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Something wicked this way comes

Its only a few days to Halloween and for the last couple of years the Daughter and I have sculpted something for our window display as a way of having some fun and creating something unique. We’ve done tiny pumpkins, ghosts and she did a witch last year while I started the Jezail sculpture (which didn’t get finished anywhere near Halloween unless you count the following years). This year she wanted to do something a bit more complex so (leaving it until the last minute) she splashed around in Google for a bit and found a cat sketch by Chris Ryniak, so I went for another one of his sketches as inspiration.

To make it more interesting I thought of fitting a bulb into the top of the candle on one and we’ve talked about some glowing eyes for the cat. Nothing like making it as challenging as possible… Also the Daughters never done soldering before I thought this would be a good time to learn, she’s 10 so thats old enough to start hot-wiring stuff.

So Saturday consisted of harvesting as much of the bits needed from town. 3 packs of milliput to build the armature with, some aluminium tubes to run the wires through so I don’t have to bake the wires in the oven, a pack of mixed LED’s, a load of resistors, a flickering bulb from a £1 Halloween display, some wire, a couple of switches, batteries and I’ve even treated myself to a new soldering iron.

Sorry for the lack of “in build photos” but its been a bit of a rush to get this ready in time for the 31st. To start I cut up a couple of small MDF boxes to act as bases and housing for the batteries and wiring, drilled out holes and fitted the alu tubes. The daughters has it right up the middle while mine has a bend in the side as the legs are spread apart. Two packs of milliput then got spread all over them to act as keying for the sculpey. Baked for 20 mins to set the Milliput.

Next up was the circuits. In my shopping I also picked up a test breadboard for the wiring and two blow LED’s later I had my circuits worked out.

At this point it was sculpting time. The Daughter was packed off to bed a bit later and I carried on while the missus subjected me to “house nation”… How did that pass for music?

Sometime around 11pm, with my eyes burning, my back cracking and my ears bleeding, I had my basic shape blocked out.

pumpkin-headed-sculpture.jpg

This is the fasted I’ve ever finished sculpting something.

Halloween SculptureHalloween Sculpture

It was inspired by an original sketch by Chris Ryniak who also has a tumblr account which has now taken up residence in my Google reader.

What this whole thing has taught me is that I can sculpt stuff fast when I set my mind to it and that I need to do something about taking better photos of my work.

halloween window display Due to not having a front garden or anything which can be filled with grotesque figures, we usually pop a couple of things in the window and the Dort and I make something every year as part of our build up to the 31st, she didn’t finish hers in time but we did put both of our new pieces in the window. Her cat is also based on a sketch by Chris and I’ll publish a pic when she finishes painting it. The eyes light up green when a button is turned on at the back and was built with half an old torch (cut up for the button), some green LED’s and a couple of decorative glass pebbles for the front of the eyes.

The chrome of Cthulhu

The summer holidays have been and gone and its been a long while since my last post. Besides basting myself in suncream to try and keep my lilly white skin tone, I’ve also had a bit of a cough, spent most of my time watching the first three series of ‘Breaking Bad’ (I’m now suffering withdrawal symptoms while waiting for series 4 to come out on DVD next month) and I’ve spent very little time doing anything digital in my spare time.

As I spend my working hours on a computer I’ve been trying to get away from them a bit and I’ve been trying to get back into none-digital art forms. Yes I know i’ve been going mad on the sculpting over the last year but I’ve always felt my drawing skills are lacking and I recently went to a
meetup called Suffolk Sketchup which made me think more about my 2d skills and how they need to be tightened up a bit. I’m not expecting to jump into the 2d pit and work to become an illustrator, but I know it will help my designs when I come to sculpting. Also I see stuff by Rob (the guy who runs the comic shop in town) and get all envious of people who can draw like that.

In the meantime I recently picked up a fresh batch of easyflow (is it easyflow or easyflo?) from Mouldlife in Bury and bought some Aluminium powder at the same time, this gave rise to the next casting which i’ve been cleaning up for the last two nights.

Not so much chrome as a dull metal.

The first coat was:
150 – Part a easyflow
150 – Part b easlyflow
200 – Aluminium
100 – Powdered steel
(all measurements are to the cup lines on the measuring cups I’m using so its not based on weight)

The steel and aluminium was mixed before adding the easyflow and I used some steel to try and get a darker effect to the aluminium. The body was then backfilled with 2/3 of a 1 kilo pack of fibreglass resin from the chandlery with aluminium trihydrate, some steel powder and a couple of drops of black dye. (the steel and dye was to try and make sure the whiteness of the aluminium trihydrate doesn’t come through the thinner shell).

In total this was roughly around £40 – £50 worth of materials and came out ok. A few air bubbles here and there which I shouldn’t have had but I stupidly didn’t work the mould as much as I should have. I spent last night rubbing it down with black dye and wire wool and the final effect is a dark metal shine to it, almost like a dark pewter.

The next one will have less steel powder as I want to get a much more silver effect without the dulling down.

