Intro: 2009 Halloween Egg - the Ninth Ring of Hell
Ever since the Faberge Egg contest last year I have had many ideas for eggs. For Halloween I decided to make an egg that draws its inspiration from Dante's Inferno. Specifically his description of Satan trapped in the lake of ice in the Ninth Ring of Hell. I didn't follow the description exactly, but I think it will still be recognizable to those familar with the work.
For those who aren't the quick synopsis is: Satan is huge and immobilzied in a lake of ice. His wings (not included in my egg) are flapping, making the wind which keeps the lake frozen. Satan has three faces (one in its normal place and one over each shoulder), one red, one black and one yellow. In each mouth sinners who betrayed a benefactor are being chewed alive. (The traitors are Judas Iscariot, Brutus and Cacius). Blood and tears are running down each face to form a froth at the chin.
As with many of my arty Ibles I encountered challenges along the way and didn't do things in the most efficient manner. The steps of the Ible are arranged in the way I should have done it. I just tell you this so that minor inconsistancies with the pictures don't lead to confusion.
Step 1: Materials
The materials I used for this egg are as follows:
* 1 plastic Easter egg
* 1 large action figure
* 2 small action figures
* 6 plastic skulls
* The fingers from 5 or 6 plastic skeleton hands
* 1 colorless, transparent piece of plastic
* Metal duct repair tape
* 1 small metal rod
* Black, red and yellow acrylic paint
* Spray primer
* Silver, black and clear spray paint
* Frosted glass spray paint
* Epoxy putty
* Red and blue food coloring
* 1 blue LED
* 1 switch
* 1 AA battery holder
* 1 small plastic box
* Electrical tape
Step 2: Tools
I used the following tools to build the egg:
* Dremel with various attachments
* Drill and bits
* Utility knife
* Needle nose pliers
* Soldering iron (with flux and solder)
* Dust collection box (optional)
* Detail paint brush
* Tooth picks and cotton swabs
* Steel wool
* Sand paper
Step 3: The Base
I started out by assembling the base. I first determined how many skulls would be required to support my egg. I did this by placing skulls in contact with each other in a circle until the egg was fully supported.
Once I knew how many skulls I needed, I had to clean them up before I glued them together. Molded plastic objects will have excess plastic ridges created by the junction of the halves of the molds. If they are hollow there will also be a small hole where air was injected to force the plastic to coat the mold. Both of these phenomena will have to be dealt with to make the base look cooler.
To remove the ridges use a utility knife to cut off the extra plastic.
Then use epoxy putty to fill the holes. This part make be tricky. Given the hollow nature of the skulls the putty may fall down into the skull instead of sticking to the edges of the hole. I just had to keep trying and eventually it stayed put. Allow the putty to harden and then sand it down. The filled hole may still be a little lower than the surrounding material. Simply repeat the fillling and sanding process until the material is level.
Once that is done arrange the skulls in the same circle as before. Make note of the points of contact. Place a dab of E-6000 at each point of contact and push the skulls together. You will want to do this in stages, as trying to glue all the joins at once would be difficult.
Step 4: Egg Preparation
With the base built we can begin preparing the egg. Since the egg is plastic it will have the same problems as the skulls (e.g. excess plastic and holes), My egg was actually hinged with a small plastic tab and there were holes and indentations in each end created by the molding process. All of this has to go.
As with the skulls I trimed off the excess plastic (including the hinge). With this done I traced the outline of the opening that Satan will be viewed through.
With the opening marked I then filled the holes and indentations only on the pointy end of the egg with epoxy putty. (The rounder end will be hidden by the base and invisible from above when the egg is done.) This time I applied the putty to the inside of the egg and pressed the epoxy up through the holes, allowed the epoxy to harden and then sanded it flat. During this process the epoxy plugs broke free of the egg. I simply glued them into place with a tiny amount of E-6000. I then sanded the the epoxy inside the egg down so it would be difficult to see.
