Cast Plaster Hand Mounted to Wall Holds Item for Display.




Four years went by before we--Katherine, really--came up with the right method for displaying this hay rake in our very old former-farm house.

The effect is of a hand that's emerging from the wall to hold the item. It's simple and sculptural, and while the approach was perfect for this item, one should be able to use a similar approach for a range of other items.

This also serves as something of a keepsake since the hand cast is that of my dad, which is also fitting since he grew up on a farm, as did generations before.

The challenges were (1) casting it such that the hole matched the one needed to hold the rake, and (2) attaching the plaster hand to the wall in a way that revealed no hooks or other fasteners.

The materials are inexpensive and readily available. The mounting method was very "invasive," but it produced the effect desired. (We also don't plan on taking this down until we move.)

The rake is not affected, which was one of the requirements we had at the outset.

And truth-be-told, we didn't realize that the slope of the rake was just about the same as the slope of the ceiling until it was mounted.

Step 1: Cast the Plaster Hand, Unmold It, Clean It Up, and Seal It.

We used material from a local craft store that came in a bucket. Here's essentially the same thing from an online source.

My dad, whose hand we cast, held a piece of PVC in his hand. (Note that the angle, which was a guess, needed to be pretty close in order for an item of this size to be held without creating force that would pull the hand off the wall.)

After unmolding, it was easy to remove the PVC.

Following the directions that came with the casting material, we let it dry and then cleaned up the cast hand. This included filling some of the surface air holes with leftover casting material. We also sanded the surface with fine sandpaper in places to achieve a smooth surface.

We then spray painted it white (gloss) to ensure a uniform appearance and protect the soft plaster.

Step 2: The Rod and Hollow Wall Anchors Need to Match.

Here's where we're headed: A threaded rod is inserted into a hole drilled through the hand. The hole emerges at the inside of the palm. The threaded rod screws into a hollow wall anchor inserted into the wall. The hand is inserted onto the rod and held in place with a spacer and nut. The item, in this case a rake with a tapered handle, is inserted carefully.

As shown below, the threaded rod has to fit the hollow wall anchors, both in diameter and threads per inch. Labels on each make this straightforward; the items are available from hardware stores small and large.

Instructions on the box for the anchors explain attaching this to your wall. (Pick the place carefully; it will be there for a long while.)

The strews that come with the hollow wall anchors aren't used.

A hole is drilled in the hand using a very long bit. We used a 12" long 1/4" bit. That was longer than needed, but we had it on hand (so to speak) and the length made it easier to see if we were perpendicular to the base.

We were lucky because it ended up being close.

Step 3: Instert the Rod Into the Hollow Wall Anchor in the Wall

Put the rod into the chuck as you would a drill bit and make quick work of threading it into the hollow wall anchor.

Step 4: Place the Plaster Hand on the Rod and Attach It to the Rod.

Place the plaster hand on the rod and check the length of the rod. Minor adjustments can be made by screwing the rod further in or out of the wall.

Check the angle of the base (i.e., what's left of the arm) so that it fits snuggly against the wall. Sand it carefully if it needs adjustment.

Note that it's easy to repeatedly foul up the sanding, over correcting one way and then the other, and if you're not careful, ending up with a surface that is convex rather than flat.

It helps to use a large piece of sandpaper that's affixed to a flat surface, then sand carefully, ensuring that the finished surface is flat.

We took that approach and still ended up with something that was slightly off, as the second picture shows. Where we have it mounted most visitors will never have this side view.

To secure the hand to the rod and still allow room for the handle, a recessed area was carved out of the palm to hold a small hard nylon tube that I found in the small parts drawer in the fasteners aisle of the nearby home improvement store. (They may be labeled as "spacers.") This was used in order to provide a larger surface against which to tighten the small nut. (The shape of the palm made a traditional washer impractical.)

Note that the handle has a very slight taper. When we tested this with PVC, we realized that simply by slipping the rake into the hand from the top, with no other attachment than that offered by the pull of gravity, the taper was such that the hand would be in about the middle of the shaft when it "held" it.

