Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Off he goes

Always sad to say goodbye to an old friend.  I've worked on my Asian figure for a very long time.  Now he's folded, bagged, bubble-wrapped and boxed for his trip south.  Hope to see some new photos with his new partner soon.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


The last step to finishing my Asian figure is to braid the wig.  My wife knows how to do it (I don't), so I've drafted her into service.  That set off an immediate debate since the wig is very, very long.  I wanted to cut the braid to make it shorter.  She disagrees and thinks I should keep it long. 

Complicating it further is the fact that fake hair is slicker than real hair, so it's much harder to braid than the real thing.  But she's handling it and I think the Asian figure will be ready for his photo sessions later today.

Update: Here are a couple shots from his photo session today.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

My favorite thingamajig

I'm not sure what this thing is called, but it's my most-often, most-used tool.  It's really a simple tool.  One end has a semi-sharp point, the other a flat semi-sharp surface.  I'm not even sure where or when I got it.  I think it may have been part of an old wood-sculpting kit. 

The tool pokes, gouges, smooths, retrieves, indents, scrapes, punctures, steadies, and... oh, yeah... sculpts.

You can tell how much I use it by how caked it is with debris.  I seem to recall the handle was once a very bright yellow.   

Friday, January 27, 2012

Home stretch

My Asian figure is close to complete.  As far as mechanics, I only need to build and install the jaw and crossing eye pulleys, a fairly simple procedure.  The other mechanics are installed and the cords have been attached.  I have to install triggers on the headstick. Then I'll attach the other ends of the cords to the triggers.  After that comes the application of wig, eyebrow hairs, and Fu Manchu mustache and beard.  Another week of this and that and he'll be ready to ship.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Last in line

The Elmore mold has finally deteriorated to the point where only four more castings exist.  I bought two of them.  Good thing, too, since I just got a special order for an Elmore figure from a customer in South America.  If you examine the photo carefully, you can see lots of bubble indentations (symptoms of a worn mold) that need to be filled and sanded.  But in the end, Elmore will be a fine little fella.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Open W-I-D-E


I'm working on my second "Jackie" figure, a full-size cheeky boy figure.  I cut out the mouth cavity and I've installed the jaw so that it swings freely.  Now I need to narrow the gaps on either side of the jaw.  I added Magic-Sculpt to both sides.  After it dried, I had to cover the seam line between the Magic-Sculpt and the urethane casting.  I've used Elmer's wood filler to cover the seam.  After it dries, I'll sand it smooth.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Post post

PVC pipe installation.  Magic-Sculpt secures the pipe in the head.  The other end of the pipe is perched on Klean Clay.  Notice the string level sitting atop the pipe.
I have made over eighty vent figures so far, and every one of them has had a Braylu neck transition and post installed.  This is the first time I have ever installed my own control post from scratch.  It was a puzzle as to how to go about it.  What substance do I use to secure the post? Gorilla Glue?  Hot glue? Magic-Sculpt?  (I chose a ring of Magic Sculpt). Do I attach the eye screw (for the jaw spring) first?  Or do I do it after I install the post? (My answer was "before").  How do I prevent the sharp eyescrew point protruding inside the PVC pipe from tearing up the nylon cord?  (My answer was to snip off the protrusion and cover what's left with a dab of smoothed Magic-Sculpt).  How do I make sure the PVC pipe is level in both directions? (I perched the other end of the pipe on some Klean Clay, a Mike Brose recommendation.  Then I used a small string level for up-and-down, and measured the distance from the pipe to the edge of the work table to square the side-to-side).

After the exterior Magic-Sculpt dries, I'll add more on the interior to further secure and stabilize the PVC pipe.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Now the brow

The eyebrows rods have been installed and the interior eyebrow pulley system is in place. The next step is to cover the rods with Magic-Sculpt.  On most figures, I sculpt hair-like lines in the Magic-Sculpt, let it harden, then paint the eyebrows the appropriate color.  On my Asian figure, I want the Magic-Sculpt to serve as a platform for mounting actual hair for bushy eyebrows. 

Since the eyebrows will be made with white hair, I'll paint the Magic-Sculpt white before adding the hairs.  I plan to use hair cut from the Fu Manchu beard I purchased.  The beard is very long, so there will be enough for me to trim from the beard and still leave plenty of length.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

It's in the eyes

The eyes add so much life to a character.  Along with the eyes, I did a bit of shadow and line refinement with paint.  I tried a new technique.  I mixed the flesh color with the darker line color.  Then I used a very wet brush and went over the lines and shadows.  It seemed to soften the edges. 

Though the eyes are installed, it's temporary.  I need to place eyehooks in the eyeballs for the crossing-eyes animation.  Then I'll permanently synch the eyes using a slotted synchro bar from Braylu Creations. After that, they go back in for good. 

Today's scheduled new addition?  Eyebrow rods!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Now what do I do?

I'm working on five projects at one time. All five projects had to stop simultaneously today because they all had something that needed to dry.

Guess I better take inventory. (Oh now, THAT'LL be fun!)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Head shoptalk

Here's a look at the initial painting stages of my Asian figure.  I still need to darken a few dimpled areas and clean up a few lines.  He will eventually have gray bushy eyebrows, a gray Fu Manchu mustache and beard, and a gray wig with a braided ponytail. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

It's hard to get a head

My Asian figure's head is still under construction, but the body and costume are ready to go. The photo doesn't do the costume justice.  I really love the silk-like jacket and pants I found on Ebay. 

The head is being painted while the jaw and eye mechanics are being built.  Once the primary flesh-colored coats have been applied, then the mechanics installation begins.  As this and that dries, I'll paint details on the face similar to applying stage make-up.

