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JBrown437 Profile
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Caped Crusader

Registered: 08-2004
Posts: 2113
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Cowl Making Tutorial


As promised, here is the full breakdown/walk-through/tutorial on how I made this cowl from start to finish. Keep in mind that this is just one way to do it. There are many other ways to make cowls, but this method was chosen because it yields seamless cowls.

Now, credit must be given where credit is due, and there are two guys who deserve tremendous amounts of credit for their sage advice, priceless recommendations, and countless emails that answered all my questions and included much of what I am about to write. So, with no further ado, thank you Janty (Jants) and Matt (Jawafve) for all your help on this project of mine and for putting up with all my emails. I seriously couldn't have done it without you! And thank you to everyone else, you know who you are, who have helped me along the way!

One thing I want to mention also, is that when working with any chemicals at all, use a respirator and wear rubber gloves! Also, cover all surfaces with newspaper to prevent getting chemicals on them.

I hope that the information I provide here will help other brothers and sisters realize the dream that, through the help of those mentioned, has come true for me! So, let's get started!...

PART ONE:

1. First things first. I needed an armature to sculpt on. What I did was as follows.

I covered my head and shoulders with aluminum foil. Then I duck tapped it all down so that it formed the shape of my head. When that was done, I cut up the back, careful not to cut my hair. (A swim cap may be helpful to protect your hair.)

Once it was off, I taped up the seam and tightly packed the whole thing full of newspaper and taped off the bottom so the newspaper wouldn't fall out. I then bought some plaster bandages and applied them to the whole thing. I did a couple layers. Let it dry, and there I had a decent sculpting armature in the shape of my head. Granted it wasn't perfect, but it did the job.

2. Then I used an oil based clay (I forget the name) and sculpted my cowl. It took like 14-16 lbs of clay for the whole thing. In order to smooth it out, I used a fine screen to rake the whole thing down. Then I used a sponge soaked in rubbing alcohol to rub it down. I did this a couple times.
 
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When I was happy with my sculpture, I sprayed it down with Krylon black paint.

Image

Last edited by Deadly Lemur, 3/29/2006, 9:19 pm
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Caped Crusader

Registered: 08-2004
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Re: MY COWL MAKING BREAKDOWN (Tutorial)


PART TWO:

3. Next came the silicone. I mixed up the silicone and poured it on. Since silicone is very drippy, I kept having to scoop it back up and on to the sculpt until it stayed.

I did the first layer, let it dry, and did another layer of silicone. Then I took some cheese cloth (which is optional) and soaked it in silicone and applied strips of it all over the dried silicone covered sculpt. Then I let it fully cure (24 hrs or so).

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4. Next, I had to make a fiberglass jacket on top of the silicone. To do this, I built a dividing wall (using water based clay) up the side of the silicone, up and over the ear, over the top of the head, up and over the other ear, and back down the other side of the sculpt.

From there, using strips of fiberglass cloth and resin, I fiberglassed the front half. Once that fully cured over night, I removed the dividing wall and sprayed the wall of fiberglass made by the dividing wall with a release agent (Epoxy Parafilm works well, I used pure silicone release spray).

Then I fiberglassed the back half. I let that fully cure overnight and then I removed both halves of the fiberglass jacket.

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5. Then, I used a razor to make a hairline seam up the back of the silicone (from the base of the back to the sculpt to the middle of the top of the head).

I then rounded off the cut I made, so it wouldn't tear past that point. From here, I was able to carefully pull the silicone off of the sculpt. It took some time, but it peeled right off.

6. Next, I popped the silicone back into the fiberglass jacket and secured the two halves of the jacket with bungee cords. The jacket held the silicone in place so that it didn't fall out of shape, and the seam was held together.

From here, mixed up some resin and poured it down into the ears, filling the ears right to the top, poking it with a chip brush to make sure it got all the way in.

