Friday, January 31, 2020

Just Jawin'

Got two projects goin' at once... and I think I could take on a third. Seems I'm always waiting for something to dry. So then it's back to watching too much TV. Of course, the moment I take on a third project I'll start to whine about how busy I am.

But getting to the point, the new chunk of foam I had intended for the sculpture in the upper left did not work out. I'd planned to carve a new foam jaw armature to replace the raunched-up one I'd cut away from the sculpture. Without the gory details, I went back to the raunched-up one. I couldn't possibly tell you why except to say I understood it when I placed the jaw back in the face. Oh, and here's a tip... don't buy the green foam. Buy only the white foam. The green foam has this weird sandy texture.

The first layer of paper clay has been applied to the top of the jaw. I'll surround all sides, then dig the foam out of the back to make the jaw as hollow as possible. Only then will sculpt the teeth, tongue and lower lip.

Meanwhile, Mr. Winkle moves ahead, no pun intended. The jaw I showed off in yesterday's video has been mounted. I used the "nubs" I make for that purpose. What's a "nub"? Here's the link: NUBS. The jaw swung free after a Dremel shaving at the base of the jaw opening. But I noticed some gaps that needed to be closed along the bottom and right side. I applied paper clay for the job.

I guess I'll watch some TV.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Jaw prep

Wednesday, January 29, 2020


Today's episode is about two projects now going simultaneously. The anxiety-ridden porker I'm sculpting now has a right ear and a full forehead. I need to make another trip to the craft store to pick up another half-sphere of foam. The jaw piece I removed was made from a half-sphere but it got raunched-up. I'll make a new one with more precise measurements.

The right ear is not as good as the left, but I'm still very happy with it.

The new project is a full-size figure (40-42" tall) made from a casting of a sculpture I did 5 years ago before my hiatus. I prepared the head by poking out the eye sockets, sawing off the back of the head, clearing the jaw cavity, and drilling the holes for the eyebrow tubes. I also drilled holes in the transition of the headstick to accommodate the strings and or brass tubes. After that, I mounted the head atop the headstick. Initially, I used hot glue to secure the head. I reinforced the adhesion with Magic-Sculpt. Next, I'll rough up the head's interior so the Magic-Sculpt I use to mount the mechanics will adhere.

Lots more to do and talk about.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

What the hell happened?

What the hell happened? Actually... nothing accidental. I decided to sculpt the head and jaw separately from this point forward. I used the handy-dandy Clean Cut foam cutter to slice out the jaw. I cleaned out the jaw cavity as best I could. Both the jaw piece and the cavity are in rough shape at the moment. I'll apply paper clay to the interior surface of the cavity to make it smooth and even. I'll sculpt the jaw to include a tongue, teeth, lip, and chin. I want to make the jaw slide into the head cavity smoothly and tightly, and for it to open and close. 

You may notice I also added a foam neck. I want the neck diameter to fit the Braylu headstick and transition (about 2-7/8").  

Braylu unboxing

Monday, January 27, 2020


I'm always the last to know.

I've been smoothing wet clay on my sculptures with my thumb and palm. Seems to work well, but I thought I'd investigate whether or not there are actual tools to do that. The answer is "yes". It appears folks use sponges to smooth clay. I watched a few YouTube videos of potters using sponges to smooth their work. So, I've ordered ten 3.5" round sponges from Amazon to try out. I'll let you know if it works... and if I like using them.

And here again, is the clay fatuous fretter I'm smoothing. Today I worked in the right cheek trying hard to match the left. Again, the wrinkles in the corner of the eye will be sanded down. I also outlined the right ear.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

A long session

 No sculpting session can last too long because it's too easy to stick one's big fat thump into an area you've just sculpted. I don't know how wet clay sculptors do it. Paper clay dries overnight, so you can't ruin previous work... usually.

Today I progressed pretty far. I sculpted the left cheek area under the eye. I'm happy with the wet result. The wrinkles in the corner of the eye will look better when they're sanded down

Without messing up that work, I was able to begin head covering. I got the top down to the forehead covered. I covered much of the back of the head, too. I left some space in the area closest to the back of the right ear. I'll tackle that after I sculpt the right ear.

