How to carve a bird body out of cheap foam...
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Taxidermy.Net Forum  |  Beginners, Training & Tutorials  |  Tutorials  |  Topic: How to carve a bird body out of cheap foam... « previous next »
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Author Topic: How to carve a bird body out of cheap foam...  (Read 12058 times)
Lizardfeathers
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« on: January 29, 2014, 03:05:17 PM »

Hello everyone! This is my second tutorial ever, so I'm exited to share how I do things! :) This tutorial will be on how to make a foam body for just about any bird you can think of. I will show you how to carve a chunk of foam into an anatomically correct bird body for those uncommon birds or for birds where the forms aren't carried by suppliers. I hope this tutorial helps anyone who is just starting out, or pros who want to try a different process. Without making a ton of reading for all of you, here it it! ;D

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Here's what you will need:

Green foam block (this foam is easily found in Walmart, hobby stores, and floral suppliers for around $8 per block)...

Sandpaper (a piece big enough to be comfortable to use without getting in the way)...

Knife or large scalpel (I use a large "scalpel" from a dissecting kit)...

Metal wire (that is the correct gauge for the size/type of bird you are mounting)...

Foam neck material (again, this varies depending on the bird you are mounting)...

Hot glue gun...

And the original body of the bird you are working on...

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I will start with the bird that has been thawed in warm water (with Dawn Platinum), rinsed, and dried with a towel to get rid of dripping water...


Here's is a pic of the supplies that you will need for just carving the body for now...


Now start out by positioning the body (with the neck attached) on top of your foam. Try to place it in a spot that is along the edge so you have less to cut away, and it is MUCH easier to pop out that way. Now look at it from above and hold the body with one hand (it is very difficult to do this and take pictures at the same time! ;D) and cut a "perimeter" along the body into the foam. These cuts can be shallow because it's just to guide your cut later. You can do this step with a marker, but I think cutting with a knife is more accurate...


(Tutorial continued by next posts...)
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Lizardfeathers
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« Reply #1 on: January 29, 2014, 03:30:32 PM »

A pic of the perimeter cut...


Now that you have your cut all the way around the body, you can turn the block on it's side and cut a perimeter around the body for the width (or height depending on how you position the body in the first part)...

Here's a pic of after cutting the other dimension of the body onto the block...


Now you can start to cut deep into the foam along the shallow cut you made. This will take some effort to cut deep enough.


!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

A WORD OF CAUTION: please be careful when doing this! I know most of you have done this before and are careful anyway, but it is very easy to put a lot of force into cutting the foam. This can be dangerous if you cut through and the knife comes out of the foam. I became complacent about what I was doing because I was thinking of how I was going to set up this tutorial and nearly cut my wrist open this way. If I hadn't had the reflex to keep my arm from going any further, I could very well had sliced through an artery in my wrist and lost a lot of blood before the ambulance came to the rescue!

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Here is a pic of the chunk of foam after cracking it out of the block...

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Lizardfeathers
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« Reply #2 on: January 29, 2014, 03:50:13 PM »

Now you can get to carving! I use a cardboard box to catch the pieces of foam and foam particles...


I start by cutting the edges of the form off so you can get an idea of the shape. Look at the bird's body and cut dips in the sides and the area where the neck attaches. Also angle the cut on the belly of the form to simulate the breast muscles and bone. Take little bits off at a time and keep it symmetrical on both sides...
 
This it still needing some more carving in some areas, but you can see what it trying to be accomplished...


Now you can sand the form smooth and correct any areas that are not shaped correctly. Sand the entire form to make it smooth, this will help when you have to slide the skin over it to "taxi" it in place. It doesn't have to be absolutely perfect with ducks like this because of how the feathers are so thick. Having the shape and size correct it the most important thing...
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Lizardfeathers
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« Reply #3 on: January 29, 2014, 04:06:15 PM »

Now that the form is sanded to the correct size and shape, you can get your neck material ready. Position the original body so you can get an idea of how the neck is supposed to look like in whatever position you want... Here I have it in somewhat of a standing position to show you the shape. I cut the material slightly longer than the original neck because you can always cut more off, but it's harder to put it back on! :D (You can get your hot glue gun heating up so it will be ready later.)


This is how much wire I use for the neck. You don't have to use as much, but I rather cut more wire off once I have it through the form than have it be too short...


Now run the wire through the middle of the neck material as evenly as you can. Put the end of the wire where the neck would attach on the original body and angle it about 45 degrees so when you push it through, It goes up through the form and out the back as shown in the picture...
« Last Edit: January 29, 2014, 05:02:07 PM by Lizardfeathers » Logged

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Lizardfeathers
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« Reply #4 on: January 29, 2014, 04:25:14 PM »

Now you can push the neck material onto the body and push the wire through so there is somewhere around two inches coming out of the back. This is what will be bent back into the form to lock it in place. Use a pair of pliers (I like to use needle nose pliers) and bend the tip of the wire as seen in the picture. Bend it so it curves down and slightly toward itself. That way it will bend into the form more easily. I haven't curved it quite enough in the pic, but you get the idea...


