Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year

Thanks to all who followed my blog as I meandered through the nutty world of vent figure building. I sure appreciate all of the good advice and compliments that came my way. I wish for you, your friends and family a happy, healthy and prosperous 2013.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Peer at the ear

This is the first step in making an ear for my new full-size Mr. Winkle sculpture. I cut out the shape I wanted in Styrene. I drilled two holes in each Styrene ear so the Magic-Sculpt would poke through. Then I smoothed out the protruding Magic-Sculpt so it would anchor the Styrene. The Magic-Sculpt behind the Styrene ear is what attaches it to the head. 

After the Magic-Sculpt dries, I'll use Paperclay to sculpt the true shape of the ear. That'll be fun to do tomorrow.

Friday, December 28, 2012

A grouch emerges

No ears yet. But that's next. I'll draw them out on a piece of Styrene plastic, then cut them out. I'll attach them with Magic-Sculpt. After that, I'll use Paperclay to sculpt the ears on top of the Styrene.

I have a Jackie jaw that I plan to cut down and place in the head so that it opens and closes freely. Then I will use more Paperclay to shape the jaw so it meets the upper lip area.

Then comes crack sealing, wrinkle gouging and light sanding to mellow and blend the features.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Diverse characters

A lovely note from Gary P. Green

"As a part of the Justice Institute of BC teaching faculty I use ventriloquism for role plays, storytelling, and sharing experiences from characters I've met over the years as a police officer. These characters come out as vent figures. Kenny has been fantastic to work with developing my characters. He delivers on time, always keeps you informed during the process, and producing professional figures. Here are the three characters that I will be using in my diversity in policing class - Yin Lee who came to BC to work on the railway and in the coal mines of Vancouver Island, Rasmus who came to Victoria in 1858 and was one of the first members of the Victoria Police, and Mazie who is from the street and is a recovered alcoholic and drug user. I look forward to bringing history alive with Kenny's figures."

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Turn the other cheek

Over the Christmas holiday I made progress on my full-size Mr. Winkle sculpture. He has a left cheekbone. He'll get his right cheekbone and his left jowl today. Now he has bags under his eyes and crows' feet in the corners. His upper lip area has been filled in and I finished his forehead wrinkles. 

I plan to put wrinkles in his neck similar to the way I made them on my full-size Uncle Earl.   

What about the jaw, you say? Hmmm. Good point.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

'Tis the season

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Keen on mean

My full-size Mr. Winkle sculpture continues with some new facial features. As I anticipated, I added a bit more Paperclay to the end of his nose. Now it hooks down. I bordered his upper lip area with the beginning of his cheeks. He received another wrinkle in his forehead and a "chicken neck".

More fun around the corner.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Albino boy

I'm building a couple of figures for a client in Australia. One of his choices was a Jackie figure unpainted. He wants to try his hand at painting the little fella himself. As he said in a recent email, "Why should I (meaning me) have all the fun?"

Since my client is an excellent visual artist, I'm sure he'll do a superb job. I did apply a coat of primer on the head and hands so he'd have a head start.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

He's getting angrier

Day 3 and now Mr. Winkle is showing signs of annoyance. He has a couple of frown-influenced  forehead wrinkles with two more to come. He has nostrils now, but as I stated earlier, his nose will be further deviated to make him look even more... shall we say... uncooperative.

I'm enjoying this immensely.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A nose by any other name

Mr. Winkle now has a nose. Well... part of a nose. I still need to add nostrils. The nose may be altered further as other facial components are added. But here's a look at Day 2.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Guess who

Just as I've made a full-size version of Uncle Earl, I've started a full-size version of Mr. Winkle. He's been one of my most popular characters in the 2T rendition, so I hope he continues to generate interest in a 40" model as well.

I'm using a full-size blank from Braylu Creations. The blank was based on my original Jackie sculpture, so the eye tray measurements will be similar.

I'm using PaperClay for the additive sculpture. Before I lay down the PaperClay, I smear Tacky glue over the area so the PaperClay will stick.

