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Hey everyone, meet Chuck! He's just a WIP right now, but I'll be documenting whatever progress pictures I take as I piece this beast together.

The story here is a long one...so I'll wrap it in spoiler tags so it doesn't muck up this thread.

We've been planning a haunt for the last 13 months. It was supposed to happen in October of 2018, but we got ousted and had to start over. We're on for 2019, though! It is a pro-haunt of sorts, in the sense that we will have hired talent and will be occupying a city venue. Our theme revolves around Fairy Tales, and one of the first props (really the only prop we were going to buy) was this beauty:


It's a $7,000 prop from ScareFactory... I can already hear some of you groaning. Well, we bought it, not knowing of their rep. Too late did we find out just how much crap we would go through before giving up and demanding our money back, and that's still in progress. We needed this dragon - we were banking on having this prop. So I decided I would make one....
...and that's how Chuck came to be.

He's being built in two parts: the upper jaw/head and the lower jaw. I want them to be able to open and close like a mouth would...but that's WAYYY down the line.

Chuck started as just a pile of cardboard with some china marker scribbles. I drew the rough outline while loosely following ScareFactory's shape, trying to figure out where the eyes would go once he got some dimension. You can only barely make out the straight lines in black pen that would be cut along:


I knew I was going to be layering sheets of cardboard to build up the "skeleton" of Chuck. The first piece was a double-thick layer of cardboard with hot glue between the sheets for reinforcement. Then I took some thick cardboard tubing and glued them down before adding the next layer.


Second & third layer before and after joining:






At this point, he looked more like Charizard :p But I figured I had a decent enough of a start to begin adding some smaller detail pieces.


I needed a smaller gap between the detail pieces, so I opted for scraps of cardboard folded over on themselves and glued down instead of the tubing.


With a couple details added, I re-drew the facial features so I knew what to build up next.




I was pretty sloppy with the glue here, but that's ok. No one will ever know! ...except for you folks.


Sorta just going with my gut for most of this project. I have never done anything like it, and certainly not at this size to boot. From "nose" to "horn" (it looks like an ear), he measures 48".


This dragon is T H I C C.
 

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Oh cool... I LOVE using scrap stuff like cardboard to build with. This is looking REALLY good and I can see it's going to be epic! :D
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Awesome start on the dragon! Sorry to hear about the difficulty you had trying to purchase one. Hope this turns out well for you.
Thank you so much! Yes, the attempted purchase was just nonsensically ridiculous. Everything you read about ScareFactory on Yelp, the BBB, Haunt Vendor Review...everywhere, it's all true. I said I wouldn't be the guy who would badmouth the company publicly, but it's just that bad.

Between the last picture and this next one, several hours elapsed and I didn't take any pictures, so....oops! I'll do my best to fill in what the process was.


I started by taking newspaper and filling in the lower layers of the head and face. I would roll up sheets and then lay in some hot glue and press down. Many burns ensued. I wanted to get the area between the nostrils and what would be the front tip of the jaw shaped, and I realized that it would have a VERY round snout. Another oops...but something I would have to just deal with. It looks rather blunt as opposed to the aggressively pointed look I was going for. I decided to move on and then shape the nose/nostrils with foil, and then moved back and did the eyes and brows. Again, more newspaper rolled up, glued and taped down, and then covered in foil and shaped into...shape?

Little horns were added along the bridge of the nose up to the eyes as I went along. The masking tape I bought had VERY little adhesion, so I pretty much stopped using it and just used lots and lots and lots and LOTS of hot glue. I have copious amounts of hot glue sticks thankfully, so I'm not too concerned. However, foil acts as a heat conductor, so holding the foil in my hand and slopping hot glue into it pretty much burned my palms into submission. Did I learn? Nope. WEAR GLOVES PEOPLE.


More foil work to try and reshape the snout.


Once I had the front of the face in place, it was time to fill in the rest of the pockets with newspaper. That would then get covered with kraft paper, over which paper mache will be applied later on.

Another big lapse in picture-taking here, so work with me...