Monday, January 16, 2012

No stick-to-it-iveness

I recently discovered PaperClay for sculpting new figures.  It has a long working time and dries completely within a day or three.  However, I also tried it out as a filler material for castings.  That didn't work out so well because PaperClay doesn't have a sticky attribute like Magic-Sculpt.  PaperClay worked for small indentations, but not for larger cavities.  PaperClay sticks to itself well enough, but not to other surfaces.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Earl revisited

Uncle Earl has been one of my most popular figures and the 2T head has also been one of the bestsellers on Braylu Creations.  The mold has finally worn down and a new one about to be made. 

Truth be known, sculpting the head was never meant to be a model for castings, but rather a completed sculpture. But Braylu impresario Buzz James suggested that we make a mold, generate castings and sell them on his website.  I thought we'd give it a try and it's turned out well.  That being said, there were always imperfections in my original model that annoyed me (and possibly others) that I would like to correct or minimize on the next mold. 

When I made one of my first Uncle Earl's from the casting, I added a turkey neck, and later additional wrinkles on the neck.  Because the wrinkles were not on the castings, I would add them to each and every Uncle Earl figure.  Now that we're going to make a new mold, I've added the wrinkles to the model. 

I've also made revisions to the jaw.  The top of the jaw was a flat area.  Again, on each and every Uncle Earl I made, I cut off the top of the jaw, ground out the center and added a tongue for a toothless look.  I'd also grind the underside so the jaw opened wider.  Both revisions will be on the new jaw model. 

Meanwhile, I'm nearly finished with my 3T version of Uncle Earl.  Final photos soon!

Friday, January 13, 2012

There she is

Miss America 1965 and Kurley-Q
The inspiration behind this post came from a friend who sent me a joke photo with a different dummy in the picture.  The beauty queen is Miss America 1965, Vonda Kay Van Dyke holding her knee pal Kurley-Q.  Vonda Kay was the first contestant to perform ventriloquism in the talent phase of the Miss America pageant.

The "inspiration" photo was the product of a little Photoshop magic that placed my friend's dummy in the picture instead of Kurley-Q.  The "replacement" was a cute little figure named Ian holding a beer bottle.  Out of respect for Vonda Kay's reputation, I decided to go with the original since Miss America 1965 went on to become a bestselling author of Christian self-help books for young women.  (Dating beer-guzzling dummies was probably not covered in one of her chapters). 

But the joke photo made me giggle and led me to research Vonda Kay's triumph.

Say, does anyone know who built Kurley Q?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tongue fun

This jaw belongs to the new and improved Uncle Earl sculpture I'm working on.  I added a tongue to the jaw today.  You'll notice there are no teeth.  As I mentioned before, the old guy is a candidate for dentures.

After the PaperClay dries, I'll sand it smooth.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Now don't panic

Because I have an actual paying client for my Asian figure, I worry that he'll see the figure in its transitional state and go, "Oh my Gawd!  What have I done!". 

Nevertheless, here's the latest phase of construction.  I have altered the original jaw to have a fuller lower lip that also contours more precisely to the upper lip.  Though you can't see it in this photo, I have also worked on the jaw so it opens and closes without exposing gaps on the underside.  Next I will finish the chin and expand the sides of the jaw so the side slots are thinner. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

If it don't kill ya, it's sure to thrill ya!

That's this little moonshiner's slogan on his brand of homemade hootch.  His name is Otis and he's looking for a hideout from the Sheriff.  If you'd like to be his "alibi", please place a bid for him on Ebay!

Monday, January 09, 2012

Calling all ventriloquarians

Ventriloquist Tom Ladshaw has a cool website that offers "ventriloquiana", a term coined by Vent Haven founder W.S. Berger.  On Gottle O' Geer, you'll see vintage books and ventriloquist memorabilia for sale.  Tom also offers instructional DVD's and even scripts.  Ventriloquiana collectors will enjoy the website.  The merchandise offered changes often as Tom churns his own huge collection.  Novice and experienced ventriloquists alike will appreciate the many instructional tools to improve their performances.  Most of all, it's an entertaining website to browse.

Sunday, January 08, 2012


"Hi Kenny.  Mr. Fenster has made it here in good shape and might I say what an excellent figure he is.   Nice job."  - Tom C.

It's very gratifying when I'm able to bring together one of my old guys with a very happy partner.  I hope Mr. Fenster misbehaves in public so friends, family and total strangers can enjoy his antics.  Have fun, Tom!

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Eye browse

I'm installing raising eyebrows in my Asian figure.  I drilled two 1/8" holes in the forehead to accomodate two sections of 1/8" brass tubing.  I secured the tubes with Magic-Sculpt.  I'll insert brass rods into the brass tubes that will eventually become eyebrows. 

Meanwhile I've made my first revision of the jaw.  I'll show you that in a while.  Gotta go to the hardware store and buy some supplies.  I love browsing the aisles searching for stuff that might help with vent figure building. 

Friday, January 06, 2012

Who's Hoosier?

A customer from Indiana ordered a "Mr. Fenster" figure from my Kenny Croes Dummy Store.  I hope Mr. Fenster likes basketball.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Gimme lip

Here's a close-up of the Asian figure's new upper lip.  The jaw's lower lip has been cut away so I can sculpt (with Paperclay) a new lower lip that will contour perfectly with the new upper lip. 

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

In the mood for Chinese

My Asian figure will be progressing more quickly (in theory) now that the holidays are behind us.  At this stage, slight imperfections have been filled and a few bumps sanded. 

The jaw was placed early on, and here's how he'll look... sort of.  I will completely redsegin the jaw for this figure.  The new jaw will also work well with my first full-size figure, "Jackie". 

The next step for the head is a coat of primer.  Then comes the flesh tone. I haven't nailed the Asian flesh color yet. My wife is color-consulting and says I'm not quite there yet.