And then there were two. That’s right, only two more Haunt tutorials left from our Trail of Tears Haunted Trail.
Today’s featured tutorial is how the above prop consumed my life for almost an entire year. It was a well known joke last year that many of my Posey frames were sans hands. Some of that was just running out of time before the big event and needing to get the Halloween props out on the trail as quick as possible. To my credit, I did put empty gloves on a few but they admittedly looked pretty hokey. Where I wanted to be this year was full on hands that not only looked like proper appendages, but were poseable. As you can tell from the above picture, I was able to accomplish this of sorts. Problem was it took me about a year to get through the process and ended up costing a lot more than I ever expected it to. When all was done, I probably could have bought hands off the Internet and been money ahead (ummm no probably there). The fun is in the journey and I can definitely say I learned a hell of a lot about the molding process. It all started with this large box of Alja-Safe. Definitely expensive (this 20lb box cost me ~$140), yet a lot of fun.
Hit the jump to see how this product comes into play and the rest of the process to make Posey hands.
Basically this is a pink powder that you mix by volume 1:1 with warm water. Mix it into a soup, pour into a big enough container and stick something in it! This is the official start of the hand molding process. I wanted to replicate my hands as the Posey hands – seemed like the logical thing to do since the Posey frames are sized off of my body. It did take me awhile to figure out the perfect sized container that would be sturdy and large enough to hold my hand, yet not be too big to waste the pink stuff. Ended up finding a very cheap pitcher at Walmart. Got Linda to help pour the soup in the pitcher while I held my hand in the muck. It only took about 2 minutes until the muck firmed up around my hand.
It took a bit of work to get my hand pulled out of there. It was tight against my hand causing a vacuum as I pulled up. At one point the whole mold came out of the pitcher. No worries, it went back in and that seemed to help the extraction anyway. That left a highly detailed mold of my hand down to fingerprint level.
This next step was a lesson learned from casting my first hand. To make it easier to manage in the rest of the mold process, figured it would be best to slap a wrist bone in it. This would also take up some space in the cavity meaning less mold material. As the process went on, learned that the materials were the high cost element of this project. Devised an easy jig to help hold the bone in the right spot – put a screw in it just to give more hold in the form.
Next up, picked up some Smooth-On Smooth Cast 300 Liquid Plastic off of Amazon (~$25) – just the sample pack since I was only doing a couple of hands. Mixed it up 1:1 again and poured it down the mold hole. Dropped in the bone jig and waited for it to dry – note, that chemical reaction gets super hot.
This is the point in the first hand that I realized the bone would be very helpful. It was tough getting the solid plastic hand out of the mold without having a good grip on it – same problem I had when pulling my hand out. The bone made it much easier. Here are the finished plastic cast hands. Notice the detail – same high level quality on the other side.
Keep in mind, we are still on the early stages of the project. Next up I had to go purchase some molding clay. Having never done this type of work before, needed to research best options – ended up going with 25 pounds of ACTIVA Blackjack low fire clay ($38). 25 pounds ended up being too much, a bit over 10 would have been plenty. This probably took the longest of all the required steps. Grabbed a block of the clay and laid it on some PVC board found in the clearance section of Dick Blick’s Outlet Store in Galesburg IL. For the next 4 hours, I painstakingly built up the clay halfway up the hand. The tutorial I was using as a reference stressed it had to be tight and flat along the edge of the object being molded.
Recommend picking up a set of sculpting tools to help you in this work – very tedious. Eventually got it to where I wanted it to be. Made sure there was at least an inch around the outside edges of the mold so the negative mold will have adequate support. Take the end of a small brush or in my case the wood end of a small foam brush to poke holes all around the mold. This will help it key and stay together when pouring the mold in the next phase. Also be sure and give yourself an opening to pour the casting material into – did this by rolling up a cone shaped piece of clay and embedding it in the base clay.
Next, wall up the sides of the clay mold. Also used PVC board for this – like $3 a sheet off the clearance racks. You can stagger the boards so the size doesn’t matter. Might want to think that order through before starting and then hot glue it into place – do that on the outside to keep your mold looking sharp. The PVC board would allow the hot glue to hold yet provide easy cleanup later. With that in place, go back in and fill any gaps along the edges with clay.