With the opening traced I began cutting it out with a pair of scissors, but ended up finishing it with a utility knife. The scissors caused several cracks in the egg which were subsequently hidden by paint. I would suggest you do all the cutting with a knife or something other than scissors.
This would be a good time to make the hole for the LED as well. Place the round end of the egg
flat side down on your work bench. Hold the LED in place and score the egg around the LED with a utility knife. Once the egg is scored use the knife to cut out the scored area. The opening should be just large enough to hold the LED tightly in place.
I then sanded down the exterior of the egg with steel wool to remove the decorative printing and better prepare the egg surface to hold paint. I repeated this process for the egg interior as well.
Step 5: Breaking the Ice
WIth base and egg begun now is a good time to cut the plastic that will serve as the "ice". Place the lower portion of the egg on the piece of transparent plastic, flat side down. Trace around the egg with a marker.
With the outline in place use a Dremel with a cutting wheel to roughly cut out the circle. Then switch over to a grinding attachment to remove the remaining material until the plastic just fits inside the lower portion of the egg. Be sure to just remove small amounts of material and to check the fit often. If you don't the plastic could sit lower in the egg than you intended.
WIth the plastic cut out and ground down remove any excess plastic that may have curled up on the edges. Then apply the frosted glass spray paint. This will make the plastic translucent and give it the appearance of ice. (You can wait until you're painting other portions of the project to do this, but be cautious of overspray from other paints.)
Step 6: Building Satan Part 1: Body Building
With the base and egg begun we can now move on to the focus of the piece: the figure of Satan. Since Dante portrayed Satan has having three faces on one head we'll need three action figures. One will have to be larger than the other two.
First, of the two smaller action figures choose the torso and arms you want to use. I chose the figure that was more muscular as Satan is described as being a powerful creature. With that decision made disassemble all three action figures. You can do this by removing the small screws ususally found in the back of the torso. WIth the screw removed they should just pop open. Set the heads aside.
Now reassemble the torso and arms you plan to use and put the rest of the parts into your parts collection. Since Satan is supposed to be trapped in the ice I decided to potray his arms as being immobilized. Notice how the arms hang past the bottom of the torso. We'll either have to cut holes in the ice to allow them to pass through, or cut them off. I chose to cut them off.
To figure out the cut points position the arms so they are hanging down at the sides of the torso. Then hold the "ice" we made in the last step even with the bottom of the torso. Where the arms intersect the ice is where you'll want to cut. Mark these positions and use a Dremel with a cut off wheel to remove the arms.
More than likely your action figure torso has some sort of molded in details that one doesn't find mentioned in Dante's description of Satan, such as shirt sleeves, logos, straps, pockets , molding marks etc. I removed these details using a brush attachment on my Dremel to scour them off and some very fine grain sand paper to remove the scour marks.
With the torso cleaned-up it is on to the head.
Step 7: Building Satan Part 2: Heads Up
SInce Dante described Satan as having three faces on a single head, we'll need to graft two faces onto one of the heads. The large head will serve as the central face and mounting point for the other two faces.
First cut the faces off the two smaller heads. I did this by holding the base of the neck with a pair of pliers while I cut the faces off with a Dremel equipped with a cut-off wheel. Use a utility knife to remove any excess plastic that may have curled up around the egedes of the faces. Save the remnants as we will need them later.
With the faces harvested we need to prepare the large head to receive them. Use a utility knife and fine grained sand paper to remove any mold marks from the head. With that done chose which side you want to graft each face to and trace a rough outline of the face on the side of the larger head. With that done use an engraving bit in your Dremel to remove the needed material. You may have to make several passes to get the shape and depth of the hole right. Just be patient and remove small bits when you're fine tuning the fit. When you finish the first side repeat the process for the second face.
When both face holes are carved use a dab of E-6000 to secure them in place and allow the glue to dry.
