Tag Archives: props

Casting Cones

As I documented in a previous post, my first experience with casting was not entirely successful. But I did definitely learn a lot- and enough to embark on a smaller, simpler molding task as part of my performance prep for NW Congress last month.

Back in April 2012 I was preparing to show performance at NW Expo. I needed a single cone in two different performance set ups, one in Stablemate scale and one for a Schleich. I sculpted the two cones out of epoxy, and spent way too much time getting the base to be flat and square, and the cone to be… cone-shaped.

In progress cones

In progress cones

For NW Congress I needed at least four stablemate cones. But I didn’t have the time (or patience) to sculpt four more. Plus, I knew it would bug me if they didn’t match. But since the cone has one flat side, I realized that I could do a one-part mold and cast a few more relatively easily.

One part molds are simpler because you only have to pour rubber once, and you don’t have to worry about two parts fitting together perfectly. It’s also easier to pour the liquid plastic.

To make the mold, I took a little plastic cup (like what you’d eat yogurt or fruit out of) and lightly glued the original epoxy cone to the bottom, pushing it down so it was flush with the bottom. I didn’t want the cone to move around when I poured the rubber, and any little imperfection caused by a glue lump would be easily correctable by sanding (it ended up not being an issue at all).

making cone mold

I waited for the glue to set and so that the cone was firmly affixed to the cup. Then I mixed up my liquid rubber and poured it into the cup, making sure to cover the whole height of the cone. After it set, I had a nice little cone mold:

cone mold

Once the mold was done I poured my liquid plastic into it. I thought it might be hard to get it exactly full, but the flat base of the cone made it pretty easy. I recommend pouring from something that you can squeeze to make a kind of spout to control the pour. Handily, any little extra plastic that left on the top was only a very thin layer, so it’s easy to remove after the plastic sets.

I poured four cones, and with a bit of sanding and paint I had a lovely set:

set of cones

On the left is the original epoxy cone, and one the right are my four plastic copies.

The cones are great. I used them in a bunch of my performance set-ups at NW Congress, and I certainly will use them many more times. And if I need more, it’s not hard to make some!

cones in english games

I used the cones in English Games to mark the finish line in Red Light Green Light .

Cones are amazing useful for performance showers- almost essential, really. In fact, while I was working on this post, Jennifer Buxton wrote a post on her blog all about using cones in performance. She also mentions a great (and inexpensive) resource for buying Traditional sized cones. And as usual, a bunch of fun pictures too :)

Casting Catastrophes

Finally, a post that has long been neglected… the results of my casting adventures.

The short version is that although I did not achieve my original goal, my casting experiences did lead me to some useful things that have simplified some of my creating.

And here’s the long version:

Man, casting is hard. Huge props to those folks out there who do this regularly with lovely results. I’ve wanted to learn how to make molds and resin casts for a long time, but I haven’t been brave enough to try. That, coupled with the start-up costs and the fact that I didn’t really have anything worth casting held me back. But with a passable rider finally sculpted and my wish for many more, I decided to dive in.

The first thing I did was do some research online. I particularly recommend watching this video and reading over this page. I learned that this shape would need a two part mold, as opposed to a one part mold for things with flat backs (like medallions, for example). The video above was extremely helpful is explaining how a two part mold works and what to expect.

I found that making the mold itself was relatively straightforward.

mold p2 - finished mold

The first of several rubber molds

Pouring the liquid resin was a lot harder. I had a lot of trouble getting it to fill in the mold, and/or overflowing out the sides. I have a feeling that despite the seemingly easy creation of the molds, they had some serious flaws that prevented them from working properly. I made several molds trying different ideas, but none of them worked 100%, and some results were rather scary.

Some early attempts, from a few different rubber molds.

Some early attempts, from a few different rubber molds.

After a lot of frustration, I more or less gave up. But I did do one last mold. I realized that most of the difficult details to sculpt- hands, leg position, face, and helmet- were all on the front of the rider, that I could do a one-piece mold and at least get some usual pieces out of it.

