Introduction: Make a Custom Wonderland Snow Globe/house

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Remember Alice in Wonderland growing as big as a house? My good friend Kleenie certainly does! As she wanted to do something around that theme and with me being into making snow globes lately, I made her a “Kleenie in Wonderland snow house”.  Making the house a "glass" one and adding snow makes the adventure of Alice/Kleenie even a little more crazy. And Kleeny likes things a little crazy.
In this Instructable I explain the preparations needed to get everything to fit together, I give sculpting tips on making the polymer clay figure (in particular the hands) and I explain how to make the house.

You can make this as easy or as elaborate as you want. You can easily adapt the subject to your sculpting experience. Making the house or another self made "container" can be a bit tricky. It took me two and a half attempts to get it both clean and watertight. But by sharing what I learned I hope you will be able to get it right the first time. I also give some general tips on making snow globes with ready made globes, which is easier of course.

Step 1: Materials

For the figure:
polymer clay of the desired colours or mixed to the desired colours (I use Fimo Soft )
a toothpick and other sculpting tools you like to use.
brass, copper or other corrosion resistant  wire about 1mm diameter, about 1m length.
a drill bit 1mm with a diameter fitting the wire
a sharp hobby knife
fine sand paper (320 to 400 grit)
pencil, paper, cardboard & tape
For the "house":
clear acrylic sheet. I prefer relatively thick sheet, 4 mm, in order to get enough surface for a strong glued joint. I ordered pieces of 90 by 120 mm from, to save time in cutting. I needed 7 pieces, but I was happy to have order some more to practice.
A saw suitable for acrylic sheet (on for metals usually is)
waterproof clear glue for acrylic sheet (e.g. Acrifix® 192 by Evonik Industries at
non-stick (baking) paper
a piece of right angled profile to use as a gluing jig
coarse sanding paper (60 to 80 grit) and/or a large hand-file
a couple of cm of clear acrylic tube, about 0.5 to 1 cm diameter.
a drill and drill bit with the same diameter as the tube.
a funnel fitting the tube
some masking tape
Instead of making a house or another clear container you can also buy “snow globes” from the range of Fimo accessories.

To fill it up:
distilled water
a drop of dish washing detergent
“snow globe snow” (available from EberhardFaber, as is Fimo)
water clarifying agent for snow globes (Fimo accessories, I guess it's optional, but if you want people to enjoy your work for a long time...)

Step 2: Planning Dimensions

This project needs some careful planning in order to get the figure to fit perfectly in the house. The first picture shows a sketch on how the house is to be assembled. A cardboard template is made as a reference for making the figure. As unbaked polymer clay “attacks" many plastics, softening and staining them, you can not use the acryl house to check the fit. When making the template, take in account the thickness of the acrylic sheet and make it represent the inside dimensions.
When you are using a globe it is also a good idea to make a template, as in that case you need to keep about 1 cm away from the globe wall to avoid excessive optical deformation (the globe works as a lens).

Step 3: The Need for an Armature

In this project, the armature has to functions. It's classic function is to strengthen the figure, which is mainly important during sculpting. In order to put clay on an armature its is usually made in way that it provides some "grip" to the clay. For example twisted wire is. But for a small figure like this one I did not bother and worked in a different way explained in step 6. You make a very simple armature to your own idea. What is important is to use brass, copper or other corrosion resistant metal wire, as the polymer clay may not shield it completely from the water.

The second function of the armature is to serve as reference to end up with a figure at the right  size. Obviously this is crucial for this project. Therefore the feet/shoes and hands are included even though they are removed afterwards and not used to sculpt upon. Actually I made the hands and shoes more complicated than needed. Sculpting around them proved to be difficult, so I cut them in a later stage.

Step 4: Sculpting Tips Part I: Some General Tips

Do take care when working with polymer clay. As it tends to "attack" many plastics you should work on a suitable surface ( I use non-stick baking paper) and clean your tools thouroughly after use. I often put my sculpting tools in the oven with the workpiece, as any stains will become inert after baking. Although Fimo carries the ACMI-Seal AP "non toxic", you should always wash your hands thouroughly with soap and water after working with it.