Two of the biggest concerns I had thus far were -
1: The "horns" I envisioned for the back of the head just kept looking more and more like ears. So I made some additional horns out of newpaper, tape and foil, then creatively glued them down and propped them up. Then more glue. So much glue, good grief (BUY A GOOD GLUE GUN!).


And 2: First thing my boyfriend said when he looked at it was "aww it's so cute!" So, that was a bit defeating....cute wasn't the goal. Then I realized I was basically making a giant Spyro the Dragon head. Chuck wasn't supposed to be cutesy, so I went in and reshaped the eyes, trying to give it a more menacing appearance.


He was getting there... I had a couple red LED's laying around, so I ran some wire and a 9v battery to give this fella some glowing eyes.




Now who's cute?

At this point, I was pretty happy with how the top half turned out. The lower jaw was the next piece of this puzzle, and I realized I was a damn fool because I didn't think to measure out how big the lower jaw should be! I had already started to shape out some gums, too. Oy. Had to make it up on the fly again. I still had the "negative" template from when I cut out the first piece of cardboard, so I used that as a rough guide to size and made another one just a wee bit smaller.

Built in the same fashion, just not as tall. Double layer glued together, then tubing, then more layering to get the rough shape.


There's a short wall of cardboard lining the rim of this jaw, onto which I rolled up more paper and foil to create the shape of gums. Also gave him a chin and some accent horns behind the jawline and at the very back to match the upper jaw horns.


A very lame picture of the two halves near each other. Also, yes, our place is a mess. The living room has been in a state of transition since....Christmas? I guess that's why the tree is still up - after a couple weeks (and then months) of not taking it down, you just forget it's there :eek:


The great thing about this project so far is, aside from foil, kraft paper, and masking tape, I already had materials or got them for next to nothing! I think I'm only $50 in on this project so far. Not bad for a 4 foot long dragon head.

Methinks the next step would be paper mache! Or should I make teeth first and then mache over them? Anything I should change before paper mache? Looking to the experts here for input! I will say that I'm probably going to do the shop towel and wood glue mache for this particular piece, though. Need it to be really rugged as it will be used as an actor prop and touched a lot.
 

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Looks great. YouTube has a ton of how-to videos regarding scales, teeth and horns just search "paper mache dragon heads". Also take a look at www.gourmetpapermache.com; there's one artist that specializes just in dragon heads. I recommend making and installing the eyes and teeth first. Then apply the mache around the eye sockets and mouth working outwards. For mache I would recommend using 50/50 Elmers Glueall / water. Make sure to use glueall and not school glue as the school glue will disintegrate when it comes in contact with water. You can use paper towels (shop towels) for most of the mache work and cotton t-shirts or linen for the areas that required a "stretched" skin appearance. After the mache is dry cover the teeth and eyes with painters tape and spray the entire prop with primer. Then you can apply coats of acrylic paint for the final coloring.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Oh cool... I LOVE using scrap stuff like cardboard to build with. This is looking REALLY good and I can see it's going to be epic! :D
I always thought cardboard would be such a pain to deal with...but it's quite nice! I ended up buying a "special" cardboard cutter. It's just a serrated ceramic knife, but it slices through the sheets like butter.

I'd strongly suggest looking at Mr Chickens "mache" over the wood glue version.
Thank you! I'm such a klutz with just about any liquid... at least I can clean up the glue with warm water. Latex paint, yikes! I'm bound to spill and ruin something. I opted NOT to use the wood glue, though, and bought a gallon of traditional Elmer's.

Looks great. YouTube has a ton of how-to videos regarding scales, teeth and horns just search "paper mache dragon heads". Also take a look at www.gourmetpapermache.com; there's one artist that specializes just in dragon heads. I recommend making and installing the eyes and teeth first. Then apply the mache around the eye sockets and mouth working outwards. For mache I would recommend using 50/50 Elmers Glueall / water. Make sure to use glueall and not school glue as the school glue will disintegrate when it comes in contact with water. You can use paper towels (shop towels) for most of the mache work and cotton t-shirts or linen for the areas that required a "stretched" skin appearance. After the mache is dry cover the teeth and eyes with painters tape and spray the entire prop with primer. Then you can apply coats of acrylic paint for the final coloring.
I got a lot of my mache ideas from that very man! I think I mentioned him in one of my above posts...his cloth mache idea is great. I bought some clearance fabric from Walmart to tear up and use after the first layer of paper mache dries.

