Creaturiste's Laboratory

Techniques, works in progress, and everything that doesn't fit in the portfolio. Comments and questions are encouraged, custom orders are welcome!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Latex Puppet & Latex Mask

These are two of the multiple contracts I have been working on lately.

The frog is a mouth puppet cast in one piece of latex.
What you see currently is the cast inside the mold, as it appeared immediately when I opened the two-part plaster mold. I will offer copies for sale eventually, but if you want one before the weather gets cold in North America, you should order preferably before mid-September. I avoid working indoors with Latex, because of the ammonia fumes.

The Vizir (also known as the Evil Wizard) will be a latex mask (for the current customer) and will also be available as a paper mache version.

I shall post the copies in my Etsy store as they become available.

Rubber Latex: Keeping brushes CLEAN

Greetings Earthlings!

I've been unsuccessful in finding proper information online about how to REALLY keep brushes clean when using them to apply rubber latex for making molds.
All the sources mention using dish soap, but all of them are absolutely unspecific about it.
So years ago, when I first started using rubber latex, I wasted a few brushes.
I hate wasting!

This past week, I've been working with latex again, both as final product and as molds (different projects).

So I decided to solve this once and for all, after another intensive search turned no specifc methodical solution.

Today, by simple logic and remebering what went wrong before, I found a method that works, and here it is!
UPDATED August 2nd, 2010

1. choose a good quality long haired brush (I use a flat hogs bristle brush). The lenght gives it suppleness and bounce, allowing for softer and more precise application of latex.

2. Find a small narrow short jar, and fill it with liquid dish soap. It must be enough to cover all the jair on the brush, and part of the ferule (metal part).

3. dip brush into dish soap, gently press with your fingers to make sure the dish soap gets deep into the brush.
Leave brush in it for a few minutes (I prepare my model for molding during this time)
This is an added precaution to ensure that the soap really is permeating every hair on the brush.

4. pour your rubber latex into a small container, such as a small pudding cup or a glass. Plastic is best, it can be cut to size, and cleans up easily: just peel off latex when dry.
The small container makes it easier to handle the latex (compared to using the big jug or gallon container), and helps prevent dipping the brush too deep.

5. remove excess dish soap by rubbing against the mouth of the jar, therefore recuperating it.

6. Dip ONLY the end of the brush into the latex. This is important because the ferule'Ms exit for the hair is where latex and paint like to accumulate, and make the hair go wild and useless for precision work. Nearly impossible to clean once it is set there.
Brush the latex gently onto your model, either by sliding or by stippling, using the tip of the brush, without applying much pressure. This is imprtant to keep proper detailing on the first three coats at least. DO NOT squeeze the excess latex back into your latex cup. You would contaminate your latex with dish soap, which could, in theory, cause structural problems on your project.

7. If your surface is large or complex and takes a while to cover, take a break after ten or 15 minutes, to wash your bush, even if you are not finished, and when the brush is clean, just redip in dish soap, and start working again.

8. CLEANING the brush: start with a squirt of dish soap in your hand (gloved if you are allergic to latex), mix the soap into the brush (tip only again), and then wash gently with COLD tap water. to water makes latex set instantly! DO NOT srub the brush into your hand. DO NOT reverse the brush to force water near the ferule. Those are very bad abuse on any brush, but alas quite common "techniques" in the artistic and construction fields. Better to gently brush your hands directionally, as if you were painting it. Repeat rinsing and soaping until you are sure thebrush is clean. Suspend upside down to dry.
Occasionally, after a work session, it is good to treat your brush to a little bit of hair conditionner. It helps keep them alive longer. Just don't, forget to rinse toroughly, or else the conditonner would affect your next painting or moldmaking job.
Found out after three days of using this method: there may be just enough residual dish soap within the depth of the brush to be enough to wash it without needing to add any more.

9. No matter what precautions you take, you will eventually get some small beads of latex forming at the end of your brush. Use more dish soap and rub it well. Then pinch those beads out of the brush.

Here's to the health of your brushes, and more precision in your work!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Epoxy Putties

Hi there,
I've been using epoxy putty again tonight , because it was called for.
I thought the following input could help people have a better experience with this useful but "particular" category of materials. Things can go wrong real fast with epoxies.

I use it rarely, but it's great for some specific uses, such as:
•strengthening mechanics inside puppets
•gluing or merging parts of very different materials (even for glass to wood to metal!).
•Smoothing and patching an otherwise hard-to-repair material (only if paper mache is not suitable, such as for certain synthetic materials that are too slipery).
For most other things, such as a main modeling or casting material, I avoid it , because it is:
•Way too heavy
•Way Too brittle
•A nightmare to paint (scratches off too easily, no matter what primer I ever tried)
These problems have been consistent with the three different brands I tried:
•Apoxie Sculpt
•Mighty Putty

And one more epoxy-based casting product, of which I have not been told the name, seems to share these issues with the putties.

Three days ago, a heavy hollow puppet head from a colleague, cast in a supposedly flexible and lightweight epoxy material, got severely damaged when it was dropped from a table. The product had been highly recommended by another colleague of his, who got him the contract. BIG mistake. Caused a slew of technical problems for him and me, as well as puppeteering problems for the puppeteers (mostly weight and fragility, but also some air bubbles in the cast).

So tonight, to help out, I repaired the head with epoxy putty.
It's curing now.

The big problem I had with the only putty I had access to tonight, after hardware store hours was Mighty Putty, which I got at the drugstore. The price was right for a change, but that may have been because it was old stock. No mention of it anywhere, but I know from past experience that this is what happens to putty when it spends too long on the shelf: sets way too fast, gets brittle and loses adhesion properties in 5 minutes (or less).
A proerly fresh epoxy putty feels like warm bubble gum at first, is actually droopy for a minute or two. Tonight'"s stuff was already like firm modeling clay, and only sticky for two minutes or less. I wasted nearly half the package, because that's how much I mixed at once, and it set within 5 minutes, instead of the "minimum 20 minutes" advertised in the instructions. Next time, just because I obviously should not trust stores or suppliers, I shall mix a tiny amount at first, to test the batch.

I'd appreciate it if people with different experiences with epoxy puttie would come froward and share their tips, so that visitors here can benefit. Especially if you know of a good, not-too toxic primer to use on the stuff.