Introduction: Kang/Kodos Sculpture Lamp
I had a dome glass display case collecting dust in my apartment for over a year with the intention of one day creating a replica of the glowing rose from Disney's Beauty and the Beast, but I never got around to it. Then one day I realized that the dome reminded me of Kang and Kodos, the aliens from The Simpsons, and I couldn't unsee it. So, despite being more of a Futurama fan, I decided to just run with my new inspiration and created this lamp inspired by the cartoon aliens.
This project was by no means perfectly constructed, and if I was to recreate it, there are a lot of techniques I would change. I've detailed the steps I used to make this project with the materials I had on hand, but I've included suggested improvements where relevant in this Instructable.
- 3D Printer and filament of your choice
- Soldering iron
- Wire cutters/strippers
- Hot glue gun and glue sticks
- Rubber-tipped sculpting tools
- UV Lamp (optional)
LEDs and Connections:
- 12V LED strip (White)
- (2) 5mm LED diodes (Diffused Red)
- ~500 Ohm resistor
- Female DC power pigtail cable
- 12V DC wall power adapter
- DC 12V inline on/off switch
- Heat shrinking tubes and/or electrical tape (as needed)
- Electrical wire (as needed)
- Glossy clear coat
- This is the exact one used in this tutorial. If using a different one, you may need to adjust the size of the .STL to match the circumference of your dome.
- Designed for a dome with a 122mm diameter / 383mm circumference
Step 1: Sculpting the Head and Torso
**Note: I sculpted my Kang/Kodos lamp from polymer clay because I had a lot of it on hand, but for a build this size, it would probably be better to sculpt it using Monster Clay, create a mold of the sculpture, and then cast the alien as a solid piece. If you're a novice when it comes to molding and casting or do not wish to spend money on the additional supplies required for that process, you can follow along with this Instructable as is. Just know that your final piece will be heavy and fragile, especially before the final step when we add the resin coating.**
Believe it or not, this project is great for a novice sculptor because The Simpsons aliens are not symmetrical, and due to their overall ugliness, imperfections can give the alien character. I also primarily used my hands and one other tool to create the details and shape of the alien, so there isn't a lot of up-front investment in sculpting tools required to create Kang or Kodos.
To begin, grab your aluminum foil and bunch it together until you have a lumpy tube that is approximately 1 inch smaller than your glass dome in every direction [IMG 1.1]. Next, roll out some polymer clay and begin coating the aluminum foil and the base of the display case with it [IMG 1.2].
After the foil is covered in clay, begin shaping it into the wrinkled texture of the alien's skin by digging your thumb into the clay and dragging it down the clay vertically, creating wavy peaks and valleys. To emphasize the peaks, you can add rolled bits of clay and smooth down the edges where needed, but leave the area where the eye and mouth will go relatively flat. Smooth out any additional imperfections you do not want in the final sculpt and bake the torso according to packaging instructions. [IMG 1.3]
I recommend baking the sculpture at this point because I find adding finer details easier to create when being sculpted on top of a hard base. Unbaked, the aluminum foil under the thin layer of clay has too much give and take.
Note: If the base of your glass sculpture is painted, as mine was, you may want to rethink putting it in the oven. I live on the edge and baked mine with the clay without cooking up any strange fumes, but if you want to be cautious, either sand off the paint prior to sculpting or forgo using the base that came with glass dome and sculpt your own base using additional aluminum foil and polymer clay.
At this point, your sculpture probably looks a bit too phallic for comfort (In hindsight, using a flesh-toned clay was probably a poor choice...), so it's best to move onto the next step and add some facial features to the alien.
Step 2: Adding the Eye, Mouth, and Ears
Once the body of your alien has been sculpted and baked, it's time to add his facial features.
Begin by creating a half-sphere that is almost the same diameter as the alien's body. I used a silicone mold to help create my half-sphere, but you can use a bowl or glass with a curved bottom if you need assistance getting the rounded shape [IMG 2.1].
Optional: Use an X-Acto knife to cut a pupil into the eye. I do not recommend doing this step unless you have access to UV resin to fill in the slit (I'll explain later in "Step 8: Adding the Slime."). I did this intending to create depth to the pupil before filling it with UV resin in order to make it flush with the rest of the eye, thinking it would appear more realistic, but the end result didn't look much different than if I had painted the pupil onto the eye. So, even if you do have UV resin, I suggest painting the pupil.
After you have shaped your eyeball, bake it--separately from the rest of the sculpture--according to package instructions in order to prevent losing the nice smooth curve from any future handling. Let it cool and then add Bake and Bond to the back [IMG 2.2]. Align the eye to the top front of the alien's torso and add rolled tubes of clay to the top and bottom of the eyeball [IMG 2.3]. Using your fingers and a rubber tipped sculpting tool, shape the clay to form an eye socket, brow, and forehead wrinkles [IMG 2.4].
