Saturday, March 31, 2012

White lightenin'

"OTIS, THE MOONSHINER" will be looking for a new place to set up his still. He will be accepting bids for his expertise from potential partners on Ebay beginning tomorrow, April Fools Day. (Seems appropriate).

Friday, March 30, 2012

Lines and shadows

I started the detail painting of my 3T Uncle Earl.  I had to use a darker red on the jaw interior to give the illusion of empty space. (He's dentally challenged... no teeth). I'll sharpen the lines with flesh tone.  I'll also do some dry brush technique to smooth the shadow areas. A ways to go yet.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

After working with the Braylu slotted eye synchronizer, I figured out a pretty good way to line everything up.  I struggled at first, but here's what I recommend now.

  • With your eyetray and eyes temporarily in the head, line up the back springs or posts so that the eyeball irises are centered.  I use a mirror in front of the figure's face as I work in the back. 
  • Mark the center spot where the springs insert into the synchronizer slots.
    Cut off the ends of the synchronizer so that the slots are open.  Cut it down further on each end if you're working on a 2T head.  I like to leave at least 1/8" area just to the outside of my marks.
  • Fill the slots with Magic-Sculpt, applying from the inside center-post to just past the marks.  Set aside two small pea-sized balls of Magic-Sculpt
  • Push each post or spring into the Magic-Sculpt in the slots far enough so that the irises are centered.
  • Take your tiny balls of Magic-Sculpt and "cap" both ends.  Adjust as necessary.
  • Let it dry. 
    Rough until it dries.  Use more Magic-Sculpt
     to smooth over the rough parts for a cleaner look
  • I clip off any excess post or spring that protrudes from back of the synchronizer.  If you want to make it cosmetically neater, apply a little more Magic-Sculpt over the rough parts and smooth with your water-dipped finger. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Two faced

Here's a photo of 3T Uncle Earl with his first coat of paint.  The jaw has also been fit to swing freely.  It will be fun painting in his facial details. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

I've been framed

Another project I'm working on is a new 2T Cheeky Boy character.  The first step is to build a frame for the jaw.  I want to install a free-swinging jaw frame in my armature.  I'm using the new generic cast head from Braylu as my armature.  It's the one I showed you earlier that I cut up a whole lot. 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Fun day

Some figure-building tasks are fun.  Others are less fun (like sanding... interior head-grinding...).  Today's primary job is fun. Today I will do the initial installation of the jaw on my 3T Uncle Earl. 

I've already added the axle tube to the jaw and secured it with Magic-Sculpt.  The brass axle rod has been cut (about 4.5" long).  That will be inserted into the jaw's brass tube. Then small-cuts of tube are slipped over the protruding ends of the axle rod.

After aligning the jaw in the head, I mark where the axles almost touch the sides of the head. That's where I'll put globs of Magic-Sculpt.   I put a little Vaseline on the end-section tubes.  Then I re-insert the jaw into the head... and sink the two axle-ends into the Magic-Sculp.  I'll mess with it here and there to make sure the jaw swings freely.  I'll make sure the axle-ends have formed nice clean open slots as well. 

I'll let it dry.  Then I'll slip the jaw in and out to work on it and to make any gap adjustments.

With the jaw installed, you see the first element of life.  That's why it's so fun.

Friday, March 23, 2012

He's a keeper

Zoomo the Space Cadet didn't make his reserve on Ebay.  So the little alien has been sitting around staring at me.  Hypnotizing me.  So every now and then I wander over and speak with him.  He's blurted out some words with different voices.  Today I think I found his true voice.

Rather than sell the little green man from outer space, I think I'll keep him.  I will covertly interrogate him by disguising my questions in the form of silly jokes. I'll discover his true intentions... is this a random crash landing or impending INVASION!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Old and young

I just started my first 3T (full-size 40"-42") Uncle Earl.  The casting came out very well.  At the same time, I'm beginning work on another Jackie figure.  I may try some fun stuff with him this time... perhaps with goofy buck teeth and thick glasses. 

I've also begun work on a jaw for a new 2T character.  I'm referring to Mike Brose's tutorial where you put two plastic sides on each end of a wood block.  Seems like a good way to start.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I'm going!

I just registered for the Venthaven Convention in July. I arrive on Wednesday late afternoon and I leave Sunday morning, so I'll be there for most of the activities and workshops.  It will be my first time attending.  I won't have a Dealers Table.  I really just want to meet other ventriloquists, see their figures, learn as much as I can, and watch the performances.  I'm especially looking forward to the VentHaven Museum tour on Sunday. 

I probably won't bring a figure.  (Hope that's allowed).  I need to travel light.  But I will enjoy meeting everyone there.  If you see me, please say hello.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Smile says it all

The young man with my Jackie character is Jonathan Wilson from the U.K.  His father, Patrick Wilson purchased the figure for him.  Patrick accompanied the photo with this note, "I actually purchased [Jackie] on behalf of my son Jonathan, and even though you had previously sent photos of Jackie, he has exceeded Jonathan's expectations."

It's wonderful when a parent supports and encourages his offspring's interests.  I hope Jackie and Jonathan enjoy entertaining family, friends, audiences and each other for years to come.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Watch what happens

Here's an award-winning video you might enjoy.  It features ventriloquist Nina Conti.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

On the road

Don't worry. I have a designated driver.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Browse the brows

Now my Winkle and Moonshiner figures will be able to register surprise with their nifty new eyebrows.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Stick to it

Well, my fellow figure makers were right.  My experiment failed.  But I decided I'd better come up with a more reliable rod bending technique.  And here it is. 

I make sure the rod turns freely in the tube.  I make sure the rod is pulled forward to its maximum on the inside (I have bends on the interior sides of the rods where the spring will attach to the rods).   I hold a popsicle stick next to the rod and bend it over the stick.  The stick ensures there's enough distance between the bend and the tube to keep the rod turning freely. 

Only took 80 dummies to come up with this approach.  See how wonderful trial and error works.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


Friday, March 09, 2012

I've been warned

A few of my fellow vent figure builders have bet against my experiment turning out well.  I'm sure they speak from experience.  But as the song goes, "I'm a rebel and I'll never, never, never be any good."  

The nubs seemed to hold pretty well on the brass rod extensions.  I pulled and twisted, but they stayed firm.  So my next step was to cut some eyebrow frames from brass rod stock, bend them to the appropriate shape, and Magic-Sculpt them onto the nubs.   

If this step works, I'll form the rest of the eyebrows from Magic-Sculpt over the brass frames.

Even if this process works, I already don't like it because it's too labor-intensive.  I think I need to go back to my rod bending, but figure out a method that's more fool-proof (that is... me-proof).

I have another idea that involves drilling.  (Why can't I leave well enough alone?)

Thursday, March 08, 2012


It's another experiment.  I usually make eyebrows by inserting a brass rod through the forehead tube, then bend the rod to form an eyebrow frame.  The downside is that if I don't bend it correctly, the eyebrow rod gets too tight in the tube and won't move fluidly. 

So this time I inserted the rod through the tube, then marked the spot where the rod protruded about 1/8".  I pulled the rod back out, cut it at the marker, then re-inserted it.  

Now, I know some folks solder their eyebrows onto the rod.  But since I don't trust myself with soldering guns or solder (bad enough I'm allowed a hot glue gun), I decided to rough up the protrusion, then put a Magic-Sculpt nub at the end of the brass rod.  After it dries, I'll attached a pre-formed eyebrow (made of Magic-Sculpt) onto the nub.  

My main concern is that the eyebrow won't stay put.  Anyone who is relatively sure that my experiment won't work, please let me know.    

Wednesday, March 07, 2012


Monday, March 05, 2012


I was about 10 years old when this photo was taken. We lived in Fresno, California that year. I recall that my Jerry Mahoney dummy (named Jackie) was stolen from my Mom's car. He went missing for several weeks. Then a friend of my Mom's, who knew that Jackie had been stolen, saw the dummy in a bar. Some drunk had pilfered him and brought him in to his favorite watering hole. They displayed Jackie behind the bar with a cigarette in his mouth. Of course, my Mom retrieved him for me. I was so thrilled to have him back. However, he had a new vocabulary of four-letter words. I guess the constant nightlife was a bad influence on him.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

In between

I always have something going. Once I've finished a couple of figures, a couple more are in process. Here are the two I'm working on now... an Elmore head that will become a moonshiner, and a Mr. Winkle.

Oh... and that's me in between.

Saturday, March 03, 2012


I've had some fun with this one.  I call him "ZOOMO the Space Cadet". He's a little green man from outer space that's hoping to be taken to our leader. Or at least taken on Ebay soon.