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daffydoug
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I have often considered building my own figure. I think about it a lot. Great way it would seem to express your creativity and have things YOUR WAY. I saw that Dan had a book on his site on the subject, but I wonder what does it really take?

What I mean is this: Let's say I bought the book. After I read it and decided to proceed. Is it even possible to obtain all that hardware? I mean rods and connections and springs and levers and all the weird "robotic" stuff that goes inside the head where our brain would sit?

What does it require as far as TOOLS? What do I need ? Screwdrivers, saws, chisels hammers, and nails? Staple gun? I would think you obviously need your own little shop with tools and a vice. Without a shop, or a space in your garage you may as well forget the project, right?

Then there is the material for the head itself. Wood? Plasticine? Where can you buy the materials? How much am I talking investment wise?

Could I conceivably make a quality figure for considerably cheaper than purchasing one pre-made? Or is it going to cost me more in the long run?

What is the time investment? Weeks, months?

And what about skill? If one is not a craftsman, then would the whole thing be a waste of time and money?

Now one more question. If I managed to actually get through it and build the head, are their guys out there who will sell the vent body separate?
The difficult must become easy, the easy beautiful and the beautiful magical.
tacrowl
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Doug,
I've purchased Steve Hurst's guide (from Dan's site) along with Mike Brose' book and the McElroy book by Greg Claussen. I've also purchased two Brose kits - and I have never built a figure. Still, I think I can answer some of your questions.

You will need tools, but they are all available at a Lowe's or Home Depot - can't recall anything special being required tool-wise. If you are handy with tools, can do minor repairs at home, and have some space to work - then you could probably do it.

Yes, you can buy the hardware - might need to order some things on line, but they give you sources. Investment wise? Depends on how good you are working with things. Time wise you will definitely be invested. These things aren't made overnight. That is one reason figures can be expensive - and the artists still don't always get compensated fairly for the hours involved.

I suggest you look at Al Stevens' Fred Project Blog. http://www.alstevens.com/ventriloquism/fredhtml/toc.html
It will give you a good view of what is involved with the inner mechanics. If you feel comfortable with that, Steve's guide will take you through the sculpting and is worth getting.

On the bodies, I believe there are several sources if you don't want to build your own.

Good luck!
Tom
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Dickens & Dave
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Well I know one thing Doug, it's definitely a lot easier now than it was when I first got interested in building my own.
Once upon a time, the information was sparse and few were forth-coming with info. Now there is information galore, and you can buy all the parts - head shells, eye balls, bodies, hands, etc., to the point where it's almost like putting a model together.

Two "tools" it definitely requires though that hasn't changed are time and patience.
As far as other tools, nothing extra special - what exactly you need partly depends on if you're molding a figure, carving it, or putting a "model" together as mentioned above, but nothing uncommon is needed in the way of tools. Like Tom said, most of the mechanical parts, i.e., springs, rods, etc. are available from your local hardware store. Sometimes, it's household stuff you can buy anywhere, Conrad Hartz uses toothbrush handle ends for his mouth control levers (or he did last I knew).
Do you need a shop? It's nice to have one, but it's not a requirement. At the very least, it's nice if you have a spot where you can set up, and leave up, a table where you can work and leave your project sitting there when you're not working on it.
How much an investment money-wise? Again, that varies with what type of figure you are building and what it's made out of - I think it can be done for under a couple hundred, so it is cheaper than buying a figure (generally speaking).

Does that mean you can build a quality figure cheaper - sure looks that way, doesn't it, but then it depends on what you mean by "quality".
I'm sure you're probably thinking of some of the figures out there by some of the "established" makers - I can guarantee you that their first figures didn't look anything like they do now. In fact, there's a least a couple out there that started making figures that I've watched from their start, and I know their early figures they were selling were not the greatest.
So will your first figure have the "polish" of an "established" maker? It can. Especially with all the kit parts available now - if you're trying to build one from scratch, then the odds are a little more against you, it depends on your own creative ability, the time you put into it, and patience (which can still weigh in even with kit parts).

Which I guess brings me to your almost last question about being a craftsman. Does one need to be a craftsman and possess some artistic ability? Again, with the kit parts available, not as much, but it still certainly helps. The more you're doing from the scratch, then the more both are certainly required, in my opinion anyway, and even then, there can still be a lot of trial and error in the process.
Could you end up wasting your money? Maybe, maybe not. But with that said, there's one thing that stands out. It's really kind of cool making your own figure, even if it doesn't have the "polish" of someone more experienced. You become "Gepetto", creating your own "puppet" and "bringing it life".
http://dickensndave.bravehost.com/index.html



"Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest."
daffydoug
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This is getting exciting!
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daffydoug
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I wonder with the pre-made face that they have available if there are perhaps a variety of face shapes to choose from? (So your figure won't end up looking like the next guys.
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marshalldoll
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That's where the magic sculpt comes into play. Years ago when figures were all carved of wood, plastic wood was used to fix mistakes or make changes. Today on the cast heads magic sculpt does the same thing to make the face different. Just be careful because some have severe allergic reactions to magic sculpt.
Dan
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Dickens & Dave
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Yes, magic sculpt and another one Mike Brose uses called apoxie sculpt - great stuff and super strong once it hardens. easy to use, and doesn't have the toxic fumes like plastic wood. I've worked on magic sculpt projects in the living room while watching TV without it being a bother to anyone.
http://dickensndave.bravehost.com/index.html



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maps
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Apoxie Sculpt is great to work with!!! I love that stuff.All my marionettes are made of that.
It can get quite heavy if you add too much of it on yr figure/puppet.
I normally sculpt my character outta clay and then make a paper mache base.About 7 to ten coats of brown paper.
I alternate between white and brown paper so that I can keep track.
Then once dry the details and places where I want change can be added and enchance with a coat of apoxie sculpt.The whole head will eventually be covered with a thin layer of the sculpting material.
You can see some of my in progress pics on my blog
http://www.frankiemalachi.com
the heart is where the magic begins
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Matt_24
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I've had a few figuremakers I know (Robert McRay) and another guy (mind is going blank) who have had severe allergic reactions to magic sculp. I've also heard of people using apoxie sculpt for shells. But, I often hear that these shells are very heavy and extremely fragile.

Why not papier mache'? It's been used for hundreds of years and you still see century old puppets in reasonable shape.

As far as detail - some of the most beautifully detailed figures I've ever seen were done in papier' mache. Insull, Tattersall, Bill Nelson (he's made plenty of beautiful paper mache figures), and many others have used paper mache' every effectively. It is also very light. The best recipe for paper mache is in Mike Brose' book. Also, if you don't have a lot of space - you don't have to use it in a mold. You can "direct model" it over a clay underbase. You can sand it, carve it, etc once it sets up. Steve Myers gives a course in figurebuilding you can purchase on ventriloquistcentral.com and he tells you how to make a nice papier mache' head for under like....$25 I think w/ all materials - and they look good. Papier mache' is a LOT of work because it is messy and you have to consider drying time....but it is cheap and truly as good as anything else, I think.

As far as tools - there really isn't much you can't do with just a small dremel and a work table. I remember Ray Guyll talking about building many figures out of an apartment when he was a young man and using hand tools. If there is a will, there is a way!

You can definitely go the route of buying a Brose kits and finishing it up. Those are PROFESSIONAL figures. They are extremely high quality castings and parts. The quality gets no better. The only downside is that there are a lot of them, but you can customize it with a little sanding/carving/re-sculpting into something totally original. I've seen some very cool figures made that way, which have a Brose kit skeleton.

Good luck!
Matt_24
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Yes, I just re-read where Dan Willinger mentioned the severe reactions to magic-sculpt.

I've used it plenty and never had a reaction....but Billy Sobe (remembered his name) had a bad reaction to it, and Robert McRay quit building BIGHEADS for a while because of it. I think he must use a lot of protective equipment now. I've NOT heard of any reactions to Apoxie Sculpt or Papier' mache.
daffydoug
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Quote:
On 2011-01-12 19:59, marshalldoll wrote:
That's where the magic sculpt comes into play. Years ago when figures were all carved of wood, plastic wood was used to fix mistakes or make changes. Today on the cast heads magic sculpt does the same thing to make the face different. Just be careful because some have severe allergic reactions to magic sculpt.
Dan
http://www.ventriloquistcentral.com


Magic sculpt. huh? Wow!!! Thanks for the update! Now it gets even more exciting than ever to think I could use my creative side to make that face exactly the way I imagine him!

If I wasn't unemployed right now, and had some money, after reading these, I know what I would be doing!
The difficult must become easy, the easy beautiful and the beautiful magical.
Servante
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I'm currently doing a customize and rebuild job on a Lovik living mouth figure using Magic-Sculpt. It's GREAT! Have to be careful about weight. I built the chin carriage with a cardboard skeleton first, in order to keep it light.
As for papier mache', I've had a lot of success with that, except I use acrylic gel medium instead of wheat paste. Has the benefit of being more water resistant and dries much faster.