For the mouth, roll out one long tube of clay, and loop it into an oval positioned about half-an-inch below the eye [IMG 2.5]. Play with the shape of the oval until it resembles a snarl: left and right sides pulled back and up, upper middle pointed down, and bottom middle pushed slightly up. Blend the outer and inside edges of the oval into the rest of the sculpture with your fingers, and pinch the center of the tube to form the lips and give them the pointiness that is characteristic of Matt Groening's characters [IMG 2.6].
The ears begin as a flat, egg-shaped piece of clay. From top to bottom, the egg should be approximately the same length as the distance between the top of the alien's eye and the top of its mouth. Cut down the center to create two equal pieces. Use your thumb to press an indent in the clay along the cut edge about a quarter-of-an-inch from the bottom to create an earlobe. Next, using a pointy rubber-tipped sculpting tool, carve two lines along the outer edge of the ear that begin at the lobe and meet at the point. Repeat to the other ear. [IMG 2.7]
Add the ears to the side of the face so that the earlobes are almost touching the sides of the mouth. Blend the edges of the ears into the rest of the side of the face using a silicone sculpting tool. [IMG 2.8]
Bake the whole sculpture again according to package instructions. [IMG 2.9]
Step 3: Printing, Priming, Painting the LED Ring
I chose to 3D print my LED ring using the .STL file included in the supplies list of this Instructable in order to create a perfectly rounded and smooth structure that would resemble the metal apparatus at the base of Kang and Kodos's clear domes. The smoothness of metal would be difficult to imitate using polymer clay without baking around an oven-safe object of a similar size and shape, which I did not have on hand. Additionally, I knew that this particular piece of the project would undergo a little manhandling while adding the LEDs, and I didn't want risk cracking or breaking clay during that process.
Material Alternative: If you do not have a 3D printer or need to create a custom LED ring for your sculpture lamp because you're using a difference sized dome and cannot edit the .STL file, an alternative material to use would be EVA foam. There are a lot of great tutorials here, on Instructables.com, for you to learn the basics, which would be enough to draft and create your own foam version of the LED ring out of 4mm EVA foam.
After printing my LED ring (100% infill since the walls are only ~3mm thick), I had a few imperfections were the filament did not overlap with the outer ring. I applied wood filler to the gaps and sanded away the excess once it was dry. [IMG 3.1]
I used a black plastic adhering spray paint for the base coat, followed by a layer of titanium silver and a glossy clear top coat. I let the paint dry between coats. [IMG 3.2]
Set aside your ring for the time being and continue sculpting.
Step 4: Sculpting the Tentacles
Roll out a piece of clay slightly larger in diameter than the base of the display case. and place the base on top [IMG 4.1] Add a ring of aluminum foil around the base, and ensure that the diameter of the foil is wider than the diameter of the LED ring [IMG 4.2].
Note: To ensure a stronger base for your tentacles, try to use one long sheet of aluminum foil for this step. Using multiple smaller pieces compromises the integrity of the base, as the layers can peel apart, and once the weight of the tentacles is added, you risk one or more of the tentacles separating from the base due to loose foil. Trust me, I know from experience while making my Kang/Kodos lamp.
Cover the ring of aluminum foil with more flattened polymer clay and build up the clay until it is flush with the top ring of the base that came with your glass dome. Build out the base until there is a flattened ledge wide enough for your LED ring to rest on. [IMG 4.3]
Note: At this point, it is best to move your sculpture to a flat baking baking pan lined with wax paper in order to more easily transport your sculpture to and from the oven and your work station.
Now it's time to create your tentacles. Begin by cutting six pieces of armature wire to the length of your desired tentacles [IMG 4.4], and cover each piece of wire with aluminum foil until you have the basic shape of six tentacles [IMG 4.5], leaving approximately an inch of exposed wire at the bottom of the tentacles to insert into the base. Insert the tentacles into the base and bend them into your desired pose [IMG 4.6].
Cover the aluminum foil tentacles with flattened clay. You may need to temporarily remove the tentacles from the base to more easily add the clay around the aluminum foil [IMG 4.7].
Despite the lumpiness of the clay, bake the sculpture according the recommended instructions [IMG 4.8]. Once the sculpture has cooled, it will be a more solid and firm structure to build upon and begin smoothing out the lumps and bumps created by the foil underneath.
For the underside of my tentacles, I chose to go with look resembling the underbelly of snake because, as far as I can recollect, Kang and Kodos are never show as having squid-like suckers. To create this look, I rolled clay into tubes and pressed and smooshed them into the underside of the tentacles so that they were flat with rounded edges [IMG 4.9]. Once the underside was covered in these flattened tubes, I used an Xacto knife to slice down the vertical length of the tentacles to cut away the ends of the flattened clay tubes [IMG 4.10].
Start smoothing out the imperfections on the topside of the tentacles by adding rolls of clay to the outside edges of the snake-belly undersides and smoothing them into the top of the tentacles [IMG 4.11]. Add more flattened clay to the topside of the tentacles and use your fingers to smooth fill and smooth the rough imperfections along the top and in between the tentacles [IMG 4.12].
