Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Hand Casting Part 1

Alright, readers, I have to admit that there aren't a lot of fake food props being made here in the Fake-n-Bake kitchen lately. For the past few weeks, I've been up to my neck in breakaway plates that aren't breaking and script covers that are being manhandled to death.  So, I haven't had much to report. Since there aren't any fake food projects on my horizons, I thought I'd take a look back at some older casting projects, and write a few posts about those.

These lovely beings are the first step in a pair of hands that got crushed in a trap door in 'The Government Inspector.'

Materials: Alginate, Hydrocal or Dentstone (or any high strength casting plaster), your carpenter (or any pair of hands), Petroleum Jelly, and Buckets

The first thing you need to do is convince your shop's carpenter to let you use his hands. Why do you need to use his hands? Because he has the most marvelously huge hands you've ever seen. His hands are like hams with fingers. You can use no lesser hands- only these will do.  Our carpenter was pretty easy to convince, but if yours isn't, I recommend baked goods. Real ones. No nerf muffins.

Once you convince your carpenter to allow you to cast his hands (or her hands, but ours is male, so I'm sticking with that pronoun), make sure your set up is comfortable for him.  Set up your containers near a chair or stool that will allow your carpenter to easily hold his hands in the alginate for fifteen minutes or more.  This make take some adjusting, which is why it is important to do this before you have mixed up your alginate.  Uncomfortable models lead to bad life casts.

Once you've got your set up ready, have your carpenter apply some petroleum jelly to his hands. Alginate (of dental impression fame) releases very well from skin, but petroleum jelly will help with any hair on the hands.

Once your carpenter is lubed up, get him settled into his position, and talk about how you want him to hold his hands; we went for a relaxed curl.  Then, mix up your alginate (follow the directions) and pour around the hands, and wait for the alginate to set.  It's important, when lifecasting, never to leave the model alone.  If a fire or other emergency occured, you'd need to be there to help. What's more common is that you'll need to make slight adjustments for the model's comfort. Can you imagine having both hands encased in goo, and then get an itch on your nose? TERRIBLE! 

Once the alginate is set (it will be stiff and won't be tacky) have your carpenter start to gently flex his hands and wiggle his fingers.  As he does so, the alginate will release, and he can slip his hands off from the mold.  Hand your carpenter one of the clean towels you had waiting (ha, gotcha) and send him off to wash his hands. Thank him for his time.

Alginate molds don't keep well for long- they dry out and shrink.  You can usually hold on to a mold for a day or so by wrapping it in wet cloths and keeping it in the fridge.  For best results, I recommend pouring your cast right away.  In this case, we only got one shot at the casting (some shapes allow for more), so we had to make it count. 

Mix your casting plaster according to directions, and pour it on in. Jiggle your mold to make sure you aren't trapping any air bubbles.  Once your plaster is set, you can remove the mold from the casts. I did this by removing the mold from its bucket, and carefully tearing away the alginate.  I did break a finger or two, but a little white glue took care of that. Oh, you can also see on the finger pads where some air was trapped. I sculpted those bits in with clay before making the next mold.  There you go! The first step of smashy hands! More to come soon, happy propping.


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