Saturday, May 27, 2017

Skulls, glorious skulls!

So in sketching out my Indiana Jones themed Halloween, I started counting up how many skulls I would need...yeah, it's quite a few.  So I started to look around for bulk skulls and such online.  Bit of a difficulty in the midst of May.  The dollar store usually has them, and it may be a matter of just buying them up as many as possible.  But in the meantime, to combat the anxiety of that, I found this lovely tutorial about making your own skulls from already owned skulls.  Basically you're covering said skull with aluminum foil, then paper macheing several layers, breaking it open in pieces, and reassembling it before adding a few more layers.  So I decided to try this method out on two of my nicer skulls just to see what kind of a time and work commitment it would be compared to the result.  If I can find my overly larger skull, it might be worth it.  Ooh, and if I modify it a bit, I cooould make the alien skulls by elongating the back of the skulls a bit.  Hmmm....

ANYways.  Here's the tutorial video by Unhinged Productions I found that was the most useful.  I should also note I have serious workshop envy of this guy.  *drool*

So here is my own attempt at a few skulls.  I had the clever moment when I realized it would be better to actually sit down at my lower workshop.  I had cleaned it up recently and added a multi purpose shelf, which got a lot of my tools up and out of the way.  Thus there was very little leaning over or getting tired from standing too long.  Which was great--I could take my time as the guy suggests.  The foil application was very easy--just making sure all the little creases were filled will be important if I do more of these.  The faces I used the guy's advice and did small pieces and took my time.  He mentioned that the hardest part is actually prying the pieces OFF the original that's ahead of me.  But the application wasn't too painstaking.  I'd say...maybe an hour and a half for 2 skulls?  One of which had an unhinged jaw, so 2.5 pieces.  And I think I could shave that down a bit if I knew what I was doing or had an assembly line going.

 Because if this works I would haul out all my nice skulls and use them so that I could do batches.  But I may be getting ahead of myself.  The next step is to wait (at least) 24 hours for the layers to dry out.  I also need to factor that kind of time in as well--waiting day(s) between applications might drag the process out.  Lots of factors to evaluate on whether this is going to be a project.


I found a phone book and so had access to stacks of lovely contrast paper, which made coverage of the second layer of mache much easier.  Now it's just a matter of waiting for the second layer to dry before the hardest step--to cut the pieces off the skull and reassemble them.  


The hardest step of taking off the mache and then reassembling the skull was done today.  I wanted to wait long enough that the skulls would be completely dry to have the best chance of being taken off as easily as possible.  The first skull (on the right without the jaw) slipped off surprisingly easy, especially the face.  I had been warned in the tutorial that the face was the hardest to work off, but I was pleasantly surprised that it came with barely a few tugs.  I'm not sure if this was due to the different shaped skull, or the way I cut it though.  More experimentation may need to be done.  The jaw was a little trickier, and tore a bit in a few places.  But I was able to use a bit of tape to patch them up.  
The second skull was much harder to peel back.  The back of the head and the bottom of the skull came off easily enough.  But the front face was a bit of a constant struggle.  The trick is tugging hard enough to make progress but not hard enough that you'll rip the paper and undo several days worth of work.  I used the palette knife quite a bit to use for leverage and just made my way around the face, trying to find that one sticking place that was keeping it from coming off.  Finally, half of the face kind of broke free and I was finally able to get some real leverage.  Reassembling the skulls was pretty easy, especially having numbered them and they were only in four pieces.  I still have yet to paper mache over the tape lines, but I'm still debating how much I want to devote to doing many of these.  

I've tried one more size--the larger skull that I found while cleaning.  This one would be worthy making many more of just because of the size.  But I'm in early stages yet.  I've only done three layers and haven't yet tried to crack him open yet.  But this one may be either super hard or super easy because unlike the previous ones, he's actually made out of this bendable plastic--more like a football?  But bendier.  Like a slightly deflated football.  So I'm not sure how that will play out in getting the mache off of him.  Might make it easier to wiggle him out...OR could mean that the mache will bend wherever the original goes.  I'm hoping it's the former.  *crossed fingers*  The good news is that after having done three of these now, I have a better sense of how to do them.  My next step is to paint one of them white to see how it's going to actually look as a skull.  Ooh, thought--maybe I could do a couple layers of the plasti-dip?  That would seal it so I don't have to do a million polyurethane layers...but it also might take away details...or cover up blemishes.  Hmmm, might have to do a test skull.

Pulled out my giant skull guy--he was AMAZINGLY easy to pull the mache off of--and I may be doing more of him.  He's larger than most skulls and if he continues to be this easy, I'll just keep doing him.  The hardest part about him is that putting the tinfoil on is a little harder--he's not super stiff like the others, so resists a harder mold.  But he compensates by being the easiest to take out of the mold.  

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