I let that dry and cut more strips of fiberglass cloth and mixed up more resin and fiberglassed the entire inside of the silicone. I used a chip brush to keep poking at the fiberglass to make sure it stayed down. This is very important so that you get a smooth fiberglass pull with minimal defects.

7. When it fully cured (again overnight) I undid the jacket and pulled the silicone off the fiberglass cast and there I had a fiberglass master. I sprayed the whole thing down with Krylon black primer. This brought out all the flaws.
  
Image

Now, mine was very flawed and many areas were warped. The more careful you are to make sure the silicone it secured in the fiberglass jacket, and the more careful you are in the fiberglassing process, the better the cast.

In order to repair it, I used a product called Bondo Glass. I mixed it up and using a gloved hand, rubbed it into all the holes and flawed areas. In many areas I literally had to re-sculpt the area with bondo. After it dried, I sanded it down until it was flush with the rest of the cowl. I went back and forth, using bondo, sanding and spraying with primer until I got all the flaws fixed.

Another thing I should mention, I also used a bondo product called Bondo Glasing and Spot Putty to fill small holes. It was easier to sand down, but was reall only good for small holes. From here I used sand paper to sand the whole thing down perfectly smooth.

I started with a 320 grit sand paper, then went to 220, then 400, then 600 until I was happy with the smoothness and sprayed it down with the final coat of black primer. Now that I had a perfectly smooth fiberglass master, I will always have it in case something happens to future molds, I can always go back to this and make another mold.

Image

Last edited by Deadly Lemur, 3/29/2006, 9:22 pm
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Caped Crusader

Registered: 08-2004
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Re: MY COWL MAKING BREAKDOWN (Tutorial)


PART THREE:

8. The next step was to once again silicone the fiberglass master, exactly like it was done before with the sculpture. Once that is completed, I made another fiberglass jacket on top of the new silicone mold.

Once the jacket and the silicone have been removed from the fiberglass master I once again popped the silicone mold back into the jacket and secure it shut with bungee cords. Now I'm ready for the urethane.

9.I got my urethane from Smooth-On. It is called ReoFlex 40, 40 standing for the shore hardness of the urethane. It is a very good urethane and is very flexible.

Once I have mixed up a few ounces of the urethane (following the ratio of A to B) I poured slowly it into the silicone mold. This is so all the air bubbles can pop. Then using my gloved hands and a chip brush, I went right in and rubbed the urethane into all the crevasses making sure it got in everywhere.

Then, I painted the urethane up the walls of the mold using the brush until I got it all over then entire inside of the mold. Then I tipped to right side up onto a milk crate ( a bucket is better). This is so the urethane can drip down the mold and cover more of the mold and not settle in an certain area of the mold.

I actually didn't do this after the first few coats, which caused the urethane to settle in the ears, which wasn't a problem in this case, because it was a silicone mold and will easily release the urethane, but it is a good thing to do.

After a few hours, the urethane set up a bit and I could tell by reaching in and feeling it w/ my finger. Then I repeated the process several times until the inside was fairly thick. I let it cure overnight.

Image

10. Then, I took my Urethane Cold Foam, which is an expanding foam that I bought from Burman Foam. I mixed it up (following the ratio instructions) and poured the entire pint into the urethaned mold. The foam then expanded to sill the entire mold.

I learned an important lesson here. When sculpting on a bust, always mold the bust part with the cowl and not just the cowl parts. This is because when it came time to foam it, the tail was higher than the front and the foam spilled over the front before it reached the tail, causing me to have to paint the foam of the tail, which isn't preferable.

Just a side note. The foam only took about 30 minutes to cure.

Image

Then I removed the fiberglass jacket and the silicone mold and viola, a foam filled urethane version of my cowl!!!

Image

Image

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11. There was a hole in the silicone mold, so when I pulled the urethane version, there was a mole on it. I just cut it off, no biggie.