Think I went with Smooth On Mold Star 20T for the silicon mold. Had to pick this up from a Smooth-On distributor (Reynolds) due to needing a gallon of it (one gallon of A and one gallon of B). That will set you back a hefty $160 – told you this got expensive. Also picked up a sample tint pack. Mixed up a batch, threw some blue tint to help know when it was mixed up good and poured it on top generously covering up and over the top of the hand.
Once that dried (~30 minutes or so), removed the PVC boards. You should now have a silicon side and a clay side.
Flip it over and remove all the clay around the hand mold – DO NOT REMOVE THE HAND FROM THE SILICON HALF. Make sure you get all the clay off, use water if you have to and the flat sculpting tools to get into the tight spots. When that is all done, I hit it good with some Mold Release Agent – Ease Release 200 worked good for about ~$15. Build up the walls again and repeat the process for the first half. You should have a two piece mold.
Carefully pull it apart to reveal your new negative mold. Note, I blew out the whites to keep my fingerprints a secret – it really is that detailed.
Okay, now I was finally ready to start making foam hands. This process was a lot of trial and error. Many of the attempts came out less that desired yet those were still perfect for a number of different haunted uses like decaying zombie hands. For the foam hands I started with Smooth On Flex Foam-It flexible polyurethane foam. Went with the trail units off of Amazon for about $33 (are you adding this up!). That gave me about 6 hands. Experimented with getting the volume right for the mold. Used clear plastic cups (cheapest available at Walmart) and simply marked the right fill volume for the A and the B chemicals (note, it was 2B to 1A for this product. Mixed it up and poured it in the bottom layer trying to get it equally dispersed in the mold. Slapped the top on and put some weight on it to try and keep it from oozing out the seams. One big disappointment was the molds are no way water tight. In fact, water just runs out like a sieve if you turn it on end (was thinking I could get the needed volume that way). That is why I laid it somewhat flat, but did put it at a slight angle facing the fingers. Here you can see the left and right two piece molds and my first attempts at getting them filled right – left hand came out perfect, right hand not so perfect and the first attempt at the top – very bad – although on the glass half full side, excellent zombie hands. Note, also put a bone pipe through the fill hole to attach it to my Poseys.
Here is where it got a bit weird. The tint pack I bought was intended to give me an option to get properly colored hands. Added a mixture of tan and blood coloring to come up with the color below. Whenever I did this (multiple times trying to figure out what was going on), the mold would no longer set up properly. Almost like the tint was preventing the required chemical reaction to complete. This left even better zombie hands by the way and the ones you might have noticed in my Dancing Zombie tutorial (link here).
I also tried using some different rigid foams – specifically, Foam It 3 and Foam It 5 from Smooth On. Used the sample packs off Amazon each like $27 (this didn’t seem that expensive being spaced out over time – all together like this and yikes). Ended up not liking the rigid foams being that it defeated one of the main goals of having poseable hands. Here is a shot of the palms – again, the tint kept it from reacting properly.
That’s it folks. Made about 12 hands in all. Placed most of them in gloves and put the armature wire between the glove and the foam hand. This is the case with the image at the start of this post. Those were actually hands I used on my Hugs the Clown decoration (link here).
Here is the shot of the back of those hands from the Hugs tutorial.
Hoped you enjoyed reading about a project that took me a number of months to complete. I learned a lot and the project eventually came to fruition. Definitely not happy with the overall investment seeing as how I could have bought a lot of finished hands off the net for that. Although, those would not be copies of my actual hands. Using a purchased hand for a mold would have cut a good chunk of the costs out. Good thing, I can make as many hands as I want now that I have the two piece molds. Will probably watch for sales on the flexible foam chemicals for future moldings.
Hope Linda doesn’t see this, but the costs for this little journey came in around… need to take my socks off and do some quick math…. 140 (Alja) + 25 (Cast 300) + 38 (clay) + 160 (Mold Star) + +$15 (Release) $33 (Flex Foam) + $27 (Foam 3) + $27 (Foam 5) + $10 (sculpting tools) + 30 (Misc supplies) = $505 – holy crap – just go buy your hands hehehehe.