Queen of Blades tutorial Step Five: The Dreads

Now, the dreads took us a little while to figure out the right material, but we settled on expanding polyurethane foam. The only place we could find it is Silpak, and we had to phone order it, ended up using two gallons. We used the SP 200-4 type, it was the lightest foam. If you live in the Burbank/Los Angeles area though, you should be able to go to their storefront and get the foam there. The dreads were still pretty heavy, after some messing around we finally balanced them out so they wouldn’t be a bother, but that’s a later post.

So, we made, I dunno, maybe 60 dreads. That may have been too many, but I was concerned about bald spots, so I made sure that everything around the side was covered, and that we had enough different sizes in there to look right.

In the last post, I talked about how I sculpted the dreads. I used a template I drew up, and sculpted them from that out of Chavant Le Beau Touche clay.

To mold the dreads, I made the dreaded clay walls around each one, one at a time so that we could mold them one at a time out of silicone.

The clay wall should extend to maybe half an inch to an inch past the largest part of the sculpture on each side, as you can see the lines around the edge are pretty wobbly in this picture but after you make the wall, you’ll straighten it out.

Smooth it out, put in keys, and make sure to spray with Crystal Clear.

To make the walls for the silicone mold, we used some insulated foam we had laying around after building the oven, and clamped them to each side, then hot glued on the front and back, making sure that there was a hole in the end sculpted out (so just a bump from the very end of the dread, the rod sticking out the top will make a hole in the top of it for you, these are so the foam will be able to escape later if it needs to) and hot gluing any seams or spots where the silicone might seep through. Make sure that the clay is up to the wall on every side!

Mario did some math and figured out the volume of the dread, and how much silicone we’d need to fill each side, then we measured out the silicone, and poured it into the mold.

Make sure it’s very well mixed, and if you’re using a silicone spoon to mix it, make sure to spray it with release first. You can take your time to mix it; it sets in 8-12 hours depending on the type of silicone you use.

We find that the easiest way to make sure there are no bubbles in our silicone molds is to pour from a height, with the mold on the floor.

After your silicone is cured, take off the clamps, flip the mold over very carefully, and remove the wed clay from the inside, so that you have the sculpture, and the silicone inside the walls. If you’re making sure there’s a hole at the end, put a bit of clay there again, clean up and release the silicone (very important!), make sure your walls are still tight, and repeat mixing and pouring the silicone to the other side.

You may notice that some of our molds have blue silicone; we ran out of silicone halfway through and the original silicone we got was out of stock. We went through maybe three gallons for the dreads.

Now, for molding the dreads in the foam. One, if you’re using the foam we used, make sure to have a way to heat up the molds- we had our giant oven, I don’t really know of another good way to heat up giant molds unless it’s super hot outside on your sidewalk. The foam we used really likes the mold to be warm, we learned this the hard way, the foam will not rise properly if you don’t have it in a warm mold. We warmed the molds to 130, I believe, and were able to use the larger molds twice before we had to put them back in the oven. If it’s cooler than 90 degrees, then we put it back in the oven.

Two, make sure you have a lot of time for these. It took us several days of constantly making two molds at a time to get out enough dreads. Mario would mold them, and I would seam and paint them while he was molding more.

You’ll need lots of clamps, enough table edge space for the mold, and a board long enough to put on top of the mold to help hold it together while the foam is curing, as well as a temperature gauge that you can point at the mold and see how warm it is.

We used a whole bunch of disposable cups to mix the foam in, because this stuff doesn’t come out of bowls or cups easily at all. We also mixed them with our trusty popsicle¬†sticks.

Mario also did the math to figure out what the volume of the dreads would be for each dread, and how much foam we would need to mix up for each. The foam rises about 10 times, so make sure to do a test run to get a feel for how much the foam will rise.

Put in one side then the other, then mix like crazy for 10-15 seconds until well mixed, and then hurry and pour them it into each side of the mold. You need to work extremely quickly.

As soon as you’ve got it poured in there, quickly put the two halves together, making sure that the keys are matched up, and then put the board on top with the clamps.

It takes maybe 10-15 minutes to fully cure, you can tell by just taking a look at any bits of foam that seeped out the end of the mold. Then, take out, and you’ll have a dread! Now repeat another 50 times!

You’ll need to take off the extra bits of foam around the edges of the dread, the seam, and I just used some small cuticle scissors for this.

It took us a long time to find the right paint for these. Polyurethane is very hard to get paint to stick to, so we ended up using polyurethane paint, and we tinted it with some resin coloring we found at Tap Plastics. We used a glass mason jar to hold the paint we tinted, and we used a brown tint with some black mixed in there. Don’t use plastic containers, it will melt, and make sure to wear a mask while painting with this stuff!

After I painted each one, I would hang it up on a clothesline to dry. After they dried, I went over and dry brushed some black into the sunken in parts of the dreads. I also kept fresh newspaper under the dreads so the paint wouldn’t stick to the dreads while I was turning and painting them.

That’s it for now for the dreads! We’ll show how to attach them later on. If you have questions on the math, just ask, and I’ll get Mario to be more specific.

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