Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Adventures of The Waffle-Head Grenade Dudes

Even though Merican-Tastic! II: The Son of Tastic! doesn't open for another 6 months, it really isn't too early to start developing promotional images (especially for any kind of printed publications with calendars -which typically work at least 3-6 months in advance of the event).  It seems foolish to have a studio full of potential images that could be used and not go the extra step of getting them out into the world.

I'm not even 100% sure that I will use images these for the show (-show promotion, that is), but I have a series of cast plastic 'Waffle-Head Dudes' that I made for a mold-making demonstration at Northwest Missouri State University back in 2011.

I had my sculpture students purchase a casting starter kit from Smooth-On.  It came with excellent 'how to' materials (click here to see the starter kit we used).  It had all the necessary materials to make a cast, a DVD with thorough instructions, and a catalog with more products and ideas for future projects.  As long as the kids keep the DVD, they will always be able to access the information on how to cast something.

This is the bisque fired 'Waffle-Head Dude' that I made to cast.  I wanted to have something with deep indentations all the way around the circumference so my students could see the difficulty in casting something like that.  The indentations make it difficult for the mold to detach from the original.  In fact, if you use strictly a hard mold (no rubber inner mold) you run the risk of having to destroy the mold just to free your original before you ever cast a single piece.  Basically, I wanted this to be just at the edge of 'failing', so they could get an idea of what you can get away with.

The Smooth-On website has blow-by-blow videos of the process (which are FAR better than anything I will portray here).  This is my inner mold made out of multiple coats of rubber.  You can see the details in reverse from the original piece.

The kit also includes the materials to make a hard outer shell that 'contains' the inner rubber mold and allows it to keep its shape.

Starting to fit the halves together.

Notice how the seam for the hard outer shell does not follow the seam for the soft rubber inner mold.  This helps lock everything into place for casting.

Everything put together.

If I were actually going to cast this, I would turn the mold upside-down and pour the two-part plastic into the hole.  After about five minutes the clear liquid plastic hardens into a white solid plastic (giving off a noticeable amount of heat in the process).

Downward view of the mold.  If I were gonna cast it, I would pour the plastic in here.

Back in 2011 I cast as many as I could with the two-part plastic that came with my kits.

Two years later it is now time to clean up my final pieces by grinding off all of the fins and burs and such.  The fins are caused when the fluid used in casting flows along a seam/joint in a mold (i.e. where the two halves come together).  Burs are air bubbles (or other imperfections) that might have occurred when the soft layer of the mold was applied and a rogue air bubble might have been trapped creating a raised part on the final cast.

These are things that don't happen often when you are proficient/careful at mold-making/casting, but since I wanted to make a piece that would showcase some of the challenges (and solutions) when making molds, I was intentionally under-concerned with my process so it would have mistakes (and how to remedy them).

Time to take the Dremel Tool to grind out some imperfections.  The grinding bit sends small bits of plastic everywhere, so it is imperative to wear eye, ear and mouth protection.

The grinding bit is one of the few things I use in my Dremel Tool other than my carving bit.

In late 2012, I had the idea to turn the 'Waffle-Head Dudes' into 'Waffle-Head Grenade Dudes'.  Unfortunately, the pieces were already cast, and were therefore missing the release lever and the pin.  The easiest way to fix this problem was to use some air dry clay to make the levers and attach them to the plastic waffle heads with adhesive caulk.

So I spent 10 bucks on a box of air dry clay, spread out a plastic garbage bag and made some levers.  (Note the 'Vintage' Hi-C Ecto Cooler can that I still keep my clay tools from beginning ceramics class with Russ Schmaljohn.)

Each head gets a lever which I press on top in order to help it form fit.

The actual clay work only took about 10 minutes -which is not nearly satisfying enough for a clay junkie.  I then loosely covered the levers with a second garbage bag and let the newly-formed levers dry very slowly.  They run a high risk of cracking/falling apart if they dry too quickly or unevenly.

After the levers were dry, I used a healthy glob of adhesive caulk to attach them to the plastic figures.

Unfired clay is not nearly as strong as fired clay, so each of these has to be handled with care.  Their sole purpose is to be used for a photograph, if it were anything else, I would construct them differently (since it is only a matter of time before I accidentally break the levers).

Glamour shot before being painted.

Time to add spray paint.

The 'Waffle-Head Grenade Dudes' are now ready for an upcoming photo shoot.  More on that when it happens.

1 comment:

  1. holy shit - Hi-C.
    i spent some time doing a prepatory resin casting in my studio last night. "hmmm, self - just how much resin stench can this house handle? especially with a hot water heater and furnace about 10 feet from the source of the fumes?..."