011

Head of the line

Now my first full-size figure has raising eyebrows, eyes and eyelids (not blinkers... maybe next time).  I still need to add the eye synchro inside the head, the jaw axle, eye hooks for the cords, etc. But he's closer to completion, maybe by the end of the weekend.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Can't stop fiddlin'

Me and Buzz James (of Braylu Creations fame) can't seem to stop messin' around with mechanics design. It seems hundreds of years of vent figure building would settle the issues. But noooo. We have to keep trying new things, new approaches, new techniques, new gizmos.

This is Buzz's latest idea, which I have employed on my full-size figure. Rather than use an eye tray, these doohickeys provide a slot by which one can slide the eyeball forward or backward into its proper placement. Once the eye is in place, mark the bolt location, remove the gadget, slip the eye off the bolt axle, lock the bolt in place with a nut on the top side of the doodad, slip the eye back on the axle, apply and secure the top washer and nut, put it all back in the head so the eye is in a perfect position. Then Magic-Sculpt the hooskerdoos to the front of the head's interior.

The photo here, however, does not represent the proper order of things. I should have installed my backsprings first so that when I went through the process above, I was ready to install the eyes permanently. I have to remove the eyes, install the springs, re-install the eyeballs onto the axles, then Magic-Sculpt the bolt in the slot from the bottom to keep it from slding. If I'd have installed my backsprings first, I could have secured the bolts in place with a nut under the eyes.

Live and learn. But I like Buzz's new thingamabob. (We need to give it a name)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Progress report

My 3T figure ...(I gotta come up with a name...any suggestions?)


My 3T figure has been painted.  Now the fun begins. The mechanics. 

I'm taking careful note of the measurements. I'm attempting to design in three dimensions.  That's always a challenge for me, a guy that didn't make it past Algebra II.  The eyebrows went in rather nicely.  The spring size is larger than the one I used for 2T.

Next comes the eyes. One thing I can already confirm.  It's GREAT having all that room in the head!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

More yuks (in a tux)