Now bend the wire right where it comes out of the form. Bend it all the way down into the form creating a little pocket where it goes in deeper than the foam (a bit more than in the pic). This is where you will hot glue it next...


You should have your hot glue gun heated up by now so you can seal the wire to the form and the neck material to the form. Now hot glue the little pocket created by bending the wire down into the foam so that it is completely sealed. I use a hair drier on a cool setting to speed up the drying time, but it isn't necessary.

NOTE: The hot glue will melt foam and neck material foam, so be careful not to put so much that it eats through the form.
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Lizardfeathers
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« Reply #5 on: January 29, 2014, 04:57:31 PM »

Sorry, but I just typed out a whole page with pictures and lost it because of some glitch :'(. Now it says that photobucket is "doing matenance" so I can't get the pictures I need :-\. I will post the end of the tutorial as soon as possible. Please bear with me! :)
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Lizardfeathers
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« Reply #6 on: January 29, 2014, 05:40:09 PM »

Ok photobucket is working again so I can finish the tutorial! ;D

Now that the neck is glued to the form, you can cut off the excess material and cut the neck wire to the correct size. I bend the end of the wire into a loop so when it goes into the skull, it holds in the glue. I fill the brain cavity with hot glue and insert the neck wire into the skull as quickly as possible. I move the head into the correct position compared to the body and hold until I think it is cool enough to hold. I let it cool a little longer just to make sure. After mounting the duck and sewing the neck incision, I pump silicone through the mouth and into the neck area. Then I use my fingers to move the silicone around to the back of the head/neck junction and create a "throat"...

I hope this tutorial helps! This is only my fourth duck, but I've used this method on parrots, quail, and small finch-sized birds...

Here's a pic of the mounted and ready to dry duck! The position was inspired by Birdstuffer's Gadwall in BOTW 2014 week #1...


Thanks for reading and thanks to all who's posts helped me teach myself how to do taxidermy!


---Lizardfeathers :)
« Last Edit: February 18, 2014, 03:06:58 PM by Lizardfeathers » Logged

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Barrett Creek Taxidermy
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« Reply #7 on: January 29, 2014, 07:52:49 PM »

Purdy slick!  Thanks for your time in posting. Guess Ill have to try it out now.
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km123
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« Reply #8 on: January 29, 2014, 11:19:01 PM »

Thanks for the tutorial!! I have to try it. I have been looking for this tutorial since u said you would post one in your second duck critique. Thanks again!!!   :D
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Brandon Wilbur
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« Reply #9 on: January 30, 2014, 10:02:46 PM »

Thanks for taking the time to post this!!I am on a mission to improve my bird work and will definitely give this a try!Thanks again.
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If you dont have time to do it right the first time when are you going to find time to do it over?

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Lizardfeathers
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« Reply #10 on: January 30, 2014, 10:19:52 PM »

Not a problem! :D I just figured that I would make a tutorial one because it was requested, and two because I want to give back to this forum. I feel like I ask a lot of questions and glean so much advice from the pros here that I need to give back in some way to thank everyone and contribute to the forum... :)
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bymers42
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« Reply #11 on: February 07, 2014, 10:08:13 PM »

Does this foam hold the wires pretty well once you curl them back into the foam or do you have to be extra careful not to pull them through a lot? I only ask because that foam has seemed rather soft when I have looked at it in the past. You made this look very easy, if it holds up alright than I don't know why I would ever pay money for a form again.
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Lizardfeathers
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« Reply #12 on: February 08, 2014, 12:10:23 AM »

Does this foam hold the wires pretty well once you curl them back into the foam or do you have to be extra careful not to pull them through a lot? I only ask because that foam has seemed rather soft when I have looked at it in the past. You made this look very easy, if it holds up alright than I don't know why I would ever pay money for a form again.

From my personal (and so far limited) experience with this foam, it has held up fairly well as long as you put the wires in deep enough into the form. It is NOT as sturdy and dense as the commercial urethane foam. It has millions of little air pockets (which makes up all foam) that are bigger than in urethane foam. If you have a bird that you know will be heavy or large, then I cannot guarantee it will hold up. I only say this because the biggest bird I've ever used this method for is a few little call ducks. I assume it will be strong enough to hold larger birds, but I have yet to get one to test on.

For larger birds that have a body bigger than a single block of green foam, you could always glue and/or anchor them together with wire to get as big as you need it. I hope to get a peacock at some point of time, so I may use multiple blocks if the body is too big.

It is fairly easy as long as you can carve a symmetrical shape and have a little patience. You can make it a little stronger by hitting the entire surface of your finished form with your hand. This seems to create a tougher surface by crushing the air pockets together. Just keep in mind, this would make the form slightly smaller....
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magicmick
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« Reply #13 on: February 16, 2014, 03:11:24 AM »

wow thats opened a new door for me thankyou so much. :)
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springer1
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« Reply #14 on: February 27, 2014, 01:58:30 AM »

Very nice ,I was trained on excelsior (wood wool) and twine but wanted too do this way but couldn't bring myself from comfort zone. thankyou
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