In order for the head from the large figure to fit on the small torso we will need to do some further grafting. First (you should probably do this step when harvesting the faces) cut off the plastic nub that allows the large head to rotate in its torso. Next cut the nub that allows the small head to rotate off the remnants from the face harvest. Save the large head and the small nub.
Use your Dremel or sand paper to make the bottom of the head and the top of the nub as level as possible. Next use an awl to make a hole in these leveled areas. Once the holes are made drive the head down onto a small metal rod. (I had some difficulty so I put the rod in my bench vise and shoved the head down on it.) Put a dab of E-6000 on the rod and bottom of the head and then shove the the nub from the small action figure on it.
Step 8: Building Satan Part 3: Puttying It All Together
With Satan's torso and head complete it is time to make him whole. Disassemble the torso and try to place the neck in the hole where the original head was connected. Since the neck has been modified the torso may not fit together completely. If this is the case you can either trim some material from the neck hole or just force the torso together by really tightening the screw. If you go with the latter method this may cause gaps between the two halves of the torso.
Once the head is back in the torso there will be some holes that will need to be filled to change Satan from a mutilated action figure into a statuesque still life. Examples of these would be gaps around the facial grafts, the joints of the arms, gaps around the neck, damage to the head from the trimming process, and gaps in the edges of the torso. Fill all of these with epoxy putty and sand when hardened. As with the skulls you may have to repeat this process a couple of times in order to get the holes filled completely. Once your done sand it with fine steel wool.
Step 9: Trim Work
To spice up the egg's exterior I decided to give it some bone trim work. I did this by using my Dremel to cut the fingers off some plastic skeleton hands. The fingers were slightly curved which made them perfect for conforming to the curve of the egg. If needed you could probably heat the plastic to give them more curvature. Scour the bones with steel wool to roughen the surface to better accept paint.
Once I had harvested the bones I used the halves of the egg to roughly layout the trim work. I had separated them into two groups so that I could easily reassemble them once they were painted. I even had bags with labels for each group. Unfortunately, I had to pack up the project quickly one night and the bones became intermixed. Later I would be left with gaps in the trim work that I had to cut custom pieces to fill. Not the end of the world just a minor irritant that you may want to avoid.
Step 10: Spray Painting
Now that we have all the components it is time to paint them. First we'll apply base coats using spray paints and then do some detail painting.
First, if you haven't done it already, sand all the pieces with very fine steel wool. Then clean the dust off the surfaces.
Then lay out all the pieces you wish to paint on newspaper. Apply a coat of spray primer making sure that the pieces are completely coated. Once dry flip the pieces over and spray any uncoated areas. The primer will help cover imperfections and allow the paint to better adhere to the surfaces.
Once the primer is applied and dry, spary paint the various pieces the appropriate color. In my case the egg was painted gloss black. Satan, the base and trim work were painted silver. Make sure that you get the pieces covered completely.
Step 11: Detail Painting
With the spray painting done it is time to perform the detail painting. Dante was specific about the colors of Satan's three faces. Red, black and yellow. Since we are covering small areas using spray paint would be a challenge so I went with acrylic paint and the small type of paint brush hobbyists use to paint models and miniatures.
It will take several coats of paint to get complete coverage. The acrylic paint had difficulty adhereing to the spary paint. Be patient and let the paint dry completely between applications or you'll wipe away your previous efforts. Once I was done I noticed that faces dried with a flat finish. Later the egg will be covered with clear coat to seal it. This will make the flat finish glossy and jewel-like.
Next I tried a painting technique called washing to accentuate the low areas on the figure, trim and base. I dlitued black acrylic paint with water. I tried applying it with a brush and drenching the pieces by wringing the paint over them from saturated paper towels. I also tried several different ratios of paint to water. Eventually I was able to get an effect that I liked, but unfortunately didn't record what the best ratio was.
As for technique I found both brushing and drenching effective depending on the consistancy of the paint used. With the drenching technique I had to use cotton swabs to clean off paint lines that formed as the paint dried. I was trying for subtle darkening in certain areas so the piece appears to be aged metal, and not painted plastic, so I removed the prominent lines of dark paint.
