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  1. #1
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    Default Latex Props - need repair? Prop's Anatomy might be of help.

    OK - this is less of a tutorial, than it is an experiment for those of us who are frustrated watching our favorite (and olde$t) latex prop$ di$integrate. It looks like it will work.

    Several years back I asked the HF members if anyone knew of a way to preserve latex props. The consensus was that they start to dry out the moment they come out of the mold and the best we can do is slow that dryout process down. Someone suggested praying them with a pure silicon spray - not armorall - but no one confirmed the wisdom or folly of that action. No one had any constructive suggestions for repair. Since that time I've lost several large, vicious looking rats, a vulture on a pile of skulls and a large cobra to latex deterioration.

    Prop's Anatomy
    Episode 1:
    The Malady: Deterioration and Drying out
    You were a good latex prop owner. You spent the big bucks for your baby. You stored your lovely prop in a huge garbage bag sealed tight and kept it in a cool, dry location all non-Halloween year. Maybe even before storing it you protected it by treating it with some solution of some kind. But as your relationship has matured, you are seeing some severe cracks and breaks. Maybe that snake is trying to shed his skin, but leaving only stuffing in its place.

    After taking down the haunt last year I was horrified to see the back / neck / hat of my roof Ghost was dried out, cracked and split. This guy is my all time favorite, I consider him a key feature of the haunt, AND he is NOT replicable. All of my Haunted Mansion Ghosts have Latex hats/heads/shoulders and hands and are years out of production. This could be the start of an epidemic!! This particular guy is mounted about 15 feet up in the air from mid September until a week after Halloween - the first one up and last one down. What to do, what to do. I stored him in my Northern exposure (read: cool) garage placing him where I would see him frequently hoping to find some way to restore his health.

    The patient (at the upper right):



    One day I was cleaning out a cupboard in the garage and ran across a repair kit I had used to patch a break on the bottom of the front of my '79 Vette and I was inspired to give the following a try:

    Materials needed:
    • Anesthesia (an ice cold beer, glass of wine or just a Coke for the Dr...that's you).
    • A clean dry cloth
    • Duct tape, fiberglass cloth,
    • A couple of disposable foam paint brushes
    • A bottle of liquid latex "rubber." I think the makeup latex is ok if you don't have access to mask making latex. I found some at a local year round costume store.
    • Good Scissors
    • Gloves
    • Wear a long sleeved shirt
    • A painter's mask is a good idea
    • A sheet of fiberglass cloth. You can find this at your local Auto parts store like Pep Boys.


    After a generous administration of .. anesthesia, I set up the roof ghost for a close inspection which revealed a fearful diagnosis. There were four complete breaks as long as 5-6 inches at the top and bottom of collar, at the base of the hat and another smaller one on the side of the neck. Left untreated, this patient would NEVER last another season. Our sun and winds would have most assuredly, decapitated him. This will require more aesthesia!

    End of Episode 1. Tune into the next episode if you really, really have nothing better to do..... or if you want to save the life of your latex prop
    Please check my 2013 Haunt album in Photobucket. http://s127.photobucket.com/user/Lon...lloween%202013
    Thanks
    Comments/explanations added 11/07 ALSO, see my Halloween Forum Albums

  2. #2
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    Prop's Anatomy


    Episode 2:

    “The Surgery” – or “man, you really don’t have a life if you’re still following this dribble.”

    When last we saw our patient, the diagnosis was grim. Only a miracle operation (or a clumsy experiment) could save him for more Halloweens to come.

    After a another generous administration of .. anesthesia, I checked the placement of the patient, assuring that he was securely lying face down over a plastic drop cloth. It was time … (dramatic pause) ….for surgery.

    I wiped down the prop inside and out with the dry rag, being careful not to make the rips in the prop any worse than they were. These breaks / gaps were as long as 5-6 inches and very dry and cracked at the edges.

    Using the duct tape, I taped the inside of the breaks in the prop back to as close to its original shape as possible. Because of the drying, there was some shrinkage and some open gaps between the edges. I made certain there was tape under all of the gaps.

    Checking once more to assure the anesthesia is at the appropriate level, I then scrubbed up, put on the facemask and gloves. It was a hot day, and the latex was drying quickly so the "surgery" had to be fast.

    First I cut several grafts (patches) from the fiberglass cloth, for each crack in the prop, making certain to significantly overlap the breaks and allow for adhesion to good sections of the prop.
    I placed the grafts nearby and arranged them in the order of use for each break. The grafts will be applied in layers over each break.
    Due to the weather, pouring the latex into a cup was not going to work. Too much of it would dry before it could be used. Placing the brush above the damaged area of the prop, I poured the latex onto the brush. Some of the excess latex that dripped onto the prop stayed in the area of the prop, some ran down the side of the face. I instructed the nurse to blot the face. When I realized I was alone, I blotted the face. I also realized too much anesthesia had been administered.
    Using the foam brush, I generously applied the liquid latex to all of the area surrounding the first break. I notice that Mr. Ghost’s skin was really sucking up the latex – a good sign I hope.
    While the latex is still wet, I apply the first graft (fiberglass patch), immediately saturating it with much more latex. Then a second graft is applied over the affected area and also saturated with latex. Once more, a third graft is applied and saturated. Where’s that damn nurse, there are drips on my shoes now! … oh yeah.
    Before starting on the next break, it’s time to clean up the patient a bit. Fortunately, the drips down the side of the face and collar pull right off at this stage of curing. One look at my tennis shoes and I declare them deceased at 1:42 P.M.

    After repeating most of the above (less anesthesia) on the next three breaks, the patient is starting to look MUCH better.
    Keeping in mind that my repair is at the BACK of my prop, and that this is the area continually facing our So Cal Sun, I decide that back here, beauty is not as important as salvaging and protecting the patient.
    Reaching for the fiberglass cloth once more I prepare for a procedure that would result in a certain Malpractice suit for a Beverly Hill plastic surgeon. I cut a four inch wide strip long enough to reach from the center of the top of the patient’s hat to the top edge of his night gown. This will not look pretty, but should only be seen by low flying aircraft. Once more lots of latex applied, placement of the graft (a pop cycle stick helped push the graft into the patient’s creases and lay down in the latex) with even more latex applied.

    Time to clean the fresh drips off of the patient again. While the brush is wet, I thought it a good idea to apply more liquid latex to areas that appear to be drying and showing signs of small cracking = proactive preventive care.
    Now it’s time for the patient’s healing process …and a resumption of anesthesia for me.

    The next day the latex is a dried yellowish color, still slightly tacky. This is a good time for the application of some paint to cover the grafts. The patient’s “skin” was molded with – or painted with(?) – black light sensitive materials. But because the grafts are not to be seen by the TOTs, I decide to mix up a little white Acrylic paint with a touch of green until the blend looks close to the original color. This protective covering is applied directly over the latex / fiberglass grafts. From all appearances, this patient should be around for Halloweens to come … if I can keep him away from the anesthesia.

    End of Episode 2

    By the way, this “operation” was performed about two months ago. The patient has remained in the Garage and continues to look good. Despite the preliminary very favorable appearing results, this IS an experiment. For all I know, everything will dryout and fall off after a week up on the haunt and the roof ghost could be headless. I sincerely doubt there will be problems, but if you try this, please know that at this point I can not consider it a “proven cure.” Will it get FDA approval or is it headed for the CDC? Only time will tell. Hope you enjoyed the Prop's Anatomy Treatment.
    Please check my 2013 Haunt album in Photobucket. http://s127.photobucket.com/user/Lon...lloween%202013
    Thanks
    Comments/explanations added 11/07 ALSO, see my Halloween Forum Albums

  3. #3
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    I sure did! Hopefully this will hold up great for you... I have several "old friends" that are in need of surgery... and I've also lost a few to the trickling of the sands of time... sad.

    I must ask though- before this drying out happens do you recommend the armorall application?? Or is this bad?

