Ear Casting | Page 2 - ArtMolds

Ear Examples

Figure 7.


The Life Casting Method. Casting ears of partial of full head casts separates the inexperienced from the experienced life caster (Figure 7.). We will explain a method developed by the late Dave Parvin, that you can use that usually always results in high quality ear castings.

It is a given that ears will always be the most fragile part of a casting. Because of their intricacy and their delicate nature, ears, are perhaps one of the most difficult body parts to cast without flaws. That is because it is difficult trying to get any alginate casting material to cover the ear evenly without voids or air traps in the inner areas of the ear. Another issue, besides developing the correct molding technique has to do with the material itself, because most alginates are too delicate to deliver tear-free results during the de-molding.process. Finally, alginates are just too thin when mixed, to stay in one place without running off the surface of the ear.

To solve the material issue, a specially formulated alginate called, FiberGelTM is used to create ear molds. It is extremely strong, as it is reinforced with fibers. It can also be mixed to a very thick consistency, like peanut butter, which allows it to cling to the area and stay in place without drips. The mix ratio for FiberGel, for molding an ear is 5 ounces (142 grams) of FiberGel alginate to one pound (454 grams) of water. While some may think that this ratio is too thick and will cause surface bubbles, that certainly is not the case.

When FiberGel is mixed properly it is more viscous, so it stays in place better than other alginates of the same consistency. However, a very important point to remember is that you cannot spread it in too thick layers of alginate on the model, expecting the excess to run or drip off. The expectation that the runoff will leave just exactly the right thickness behind, is incorrect. The alginate tends to "avalanche" meaning when there is too much to resist the force of gravity, almost all of it slides off. Putting on only as much as will stay put requires some experience and a familiarity with the particular alginate one is using.

Ear Examples

Figure 8


It is important to carefully push the alginate into the ears and check it several times as the alginate gets the back and the underneath of the ears that are most problematic. This is especially true if the subject has very short or no hair.

The late David Parvin, renown life caster, teacher and sculptor explains his method in the May 2004, Sculpture Journal:

Alginate may tend to run or drip off from behind and below the ears even if properly mixed. After the alginate has been applied over the entire surface to be cast, I take a small amount of polyfill or synthetic pillow stuffing (Figure 8.) and dip it in what is left of the alginate. I use about enough to cover the palm of my hand so that soaked, it is about 3 inches long and 3/4 of an inch wide. (Figure 9.) I then place this alginate "sausage" behind and below the ear. Care must be taken to keep from pushing the ear outward, making a classic Dumbo look. So that I can concentrate on the alginate application as a whole, I usually have someone else gently hold the alginate impregnated cotton in place with their fingertips (Figure 10.) until the alginate has set-up. While this only takes a couple of minutes, I instruct the alginate holder to stare at what they are doing. If one looks away, there is a good chance that he/she will allow the piece to slide out of place.

Ear Examples

Figure 9.


There is another benefit to Dave’s method. By filling in the space behind the ear, the head mold can be removed with less resistance. That is because this area of the head usually creates a bit of an undercut where a tight and rigid shell mold tends to resist removal. So that pulling the mold off without this add “filling” can make it uncomfortable for the model.

Ears are extremely thin being only about an 1/8 inch thick, so they are delicate indeed. Even if you get a flawless mold, casting them has its issues. First the ears have narrow openings, so filling them without creating air bubbles or voids is also a frustrating operation. The first is simply getting the material into such a narrow space completely and without bubbles and then remaining in place until it sets up. Filling them by forcing in the casting material often doesn’t work well and the material tends to run out when turning the head  mold. So filling the ears with casting material turns out to be a trial an error procedure with satisfactory outcomes improved only by experience.


Ear Examples

Figure 10.


The polyfill has be been dipped in a generous amount of alginate and carefully placed behind the ear. It is done so without added pressure that might push out and distort the look of the naturalness of the ear that is being cast.

Ear Examples

Figure 11.


The other frustrating part about casting ears is that even if you get a satisfactory casting, the removal of the alginate mold often leads to breakage of the delicate ears. You can only use so much Super Glue. But there is a solution that solves most of these problems.The answer is to remove the alginate laden cotton or polyfill that was placed behind the ears during the mold making. It needs a sharp instrument to cut it out, such as an X-Acto knife (Figure 11.). A dull one doesn’t cut it. But once it is removed you have a cleared “fill” port to add your casting material. But proceed with caution as you only want to remove the plug and not touch any of the ear itself. 

Ear Examples

Figure 12.


Once opened, you can force the casting material through it with your fingers (Figure 12.). Continue to push material through as it starts to set to make certain the ear is completely filled. This will provide for a completely perfected cast ear. But it is not perfect in that the back of the ear will be filled in. These is a reinforcement that will prevent future ear damage. 

Ear Examples

Figure 13.


However, if this is not a satisfactory look, you may carve away the filling – but be careful (Figure 13.). The whole purpose of this method is to create and maintain perfect ear castings. You don’t want to break a perfect ear by trying too hard to carve away the backfill of the ear.

With the use of these methods and some needed practice you will soon become an expert at casting perfect ears.

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