Monday, December 17, 2012


Sunday, December 16, 2012

New website graphic

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The right bite

I have a commission to build a full-size Uncle Earl with some alterations. My client wants him to resemble a well-known Australian comedian. So I've installed a set of "Austin Powers" upper teeth. I'll sculpt some teeth to fill the space on both sides of the choppers. I plan to use an altered Jackie jaw to create a severe overbite. I'll also narrow the eye sockets.

You might notice that I removed the wrinkles in the upper lip and changed the way the cheeks meet the upper lip area. Again I used Free Form Air. And again I'll emphasize that it's an exercise in "speed sculpting" because the stuff gets gnarly after about 10 minutes of manipulation. But because the result adds much less weight than Magic-Sculpt, I like using it whenever possible.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Under the tree

Sometimes I get such nice letters.

Hello Kenny,

Just a quick note to let you know how awesome my Uncle Earle is.
I would attach a pic, but unfortunately I only had time to get to know him for about 10 mins before my better half took him off me and said ‘That's for Christmas! Not for Now’. So he got repackaged and wrapped and is living under the Christmas Tree til Christmas.
I’ll send a photo as soon as he has escaped the trauma of being gift wrapped.

Best wishes to you and your family for a happy holiday season. - WH

Monday, December 10, 2012


I love projects that require lots of learning. Mazie certainly fits in that category. I managed to make a single winker, and if you've followed my blog for awhile, you KNOW how good I feel about that. Female characters require a different paint job, different costume and different wig. And red fingernails.

 I hope my client likes what he sees.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Boob job

I've spent so much time working on my floozie's head that I've only now assembled the body. Buzz James from Braylu Creations sent me the vacuum-formed styrene breasts several years ago so I could beta test them. Only now have I attempted a female character that requires a bosom. I wired them to the foam body pad across the top and used cord along the sides and bottom. I'll add some soft padding on the body's interior as well.

Oh yes... and arms. This is not a Venus de Milo.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

No kink in the wink

After much travail (the good kind), I have made "Mazie" wink. I still need to tweak here and there. Her eyelid needs a better paint job. My wife has informed me that I need to add a bit more roundness to the inside ends of the eyebrows before I paint them. I'm ready to install the rest of the mechanics with hopes that nothing bumps into anything else.

After working so hard inside the small head, I think I've learned enough to successfully add soft blinkers to one of my full-size characters (WAY more room inside). After much gnashing of teeth, now I understand the mechanics and have a design to move toward.

As they say... no pain, no gain.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Magic man cave

Last June, Oprah toured the home of actor Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka. Toward the end of the tour, the former "Doogie Howser" showed Oprah his "Magic Man Cave". As the camera entered the room, the figure I built for him (given to him as a gift from friends) is seen seated in a leather chair. The next shot showed a close-up of the mean old fella. After seeing Mr. Winkle, Oprah said, "A little too real for me!"

(Scroll to the end of the YouTube video to see the aforementioned scenes.)

Monday, December 03, 2012

New gadgets

Now that I've successfully mounted the winker's eyelid, I have to make the darn thing open and close. So I mounted a lever on the rod-and-tube pulley system I use for the raising eyebrows. I usually use a single brass tube, but because I had to add the lever, I used two brass tubes, one on each side of the lever. That way the eyebrows and winker will activate separately (I hope).

One end of the lever will attach to the control cord; the other will attach to a spring that holds the winker in the open position and returns it to the open position after it winks. I attached a small spring to a brass rod and installed it inside the head below the lever.

In theory, this should open and close the winker. If it does, you'll be the first to know. (If it doesn't, you'll probably know that, too).

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Unfurl Earl

Uncle Earl is a funny old guy. He might make a delightful Holiday gift for someone. 