Before we discovered this, we considered having to use various sizes of rubber washers or rubber bands around the shaft where you wanted it held. A worst case scenario would have been an invasive method, such as drilling a hole and inserting a small rod or nail perpendicular to the shaft that protruding on each side.

Step 5: The Finished Effect.

The finished effect is striking. We'd not seen it done elsewhere, and so wanted to share the idea with others.

Note that we've never removed the rake since putting this on the wall. If we did, I'm sure the rake would not be marred in any way. Also note that we have it in an area where it's never bumped or touched. Given that plaster is relatively soft, we assume that it wouldn't hold up to much use or abuse.

Good luck with your project.



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    15 Discussions


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the kind words. Not sure if the question was, "Don't you paint it?" or, "Don't you paint it skin color?" If it's the former, as I recall I did and used regular gloss white spray paint. If it's the latter, I chose white because I wanted something more like a George Segal sculpture than . . . well, something like a Halloween special effect, especially given the context. (And yes, to stay true to the Segal approach, I would have used a flat rather than gloss paint, but the gloss catches the light that streams in this room during the day and should make it easier to clean over time.) Hope you found the ideas in this instructable helpful.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I did not read that part where you said that you had painted it. I can't read English well, and it is common that my reading is rapid and shallow.

    rimar 2000 you do a very good job! I think it's admirable that you participate, even though english is not your first language. I have my TEFL (teaching english as a foreign language ) certificate; so if you ever feel you have any questions related to the english language, feel free to private message me.

    porcupinemamma, thanks for your kindness. I learned a little of English 3 years at secondary school, (1957-59), Then, my daily work in computation forced me to continue in contact with English. Almost all user's guide and programmer's guide they are in English. Nowadays, fortunately, there are many automatic translator that enable the communication. I like to learn languages, as English, Italian, French, Portuguese. Other Instructables's people who have helped me with my language doubts have been Kiteman, Phil B, nachomahma, and others. My wife wants to make a tourist trip to the USA, and I would not rule it out because in USA there are breathtaking natural beauty that I would like to know. But it is important to understand the language.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Rather eldritch, but a beautiful project and excellently documented! Well worth a Feature. I see that you uploaded all of your photos at once, at the beginning. This had the side effect of attaching them all to the Intro step. You might consider removing all but the "big picture" from the Intro just for clarity (they'll stay in place in their appropriate steps).

    2 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I can't thank you enough for explaining that as my instructable also suffered from the same confusion and I could not get an answer from the robot about it. I just went and fixed mine the way you describe and it worked.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you. It's the first one I've done/uploaded, and didn't realize the mistake until you pointed it out. I believe it's fixed now.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    This is really neat. I understand how you attached the hand to the wall, but how did you attach the rake to the hand? What keeps the handle from sliding right through the hand?

    1 reply

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    We were concerned about that, too, until we realized that there is a slight taper in the handle. When we tested this with PVC, we realized that simply by putting the rake in the hand, with no other attachment than that offered by the pull of gravity, the taper was such that the hand would be in about the middle of the shaft. Barring that, one invasive method would be to put a small rod perpendicular to the shaft and protruding on each side. Before doing that, however, one might try various sizes of rubber washers or rubber bands around the shaft where you would want it to be "held." Good luck with your project, and thanks for your question. I'll add some of this answer to the instruction text so it's clear for others.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Very nice. To save faffing about with spacers and nuts and drills, you could simply sink the threaded rod into the 'hand' compound as it sets, making the rod a permanent part of the hand. You would need something on the end to stop the rod sliding out of the set plaster, like a nut. It would make mounting a little more tedious, perhaps.

    1 reply

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    We thought of that, too, but didn't think it would be as strong as needed given the size and weight of the rake. If the rod was going into something stronger or if the hand was holding something a lot lighter, we'd have been less concerned. The other issue was ensuring that the hand was facing the right direction and that it was flush to the wall. In our case, the rod isn't exactly perpendicular to the base of the hand, so screwing it all the way in when the rod is already embedded, without flattening the base, might be challenging.