Yarn and Hot Melt Glue Mask

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Introduction: Yarn and Hot Melt Glue Mask

About: I'm a refugee from Los Angeles, living in backwoods Puerto Rico for about 35 years now and loving it. I built my own home from discarded nylon fishnet and cement.

This is a new technique for making custom fitting masks out of hot melt glue and yarn.  The base is a head form the same size as my head, to make sure my head later fits into the mask.  (The base itself will be another instructable.)  Over the basic head form I sculpted clay to make the form of the mask.  

You can get a layer of hot melt glue and yarn to cover the clay, but it doesn't stick well to the clay.  When finished, it is easy to remove because of that.  The inside of the mask just had a little clay dust stuck to it, which washed off easily with water.  

This kind of mask material is tough, leathery, and more damage resistant than paper mache.  It is very light-weight and comfortable.  To get the mask off the clay mold and over my own head, I made a couple of cuts behind the ears, which allow the mask to flex open.  It then just springs closes over my head and stays in place pretty well.   This material should have very good longevity, which is good, because laying on the yarn is pretty time consuming.  

Step 1: Sculpting the Clay

This is the head mold.  It was made by covering my head with nylon panty hose, like a bank robber, and covering it with two layers of metallic tape, like sticky aluminum foil (available in auto part stores).   I was then cut out of the tape, the panty hose layer was removed, and the shell coated inside with a layer of plaster of Paris.  When that was strong, I filled the rest of the cavity with grout and Styrofoam chunks, to cut down on weight and mounted it on a PVC pipe neck and base.  The end result is a solid shape that resists pressure while sculpting the clay over it.  

After sculpting the clay, you can see some of the first yarn going on.  

Step 2: Yarn Application

The yarn is glued down in swirling patterns over the surface of the clay.   After the yarn first goes down, the surface is not very smooth.  I go over it with a special hot smoothing tool I made out of a soldering iron.  The copper tip was hammered flat, something like a hot spatula.  At full voltage, the soldering iron gets too hot and burns the glue, so I use a voltage regulator to lower the voltage to about 60 volts.   That way, it melts and smooths, but does not burn the glue.  

The yarn colors change, darkening when saturated with glue.  Usually, there is enough glue used in sticking down the yarn to also saturate the yarn in the flattening procedure.   You can always add more glue if the yarn is too dry.  

When finished, the surface is shinier than the original yarn surface, flatter, and easier to keep clean.  For those who object to the shiny surface, one could probably just spray the finished mask with matte spray varnish, available at art stores.  

Step 3: Shots of the Finished Mask

These are just some shots of the finished mask from various angles.  

In the process of removing it from the clay inside, I made a couple of cuts up the neck behind the ears.  The complicated forms are not much of a problem to remove, because the clay can be flexed and broken off of the head mold while still inside the mask shell.  The head mold itself has no complicated details that the yarn layer would lock onto.   Therefore, even if the yarn layer sticks to protruding clay forms, such as the horn-like shapes over the eyes, the clay breaks off and can be removed from the inside of the shell after everything comes off the simpler head mold shape.   

You can always use more cuts to remove things, if need be, and patch with more glue later.  

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    58 Discussions

    Have you tried using a heat gun to smooth out the glue? I see this as a great way to make a Day of the Dead mask, and maybe other costume parts.

    1 reply

    A heat gun would not flatten the yarn surface. To make a smoother surface, I go over it (while it is still on the clay) with a heat controlled soldering iron. I forged the tip flat with a hammer. The soldering iron needs to be heat controlled so as to not be too hot and burn the glue.

    I use regular water-base sculpture clay. The hot melt glue lifts off the top layer of clay dust so the mask comes off the clay easily.

    I see out the eyes. The eyes are sort of a lacy design of yarn with lots of holes in it. It's like looking through a screen. The holes were cleaned up with the tip of a small soldering iron with a voltage regulator for temperature control. The same tool is used for cleaning up the ventilation holes scattered over the head.

    My brother calls this me....

    This is cool.... And a little creepy. But I like it.

    This is awesome, i love it. And my guess is that its not even such difficult project to do, even kids could do it. Maybe with supervision off course, but it could be done. Im going to show this to some friends of mine who like doing these kinds o things a lot. Maybe i'm going to try this out myself even. Keep it up!

    1 reply

    Yep, kids could do it, I'm sure. In a way, it's kind of like 3-d printing.

    This is absolutely gorgeous. I love the patterning and the vivid colors. I can see so many potential applications for this technique beyond masks... i.e. puppets or props Thanks for the instructable.

    1 reply

    Friends and I did a shadow puppet show recently. The colored yarn shapes we made cast colored shadows when they touched the screen -- a cool effect.

    This is so fantastic! I really love unique creations like this! LOVE LOVE LOVE IT!

    Brilliant job sir! I'm going to try and do a tiki mask or voodoo priest but I may have a question or two on the journey! I hope you don't mind.

    1 reply

    This looks great, a true masterpiece full of talent and patience. I'm just wondering, how do you see through it, since the eyes seem filled too?