My urethane cast had a small hole in the ear and a slight depression in the chin. What I did was I used that Bondo glazing and spot putty and rubbed it in and smoothed it out. I let it dry and sanded it down as best as I could. It cracked a bit, but that didn't matter, because I knew I could sand the plaster mold later on. When that was done, I sprayed the entire thing down with epoxy parafilm.

12. Next was time for the plaster mold. Since my cowl was not on a bust, I needed to create a structure to hold it up so that it could sit upright and the weight of the plaster wouldn't smoosh it.

What I did was I took an old rake handle, stuck one end into the ground and the placed a heavy duty plastic milk crate over it, sliding the rake handle through one of the holes in the crate, so the handle stood about a foot and a half above the crate.

Then, I impaled the foam filled urethane cowl onto the rake handle pushing the tip of the handle right through the foam. By the time the cowl was resting on the milk crate, with the tail hanging over the back, the tip of the handle was about half way up the foam filled cowl.

Then I placed a heay flat rock on the front of the crate so that the crate wouldn't tip over once the plaster was on the cowl. So, with the rock in place and the handle running through the crate and the cowl, it was a very sturdy structure. Moral of that little aside, leave the bust on your cowl!

Image

13. Next, I went searching everywhere for info on how to mix the plaster and so forth. Finally, my good friend Jawafive chimed in and rescued me. Thanks man, I could never have done the rest of this project without you!

I used Ultra Cal 30. It's not expensive at all, compared to silicone at least. First, I poured a little water into a bucket and scooped up a cup of plaster and sifted it into the water. Using an electric beater, I stirred the mixture. You need considerably more plaster than water, so keep that in mind while mixing. I added plaster and water as necessary until getting an “icing” like thickness.

From here, I brushed it all over my foam filled urethane cowl, covering the whole thing in a fairly thin layer of plaster getting into all the crevasses. Once that was done I let it dry for about 30 min and then repeated the process 2 more times.

Then, I cut up lots of 2” srips of burlap. Then, I mixed up a little bit thicker batch of ultra cal and dipped the burlap, one strip at a time, into the plaster getting it completely covered. Then I covered the entire thing with the plaster coated burlap, smoothing each strip out to make sure the were no air bubbles trapped under the strips.

I let that dry about 30 min and repeated the process another 2 times. Then, I mixed up an even thicker batch of plaster and completely covered the entire thing in very thick plaster.

I completely filled in the gap between the ears and flattened the top so it could stand on its head later. By the time your done, you should barely be able to tell where the nose chin and eyebrows were, but the ears will be completely buried.

Then, smoothed the whole thing over with water and I was done. I let it dry overnight.

Image

14. The next morning, I pulled the urethane foam filled cowl out of the plaster mold. To do this, first, I reached my hands down the sides of the mold between the urethane cowl and the plaster and separated the two. Then, I had to scrunch it up real good to get it out.

All in all the plaster mold came out beautifully and I just took 220 grit sandpaper to the inside smoothing out the rough spots and filling any holes with the bondo glazing and spot putty and sanding it down once that dried. The smoother the plaster mold, the smoother your cowl will be.

Image

Last edited by JBrown437, 3/30/2006, 3:13 pm
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Caped Crusader

Registered: 08-2004
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Re: MY COWL MAKING BREAKDOWN (Tutorial)


PART FOUR:

15. Next, for the latex. First, I put my respirator back on. What I did, was I slowly poured the latex in half way and then shook the mold vigorously.

Then I took a paint brush and brushed the latex up the mold and into every little area. Then I poured the latex in as far as I could go without spilling it. Next, I tapped the mold forcefully with my palm to release the air bubbles away from the mold.

Then I painted latex thickly all over the tail area and front that wasn't covered by the poured latex.. Once completely covered with latex, I let that sit for 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Then, I poured the latex back into the bucket and tipped the mold right side up and let it drain for 10 minutes. (Put something down so the latex doesn't get all over the ground/floor.)

Then, I turned it back upside down and let it dry for 2 hours. You can stop here, but since it was so big I repeated the process to make the casting thicker. The only thing I did differently on the second coat of latex, was I only let the latex dwell in the mold for 1 hour rather than 1 and a half hours.

