So, I'm making TENTACLES...

Best type of silicone, anyone? 

(Or even, am i better sticking to foam latex?)

Needs to be flexible, not too bouncy and resistant on the jointed armature, and ideally not too outrageous in price!

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further to the above: what about polycraft/ flexo foam? Anyone tried it? Its very cheap! Does it require a latex skin? 

Have you watched bluworm's video on making a giant octopus? https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=SQVcjFEoIMA

He uses latex skins over cushion foam, and seems to get a good result.

I have used flex foam inside a latex skin, and this works pretty well. You can cover holes between the two parts of the mould with more latex stippled on, 

Another technique might be to make the tentacles with wire and cushion foam, then use builder's silicone over the top, applied with a spatula. You would need to pre-make the suckers and press them in, so I would rather go for an easy flat plaster mould and make the latex skins like bluworm's.

Thanks. That actually works surprisingly well! Maybe there's no need for all these expensive foams and silicons after all...still, I would welcome advice on the best silicone/foam for puppet making...

Simon Tytherleigh said:

Have you watched bluworm's video on making a giant octopus? https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=SQVcjFEoIMA

He uses latex skins over cushion foam, and seems to get a good result.

I have used flex foam inside a latex skin, and this works pretty well. You can cover holes between the two parts of the mould with more latex stippled on, 

Another technique might be to make the tentacles with wire and cushion foam, then use builder's silicone over the top, applied with a spatula. You would need to pre-make the suckers and press them in, so I would rather go for an easy flat plaster mould and make the latex skins like bluworm's.

I think the watchword has to be - do it the simplest way possible!

I use Platsil Gel 00 for puppet skins. This works well for me, and has retarders and thixo additives for when necessary. The only drawback is that it is a bit thick, when sometimes I want it quite runny. The firmer Gel 10 and Gel 25 seem to be runnier. Have also used Dragon Skin with good results. 

But I have not yet addressed the foam issue. (I have been making rather thin puppets so they don't need foam!) One way looks to be using Soma Foama, which is a silicone foam, so should be compatible. But it is very expensive, so I need some more money in the piggy bank and a good reason to try it.

The dilemma is that cushion foam absorbs silicone, so you end up with something that is as heavy as solid silicone and even stiffer as the foam reinforces the silicone. So either you need to seal the foam with e.g. builder's silicone (not sure if this inhibits platinum silicones - must test it out), or use something else.

Some pros make a foam latex core, then cast the silicone round it. I haven't tried this but it seems like it will work OK. The problem here is that setting up for foam latex is costly, and if you were doing that, why not just make the whole puppet in foam latex...

The other possibility might be to use Flex Foam in the same way. I have found it to work well when cast inside a latex skin, and maybe it will work inside silicone too. Tests need to be done to check that it doesn't inhibit the silicone or absorb it like cushion foam. Then one would make a mould smaller than the final body shape in which to cast the foam complete with embedded armature. Once this is done the foam core is placed in the final mould for the silicone to be poured. Obviously locating the core very positively in the mould is essential, so there is an even skin all round it.

Might be worth experimenting with doing the silicone skin first, so coating the inside of the mould with several layers to build up the skin, then placing the bare armature into the mould and pouring the flex foam in. It sort of depends on the shape of your mould - a head might work OK as you can put the halves of the mould together and slush mould the silicone inside it before pouring the foam through the neck aperture. But a body might be more tricky as you need the silicone to form a continous skin and not have a join where the foam might ooze through.

i'm happy to make my puppets in segments and assemble them, it doesnt have to be a one-piece mould. So build up with foam, add skin afterwards, Willis O Brien style- thats fine. Lots of ways to hide the joins on this design.

But please just clarify: are you saying that cushion foam actually leeches something out of fully dried silicone pieces, and makes them shrivel? Or just that silicone cant be poured neat onto foam?

