I'm working on a short that has talking tree's. I figured replacement mouths was the best way to accomplish talking. What I did for the pictured tree was chisel out a trench, fill it with super sculpey then sculpt a mouth but getting it out and baking it is proving problematic. Not sure if it's a methods issue or a materials issue. 

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Some thoughts on it...

Partly a materials problem - Sculpey will be soft until you bake it, so taking out of the tree will probably distort it.  Then you try to straighten it but you can't tell if it is perfect once it is out of the tree.  You bake it and it hardens in that distorted shape and won't fit properly.  If you used an epoxy putty, like Aves Apoxie Sculpt or any of the slower setting ones that give you time to sculpt, they set a couple of hours after you mix the two parts together, no baking.  Whatever shape you made it in the tree would remain it's shape when you take it out.

To do that you need to make sure the hole in the tree is tapered, so it won't get locked in, with smooth sides, and release agent so it won't stick.  If, when you chisel it, you can't make it very smooth, you could line it with epoxy putty first to make sure you have a good smooth shape with no undercuts.   Then apply release, and make your epoxy mouths in that smoother hole.

Another way, first put epoxy putty or layers of resin into the hole in the tree, to make a mould of just that part.  Take it out, and build your mouth shapes onto that, so they should fit the hole in the tree.

Or maybe you leave the inside of the hole visible and just make the mouth around the edges.  You still need a smooth surface underneath, but maybe with a couple of keys to precisely locate each mouth.  I think they still need to be epoxy or something that will keep the shape, not Sculpey.  Or you could just make an epoxy back shape, one for each mouth you will make,  then model the front over each of them in Sculpey and bake.  The idea is that the back plate keeps the Sculpey from squashing out of shape, and it becomes part of the mouth.

I would suggest a heat gun to partially cure the super sculpey so that it can be removed and baked. My concern is that with the sap and small limbs on your tree that you run a big risk of burning the tree. Maybe try a hair dryer. It will go rubbery at first but then may harden enough to be removed so that you can bake it.

Thanks for the suggestions. The hole's already tapeared with sanded adn epoxied sides. I always forget epoxy putty can be used for anything other than making armature bones, will give sculpting with it a try and post progress. What's a good release agent to use?

I use two -

a liquid pva release agent, that dries to a thin film that either peels off or can be washed off with warm water.    http://shop.trojanfibreglass.com.au/online/pva-release-agent

a mould release wax, a paste wax in a can that I brush on.  

I put a layer of wax, then a layer of pva.  

How thickly do you layer pva and wax on? Mine arrived today so I rushed to give it a try but I mustn't have used enough as I can't get the mouth out without chiseling it to pieces. 

StopmoNick said:

I use two -

a liquid pva release agent, that dries to a thin film that either peels off or can be washed off with warm water.    http://shop.trojanfibreglass.com.au/online/pva-release-agent

a mould release wax, a paste wax in a can that I brush on.  

I put a layer of wax, then a layer of pva.  

The layers don't need to be thick, as long as you can be sure there are no gaps.  Sometimes, I put more wax over the pva, then another coat of pva on top of that, so there are two layers of each.  

Of course, there must be no undercuts, and even parallel sides can make it jam in. A cast won't come out very well if it has to slide along the mould, it needs to be able to pull away a bit. And usually you need to be able to pry under the edge somewhere, to lift it and start it pulling away, because there will be a bit of sticking initially.  Usually something like a fibreglass cast will start peeling off like sticky tape when you pry it away, then it comes loose and pops off.

Sorry I can't be more help.

Sorry, don't know what is going on there. 

Your removal description was what I was expecting, what I got was a cast that just wouldn't budge. Will work out just what I did wrong tonight.

StopmoNick said:

The layers don't need to be thick, as long as you can be sure there are no gaps.  Sometimes, I put more wax over the pva, then another coat of pva on top of that, so there are two layers of each.  

Of course, there must be no undercuts, and even parallel sides can make it jam in. A cast won't come out very well if it has to slide along the mould, it needs to be able to pull away a bit. And usually you need to be able to pry under the edge somewhere, to lift it and start it pulling away, because there will be a bit of sticking initially.  Usually something like a fibreglass cast will start peeling off like sticky tape when you pry it away, then it comes loose and pops off.

Sorry I can't be more help.

Sorry, don't know what is going on there. 

You may be working too hard on this.  I did something similar but sculpted replacement pieces with push pins embedded in them that fit on top of the tree (not embedded in the tree). 

Then all you have to do is pop off one mouth etc. and put another in its place.  The pin holes are small and can be filled if necessary. If you are careful where you put the pins they can also act as "registration" pins.

Perhaps a solution anyway.

... jbd

It works! Using more wax and pva has been the solution. I do need to line the mould with epoxy putty, the epoxy glue started to peel off after the second mouth. 

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