Great progress already and thanks for all the photo. Definitely be checking back to see him come to life.
Thank you! I should hopefully have progress pics weekly.

This evening I began my first layer of paper mache with newspaper, Elmer's glue (the school glue kind - cheap to get a gallon of it!) and warm water. I initially thought I wanted to use shop towels and wood glue, but I was talked out of the latter half of that. I started with the lower half of the jaw, and did one side with newspaper and the other side with shop towels. I'll probably end up going over everything with another layer of shop towels, but I wanted to experiment a bit since this is the first mache project I will have ever done :eek:

Some of you were right about foil being a difficult surface for mache to stick to....I will have to figure something out for the top jaw, which is primarily foil!

I also started to make some teeth out of white Model Magic. I thought about polymer clay, but I'm going for cost-conscious here. I know about some of the drawbacks to Model Magic, so I'll figure out a way to deal with the eventual cracking and shrinking...probably coat it in something once they're dry to the touch.

I'll get pictures in the morning.
 

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Methinks the next step would be paper mache! Or should I make teeth first and then mache over them? Anything I should change before paper mache? Looking to the experts here for input! I will say that I'm probably going to do the shop towel and wood glue mache for this particular piece, though. Need it to be really rugged as it will be used as an actor prop and touched a lot.
Just a reminder from all that I've read and watched over paper mache projects being made online. Cover up all of your aluminum foil with masking tape before you try to put any kind of mache on it. The experts all say that mache doesn't stick to foil. It would be a shame to put that much work into a project only to watch parts fall way from the foil because the mache didn't adhere. But for now, your work is outstanding, and by the time it's done, I think you'll be able to put your nightmare with Scare Factory behind you.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Depends on your surface types, obviously, but I've found paint one of the easiest things to clean. Just let dry and peel off.
Latex paint, which I believe is what was suggested, is the bane of all things to clean up, at least in my own experience. It was an oil-based exterior latex paint, and it took hours to come off of my hands. I just never want to go through that again. Acrylic paint, on the other hand, I'm very used to using, but I don't think it serves the same purpose here.

Cool. I am looking forward to watching your progress.
Many thanks!

Just a reminder from all that I've read and watched over paper mache projects being made online. Cover up all of your aluminum foil with masking tape before you try to put any kind of mache on it. The experts all say that mache doesn't stick to foil. It would be a shame to put that much work into a project only to watch parts fall way from the foil because the mache didn't adhere. But for now, your work is outstanding, and by the time it's done, I think you'll be able to put your nightmare with Scare Factory behind you.
I wish I had purchased better masking tape. I tried that, and the tape had such a low tack that it was just falling right off of the foil! Plus, it had a horribly smooth finish which made applying any mache to it extremely difficult. Where you see it attached to the foil in the below pictures is only because I hot glued it into place. And let me tell you, the experts are right about the foil....I managed anyway, though.

While waiting for the lower jaw to dry from its first layer of paper mache, I decided to try my hand at making some teeth. I used Model Magic because it's what I had handy, and I rather liked how it took shape! I did this almost 4 days ago now, so they're pretty solid, though a little soft if pressed enough. I think I'll mache them later on and leave outside in the sun so the moisture doesn't seep all the way back into the clay.

I did some cursory image searches for "dragon teeth" and decided that was really was no correct way to have them, so I just improvised....a common theme here. After I had them formed and laid out, I pulled them all off, wrote in a number on the bottom of each tooth, and strung them up to dry my in A/V closet - it gets toasty in there from all of the equipment.



Stacks of newspapers and coupon mailers in hand, I began to paper mache! I'm using the very simple recipe of white glue and water. No additives at this point. The plan is 2 layers of newspaper mache and then 2 layers of shop towel mache with wood glue, then a coating of asphalt sealer/filler (this will act as a black primer coat as well).


