Get a fast start on your next paper mache project or hand-made gift with Jonni’s easy downloadable patterns for masks, animal sculptures and faux trophy mounts. The patterns help you create a beautiful work of art, even if you’ve never sculpted anything before.
Steve Gabany has very generously offered to show us his special technique for getting a porcelain-smooth finish on his masks. Thanks, Steve!
© Steve Gabany 2011
Jonni has been very generous sharing her wisdom and time. So, when she asked if I’d be willing to describe my surface-smoothing technique on her blog, I was more than happy to oblige.
First, recognize that I’ve only been making masks since January. If some of the pics of some of my masks look amateurish, it’s because they are! Sources of the materials I refer to are scattered throughout and summarized at the bottom.
I used paper mache (PM), plaster of paris (POP) and Boneware for my first masks. I got a 4-lb box of white Boneware clay from Dick Blick for about $10.00. POP was pretty smooth out-of-the-mold, but PM and Boneware were not. I’ve done a bit of woodworking, so it was probably inevitable that I’d bump into my old container of Elmer’s Wood Filler. A pic of Elmer’s is shown below. The container I used has 16 oz at Lowes It costs about $5.00, and it goes to go a LONG way.
The filler had dried out, and was hard as a rock. Having nothing to lose, I filled the it with water and, lo and behold, after a few days, I had goop. I added water until the goop was neither as thick as originally, nor so thin that it ran when applied. I’ve used the goop on PM, POP, and Boneware. It adheres just fine to all of these materials, it’s simple to apply, simple to sand, takes additional coats as desired, is non-toxic, and it takes paint no differently than the mask’s base material. Here are a few of my PM and Boneware masks. I used the same mold for the first mask as I discuss below. The tiger/lion is Boneware.
Once the goop was soft, I poured it into a small margarine container and covered it with plastic wrap by pressing the wrap to the surface of the goop, and then making sure it was tight against the edges of the container. It seems to be quite airtight, but, if need be, I can add water to thin it again.
Here’s an example of how I’m using it with Jonni’s PM Clay recipe (the one WITH linseed oil). The first pic is the mold I used. I got it at Hobby Lobby for about $8. It’s fairly rigid, but not enough so I could press the PM Clay hard enough to eliminate gaps and holes in the surface.
These next two pictures show the mask as it came out of the mold. The results of not being able to press the PM clay hard enough is obvious. I’ll have to make some clay or POP molds if I’m going to continue using the PM Clay. The mask is supposed to be one of those that you hold up with a stick, which I don’t like. I filled the hole below the mouth with 2 coats of goop.
The following two photos shows the results of applying the goop. Since there were so many holes and gaps, I covered the whole surface. For other masks, I’ve found that if I don’t need a bunch of the goop, I can just scrape my gloved finger across the plastic wrap after I remove it. In this case, I had to dip into the container a few times. The thickness of the goop is probably little more than 1/16″. All I’m trying to do is fill holes and gaps, not build-up the surface.
Unless I’m applying very little goop, I let it dry overnight. If you try to sand it before it’s dry, well…chaos! And, I’m retired, so I’m not in any hurry.
Here’s what the mask looked like after I sanded off the goop the next morning. If you compare it to the raw mask above, you can see the improvement. A word about sanding. I almost always do it by hand. The PM Clay is so hard that I started with 100-grit, and left very few sanding marks. I sanded them out with 220-grit and moved on to primer. But, if you’re going to use goop on a PM piece, don’t start with anything coarser than 220-grit. Be VERY careful to sand just to the surface. I don’t know about you, but I found trying to sand PM was a disaster. I created more divots than I filled!
Finally, here’s what the mask looked like after I has applied one coat of white acrylic (both sides). I don’t know how PM Clay will act in the rain, and I don’t want to find out. I’ll give the back at least two coats of primer.
Normally, of course, I would have sanded the hole in the chin before I painted, but it wasn’t dry, I wanted to get these photos to Jonni’s blog as soon as possible.
Next, I will use a very fine-grit sandpaper (400 or 800) to take off dust or whatever stuck before the primer coat dried. If I want to get out more divots, I’ll fill them using a toothpick so as to put on only as much as I need. Then I’ll lightly sand, again with either 400 or 800. If you have little blobs of goop, say, less than 1/4″ in diameter, use fine sandpaper. 100-grit and maybe even 220 will tear the blobs right off the surface.
I imagine all of you know about these products, but I include them just to be complete: I use acrylic paints — including metallic. Hobby Lobby Online sells a 2 oz bottle, like Anita’s, for $.67. Cheap enough for me. I also use Valspar Clear Gloss spray. You can get it for about $8.00 about anywhere.
Finally, I’ve been using Rolyco Ethnic molds that I got through Dick Blick, and some mask molds I got at Hobbly Lobby. You get 2 molds each of five ethnicities from Dick Blick for about $10.00. They’re a little smaller than the human, adult face, but would work well for children. These are flimsy molds, and, again, I will make a clay or POP mold from them if I was going to use them with PM clay.
Finally, I expect to use a miniature jigsaw/scroll saw that I’ve had for quite a while to trim the PM Clay. My wife and I used it to cut gourds back in an earlier life, and with the large transformer, it worked very well. I think it will be the easiest way to cut the garbage off the PM Clay masks. You can get both the saw and the transformer from Micro-Mark for $59.95 and $62.50, respectively.
I’m certainly open for comments and questions. My email address is docgabany at gmail dot com.
Products used in this post:
- Micro-mark jigsaw/scroll saw
- Elmer’s wood filler
- Valspar pemium enamel aerosol clear glossy
- Acrylic Craft Paint
- Roylco Multi-Cultural Face Forms:
- Sculpture House Boneware Wet Clay: