Thursday, June 01, 2006

Christmas in June

I love when I'm starting a new project and order materials and all the packages start coming in.... especially when I get to work with new stuff. Today my Chavant NSP came in, a small box packed full of dense, pungent modeling clay. It smells a lot like regular (sulpher-based) plasticene, but NSP stands for non-sulpherated plasticene, and it's specially formulated to work with Platinum-cure silicones, which are extremely touchy and won't cure if there's even a hint of sulpher in the mold. Or just about anything else, including traces of natural latex or tin-based silicone.

Within the last few days (well, before the Memorial Day weekend, of course) I also got in a few coils of Almaloy armature wire and some thumb screws from I foolishly thought the nuts would come with them, since they're shown together in the picture (and because the screws are like a dollar apiece!!!), but no, I discovered you have to order them separately. This is a little trick I learned from Toxic Papa Ralph Cordero, fabrication guru extraordinnaire. Here's what's so great about thumb nuts:

They're ready-made for tie-downs! Scha-weet!

Next I expect to get my Dragon Skin, which is a super-soft platinum-cure silicone designed for use in the special effects makeup and animatronics industry. I really wanted to get a tin-cure silicone, which are just all-around friendlier to use, but it's hard to find one of the super-soft (shore-A 10 or less) effects silicones in a tin-cure that's translucent. Toxic Papa reccommends the Silicone Inc's GI-1110, which I was able to locate at The Compleat Sculptor, but only in light blue! It needs to be translucent so you can tint it with the (expensive) silicone pigments. He says if you ask they'll give you a translucent activator (the part that controls the color... the base is translucent already), but I sent them an email asking if they have it available, and haven't heard back from them yet. Maybe I'd be better off to call.

He also recommended another tin-cure silicone by Silicones Inc called GI-245, which I was unable to find on any website, including Silicones Inc's own site! But he assures me it's still being made. So I dug out a paper Compleat Sculptor catalog, and lo and behold, they have it! Why don't they list it on the website!!??? Actually tonight I went into deep-search mode, and I did discover it on the site, but it's very hard to locate. You have to go into Shopping Cart rather than the Online Catalog and there's a black bar across the top of the page that has a Search button and a listing of thier products broken down into sections. Under Casting and Molding Materials, somewhere on an unbelieveably long page, you'll find it. But there's another problem.... it comes with a choice of three different catalysts and I have no idea which one to use. They don't describe the differences between the catalysts. There's a chart that I think is supposed to do that, but I can't understand it. If I ever figure this puzzle out, I think I'll order some and give it a go. But first I'll play with my Dragon Skin when it comes in.

By itself, Dragon Skin is already quite soft, but for puppet use it needs to be softened still more by adding a plasticizer. The original industry standard for softening is called Silicone Oil or Silicone Fluid, which is what Toxic Papa reccommends, but there's a newer sexier product called Slacker that's supposed to solve a problem associated with the silicone oil. Apparently the it causes the silicone to leech oil... kind of nasty! Who wants to animate a puppet that's sweating oils? And what does that do to the paint, and the clothes? So I ordered both the silicone fluid and the slacker and I plan to test them out. I'm sculpting an arm and I'll try out the entire process, making a mold from Ultracal-30 and casting in Dragon Skin with both products added (separately of course) with a test armature in it to see how it bends etc. I need to make sure if 3 wires will be enough for a Dragon Skin arm, or I might have to use 4.

On the thread I linked to in my last blog entry, I got lots of great advice on using silicone, especially from Patrick Zung, who made puppets for Celebrity Deathmatch and loads of other projects. Unfortunately, the techniques he describes are very complicated and difficult. I hope to keep this pretty simple if possible. Toxic Papa says you can get away with using just a stone mold and filling both halves with silicone, then slap them together and rubber-band it shut till it sets up. Patrick doesn't beleive that will work, and has devised a complex technique using an injection gun and cutting vent holes and making a thin silicone glove mold that fits inside a shell mold of stone. Let me put it this way... if it's going to be that difficult, I could just use foam latex!

Sorry for all the wordiness and almost no pics, but I still haven't gotten around to setting up an account at one of the free image hosts. Next time I'll do that, and I should have some pics of my test arm and maybe some of my nifty new products!