This first coat dried remarkably well - not rigidly solid but not flimsy, either! I think having a sturdy core/skeleton helped a lot here, too. I would work on one part of the head, move it to the other room to dry, then do the other part, then switch the next day and repeat. In this picture, the lower jaw has 3 layers and the top has 2 layers. No wood glue has been added to anything yet as I'm still sorta experimenting....but really I've just been lazy and haven't made the trek to the hardware store for the gallon size yet.


I still have to create a row of teeth for the bottom jaw and figure out how exactly I want the eyes to light up. The LED's I installed last week were taken out for the mache process, but I liked the beady red look. Might stay with that...but time will tell!
 

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Sorry I've been so bad about updating this. Truthfully, progress has been sort of...boring. Just lots and lots and lots of applying shop towels with watered-down wood glue. I bought the Elmer's wood glue gallon on Amazon since it was cheap. Also had a bucket handy so I could pour about a 1/4 gallon of glue and barely even a cup full of water to loosen it up a bit. Wearing gloves, I would smear the glue along one of the inner walls of the bucket to create a bed of paste for the shop towel to stick to while I smeared more glue over the face of it. Then I peeled up the towel, laid it in place on the dragon head, and smoothed it into all the nooks and crannies. Rinse and repeat, so to speak...as of this moment, the entire top and bottom halves have 2 coats of traditional mache and 2 layers of shop towel/wood glue mache.

Needless to say, this was a messy process, so either do it where glue can splash freely or put down a tarp!! I've gotten glue on our TV, my stereo equipment, the carpet...and that was with a plastic drop cloth! Also, with glue-encrusted gloves being the main deterrent, I couldn't document much of my process. So, pics will come in delayed fashion. But, I have tackled a couple of other projects while waiting for things to dry ~

While hunting for ideas for eyes for the dragon, I decided to give Gourmet Paper Mache's method a shot with glass half-domes (cabochons, as I would soon learn they were called) and acrylic paint. Then Allen Hopps posted about an eye he created, and I followed the link to the tutorial he followed (which is here). The lady in that video used nail polish, as did Allen, which unfortunately would be too opaque to be lit from behind. So I skipped on the nail polish and went back to the acrylic paint method.



The eye is a 50mm or 2" glass cabochon. You can get these from Etsy, Amazon, eBay...anywhere, really. Prices vary, so just get whatever is most economic since you're going to be painting it (and dropping it...slippery bastards) anyway.

First I painted the pupil and the outer ring with Craftsmart Multi-Surface Black in a method similar to what Yvonne Williams in the video tutorial did. Then I tried just flicking black paint onto the glass to create the spotting. I will also say I played with 4 or 5 different colors before settling on white. I started with green, which was too dark, then yellow and orange, which I didn't like all that much either. I settled on white for 2 reasons - it looks great unlit, and I can choose to light it whatever color I want! More on that in another post, though...



The white of the eye is actually Craftsmart White Pearl paint mixed with a dab of Light Gray. I splotched it on the glass once all the black paint had dried, then dipped the brush in water and dragged it over the wet paint. The idea here was to color the whole eye without it being so solid that light wouldn't pass through.




These will look beautiful once lit from behind!

The other project I did, also along the lines of the great Gourmet Paper Mache, was the tongue. It's basically two long lengths of thick floral wire with newpaper and masking tape, followed by mache.

Only half-complete here with the mache:


I know the tongue is a little too serpentine with the split end, but I thought it was unique. It was always my intention to light the mouth with lights as well, but I wasn't too sure how I would do it, especially since the lower jaw is basically done with the mache procress. So I decided to retrofit the tongue to house the lights:


Those are several runs of 18AWG speaker wire that will connect to 12v LED's. The lights will face outwards into the jaw from underneath the tongue, providing a bit if illumination. I'm thinking of doing orange flicker LED's from Lighthouse LED's that just arrived today. Should blend nicely with the fog effect to simulate a bit of smoldering fire. I will mache over the wires once I have the lighting effect really nailed down. I can still rip out the hot glue holding down the wire if I need to make any adjustments.

I also started teeth for the lower jaw, and I will most likely have to redo the top jaw teeth - I don't see them fitting anymore after all of the shop towels that have been laid down, but time will tell on that one.




They're just Crayola Model Magic that will get paper mache'd over later on...or maybe just a really heavy coating of latex paint? I don't want them to have the slight soft and pliable consistency that they retain once dry. Need them to hold up for more than just a few nights of performances....

I am also going to do some clay mache to build up the areas around the horns, teeth, anything that protrudes or need additional detailing. Everything that is wet, which is mostly just the top half, should be rock hard real soon, then I'll follow up with a layer of asphalt filler/sealer as recommended by jwal - the twisted seed tutorial over on YouTube. Then paint after that!

I'm only a month into this build, but I'm really flippin' happy with the progress considering I only do 2-3 nights a week of work on it. I had basically no plan of attack going into it, and I'm learning HEAPS from the amazing Haunt communities about techniques, so thank you for chiming in and lending your wisdom, everyone!

Til next time <3
 

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Decided to install the eyes last night!

Started by gluing each eye to a couple of pieces of thinner cardboard that would act as "wings" to fill in the empty sockets on the head. I reinforced the back with more cardboard, being careful not to let any obstruct the rear of the eye since it would be backlit.




2 small flat-top 12v LED's shine from behind the eye to illuminate it. I played with tons of different colors, but settled on red and yellow because it seemed the most intimidating. They blend nicely to create a nice pattern of color, especially with the paint job and Dimensional Magic coating on the back of each eye.


Sorta looks like a mini canoe!






The LEDs were just poked through another thin piece of cardboard and glued into place. All wire connections were heat-shrink wrapped together, and they connect via speaker wire that is run through some of the cardboard tubes in the head's skeleton from the first post. I have them running on a 9v battery right now, but they will eventually plug into a Picoboo once everything is final.



The areas around the eye will be filled in with clay or cloth mache most likely. Haven't decided if I'm going to go all out with cloth mache around the mouth, though I do have the materials on hand for it.




I also did some lighting work on the tongue. The are all orange flicker LEDs - the idea was to have it look like there's fire or embers smoldering in the dragon's mouth. I'm not sure what the final product will look like, but I like how this turned out.




 

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I have to say that you're inability to find the dragon you were originally hoping to buy is creating a much more remarkable beast. It really is wonderful.
 

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I have to say that you're inability to find the dragon you were originally hoping to buy is creating a much more remarkable beast. It really is wonderful.
Thank you so much, chubstuff! That really means the world to me. It is great that I was sorta forced to build this...don't think I would want to build another one anytime soon, though :eek:

This is looking great... It's gonna be AWESOME!!!
That's what I'm shootin' for! Thanks!

WOW! The head looks awesome so far and those eyes are outstanding! Keep the updates coming.
Thank you tremendously! Here's a little update for ya ~

Going back to post 13 where I started to play with making teeth, I ended up throwing most of those away, mostly because I was a fool in thinking that the shape of that upper jaw would stay intact once I started adding mache over it. It didn't, and none of the teeth fit after all the layers were done and dry. But that's ok! It's all part of the learning process...make mistakes! It's one of the only ways you learn.

So I started instead with the lower jaw. I had molded the teeth out of Model Magic again and stuck them right onto the final layer of shop towel mache. I let they dry for a few days, then did a layer of paper mache. Again, using the process laid out by Gourmet Paper Mache, I added small cloth strips that were dipped in white glue in between each tooth. I was immediately pleased with how much realism that added to the gum of the tooth, or at least happy that the illusion of a gum was present.




The bed of the mouth is a sheet of the same material that was dunked into a bucket of glue and laid down to create more depth and texture inside. I probably wouldn't do this again with a singular piece of cloth - it took forever to get laid out, it isn't drying very well and I think it would have been less of a headache if I had used smaller portions of fabric.

Here's the upper and lower halves of the head. This was the very first time I'd really gotten to see how the two pieces line up, more or less! I only really had room to work on one or the other, mainly because one half would be drying in one room while I added mache on the other in a different room. It isn't a perfect alignment, but I ain't complaining.


I needed to be able to see how the new upper row of teeth was going to line up with the lower. It was damn near impossible to add teeth from under the head, though, so I flipped it over and worked on it from the top.


I will let the new teeth dry out for a couple of days before I go in and mache around them. Then hopefully I can start sealing everything and painting!
 
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