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Winker dinker

I'm feeling pretty confident right now. I am so grateful for the excellent advice that came from my readers. The suggestion of using Tacky glue instead of ZAP was particularly successful. The eyelid is a touch rough around the edge, but I plan to add an eyelash which will cover that. I'll also paint the winker.

I have my mechanics figured out. Don't be surprised if I blog about that next.  

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Glutton for punishment

My client has already given me permission to wave the white flag. But I stubbornly decided to give it one more try. If I can't make a winker this time, then I'll complete the figure without it.

I built a new frame and installed it in the head. Tomorrow I'll attempt to attach the chamois being extra careful to keep the glue away from the axles. 

Of course, I still have to install the actuating mechanism which is more new territory.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Things were going so well

Stop. Take one step forward. Stop. Take 2 steps back.

I got this far. Frame installed. Moves smoothly. Cut chamois. Tape it up on the inside. Apply glue to frame. Drape chamois over glued frame. Get glue all over the frame's tubes.

Wait a minute. That last step. Get glue all over the frame's tubes. I wasn't supposed to do that.

The winker frame that moved up and down so smoothly suddenly moved like running in a bad dream. Had to rip out the frame (thus destroying it). That's where the Stop. Take 2 steps back thing comes in.

I will move forward. Lesson learned. (Geez I wish there was an easier way).

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Never give up

My quest to make a single winker continues with this step. I have secured the axle tube on the outside of the eye socket and Magic-Sculpted the wrap-around wire "tube" on the inside of the head. I have confirmed that the winker frame will clear the eyeball.

When it all dries, I will add the soft chamois eyelid. Then comes the actuating mechanism.

Wonder if I pull this off this time?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Big heads

Ventriloquist Marc Rubben is a very funny guy. I especially like his Bighead characters from Robert McRay's studio.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Monday, November 19, 2012

Just one

If you've followed this blog for awhile, you're probably aware of my futile wandering in the land of blinkers and winkers. Well... here goes again. It's another trip down winker road. But this time I only have to make one eye wink. That's all. Just one winker. The other eye never blinks or winks. 

Can I make at least one eye wink?

I've explored hard blinker avenue and soft winker boulevard. One or both may be blind alleys. Either way, it will be attached to a soft-winker-style brass frame.  

I'm head-scratching over the interior mechanism. Looks like it will need its own pulley. I'd hoped it could use the same pulley bar as the eyebrows, but it needs to be deeper inside the head. To accommodate the actuating lever, I may need to cut a hole in the eye tray to make way.

And then there's the chamois. Can I avoid the bunch up? How lost do I sound?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pretty close

She's getting better looking. My wife gave me a book on drawing people. She pointed out that women have a slightly more pointed jaw than a man's. So taking her suggestion (as any good husband would), I sculpted a distinctly more pointed chin. I also closed the gaps in the jaw.

One comment regarding the sculpting of the chin... I used Free Form Air rather than Magic-Sculpt. I'm getting much more comfortable with the substance and I expect I'll use it more often.

I need to do some finish sanding before I add a coat of primer.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Beauty or beast?

She may not look like much now, but this face will eventually be a floosie... a tart... a lady of the evening. It's a project for a client. I'm using a Braylu Standard head. So far I've altered the nose (with Free Form Air), enhanced the upper lip (with Magic-Sculpt) and done some fill work (again with Free Form Air).

In the corner of the right eye, I've installed a very small section of brass tube. I plan to add a winker to that right eye socket.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Looking for a retirement home

Uncle Earl is now looking for someone to argue with on Ebay.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

And now the video...

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

He's old, but he's new


I just completed a 42" Uncle Earl figure. He wears glasses so he can recognize his new partner when he finds one. They're also handy for catching the right bus back to the old folks home. (Last time he forgot to wear them and he ended up at a Megadeth concert... which turned out okay because he couldn't hear them anyway). 

He'll be for sale real soon.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Trash talk

Dopey me. After carefully measuring and cutting up the PVC pipe into 8.5" segments... after drilling slots and installing a tube 'n' rod eye control in one of the sticks... after all that... I try setting the headstick into the hole of a headstick holder only to discover that the circumference of this PVC pipe is oh-so-slightly larger than the holes... rendering all 13 of the headsticks useless.  