All in all, a good day.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Another earful

I just completed my first detailed ear. I think I'd give myself a grade of "B". It's not perfect, but I think I can do some subtle corrections when I sand.

I'm contemplating working on the left side of the face rather than starting the right ear next. I can work on the left eye area or cheek, then outline the right ear without disturbing the area on the left. If I did the right ear first, I probably couldn't work on the left side cheek or eye without messing up the wet right ear.

Did y'all follow that?

Friday, January 24, 2020

In one ear

I went to the craft store yesterday and bought smaller foam pieces to make some ears for my porky worrywart. Again, I used hot glue to attach them. I did a lot of measuring, but in the end, I eyeballed the placement and I think I got it right.

Next I googled some ear images so I could study the structure. I want the character to be cartooney but have some semblance anatomical realism. I'd consider it quite an accomplishment if I get it right.

The ears will be done in stages. I started the left ear by outlining the foam ear with paper clay. After it dries, I'll work on the interior of the left ear. Or out of fear and trepidation, I may outline the other ear with paper clay.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Some expression

As I add more paper clay, my fat little worrier begins to show some expression. The more I sculpt, the more we BOTH worry.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Bulbous nose

I am now excited and encouraged by the armature I've built. It's holding together quite splendidly. It's also clinging to the paper clay I'm using to sculpt the head.

My wife, who is a very talented artist, made some suggestions about building the area between the nose and upper lip. She pointed out that the nose actually sits IN the face rather than ON the face. She drew the profile on the right to demonstrate how I might proceed. Her drawing is very helpful.

My next dummy build will be a 3T Mr. Winkle. I've ordered the body, head, and accessories from Braylu Creations. The next test will be to see if I still know how to build one of my original characters. Stay tuned for the unboxing.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Storm Trooper

Now I think my foam armature will work. I haven't tried slapping on paper clay, but the structure is solid so far. I found that hot glue works fine to connect foam pieces. The foam does melt slightly, but enough glue remains to provide adhesion.

I've placed the original drawing in front of me. It makes it easier to make decisions about shaping the armature from here. The roll of fat I intend to add to the bottom of the chin should be doable with paper clay. I have one leftover section of foam that I plan to cut and add for the nose section. As I progress, I hope the armature will look less like a Storm Trooper and more like the guy in the drawing.

Monday, January 20, 2020

More foam

The foam troll on the left is "Step One" in the building of an armature. I'm already doubting this is going to work. The foam I bought doesn't seem dense enough. However, I'm going to push forward. Even an aborted armature attempt will show me things.

By the way, the CleanKut foam cutter worked. The thing cut right through the foam. Beware... there are brief fumes. It's a tool made by a floral supply company, so the foam I'm using is made primarily for flower arranging. The alien foam armature that was built for me was a much denser foam.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Drawing on experience

I'm not a very good drawer, so I use a combination of Photoshop and a simple shape-drawing program to draw the characters I see in my head. I'm in the process of planning an armature, but the general shape of the character needs to be established before I assemble the foam pieces. The one attribute I could not portray in the drawing is the character having a pronounced underbite. I want it to be almost pelican-like.

Having a basic drawing to work from really helped with the alien sculpture. Hope this one helps, too.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Watch him move

Monday, January 13, 2020


This little guy is almost ready to go. I'm just waiting for his snazzy Sunday outfit to arrive.  I plan to shoot photos and even make a short video of his moving mouth, side-to-side self-centering eyes, and raising eyebrows.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Shipping out

The fellas on the right are now in the box on the left. They're being shipped to Braylu Creations where they will have molds made of their smilings faces. Then polyurethane castings will emerge from the molds and figures will be made.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Space invader

 My alien sculpture is completed. I'm not sure what else I can do. He's very generic so the eventual castings can be customized with additional features. For example, weird ears can be attached, wrinkles in the forehead can be added, a different nose could be sculpted over the current nose, and antennas could be added to the top of the head.

