Casting and moldmaking for fun and profit.

June 19, 2011 at 7:45 pm (Uncategorized)

Please do not attempt to do this demo. It is shoddy, poorly documented, done by someone with very little experience doing this process, involved alcohol, and there are plenty of other good demos out there, like this one.


I had this idea to make a little figurine based on my drawings. In trying to figure out what, exactly, she would look like, I wound up making this out of sculpty:

Ok, see that box on her chest? The idea is that it would be in relief, and that there would be a little door covering it. When you opened it, there would be a tiny ghost inside, which would be her soul.

I got really into this idea. I tried talking to a gazillion plush manufacturers (all of which have very unreasonable minimum orders and dodgy labor practices) and examined the idea of having it printed by a 3-d printer. It was a huge time suck. My investigations lead nowhere.

So I decided to give casting it myself a try. I used to love to cast things. When I was a grad student, I did it all the time. But you know, that was a long time ago, and I haven’t tried it since.

After conferring with my pal Hajime and looking online at various tutorials, I felt adequately up to speed in order to try making one. By this point, the arm had fallen off of my original model, so I made another:

(I still like the first one a little better, but I’m trying not to get overly attached… I figure, since this is my first time casting in almost 15 years, it probably won’t work out perfectly, so better just to try what I can and see how it goes than stress about getting it absolutely perfect. In particular, this new version has one of her arms a little too close to her body for me to easily cast… but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.)

I ordered some supplies from The Complete Sculptor and waited. They arrived while we were in Vermont.

I was nervous about doing this project. The supplies were a little expensive, and I was convinced I was totally going to screw up at least the first one. So I did what I do when I’m nervously working on an art project late on a Saturday night: I started drinking red wine. Mmmmm.

First, I built a little box to go around her. And then I built up some clay, burying her in it at first and then building it up to reach her halfway on each side:

Around this time, I realized that the guy I talked to at TCS had convinced me to buy some release that, at the time, I was adamant I didn’t need. And now, looking at the set up I had, I was once again adamant that I didn’t need it. It was a stupid purchase, and now I had this big aerosol can of the stuff and nothing to do with it (*note this would prove wrong). So I sprayed some on the figure and the clay, just… because. (The release contains the oh-so-helpful note “Do not overapply!” which is a little like carrying a warning “Don’t fuck up!”. But, whatever.)

I let it dry and mixed up equal parts of my latex mix. I seem to remember when I was in grad school that the color differentiation between Part A and Part B used to be way more different, so that you could really tell when the two parts were blended. Now they come in green and blue-ish green. Also? I swear I shook the bottle of the blue-ish green stuff just like it told me to, but the liquid sort of glommed out like huge, thick blood clots or something. That can’t be good. I drank more wine and tried not to think about it.

I poured the mixture over the figurine.

Now, had I actually stopped to read the directions, I probably could have moved onto the next step in 20 minutes or so (I don’t know), but it was hot in our apartment and about midnight. So I went to bed.

When I woke up, she was fully cured. Awesome. I ripped off the box and removed the clay so I could see the latex, and sure enough, it looked fine. There were a few little bits of the latex I had to snip away (primarily where her arm meets her leg, which I knew would be a problem). Not perfect or anything, but workable. And if you spend a late night drinking wine and making a cast of a figurine, you too will wake up feeling like this:

Next step: I rebuilt the box, and flipped her so that her back was now facing out. This is what the release is for, I realized – duh. It’s so you can layer latex on top of latex, and still be able to pull it apart when it’s cured. Ten points, Amy. Well, at least I remembered it in time. I didn’t photograph this step, because it looks just like the step where I poured the latex over the figure in the first place.

Then, I took a nap.

When I woke up, it was all cured and I could pull it apart:

And I realized two things. One, I had forgotten to add a pour line (the mold I made is fine for pouring plaster, but for resin, you need a little hole that goes to the outside so that you can pour your material), and two, I needed to go in with a Dremel and clear out some places where there was undercutting. So, ok, when I did that, we had this:

It would be even better if I knew were more of my Dremel attachments were, which I don’t, so oh well.

I put it all back in the box, taped it up so it wouldn’t leak, wrapped the whole thing in a banana package, and got some dog hair on it:

The resin poured in really easily – I was surprised. I actually did a test run with water, and found the water to be more… viscous? I think that’s the word. Thicker, basically.

It was around this time that I started to get really dizzy and remember, Hey, in grad school, didn’t I use a double-barrel mask covering my nose and face while doing this? Ah, bygones! We’re almost done.

I left it for a few hours, which I’m sure was overkill. After I had worked more on my drawing and taken the dog for a walk, I sat down with another glass of wine and decided to start pulling it apart. To my surprise…

Holy crap! It actually kind of, sort of worked!!!

There’s a lot of extra resin on the edges, but that very easily comes off. The final product looks like this:

OMG!! It’s all ready to be painted and have a door attached and have a soul put in. I’m really thrilled that my first try turned out this good. (Note that I’m not showing you the back that has bubbles in it… but whatever!)

Ok, so cool – now I know I can do it. And I know what to do differently. Mostly, the arms really have to be out from the body, and I don’t want the box on the chest to be as prominent as it was in this version (I want to go back to it just being in relief). But I’m pretty psyched that it turned out as well as it did!



  1. “It’s all ready to be painted and have a door attached and have a soul put in.” « Siouxsie Law said,

    […] first look can be found here.  Ms. Wilson explains that it will be in relief and that there will be a box in the girl’s […]

  2. Andrew Thornton said,

    This turned out great! You’ve really captured the essence of your characters. I made something similar and had some of the same challenges. (Perhaps also due or partly caused by wine-drinking at the time.) Here’s what I made:

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