Step 12: Blood, Tears and Epoxy
Dante's description of Satan describes how all three faces are crying. It also mentions that as each face is chewing the traitor in its mouth, copious amounts of blood are running over the chins of the faces.
I simulated the blood and tears using epoxy and food coloring. I mixed a small amount of epoxy with red food coloring to form blood. I repeated the process with a small amount of blue food coloring to form tears. I then used toothpicks to apply these mixtures to the mouth and eyes as appropriate.
I had some touble getting the food coloring and epoxy to mix. I'm not sure if it was the temprature in my work room or the ratio of dye to epoxy. Next time I think I will mix up a larger amount as I've used this technique effecively on larger scales before. I also plan to experiment with different types of applicators in the future to see if I can acheive better control.
Step 13: Lining the Egg
In order to get more intense light shining up around Satan I lined the area beneath the ice with reflective metal tape. To do this put the ice in place and note the level where it sits. Then remove the ice and cut small pieces of metallic tape and coat all of the area beneath the ice. When you are done use a utility knife to cut the tape away from the hole that was made for the LED.
Step 14: Assmbling the Egg
Now that the egg and components are completed it is time to assemble them. I used E-6000 to glue the egg together.
First put the ice in the bottom of the egg and run a bead of glue around the perimeter. Allow the glue to dry.
Next glue the bottom of Satan's torso to the ice and allow it to dry.
Looking at the bottom half of the egg you'll notice the upper edge has ridge that was used to hold the egg together in its former life. Use a toothpick to smear some glue along this ridge so it is covering an area slightly smaller than the modified top of the egg. When the glue is in place press the matching ridge on the top of the egg into the ridge on the bottom of the egg. Hold it until the glue sets up and then allow it to dry completely.
With the egg assembled we now need to apply the trim. Do this by applying a small amount of glue to the back of the bones with a toothpick. Then hold the bone in place. How many you can do at a time will depend on how thick the glue is and how quickly it sets up. You will have to do this in stages. Be careful not to knock pieces loose as you glue the next piece on. It is at this stage that you may need to cut and paint new trim pieces if your original trim configurations were off.
When the trim is in place decide on how you want the egg to be oriented on the base. Once you determine the orientation note the points of contact. Remove the egg and apply glue to these points, then replace the egg. Allow the glue to dry.
When the glue has dried completely spray paint it with a covering of clear coat. This will protect the egg, give it a glossy finish and help hold everything together.
Once you've sealed the egg with clear coat insert the LED into the bottom of the egg. (See the next step for LED circuit construction).
Step 15: Let There Be Light!
With the egg assembled it is time to add the LED. I chose to use a blue LED since most people associate the color blue with being cold. So it is perfect for reinforcing the idea that Satan is imprisoned in ice.
This is a simple circuit using a 3 volt LED, a switch, and a battery holder installed in a plastic box.
The first step is to lay out where you want the components such as the battery holder and switch within the case. Next identify and mark the locations where the wires will exit the case and where the switch will be mounted. Tracing around the switch is the best way to get an accurate outline.
With the locations marked use a drill to make a hole for the wires to exit the case and to remove the majority of the material from where the switch will be mounted. Use a small file to remove the remainder to the material from the switch hole. Remove small amounts of material at a time to make a snug fit for the switch. Remove any excess material from around the holes with a utility knife.
Strip the ends of the wires then thread the wires of the switch into the box through the mounting hole. Place the battery holder in the box. Use the lid of the box to hold the black wire from the battery holder and the red wire from the switch in place. Twist the stripped ends together, coat it with flux, and then solder the connection. Then glue the switch and battery holder in place. Once the glue has dried pass the remaining wires out of the hole. Solder on more wire if needed.
In order to get the LED to fit on the underside of the egg either trim the leads or bend them. With this done solder the appropriate wire to the apporpriate lead on the LED. Then cover all the connections with electrical tape.