In disgust, I threw them all into the trash. 

Now this morning, I will rescue them from the trash can and store them in some drawer for later use. You never know when you might need a headstick with an oh-so-slightly larger circumference.

(It's probably good I didn't take up brain surgery as a hobby.)   

Sunday, November 04, 2012


I installed a tube 'n' rod eye control in this headstick. I usually attach the headstick to the head early on. But if I install it now, the tube will block installation of the jaw. If I attach the headstick after the eyes and jaw are installed, I have to work with the head without the headstick... which makes it more difficult to handle and store. If I install a headstick before I install a tube 'n' rod, the tube 'n' rod will be nearly impossible to install with the headstick attached.

Somehow I need to defeat the space/time continuum.


Friday, November 02, 2012

Coming attractions

"The more puppets, the better" is always a sound policy. Check out FlexiTube.

Post time

I prefer to use PVC pipe for my headsticks. I usually buy a long stretch of PVC and cut it into 8.5" lengths with a hack saw. I get 13 headsticks plus one more that's just a little shy of 8".

I intend to switch from rocker-style eye controls back to tube and rod controls. I'll also experiment with embedding triggers and axles in the PVC pipe rather than attaching them to the outside with screws and washers. That method really hasn't been a problem, but I'd like to try it for fun.

Next comes hole drilling.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Ready not to be silent

I finally completed my "Dead Silence"-inspired figure. I started with a Braylu Standard head, altered the nose and gave him molded hair.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Here's a heartwarming story. 

Friday, October 19, 2012


Wednesday, October 17, 2012


My friend's Bozo conversion continues to delight. It's fun and he looks so darn happy, he makes me smile, too. There wasn't a lot of room inside his little head, so I decided against squeezing in moving eyebrow mechanics. Instead I sculpted a pair of molded eyebrows. He's been covered with his first coat of primer. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Kinda cornball

Besides building these funny lookin' fellas, I also play music. I've wanted to compose a little ditty to accompany the videos I make of my goofy characters. Here's what I came up with. (Oh... and I gave you something to look at while the music plays). 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Four eyes

Why is Uncle Earl wearing glasses? The better to see you! I think he looks a bit goofier with specs. They're a consolation prize since he didn't get blinkers after all. Again, I haven't given up. I'm just... well... regrouping. Still, Uncle Earl is going to be a fun companion for some ventriloquist somewhere.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Thin is in

Taking a closer look at my little freaky guy, I decided to lose the "uni-brow" and make his eyebrows much thinner. I also changed the eye color to green. I thought he looked spookier with amber eyes, but my client wants green. So green it is.

I have to re-sync the eyes and then proceed to final gizmo installation to complete his mechanics.

Also in the works... my Bozo conversion, a 2T Uncle Earl and 42" Uncle Earl. All three will be looking for co-comedic conspirators. (Just thought I'd mention it).

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Dark shadows

The jaw was installed today. It will dry overnight, get some nippin' and tuckin, and be readied for its cord. Tomorrow the eye control guides go in, the eyebrow cords will be installed, and I may drill a few holes in the control stick for triggers.

I tried a new approach to shadowing around the eyes. I think I made a breakthrough. I painted a thin gray line outside the black eyeliner. Then I wet my finger and rubbed it all around the eyes, far beyond where you see the shadows here. Then I painted flesh color around the eyes, covering the rubbed gray paint until it's where you see it now.

He may be ready to freak people out by next week. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Lady of the night

A customer has asked for a female character. She's supposed to be a floosie. I Photoshop-ed a crude mock-up using a Braylu Standard head. I'm not sure she's "floosie" enough, but I figure we can always exaggerate a bit more.

There's a lot that could be done with costume... like a feather boa and a shiny dress. Oh...and maybe glitter under the eyes.