As the figure is to stay immersed in water, I wanted to avoid any painting that might come of over time. Actually Fimo advises against using coatings in “snow globe” projects for that reason. Therefore ale details are directly made in polymer clay.

An advantage of the figure being immersed in water is that you can easily use sanding to finish it, without needing to varnish or polish it afterwards. Sanding with 320 grit, which still works quite fast, leaves traces which become invisible when wet.
I put on details like eyes after baking the basis for the face. Eyelids and eyebrows were put on after baking the face with eyes. You should not overbake polymer clay, but I never had problems when baking fimo up to at least 3 times with intermediate cooling. 

Step 5: Sculpting Tips Part II: How to Make Hands for a Small Figure

The hands are a real eye catcher in this piece, but actually they were made in simple way. After rolling a “sausage” tapered towards the wrist,  the "hand" is flattened. Then cut fingers with scissors. The fifth finger might end up to thick, but in that case simply cut the entire hand to the desired with (next picture). Depending on the result chose which finger will be the thumb and cut it a little deeper. Cut the fingers to the desired lenght and spread them withe at tothpick as shown. Bend the hand and fingers in the desired position. You can do a little sanding after baking to finish the hands, but I generally keep that to a minimum. It's a classic example of better being the enemy of good.

Step 6: Sculpting Tips Part III: Sculpting on the Armature

I shaped the limbs free from the armature and put them on afterwards. For the boots I made a cut along the “zipper-line” and after putting it on the brass wire I closed the cut. As it represents the zipper I did not need to close it up thoroughly. That is just one of the advantages of having friends with thigh high boots ;-). The wrinkles in the boots are made making small cut outs with a sharp knife. This actually works best after baking.

The thighs and upper arms needed some more finishing. The lower arms with hands are put on the straight wire end up until the elbow.
The pictures show the building of the figure. I baked it in between steps. Actually, I should obviously have put on the hair after putting on the dress, that would have been easier.
I finally put the left arm in a different position than originally planned as this fitted better to the angle of the hand.

Step 7: The "glass" House

The acryl comes with protective foil which obviously needs to be removed before gluing. However try and remove it no more than needed in each step. Take care as the foil is sticky an can catch your tube of glue, hindering a smooth movement while applying the glue. Keep it folded back with some masking tape. It also a good idea to practice getting clean and watertight connections on some extra pieces.

I used a right angled profile as a jig and put it with faces at 45° to the horizontal. It was ligned with non-stick baking paper.

The first attempt I made was with connections carefully glued “but on”, without fillets. This however proved to leak a little overnight. So I added glue fillets as shown in the pictures. Let each fillet set before doing the next one, to avoid ugly runners. Acrifix sets reasonably fast, in about an hour you can manipulate the piece and proceed to the next connection.

When the base glue on the base has set, the roof is marked (with the template) and checked wit the figure in place. The figure is taken out again and the shape is first sawn a little outside the lines and then sanded to the exact lines with 60 grit sand paper. A power file, sanding belt or disk or “dremel”-type tools can help speed up the work.

Step 8: Closing Up and Filling.

The figure's feet are glued to the bottom. Acryfix works very well with Fimo. The roof is glued in place, using glue sparingly. After the glue has set, the joint are made waterproof with glue fillets.

With globes you can put in the snow and part of the water before closing up, but I prefer not to, as you can no longer turn things around to correct the flow of the glue.

Instead I make the mixture of and pour it in the house/globe through the filler opening with a funnel. You need to let the air out by pulling back the funnel a little and sometimes you need to push through the snow when it cloggs. Just take your time.

When the house is completely full, tilt it to get the last air bubbles out and fill some more water if necessary. With the water level about half way the chimney/filling tube, close it up by carefully pouring some glue on it. Don't move it until the glue has set.