Note: I did not attempt to create a perfectly smooth surface on the tentacles for two reasons:'
- Laziness. At this point, I was feeling a bit burned out and was ready to finish this project.
- I felt like a few cellulite dimples was accurate to Kang and Kodos's character design.
Once you're satisfied with the overall look of your tentacles and sculpture, bake one last time according to the polymer clay instructions.
Step 5: Paint
The Body and Tentacles
After your sculpture has cooled from it's final baking, use painter's tape to cover the eyeball [IMG 5.1], and if you chose to cut out a pupil, as I did, leave it exposed. Give the whole sculpture a black base coat, using either a spray or acrylic paint [IMG 5.2]. I used a spray paint to more easily get the nooks and crannies.
Next, mix up a large batch of dark green paint using blue and yellow acrylic paints. Coat the entire sculpture in an even coat of this green paint. [IMG 5.3]
Add more yellow to your green paint to lighten the mixture. Lightly dip a sponge into the paint and dab it over the body and the top and sides of the tentacles, avoiding the snake-like underbelly of the tentacles. [IMG 5.4]
Continue adding yellow to your green paint and lightly dab it on your sculpture until you are happy with the skin splotches . For my final layer, I added a few dabs of straight yellow to the sculpture. [IMG 5.5]
For the underbelly of the tentacles, take a flat blush, lightly dip it in your lightest shade of green, and lightly dry brush the underside, moving in one direction from the base of the tentacles to their tips. The paint should catch on the tops of the scales but live the groves between the scales a dark green. [IMG 5.6]
Remove the painter's tape from the eyeball and start by painting the iris yellow with acrylic paint [IMG 5.7]. Next, using a fine point brush, paint thin red lines around the pupil (or where it would be if you did not cut one into the clay) and the outer corners, but do not connect the lines in the corners with the ones around the pupil [IMG 5.8].
If you did not cut a pupil into the clay when sculpting, paint a pointed oval in the center of the eye using black paint to create a pupil.
Step 6: Adding Teeth
To create the teeth, cut off the tips to several white plastic forks [IMG 6.1] and glue them into the alien's mouth with hot glue [IMG 6.2].
Step 7: LEDs
The LEDs for this project are comprised of two parallel circuits--one for the white LED strip and a second for the two red diodes--powered by a 12V power wall adapter. Because the two red diodes use less than 12 volts, a 500Ω resistor is needed to eat up the extra voltage in the series. [IMG 7.1]
Begin wiring the circuit by installing the two red LED diodes into the two holes in the front of the LED ring [IMG 7.2]. Apply a little hot glue to the LED diodes so that they do not slide out of the holes [IMG 7.3]. Next, install the white LED strip along the upper inside of the ring with more hot glue [IMG 7.4].
Once the LEDs are glued in place, complete the circuit using additional wire. First, connect the two red LEDs in the center with a piece of wire connecting the cathode of one LED to the anode of the other LED [IMG 7.5]. Solder the resistor to the LED with the free anode [IMG 7.6], then solder an extra piece of wire to the other end of the resister [IMG 7.7] and to the cathode on the other LED [IMG 7.8] in order to add enough length to the circuit so that it reaches the back of the 3D printed ring.
For the LED strip, add two pieces of wire--one to the positive mark and a second to the negative mark--on one end of the strip [IMG 7.9].
Next, take the wire ends of the female DC power pigtail cable and thread them through the hole at the back of the LED ring [IMG 7.10]. Solder the positive wires from the two parallel circuits to the red wire on the pigtail cable and repeat with the negative wires and the black wire on the pigtail cable [IMG 7.11].
Note: Cover all exposed wires and solder with electrical tape or heat-shrink tubes.
Test the circuit by plugging the power adapter into the DC pigtail cable [IMG 7.12].
Step 8: Adding the Slime
Kang and Kodos drool a lot, so to recreate their mouth slime I squeezed UV resin around the mouth of my alien while simultaneously shining my UV lamp on the area so that the resin cured as it was dribbling down the statue. [IMG 8.1]
Material Alternative: If you do not have UV resin, this same effect can be created using hot glue, but depending on the glue you use, it will be cloudier than the UV resin.
For the rest of the slimy body, I mixed up a two-part resin and applied it to liberally to the statue using a silicone brush. [IMG 8.2]
Tip: Cover your workspace with wax paper or a large silicone mat. Resin will drip and pool around the statue, and the wax paper will protect your surfaces and keep the statue from being permanently attached to them.
Step 9: Finishing Touches
After your statue is fully coated in resin, clean the inside and outside of your glass dome with a glass cleaner and newspaper to remove any fingerprints and dust [IMG 9.1].
While the resin is still a liquid, place your glass dome over the alien's head so that the rim is sitting in the resin, and then lower the LED ring around the dome so that the two red LEDs are in front and the power cord is in the rear. [IMG 9.2].
Tip: Keep the DC power cord out of the resin by taping it to the glass dome with painter's tape while the resin cures.
After the resin has cured, connect the on/off switch and power adapter to the DC plug installed in the statue and turn it on!
Grand Prize in the