BLIND SUMMIT PUPPETS
This page contains a brief description of most of the materials
I use for making.
Click on a material, or scroll down the page.
Casting & Construction
There are many different types of clay available, I usually use a simple grey clay. Clay is a very pleasing medium in which to sculpt the puppet heads, although for practical reasons I tend to use plastiline more often.
This is an alternative sculpting material to clay. It's advantage is that it doesn't dry out and isn't as soft, so you can be a bit rougher with it. It provides very fine surface detail, however it takes a bit of practice to get a smooth finish if that is what you want. You can use lighter fluid and a sponge or brush to smooth it down.
Some of the puppet parts are sculpted in styrofoam. This is
easily carved to a rough shape with a saw, and can then be with shaped more
carefully with sharp knives. It is finished with various degrees of sanding.
styrofoam is great to sculpt in. It is very lightweight, and is available in various densities. It can be sawn, carved, and sanded, to create quite detailed shapes and features very quickly. On the whole it is better for larger figures, this is for two reasons. Firstly, very fine details can be hard to achieve and quite fragile, and secondly, you will most likely need to cover it with something to protect the surface and increase its strength. This will inevitably cause some loss of detail which is far less noticeable on larger, simpler shapes. The biggest problem with styrofoam is that it's easily dented or snapped if you are creating thin shapes (such as fingers). Also, there are certain adhesives and materials which dissolve styrofoam. If you use fibreglass for example, you need to cover and seal the surface first.
Plastazote is a very lightweight, soft polyethylene foam.
It comes in sheets of varying thickness. It is very pliable and can be pattern
cut and shaped to make complex and detailed forms. This can be done in two
ways. The first is simply to cut out trial shapes and to keep adapting them
until they are right. The second way is to sculpt the puppet in another
material and then take a pattern from this sculpt.
Simple shapes can also be sculpted from a block of plastazote.
Airex is another rigid foam, which is much tougher than styrofoam. It comes in sheets of various thicknesses and can be gently heated to shape it, it has an elasticity that styrofoam doesn't have, so is much less brittle and it can be glued easily with evostik. It is less dense than Styrofoam, so not as useful for carving detailed shapes. It is quite expensive and only available in large sheets.
Soft Foam Rubber
This is a good material for sculpting body parts. It is relatively light, and can be knocked and dropped with no damage to it at all. You can use an electric kitchen knife to cut and shape it. You can also use scissors, and a rasp and it can be sanded, to produce a good, smooth finish. After I have attached it to the body armature, I cover it in stockingette, using copydex to give it a more durable and protected surface. The stockingette also alows the costume to move more freely over the surface of the limbs with less friction than the foam.
SuperSculpey is the brand name for a polymer based modelling clay which hardens in the oven. I have found it good for sculpting hands to make moulds from, as you can harden the fingers as you sculpt them. However it is too heavy to use for the finished thing.
A two part sculpting material mixed in equal quantities of
resin and hardener. When set it is very strong and can be carved, drilled
and sanded. I tend to use it on smaller puppets, to sculpt body parts too
small or fiddly to mould. It is quite heavy and so not ideal for larger
When using milliput be sure to mix the two parts very well, if there is any streakiness then they may not harden. You can smooth the surface with water whilst it has not set.
This is the best material for making the head and hand moulds,
as it picks up the detail of the sculpting so well. The only downside is
it's cost; unfortunately it is quite expensive.
The rubber comes in two parts which need to be mixed together before use: the liquid rubber and catalyst. You can also add a thixotropic additive, which thickens the rubber and allows you to use it on a vertical surface without it slumping.
This is an acrylic based powder and liquid mix offered as
a replacemant to fibre glass.
I have found it to be a bit too heavy for the puppets and a bit more 'crumbly' than resin and fibreglass when strength is needed. It's advantage over resin is that it does not have the fumes and is therefore much more user friendly. I sometimes use it for the rigid mould casing, where weight is not such an issue.
A quick dring varnish which I use to seal clay before taking a mould. Apply three or four layers with a brush.
Polyester resin & Fibre glass
Polyester resin is a plastic based liquid which when used with fibreglass gives excellent strength for a reasonable weight. It is ideal for picking up the detail in the silicone mould, and is what I use choice to cast the head and hands of the puppet. It can be coloured by mixing polyester pigments before adding the catalyst which causes it to harden. The resin and its catalyst cause an exothermic reaction, i.e. one which creates heat. When laminating this is not particularly noticeable, but if you are pouring solid resin casts then the heat can be considerable. However this is unlikely if you are making puppets as a solid resin cast is usually too heavy for anything but the smallest of heads. The trick is to create the strongest and most rigid structure with as little resin and fibreglass as possible.
A liquid resin which sets with the addition of a catalyst. Its main advantage over polyester resin is that it can be applied directly to styrofoam, without covering. It is available as a liquid or a paste.
A two part liquid resin which is mixed by volume. I mostly use this for casting hands. It is very strong and will not break if dropped. It is best to colour it with pigment when you cast it as I haven't yet found a matt paint which adheres well to it. I use a product called Easyflo 120 from Mouldlife.
Araldite is the brand name of an epoxy resin. It comes as two parts which you mix in equal quantities. You can get quick setting glue and it is an incredibly useful adhesive. I tend to get a cheaper alternative such as Z-poxy from The Modelshop
Evo Stik make many different glues, the most useful of which is the impact adhesive. You apply this to both surfaces about to be stuck, leave it for a few minutes and then put them together.