  4. #4
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    I make no claim of expertise regarding the maintenance of latex props. Like you I know what time does to them. I will claim much more than average knowledge about car care. I know that Armorall contains a lot of water that is NOT good for vinyl, leather or a plastic dash. It actually makes these materials dry out faster. I think that Latex is a completely different material and I really don't know if anything - other than more laytex - can help preserve it. My guess would be that Armorall would make about the same impact to the life of the latex as water. To have an affect on the Latex, a solution must be able to seal it and / or penetrate it. Pure Silicon might do that, but too much might break down the latex and be just as harmful as no treatment.

    I wish I knew of a proactive preventative treatment / maintenance for latex that would prevent the need for repairs as presented above. Maybe it's time to search the net again.
    Please check my 2013 Haunt album in Photobucket. http://s127.photobucket.com/user/Lon...lloween%202013
    Thanks
    Comments/explanations added 11/07 ALSO, see my Halloween Forum Albums

  5. #5
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    well this at least clears up some thoughts that I had on Armorall... I have leather seats in my car- and I don't treat them... I've had this car for 4 years... never treated them and they're holding up decent... my brother treated his truck seats with Armorall once a year and his seats are soo cracked and dry and disclored and just terrible... it made both of us go-Treating them seems to be worse. (granted his truck is also older than my car.)
    I am kinda nervous though now because- not knowing of a proper way to treat latex props- we sprayed down our demon prop from spirit- like a 250 dollar prop... and now I'm extra nervous... we were just trying to help and in our ignorance may have damaged it more than helped it... yikes!

    Thanks for the experiment though...

  6. #6
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    Regarding your leather seats, there are some fine treatments out there for them - McGuire's has some new conditioner with Aloe in it. I know aloe is the best there is for sunburned skin, so at worst, it should not harm leather. I think Latex is a closer cousin to rubber than it is to leather or plastic. We all know that rubber also dries out. I've used silicon sprays on my tires for years and when they are bald and removed, the outside looks new, while the inside is usually old and cracked. FWIW.
    Please check my 2013 Haunt album in Photobucket. http://s127.photobucket.com/user/Lon...lloween%202013
    Thanks
    Comments/explanations added 11/07 ALSO, see my Halloween Forum Albums

  7. #7
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    see this site for latex care---http://www.maskdr.com/

  8. #8
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    Thanks cryptoid, that was an interesting read. Good to see a latex-knowledgable person confirm "no armorall" and make a definitive statement condemning the use of Silicone..."There is no way to restore lost moisture to latex. This includes applying Armor All, or similar silicone oil based product. It just won’t work." I still wonder about Aloe.

    Regardless, his repair method for a mask is similar in theory to mine. Bond a stronger materal to the damaged area. Rubber cement might bond with the latex prop better than the Liquid latex I used, but I would have had to use at least two bottles for the coverage I used. One thing is certain, fiberglass fabric is many, many times stronger than a paper towel or gauze. However, I would not advise using the FG on the inside of a mask that you are going to wear
    Please check my 2013 Haunt album in Photobucket. http://s127.photobucket.com/user/Lon...lloween%202013
    Thanks
    Comments/explanations added 11/07 ALSO, see my Halloween Forum Albums

  9. #9
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    I was told to try baby oil on my latex props. bad idea or good?

  10. #10
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    Even before reading the article from the "expert" (not being sarcastic here) I would expect any natural oil to break down the adhesion of the rubber-like latex molecules. Silicon is a synthetic compound that, apparently, also breaks down the latex material. We're told that nothing can stop or slow the deterioration of Latex that is exposed to air. Therefore, the only way to stop, or slow that deterioration is to seal the latex from the air - front & BACK - without using something that causes it to break down.

    Sorry long winded response - Don't use baby oil on latex or it will fall apart.
    Please check my 2013 Haunt album in Photobucket. http://s127.photobucket.com/user/Lon...lloween%202013
    Thanks
    Comments/explanations added 11/07 ALSO, see my Halloween Forum Albums

 

 
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