I let it dry for 2 and a half days, (or until the latex has pulled away from the mold) then, before removing, I sprinkled baby powder generously all over the inside of the latex.

Then, I pulled the cowl out of the mold, washed it with soap and water, trimmed the excess latex with scissors, cut out the eyes, and mouth holes, and then dremmeled them smooth. Any holes, I filled with latex and let it dry for a day or so and dremmeled them down. Once I was happy with it, I plasti dipped it black.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

I know it is a long process done this way, and like I said, there are many other variations to the method. This is the way I did it, and I was very pleased with the results. Remember also, you will never get a perfect casting! There will always be some air bubbles somewhere. However, they are trivial since Batman is a creature of the night. Good luck!

I strongly recommend that if at all possible everyone should try to make their own stuff; it is fun and gives you a great understanding of sculpting, mold making, and casting in general, and gives you an appreciation for what the veterans on this board do and have done for so long. It is really amazing and my cowl is off to all of you guys for what you do!

Once again, I would like to thank everyone who has helped me along the way and has contributed to the learning process that this entire project has served to be.

Good times!

Last edited by Deadly Lemur, 3/29/2006, 9:34 pm
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reevz666 Profile
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Caped Crusader

Registered: 05-2004
Location: San Diego
Posts: 2689
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Re: MY COWL MAKING BREAKDOWN (Tutorial)


GREAT info...you just saved my life with this info...I molded my Dead End cowl last night and it came ot horrible and almost completely ruined my clay sculpt!....what Silicone did you use for your mold?(smooth-on Mold Max?)and where did you get your fiber glass???

I'll be using this method thanks to you :toocool

Last edited by reevz666, 9/2/2005, 1:52 pm


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Caped Crusader

Registered: 05-2004
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Re: MY COWL MAKING BREAKDOWN (Tutorial)


Thank you for an awesome tutorial
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Proximo Profile
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Caped Crusader

Registered: 12-2004
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Re: MY COWL MAKING BREAKDOWN (Tutorial)


Great Tutorial :up
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Apprentice

Registered: 05-2004
Location: Madison, WI
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Re: MY COWL MAKING BREAKDOWN (Tutorial)


That is an incredible tutorial and my cowl is off to you and a HUGE thank you...I'm sure the other Brother's feel the same way. Thanks for documenting the process and detailing it as well with pictures...you rock!!

Mike


---
http://members.tripod.com/dark-knight68/
TheDarkKnightWarrior@gmail.com
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JBrown437 Profile
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Caped Crusader

Registered: 08-2004
Posts: 2113
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Re: MY COWL MAKING BREAKDOWN (Tutorial)


No problem guys! I think it is great that we can share ideas and learn from each other!

Reevz666- Here is the silicone I bought. I used just under a gallon for each mold. The thicker the mold the better, but you can always use more cheesecloth to make it thicker also.

http://www.burmanfoam.com/estore/ProductDetail.asp?Recordset1_Action=Find('PID','5')&Recordset1_Position=FIL%3AORD%3AABS%3A2KEY%3A5PAR%3A

I bought my fiberglass at Home Depot. You have to buy Fiberglass cloth. They come in 8 sq ft packages. Buy a bunch of packs like 6 or more, so you can be sure you make your molds and jackets thick enough. You also have to buy All Purpose Fiberglass Resin. You should get a large container of it, so you'll have enough. Also buy some extra liquid hardener.

Last edited by JBrown437, 9/2/2005, 2:38 pm
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Luke Roberts Profile
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Caped Crusader

Registered: 02-2004
Posts: 1244
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Re: MY COWL MAKING BREAKDOWN (Tutorial)


Jon,
Thats a very interesting read.

Awesome tutorial, gotta get back to my own sculpt! You're an inspiration!

---
Hee hee. "Get her." That was your whole plan. I like it; it was scientific.
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