Saturday, June 30, 2012

Makes It All Worthwhile!

Making quality professional ventriloquist figures full time is a lot like hard work, with a lot of painstaking attention to detail. Some days you scratch your head and wonder if it is all worthwhile. You get one of these figures finished, get 'em all packed up and sent on their way to a patiently waiting customer. You wonder if they will notice and appreciate all the time and effort you put into making their quality figure.

Then, after a few days when the figure has arrived, you get an email or a phone call from the customer. Then you know it's all worthwhile! Here are a couple of happy customers comments right after they got a chance to look at their new figure for the first time..........

"Hi Mike,

Eddie arrived on schedule, although I had to leave as soon as he arrived.
I'm back and looking at a masterpiece!  The colors on Eddie's face and hands
are so vibrant, yet realistic.  His facial features look great from every
angle.  When I saw Eddie I was more overwhelmed than when I viewed
Michelangelo's statue of David.  David met my expectations; Eddie far
exceeded all my expectations. Additionally, Eddie winks, blinks, moves his
eyes, raises his eyebrows, and looks like he is about to speak.

With much appreciation,

P.S. If I am this pleased with Eddie, I know Ember will be wonderful too!"

 Here's the other one from ventriloquist Bob Isaacson, a very familiar name to many in the vent community....

"Hooray !...he's here Mike.  Safe & Sound.  I don't know where to begin....  Sparky is perfect; I'm sure the little kids ( preschoolers) at my Church are really going to like him. He is a very charming looking fellow. Going to get him properly dressed in "kid type" clothing.  Even arrived a day early so I can get him properly ready.  Mike, I can't think of enough superlatives to describe your work.   Everything, I mean , everything is done to perfection.  The controls are wonderful & I appreciate the frontal eye control. Also  the head lock is great. I always use a head lock on my figures ( remove it when figure is in action). Your lock is so sophisticated in design, but simple to use.  The hair, eyes & makeup (paint) are also terrific. I really appreciate all you've done for me & will certainly recommend your work.  Not only perfection, but price is so reasonable.  I'm hoping to take Sparky to the convention, so folks there can see your wonderful work.  As soon as I have photos, will send you copies.  Many, many, thanks Mike !   as "they" say  " you're the go to man".     Sincerely,  Bob"

Here's a pic of Bob's Sparky in the workshop, just before he went out the door....

Here's some pictures of Bob with Sparky and some of the kids at the school.......

Bob Isaacson further said when he kindly sent me these pictures...........

"Hello Mike… Here's the photos the preschool teacher took of the younger kids with Sparky. She thought the photos would be better in the classroom. Those "little kids" really took to Sparky. He talked to them for a while, then the teacher had me sit down & the kids gather around.  You can see by their faces, that they loved Sparky. He was truly a big hit with the children.   Another Mike Brose success story!...  again Mike,  My thanks !    Bob"

So, as you can guess, I keep all such comments on hand, to remind me that after all the hard work....., blood, sweat and tears...., and other such fun, that figure making can be, that it is surely.....,   ALL worthwhile

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Epoxy Putty on a diet!

For a number of years I had been looking for a light weight epoxy putty, that would work basically like Magic Sculp or Apoxie Sculpt, but the cured material would be light in weight. Epoxy putties can be a great material for altering ventriloquist figure heads or puppet heads, but the problem has always been, the more  putty you add to the head, the more it is going to weigh!

 I always try to keep up with what is going on in the mold making and casting industry (I've been doing mold making and casting since the latter part of the 1960's), and so I came across a new product that looked promising. Its been so crazy busy here with making cast parts and finished figures for customers, I didn't even get around to ordering it for quite awhile, and then several weeks passed before I was able to try it out.

I was somewhat skeptical before trying it, as I have tried so many dozens and dozens of other new materials over the years, and some few turn out to work exactly like you hoped they would, but many others have been a big disappointment and end up getting tossed. So how did this one work? Very nicely! I was pleasantly surprised. It is made by Smooth-On and is their newer Free Form Air.....

Here's my review of Free Form Air:  First of all, Free Form Air costs less than Magic Sculp or Apoxie Sculpt. It's like 2 quarts of material for $25, which will go a long ways. Apoxie Sculpt is $35 for about the same volume of material, and Magic Sculp is around $40 for about that much material (you get a little more I think as you get 5 lbs. for that amount). In any case, the Free From Air appears to be a good value.

Next, it is very easy to mix. Much easier than Magic Sculp or Apoxie Sculpt or any of the other epoxy putties I've tried for that matter. Those are a little bit of a workout to mix in comparison. It comes out of the container very easily and is light and almost fluffy. It almost feels like you are not holding anything at first. But it's consistency is such that it will mix and blend at a much faster rate than the other epoxy putties.