Right now he looks friendly, but a change in the mouth and some foreboding eyebrows could change his entire attitude.

I've picked up a few tricks of the trade while sculpting this space creature. I hope to apply my new knowledge as I attempt a new sculpting project. Wonder what I'll do next...

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

On the stick


Here's a look at the control stick for my recent Charlie conversion. I use a transition with a PVC pipe headstick by Braylu Creations. I also purchased the trigger and rocker from Braylu. As I recall, I may have been a beta tester for the items when designs were under discussion.
The photo on the left shows the raising eyebrow trigger (left) and the jaw trigger (right). I put the jaw trigger to the right so the ventriloquist can operate the jaw with the forefinger and the eyebrows with the thumb. The photo on the right shows the side-to-side self-centering eye control, a rocker trigger operated by a free finger or fingers.

Eventually, I will trim the bottom of the PVC pipe and add a very nice endcap with eyehook so it can be attached to the base of the body.

I'm feeling a little shy about my simple triggers-with-strings approach after watching some unboxing videos by Jimmy Vee. He has a website called with lots of videos of Jimmy unboxing and presenting some amazing figures. The mechanics in figures by past greats like the McElroys and Frank Marshal astound me. And there's the beautiful work by Chance Wolf. Their controls are so precise, compact and...look, ma... no strings. That being said, lots of folks have enjoyed my little guys over the years, so I'll just keep makin' 'em.

But do check out Jimmy Vee's website. You'll like it!

Monday, January 06, 2020

Rollin', rollin', rollin...

I'm attempting to replace brass rod and tube rollers with nylon rollers. They are larger, but easier to deal with. I've never enjoyed cutting brass rods or tubes. I don't mind sawing lengths of 1/4" wood dowels, however.

I install nylon washers on either side of the roller. I used Krazy Glue to attach the washers to the roller creating a nice spindle. It rolls nice and quietly as it opens and closes the jaw.

I also have a nylon roller set-up for the eyebrow-raising gizmo. It's located near the top of the head.

Sunday, January 05, 2020

All in

In between slapping paper clay onto my alien, I'm building this Charlie conversion figure. So far, the mechanics are almost all in. The mouth opens and closes with a steel spring, the eyes move left and right and self-center, and the eyebrows wiggle up and down.

There are still details that need to be added to the mechanics, but the next push will be to paint him with a few more coats. I also need to paint in eyelashes and rosey-up his cheeks.

This is still a warm-up for my attempt to build one of my original characters. After a 5-year lay-off, I want to make sure I still know how to do it.

Friday, January 03, 2020

Foam dome from Walmart

I've enjoyed the paper clay sculpting of my friend's alien character so much, I'm anxious to do a new character. I haven't decided who I will carve out of that clay, but I have a few ideas. A 3T Cheeky Boy? A highly caricatured head of a goofy fella. Another old fart?

I've learned so much from earlier sculptures I've done, I have this inkling my next one will be really good. However, it almost never turns out that way, but any improvement will make me happy.

So, here are my supplies after hitting Walmart. I bought a large foam half-dome (top of the head), four round disks (middle of the head), and a small half-dome for the chin area. I fell for the hot tool foam cutter. I have no idea if it actually works. I also bought glue specially made for foam. I have no idea if that works either, but I'm a first-time foam armature builder. (More about that in a second).

My plan is to stack the foam pieces together in the general shape of the character's head. I  will mount the stack on a PVC pipe. I'll carve out a silhouette of the character, possibly with the aid of that hot foam cutter. Next, I'll build a pair of 3T eyes (wood knobs) mounted on an eye tray. Somehow, I will secure the tray in a cavity carved out of the foam. I may use some foam pieces to make ears and nose frames.

Once all of that is completed, I'll start laying on paper clay until some new character emerges.

Now, the reason I'm a first-time foam armature builder is that my previous characters were buillt up from blanks from Braylu Creations. It's a great way to sculpt a vent figure, but the size and shape of the blank define certain dimensions,  I can shoot for a wider range of dimensions with a foam armature.