Bwana Foster’s Sculpted Safari Door Handles – Guest Post


Today we have a great video and post from Bwana Foster, who has contributed many comments and photos of his sculptures here on UltimatePaperMache.com. Although many of his life-like sculptures are made with paper mache, these custom door handles are cast in plaster. His latest project was both fast and practical – but I’ll let him tell you all about it:


Nearly 4 years ago I bought a derelict house on the internet on the edge of the magnificent Kruger National Park in South Africa-we have been renovating it ever since twice a year during our holidays from the UK -it has been very hard work (but a work of passion!) sometimes in 48 degrees Celsius but we are now nearly ready for our first guests! If you want to read more about the house please visit our web site www.tandalalodge.com or look at the videos on our “Bwana Foster” YouTube channel.

I recently had to make some safari themed door and cupboard handles to replace the old stainless steel handles on the wardrobes and cupboards at my little B&B in Phalaborwa South Africa.

I couldn’t find anything suitable in the local shops so decided to have a go at sculpting something suitable out of air dry clay and then producing a simple latex glove mold to reproduce multiple handles. You have to be careful with your subject matter and how you apply it as delicate ears horns and tusks are likely to break off when stripping back the mold but if you bear that in mind and don’t do any steep undercuts stripping the mold is usually fine. (Post continued below video).

Once the air dry clay has hardened it’s probably best to seal it with a clear varnish (I didn’t do this but should have!) this will prevent tiny bubbles in the latex forming holes in the mold and then producing casting “sprues” in the finished cast which would have to be cleaned off.

The process is then very easy, buy some liquid latex-not silicone-although it is much better it is also much more expensive! Latex will do the job just fine.

Paint one coat of neat latex over the sculpture-ensure you brush it well into the detail, if you apply a little washing up liquid to the brush before dipping in the latex it will make it easier to clean out the brush later, blow or use a hair dryer to burst any small bubbles and leave to dry. When dried apply a second coat and leave to dry again.

If you have access to a latex thickening agent mix a few drops in a small amount of latex and stir until thickened then apply to the sculpture. My 50mm dia handles took two normal coats and 3 thickened coats if you are making something long and thin you may apply a finishing jacket mold in plaster over the finally dried latex just to support the latex mold.

Strip back the latex mold by first applying washing up liquid to the outside-this will help it strip off smoothly-but take it careful when removing. Wash the mold out in warm not hot soapy water and leave to dry.

You can use these types of simple molds to cast plaster, resin or even air dry clay-(pressed in of course). Air dry clay make take longer to dry this way as there is only one small surface open to the atmosphere.

I used casting plaster to cast my replica handles but you could also use the same method to cast in wax for producing candles or models for bronze lost wax casting. Please note there is some shrinkage from the original to the casts-usually around 10% but unless the final size is critical this should not be a problem.

I painted my cast plaster handles with matte black and Payne’s grey mixed with a PVA(Elmers?) glue and water mix of equal parts this with both seal and harden the plaster casts. I then applied various faux metal finishes and also applied a green verdigris finish to one of the bronzed pieces.

I don’t know if these would be OK exposed to the (wet) elements but I am sure with a few good coats of sealer they would be fine. My handles were glued to the fronts of the existing stainless steel circular handles and look much more in keeping with a safari theme!

The handles each took no more than 45 minutes to sculpt – some a lot less, each coat of latex took a couple of minutes to apply -say 3 minutes including pouring out latex and washing out brushes, casting took no more than 5 minutes a piece, painting 2 minutes, applying faux metal finishes say another minute so all in I reckon about 1 hour 8 minute each- As I was doing a number of different pieces all at the same time I probably went a little faster than that!

I have thought of lots more ideas whilst doing these little projects-the possibilities are endless-I think my next piece will be a Tandala Lodge company Logo for my front door!

Anyway I hope you enjoy and maybe learn something-I always think if I go to bed knowing more than I did when I woke up my day has not been wasted-Enjoy and happy sculpting!

Thanks, Bwana! By the way, if anyone would like to see more of Bwana Foster’s lovely animal sculptures, be sure to subscribe to the  “Bwana Foster” YouTube channel.

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4 thoughts on “Bwana Foster’s Sculpted Safari Door Handles – Guest Post

  1. I love this Bwana, going to give it a try, I sure hope mine turn out even half as good as yours I will be happy, might be horses and dogs running all over cupboards in Australia.

  2. Bwana,
    Very impressive! You are quite talented, thank you for sharing. I really enjoyed watching your progress pictures of the different animal sculptures, and I love the background music.

    • Hi Kat,
      Thanks for your kind comments, I forgot to mention on the video but the music is from the beautiful film “Duma” which is the Kiswahili word for Cheetah. It is one of those rare films you can watch with young children or your Grandma without worry of any embarresment, the story of a young boy growing up with a Cheetah and the life adventures they share together-I love it!

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