Cured Properties: One of the first things you will notice after it has cured, is that it is not a hard as the other epoxy putties (it is only Shore D 50). Magic Sculp is Shore D 80, and from what I can tell, Apoxie Sculpt is in about the same range (fairly hard when cured). As a comparison, Free Form Air is somewhat comparable to basswood as far as relative hardness/softness. At any rate it is softer than what you may have worked with before.

In My Opinion: Because it is light in weight, you can use much more putty to alter a figure's face (at least twice as much is my gut feeling) and not have the head be too heavy. On the flip side of the scale, I would say it is great for altering a face, but there is a caution regarding other uses. Example: Some like to make heads completely cast from an epoxy putty material. I even show that on my web site as a way to make a head. Here's the reason for the caution.....

When I test a casting material, I always test its breaking strength. I need to know if  'push comes to shove', at what point will this material break? I create test samples about 1/8" thick and then see how much force it takes to break the sample piece. It takes a pretty good force to break a piece of cured Magic Sculp or Apoxie Sculpt. In the tests that I did, Free Form Air has about 3/4 to 1/2 the strength to resist breakage as either on of those.

For this reason, I would not recommend making a cast head with it unless it was properly reinforced and/or cast pretty thick (probably around 3/8" minimum). So closer to the thickness of a basswood head (basswood may actually be more like 1/2" or so in places). Otherwise, I think the casting will be too fragile. However I haven't actually cast any full heads in it yet to verify what might be required. I'm just putting that caution out there based on my destructive testing so far.

In any case, I think it has the potential to be a great material for a light weight alternative to the other epoxy putties, and thought I would share my preliminary findings on this product. It could make it much easier and more feasible to make a custom of or semi-custom face over an existing head casting using this light weight material instead of the heavier epoxy putties you might normally use.   

Tip: When you first mix the material it is pretty much too soft to work with in my opinion. Let it set up a little (approximately 30 minutes) before trying to sculpt with it. It will have more body and be easier to sculpt when it gets slightly firmer in consistency.

Well, I hope you find this review of Smooth-On's 'Free Form Air' of benefit. I will be testing it out further as time allows.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

People kept asking, so......

Since 'Sparky' was first introduced as a finished figure, we have had numerous requests to make him available for purchase as a quality kit head. We have listened to our customers and have made this a reality.

You can now purchase this top quality head casting with Sparky's unique, premium sculpted face, which is brimming with personality, and make your own quality figure. You can read more about him on our head casting page.....

The Sparky head, as with all our head castings, is made with our unique head casting process. You can read more about that here.....

Kit includes the Sparky head, matching trap door, jaw with brass axle and easy install metal collars for positioning. I've also added some extra flanges inside this unique head for gluing in a pulley axle for a cord controlled jaw. So there are 3 sets of flanges (eye tray, jaw axle, and jaw pulley axle) already inside the head for solidly gluing these items in place.

Also, you don't have to glue his ears in place. Even though Sparky has ears that stick out quite a bit (that's part of his personality and fun look), I worked very hard at creating a special mold (core head molds are special to begin with) where the ears are cast as an integral part of the head casting. Because of this, they are rock solid and aren't going anywhere!

That was a real challenge, but it was very important to me so I kept pushing myself until I got it down. Also, there are some pilot holes pre-drilled in the eyebrow area, so if you are going to install raising eyebrows, you don't have to guess where to drill the holes. 

So, take advantage of all my hard work (I do a lot of this to make my own figure making easier, but I know others appreciate it too!) and check out this new, way cool, Sparky head cast kit!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Sutffed legs with cast feet - attached!

A lot of our kit customers like our cast feet. And a lot of them like our stuffed legs as well. Quite a few have asked if they could get the cast feet already attached to the stuffed legs. We, of course, have said, "Sure. We can do that! No problem." And we make them for them!

To makes things even easier, and so customers don't have to ask for them, we now have these available to easily order on our Cast Feet and Stuffed Legs web page.....

Just click on the photo or on the above link and that will take you to that part of the web page that tells about them. 

Our customers do some amazing stuff!

Sorry to be so long between blog posts. I see some light at the end of the tunnel here, but its still going to be crazy busy for a little while yet. No complaints. I realize I am very fortunate to be this busy.

I always enjoy hearing from customers and seeing what they have done. Customer and colleague, Rey Ortega sent me a nice email awhile back. I just haven't had time to post this until now. Here's what he said.........

"Dear Mike and Cathy,

Hope all is well with you two.
Attached are pictures of my new figures, The Scat Cat and Duh Wayne, the partied out tourist using techniques from your book.
Thought you might like to share these with your customers.

All the best!


I'm always tickled when people tell me that my book has been of help to them. Of course, Rey is also very talented and that really shows in his finished work. Rey has also done a video diary of working on 'Duh Wayne' on Youtube ..........

Great job done on these figures Rey! Thanks so much for sharing!! Keep in touch and let me know how it goes with your future figure making projects.