Monday, February 28, 2011

Materials Monday- Hot Pour Vinyl

Beef in Hot Pour Vinyl Gravy.
Hot pour vinyl! If you've been a faithful follower of this blog, you've probably noticed that I like to use a product called Hot Pour Vinyl on a lot of my food products. You also probably need to get out more. It's one of my favorite products because of it's translucency and shine- you can get really faithful representations of things like gravy, pie filling and cheese sauce. It's also nice and jiggly.
Hot pour vinyl is the same stuff that fake worm fishing lures are made out of. It comes in a liquid form, in clear or white, and is set by heating it to 350 Degrees, and then cooling it. It can be poured into a mold, or drizzled on top of fake food as a sauce, or anything else that your heart desires. I’ve used it in plaster molds, and I believe it can also be poured into silicone or urethane molds as well, though I have no experience with that. It can be re-melted and reused many times, you can put sawdust or other texturizers in it for a chunkier look if you wish.

You can buy plastic pigments to dye it, and they’re available in a wide range of colors. I’ve had mixed luck with painting it with acrylic, though I know the Guthrie had good luck using acrylic paint on some cast meat for a butcher shop scene this season.   I think the luck has to do with how well you set the stuff, if it isn't heated fully before cooling, it seems not to work quite as well.

The downside is that it’s hard to get it to stick to anything, and that it can leach some oily residue over time- so it doesn’t hold up real well in our warm and muggy basement prop storage. The best part is that it is shiny and translucent- so you can make very convincing sauces with it and jiggly, so you can make hilarious jiggly food with it.

The manufacturer recommends heating it in an oil double boiler, but as that sounds terrifying to me (another prop shop I know of had a spill with theirs, ick), and I usually mix mine in small batches, I just do it over low(gradually increasing) heat, and stir constantly. It’s pretty stinky, so better to do it in a ventilated area.

We buy ours here:
Burman Industries (search for Hot Pour)
and you can buy the pigments (M-F plastic color, it’s called) that we use here:
Fishing World- Plastic Pigments
(though I do not have personal experience with this company)

I'll post a step by step next week on some hot pour fishies, but in the mean time, here are some things I've done with the hot pour. Happy Propping!

Leftover cheese on platter.

Cabbage Pie

"Something Brown made of Cabbage"

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Mr. Laurel's Meat Pies

In this season's production of 'Laurel and Hardy,' Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy had to chow down on a plate of meat pies. Well, if your goal is to ask your actor to eat something greasy, crumbly, messy, and high calorie every night, then a meat pie is right up your alley! Your actor can pack on the pounds and your wardrobe staff can start scraping grease. Now, if you don't want your poor performers and costumers to hate the meat pie bit, you can always sub in these delightful meat free pies.  This is one of my shortest posts ever, because these pies are really, really easy to make. Here we go:

Step 1) Buy some of that pastry dough in a tube.
Step 2) Make it into pie shapes.
Step 3) Bake it. (Bake it at the recommended temperature until it looks golden brown.)

Ta-da!  We opted to make a massive batch during tech, freeze them, and re-thaw them a few at a time- and it seemed to work beautifully. I won't claim that the calories issue was completely solved, but it sure beat a pocket of ground beef every night. Also, our savvy director blocked the scene so that only two of the pies were eaten each night. These two edible pies sat atop a towering pyramid of foam meat pies, so the joke still had its punch.

That's it! There you go! Meatless Meat pies! Easy as.....yup, pie.

Happy Propping!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Materials Monday- Jaxsan

So, today I'd like to do a little rave about one of my all time favorite products, Jaxsan 600. Before I start this article, I should mention that I am in no way affiliated with the fine people at Plastics Coating Corporation, I just love their stuff!   If you've spent any time around me in a prop shop, you've probably heard me refer to Jaxsan as 'the magic prop goo' or constantly suggest it for every type of project imaginable.  What makes it so great you say? Well, let me tell you!

Within this bucket lies magic beyond your imagination! Well, actually,magic in direct proportion to your imagination. Still, not too shabby.
 Jaxsan is a great coating. It can be troweled or brushed on (there is also a spray grade, but I haven't used that one yet.) You can thin it with water, tint it (with acrylic, Cal-Tints, etc.), and mix in textural materials like sawdust.  It will coat wood, metal, fabric, foam rubber, and insulation foam. When it dries (air cure) it is strong, flexible, waterproof, fire resistant, and paintable.  If you stipple it on, paint it black, and then hit the points with silver Rub n' Buff, it looks like cast iron. If you schmooey it onto microfoam and paint it, it looks like sliced meat (see the ham and beef photos below.)

Now, there are a few downsides. The stuff isn't cheap, but for small applications it goes a long way. Also, if you're trying to get a smooth finish, this might not be the stuff for you. It's got some texture on it's own, and you're not going to get a satiny finish with it. Once it's dry there's no sanding or carving possible.

Now, as Levar Burton used to say on 'Reading Rainbow,' you don't have to take my word for it. Laura Salvaggio over at Theater Helper has posted a good overview of Jaxsan 600. Click here to read it.
Also, the fine folks at Plastics Coating Corporation have a known history of sending samples to theater professionals.  They've figured out that we use it, even if they aren't entirely sure what we do with it.  You can visit their website by clicking here.

Where to buy it?  Well, you can buy it directly from the company, you can buy it from RoseBrand, or you can look around online- a few other places do carry it.

I have some examples of Jaxsan use in my fake food work below (you can click on the caption to see the full post if you like):


Strawberry Cream Cake ala JT

Sugared Pansy Cake ala Oona

Hammy Sammies

Roast Beef

 So how about you? What do you use Jaxsan for? Send photos!!!!  If I like the photos, I'll post them, and you can have the prestige of having your work displayed on a blog that is read by tens of people daily!

Happy Propping!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Something Brown made of Cabbage

Hello all! Thank you for being patient with me lately as the winter has stood in the way of my posting to this blog!  The blog has been getting quite a bit of action lately, so thank you to all who are spreading the word.  This week, I'd like to bring you something truly disgusting- and I hope you'll enjoy it!

Last season we put on a production called "The Government Inspector."  It's a pseudo-period piece that takes place in Czarist Russia.  We find our protagonist at the inn. He has spent all of his money, and is begging the innkeepers wife to allow him to charge one more meal to his account.  She offers him a variety of dreadful things (including cabbage pie and 'something brown made of cabbage' ) from which he chooses a bowl of soup.  Only the bowl of cabbage soup (with chicken feathers) is eaten on stage, but the rest of the menu is pulled out for display.

The soup was a bowl of chicken broth containing a preset feather, but the cabbage pie and something brown were up to me. 

Mmmmm. Delicious. Who wouldn't want to eat that?
 For the cabbage pie, I started with some hot pour vinyl that I found in our kitchen. Our previous craftsperson had made up a batch of the vinyl with sawdust mixed into it, and I liked the texture.  I re-melted the vinyl and poured it out onto a cookie sheet. Once it was cool, I used scissors to cut it into thin strips, like sauerkraut.  I made the crust from Great Stuff. I like to use it as pastry sometimes because it has interesting texture, and is strong and lightweight. I made a blob of it on a sheet of plastic, and cut it to shape when it was dry.  Before painting it, I gave it a coat of white glue so that the paint would stick 

As you can see from the photo, the pie is sewn together. I still have not found an adhesive that works with hot pour vinyl, especially when it is in such small pieces The stitches were not apparent onstage, and allowed the towering pie slice a bit of wiggle.

The 'something brown' was made with hot pour vinyl also, but I wanted it to have a different base.  Under this pile of vinyl sauerkraut and sauce, there are several patties made from baked salt dough and spray painted with Glossy Wood Tone.  The result is a delightful "ewww" from most people who see it.  The hot pour vinyl really gives it the oily sheen that terribly greasy food needs, and the different tones and textures seem to remind people of the worst casserole of their lives.  Mission accomplished!


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