-Philip
Dickens & Dave
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That's where people make the mistake with magic sculpt, they make it too thick, making it heavy. It doesn't have to be thick to be strong.
http://dickensndave.bravehost.com/index.html



"Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest."
Servante
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True. Thus the cardboard skeleton on the carriage! Smile
daffydoug
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For those who have allergic reactions, wouldn't gloves stop that?
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daffydoug
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Also, you guys got me inspired enough to do a little work on Daniel. The way they had it, he could only turn his head on a level plane from left to right because the end of the control stick sat in a little round holder which kept it centered. I removed the holder, and put a small hole in the end of the stick, and now have it sitting on a tiny, very short peg that fits in the hole. Now He can turn it like it was originally made, or I can simply lift it off the peg so that he can look down or up, or when he turns his head toward me, he has freedom of neck movement up or down while it is turning. Or he can nod his head yes which he could not do before.

Much more real looking and gives the figure a more life like feel. Just an extra little touch that will make a vast difference. I noticed that most vent figures these days have that freedom of neck movement, but because of the way Daniel, or Buford, was designed, he was restricted in his movement.

I don't know why Craig didn't think of that when he was designing him. It's a pretty simple idea.
The difficult must become easy, the easy beautiful and the beautiful magical.
maps
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Surgeon gloves will help with the mixing bit and the general application but I prefer my bare fingers to work the details and the smoothening part.
Paper mache is cheap and very easy to do.I use the laminated method where you glue them layers by layers.It's much thinner and lighter and so far very strong.Drying time is also faster than using the fast mache mix formula sold in art stores.
I've dropped my mache covered with Apoxie Sculpt heads many time and it's still going strong.
I use carpenter's wood glue that is undiluted.Glue made from starch is bad cause rats love to eat starched coated mache parts!
the heart is where the magic begins
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[www.mascotsandpuppets.com]
daffydoug
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What is the glue used for?
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Dickens & Dave
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Quote:
On 2011-01-13 19:04, daffydoug wrote:
The way they had it, he could only turn his head on a level plane from left to right because the end of the control stick sat in a little round holder which kept it centered.

I don't know why Craig didn't think of that when he was designing him. It's a pretty simple idea.


As someone mentioned in the thread about identifying your figure, it looks like someone did a bit of work on him along the way, and I think that holder may have been something they added on. I've had a number of Loviks from a basswood one to one of his lowest lines with the paper eyes, and different ones in-between and I've never seen that in any of his figures that I've had.
http://dickensndave.bravehost.com/index.html



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Mr. Pitts
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Doug, the glue is an ingredient in papier mache. If I were to build a figure from scratch, I would definitely use papier mache.

A most of you know, I built my figure Henry from a Mike Bose kit. I thought about it quite a bit before I decided to go that route. I'm an artist, so I wanted at least some artistic input on the figure. But, although I have done some sculpting, I work primarily as a cartoonist and graphic artist, I usually use either a drawing board or a computer, so I don't have a big studio or workshop. Also, I'm a busy family guy with a job and shows and a house.. I knew it would be hard to find the time or space to build from scratch. Plus, being a family man, I had a hard time justifying a thousand or fifteen hundred bucks for a figure I wanted. But, I really wanted a traditional hard figure in the act.

I finally made the decision to order the Brose kit head, plus a body, arms and legs from Braylu. I used Al Stevens' Fred Project for guidance. I kept Henry simple, only a moving mouth partly because I didn't have a lot of confidence in my mechanical skills and wanted to do everything I could to actually finish this figure, plus, I just like simplicity in a figure. Charlie McCarthy was very basic. I did very little alteration to the face because I think it's nice looking, Mike Brose did a good job on the original. He's got a classic Marshallesque look, but slightly refined and updated. I wasn't worried about a lot of people having a figure like mine because I work locally and regionally only, and even though I know there are a lot of Brose kit figures out there, I've never seen another one around here. I don't actually see many in ConVENTion photos either. Plus, if you think about it, lots of people have Poyners, Loviks, Selbergs etc.. few of them custom, many exactly alike, and it doesn't seem to be an issue.

I'm a pretty good painter, and I think the paint is really important, so I tried to put a lot of thought and work into that. Even so, overall it only took me about sixteen hours to build him in a corner of our garage, using basic tools at a cost of under $200. I'm very pleased with him. My friend, a longtime pro vent, Peter Rich, who has worked with several Marshall figures over the years, took a long look at Henry when I first brought him over. He worked the mouth and looked right at Henry's face and said "that is a beautiful figure." I'm happy with my little kit figure.
David Pitts
The Astonishing Mr. Pitts
Comedy Magician and Ventriloquist
http://www.mrpitts.com
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