The Calls of Cthulhu

Its been a while since I gave an update on Cthulhu so here goes…

After my initial failure with making a mother/jacket mould I pressed on and made a test piece with the Easy Flow 120 I had. Mixing up a small batch I filled the rubber mould (after a constitutional whiskey for my nerves) and proceded to slush cast my first piece.

Good grief, it actually worked!

I was left with a really nice first casting. Its light in weight, has a rather nice translucent quality when help up to the light and, apart from one air bubble, came out perfectly. Buoyed up by my first success I waited a few days then tried a metal cast and this is where it went wrong. I had read that the best way to mix the resin and metal (bronze in my case) was to do a 1:1:1 ratio (easy flow part A + part B + powder) by mixing the part A and B together then add the powder. This is supposed to stop some form of reaction with the powder and the unmixed resin. I powdered the mould with metal powder and mixed the A and B together and could feel the warmth of the reaction. “Blimey!” thinks I “This is getting warm already, I’d better get the powder in and into the mould.” Now the thing with Bronze is that its a metal and metals are heavy (not all of them I grant you but on the whole they tend to be a but weighty) so what happens when a powdered form of metal is tipped into a very runny liquid? Yup, it sank. Right to the bottom. I mixed and mixed quickly and tipped it into the mould only to see (to my horror I should add) that there was a huge amount of powder still in the bottom of the mixing cup. Here comes my second mistake… I put the mould down briefly to try and mix the powder with the little dregs of resin in the cup.They didn’t mix well so I gave up and picked up the mould to carry on slushing but it was already nearly set. The mould had a huge dent in the head where it had been touching something. He also has a huge crack under his left eye, probably because I got a bit frustrated with the process and tried to take it out of the mould too soon.

AKA the Crack of Cthulhu.

Overall he leans over to the side, has a crack and a dent on his head. I’m not too happy with his colour as well, i’m assuming its because I didn’t mix all of the bronze in with the resin so it didn’t have the right ratio of resin to metal.

That was Friday (the 13th) night, Saturday morning was started with a trip to the local craft shop and while browsing the shelves I came across bags of stonecast powder. Stonecast is essentially that, stone you can cast. Its supposed to be quite easy to work with so I picked up a bag to trial along with a tub of burnt sienna powderpaint. I worked out how much I needed, added a big heap of paint to colour it and one more heap for good luck and added the water but heres where it went wrong. Water in a balloon does what?

The Chunk of Cthulhu.

Yup, without that mother mould to support the shape I ended up with a stretched out fathulhu. But I have to say, I love the texture and colour of the material, its got a real “terra-cotta” feel to it which is wonderful to touch. The sound it makes as you run your fingers over the surface is just like a real ceramic material and if it wasn’t for the warping of the mould, this would have been perfect. Because of the results of this I’ve started to make a new latex mould which I will reinforce properly with a solid mother mould. For the quick drying resin I can still use the first mould as the weight isn’t an issue, I can rub the mould to help remove air bubbles and shake it about but for big heavy castings I’m going to need a solid support. I also tried mixing some of the powder paint to the easy flow and doing a test piece, I’m not sure if its my imagination or not but it seems to expand a lot. It did colour up nicely though.

In the meantime I ordered a fresh stock of resin. I had ordered my first batch from Mouldlife based in Bury St Edmunds but my second batch came from 4D Modelshop (no connection to cinema 4d) as they had the easyflow (slightly more expensive but cheaper postage) and some extra goods I wanted to try (I bought two munnys as its about time I had a go at one). Along with the resin I got some black dye to trial and at £20 for a 2oz bottle I was hoping this stuff works. Fortunately it does, to a degree. The easyflow’s natural colour is white so anything mixed with it will go lighter than its colour, the clear seems to be harder to get so I’m being careful with what I have got left of the clear. Mixing some black dye with the white resin I tried a new casting and the result was interesting.

The Colour out of Cthulhu

It came out really well, the mould popped off cleanly. One air bubble under the eye but nothing major. The weird thing is the colour was black, but about 24 hours later it had gone a sort of dark purple colour. Maybe my lighting isn’t too good in the cellar but when I took it upstairs the next day it really did have a different hue about it. I’m not complaining too much as its still a nice colour, but I need to look into how to control the colour more besides dropping more dye into the mix.

The next steps then? Well i’ve been looking at different materials to trial in the resin. I’m not happy at losing £20’s worth of bronze and its too pricey to keep testing with only for it to fail so I’ve been finding alternatives. I’ve found Tiranti’s offer some good prices on their powders and they stock marble (yes marble oh I’ve just replaced bronze as my dream material), slate (I could make a Welsh Cthulhu boyo) and synthetic onyx (aluminum hydroxide which is used in toothpaste) and I can get 5kg of Iron filler for about half the price of the bronze. OK its not bronze but a cast iron effect could be good until I learn how to get the right mix of powder and resin.

“Powder and resin” thats not a good combination of words to use. I’ll have the drug squad after me.