The finished one piece mold, with my original still embedded

The finished one piece mold, with my original still embedded

And that worked, as well as it could anyway. It was much easier to pour the liquid resin into the one-piece mold, and also to get it to fill the whole mold. And the results, although incomplete, have turned out to be very useful.

The results of the half cast. Here I'm starting to build the back half of the figure, starting with a foil fill.

The results of the half cast. Here I’m starting to build the back half of the figure, starting with a foil fill.

So now I can at least dependably get half-riders out of my mold. They don’t all come out with hands, but I’m developing a decently fast way of sculpting them. And having the face, helmet, and basic body shape established in the casting is a huge advantage for sculpting. Each rider still takes a decent amount of work, but WAY less than sculpting each one from scratch.

New Props

My eyes are shot right now from staring at teeny tack all day, so I’m gonna blog about some props I made in the last few weeks. Tack is satisfying to make, and can be fun, but it can also be frustrating and it is hell on the eyes and neck. But props… props are just super fun all around.

Remember this arena? I was pretty stoked when I made it. And it worked just fine, and was a handy part of my performance gear for a year. But I got tired of lugging it around, especially since I was worried the dirt would come off so I always put it on top of things with nothing over it. Additionally, while it’s fun for rail set ups, it doesn’t have much space for things like trail or gaming set-ups.

new arena 1

So I hatched another plan. I wanted to keep the same interchangable fence, but with a larger, more portable, and more storable arena. I’ve been very happily using fabric as my arena base at recent shows, so I decided to go from there.

The new arena is actually super simple. It’s just a piece of hobby wood (14″ long for my minis) with holes drilled in it to accommodate the pins on the bottom of each fence. The fabric drapes over the wood and has little holes cut in it matching the drilled holes. The fences then just plug in to the holes in the wood, with the fabric in between.

new arena 2

A less than stellar picture, but you get the idea (and yes, the fabric has since been ironed)

So now I have a larger arena that is also way easier to transport and store. Compare:

new arena 3

The new arena was one of the first things I made when I got home from Rose City Live. A more recent creation is this cowboy curtain for trail.

cowboy curtain

Pretty fab huh? And as a bonus, the top piece comes off (it’s just plugged into the sides) which makes for much easier transport, AND the poles could be used in a pole bending set up! It was fun and pretty simple to make- it’s really jump hobby wood that’s been painted and glued together, with some holes drilled and some artfully cut plastic bags. Last week Robyn handed me the zebra bag as I was about to take her dog on a walk. I said no way am I putting pooh in there… I need it for projects! And I frittered it away like a little hobby squirrel.

NW Congress is only a few weeks away now… I’ve got a lot done but there’s still a lot on the To Do list. Time will tell!

Easy-Peasy Make Your Own Scale Poles

As far as prop making goes, making ground/jump poles is just about as simple as it gets. It’s a great started project because it’s easy and because a set of poles gives you a lot of options for performance events. I’m making these for use in trail and gaming classes, but they have a myriad of uses in set ups.

Here’s how I went about making my new set of poles.

First, materials. Poles are really just dowels that have been cut and painted. You’ll want to make sure you buy the right size dowel for your scale. For 1/32 scale (Chips/Stablemate) I’m using 3/16 inch diameter dowels from a hobby store. Before you go, you’ll want to calculate how many pieces you need. They’re generally sold in 36″ lengths. I wanted my poles to be equivalent to 12′, which in 1/32 scale is 4.5 inches. I increased that to 5” just to be safe, multiplied that by 8 (the number of poles I wanted) and got 40 inches. So I bought two 36″ pieces. To do my scale conversions I used this handy scale calculator.

In addition to poles, you’ll need sand paper, a saw or dremel, masking tape, and acrylic paint. I also used sealer (Krylon) and play-doh (an idea adapted from Friesian Fury Studio’s post on using play-doh for masking).

Next, you’ll want to measure out the poles on the length of dowel.

I left a bit of space between each poles length so the dremel would have room to cut. You wouldn’t need to leave so much if you use a hacksaw (and/or aren’t such a klutz like me).