Cushion foam is open-celled, so the silicone can flow into it and is absorbed. Silicone once set will not be affected. One of the greast things about silicone is that it won't shrivel or degrade over time, unlike latex.

Are you aware that there are two types of silicone - platinum and tin based? PlatSil Gel 10 or 00 is platinum based, sets up quickly, usually minutes, and is great for very soft silicone. Tin based silicones are usually a bit cheaper, typically take hours to set up, and tend to be firmer grades. The reason you need to know what you are using is that they are not compatible. Platinum silicones are very sensitive, so cannot be cast in a mould that has had sulphur-based clay in it or has been used for tin silicones. What happens is that they are prevented from setting up; it's called 'inhibiting'.

tam hinton said:

i'm happy to make my puppets in segments and assemble them, it doesnt have to be a one-piece mould. So build up with foam, add skin afterwards, Willis O Brien style- thats fine. Lots of ways to hide the joins on this design.

But please just clarify: are you saying that cushion foam actually leeches something out of fully dried silicone pieces, and makes them shrivel? Or just that silicone cant be poured neat onto foam?

Have a look at another way to use basic silicone - the one-part builder's stuff - in a build-up method that might be adaptable to stopmo. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=rBNCvOILwmc

Ah okay. What a mine of useful information you are sir! Very much appreciated. Personally, I used to work with foam latex-then after a few years away, I come back to find that everyone seems to prefer silicone now. I have to say I'm not entirely convinced. The set up is more elaborate with foam, i know- i'll need a new blender- and it's maybe a trickier process. But I like foam!

Silicone i know lasts longer, and is good for rubbery or translucent textures, but foam still has a lot to recommend it from where I'm standing.

I agree, if you have the facilities for foam latex. I used to do a lot for TV work, and we had a decent studio to operate in.

I think the reason silicone is popular is partly because it is a table-top process - no stinky ovens and gummy mixers or blocked drains! But it does have a wonderful translucency that can work to advantage. I always find that the problem with getting foam latex to look like skin is that it doesn't seem to have any depth to the coloration. Adding flocking fibres to silicone helps it to take on that lovely skin-like appearance.

But the challenge is the weight. So apart from thin puppets, or where you can have a block of wood inside, you have to address the issue of foam beneath the silicone, as we discussed above. I have been finding that eyebrow paddles are hard to get to work because of the solidity of the silicone, so have been trying out placing cushion foam behind the paddle, coating it with builder's silicone, before doing the final pour of silicone.

Incidentally, I have got best results for heads by doing it quite slowly - getting a thin silicone skin surface into the mould and filling up areas like the nose and ones that defy gravity like the ears, then placing the armature, having given that a thin coat of silicone so it doesn't get too close to the skin surface. I wait for the silicone to go off a bit after each step. Then I pour enough silicone to fill the front half of the mould - all this is done with the mould open - and finally close up the mould and pour the rest in. By mixing the colour into enough Part B for the whole piece, then just mixing up enough for each pour, you don't get any difference in colour between the pours and the whole head comes out nice and consistent.

The technique I use for bodies is a bit different. I coat the mould halves and the armature as before, then place the armature into the mould. Then I mix up more than enough to fill the mould, pour into each half trying to avoid trapping air, then quickly put the mould together. I usually have the mould with feet uppermost, and can see any bubbles releasing through the holes. Then I can add a little more if needed. I call this the Overfill method, and am basically trying to avoid trying to pour thick silicone down narrow tubes to get the mould filled. I suppose an alternative is to use a syringe - but with platinum silicone this is hardly an option. Anyway, works OK for me. Any odd air cavities can be easily filled afterwards.

Thanks Simon, you're a veritable goldmine.

Me, I'm decided: for my present purposes I'm buying a mixer and going back to my comfort zone of foam. Silicone looks wonderful, yes, interesting textures for certain things... but it looks like a whole new groove to learn. Maybe further down the line, but right now I'm going back to my happy land of nice, bouncy foam!

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