You end up with poles a little over the intended length (in my case, 4.5 inches). If your poles are close to that, you can probably just move right on to sandpaper. Since mine each had several millimeters to lose and I had the dremel handy, I used that. You have a lot more control with the dremel when you can cut straight down, instead of at an angle as you have to do when cutting a long piece. That allows you to get a lot more precise and get the pole just a hair over the goal length.

Then a bit of sandpaper on the ends will take off any roughness and get them to a uniform length. You might want to sandpaper the whole piece, depending on how rough your dowels are. Keep the ruler handy so you don’t overdo it and end up with a pole that’s too short (I just plan ahead for failure and start with extra poles. I need seven, so I’m making nine).

Once your poles are all cut and sanded, it’s painting time. Poles come in just about any color or combination that you can imagine, but mine are going to be a relatively staid blue and white stripe.

I start with doing a layer of white. I do half a pole at a time, and stick the unpainted end in a lump of playdoh to dry.

Once those are dry, simply paint the other half. To make the stripes, I taped off the areas I wanted to remain white and then painted blue over the exposed white. There are a lot different striping styles out there, but you will want to measure out the taping if you want the poles to match.

This is blue tape with blue paint, but hopefully you get the idea. The ends and middle of each poles are taped up to keep them white.

You may need to do a couple layers of color. Try not to put it on too thick or it’ll look funny later. Once you pull the tape off, you may need to redo some of the white where it bled through or the taping was off. And then you’re done!

For longevity and durability, you may want to seal the poles with a matte fixative. I did mine using the same playdoh base technique, one half at a time. For some scenes, you might want old weathered poles. Handily, they’re pretty easy to make so you can create a whole arsenal in different colors and conditions, a pole for every possibility!

Playing with Dirt

As of last night, the arena base is finished! I’m moderately pleased with it. I think it would look better if the dirt covered the whole base (which wasn’t possible due to fence measurement requirements) and if I’d found a way to keep the cool little hoofprints I made in the dirt (alas, they were destroyed by the fixative). But for anyone who would like to use nice, free dirt in a diorama, here’s what I did.

First, I marked off the area I wanted with blue tape. If you’re doing the whole top of a base, you would only need to tape off the sides. I put toothpicks in the fence post holes to make sure no glue or dirt would clog them.

Then I slathered the area in modge podge, making sure to cover the whole surface thoroughly.

Using a sifter, I gently shook fine dirt onto the modge podge base. The dirt should be thoroughly sifted before this step so you don’t end up with big clods which are out of scale. Cover the base in a thick layer of dirt to make sure you haven’t missed anywhere.

Dump off the excess dirt. I would probably be better to do this outside than on the dining room table like I did.

The last step is to fixative the dirt in place. Leave the blue tape on for this step to avoid fixing dirt or dust in the wrong place and to keep the rest of the diorama uniform. For fixative, you’ll want something stronger than the stuff you use on horses. In this case, being gentle will get you nowhere because the dirt won’t stick. I use hairspray- the cheapest, nastiest stuff I can get. It smells awesome but it sure does the job. Use several coats. I finished my base with a coat of Matte fixative over the top to reduce any glossiness from the hair spray.

Here is the finished base with the arena fence (above) and the dressage fence (below). Sorry for the bad late-night photos- but you get the idea. Thank you to Caryn Peck of Mountain Home Models for the interchangeable fence concept.

I couldn’t resist adding my dressage letter and flower pots.

Christine asked what the dressage fence is made of. Here’s a close up:



It’s pretty simple- the rectangles are just 1/4″ square dowels cut to size with a hole drilled in them and a toothpick in the bottom for a peg. The chain is white 2mm oval cable chain from Amazon. The chain is glued into the two end fence posts and just slides through the middle two.

It sure is nice to have that crossed off my list. In fact, my to do list for the show is getting delightfully short. I have a halter to make (that’s this weekend) and some odds and ends, but nothing else major until packing day. Hurrah!