Saturday, May 31, 2014

Dowsing Pendulum

James Ewing returns to our pages with the Wildwood Dowsing Pendulum.  It features cast bronze metalwork and a central crystal of nuummite.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Dragon Skeleton

Artist Cecilia Arnqvist brings us this mounted dragon skeleton.  Each bone is individually sculpted and cast.

Thursday, May 29, 2014


Bill Doran brings us a useful tutorial on crafting with foam.  Foam has become a go-to material for costume work thanks to its low cost and ease of use.  Mr. Doran demonstrates just how useful it is, including a technique for producing seamless joins.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Amber Elder Signs

Mech-han brings us these nifty etched amber Elder Sign amulets.  He's also the first artist from China that we've had the pleasure of featuring here at Propnomicon.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Cthulhu Tablet

CopperCentipede brings us this unusual fragment of a larger tablet depicting Cthulhu.  It's a resin cast of an original piece etched into plaster.

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Devil Dog, Being a Tale of Manufactured History

Dr. Beachcomber brings as an intriguing look at how a mildly interesting archeological find, a large dog, was turned into a legendary beast.

Shuck (aka shock) was a demonic hound that haunted much of East Anglia in the early modern period: and in the absence of satisfactory ancient and medieval records may have been running around with blazing red saucer sized eyes, since the time when the druids were the new kids on the Neolithic block. However, in the last days there has been a striking announcement made to the effect that shuck has been dug up. Now just savour that news for a moment. Archaeologists saying that they’ve dug up shuck (see picture) is a bit like a sociologist saying he has interviewed the lost boys or a historian saying he’s working in the archives of Never Never land. So what on earth is going on here?
 This has more to do with props than you might think.  The excavation in question was able to take a relatively mundane object, a dog's skeleton, and turn it into something far more by linking it to an existing backstory.  As the article points out their motivation was a desire for more funding, and it's a good bet they've wildly succeeded on that count.    To paraphrase Mayor Vaughn in "Jaws": You say "dog bones" and everyone goes "Huh?"  Yell "body of the infamous Anglian devil dog" and you've got yourself a circus.

How does that relate to our interests?  Consider a mummified hand, a relatively common gaff.  Once you've given it a nice presentation box it's functionally the same as dozens of similar items.  That's when you take it to the next level with some history.  Head on over to the New York Times archive and enter "mummified hand" in the search box, pick a range of years from well before the modern era, and...instant backstory.

Now your hand is a true oddity dating back to March 26, 1913.

This is the baseline document that establishes the history of the gaff.  If we want to take the process farther we can pick out keywords and see if they lead to anything interesting.  Lets try doing a Google search for "mummy" and "dr. durville" and see if anything interesting comes up.

Well, what do you know.  Dr. Durville's bizarre mummification work was featured in "The Mysteries of Hypnosis" by Georges De Dubor in 1922.  And it turns out his name is actually Gaston Durville.  That error in the original article is something we may want to exploit later.  Here's the relevant passage from the book:

My friends, we've hit the jackpot.  We can keep following the Durville/mummification thread, or see where any of the other names mentioned in either the newspaper article of the book excerpt leads us.  For most gaffs these two bits of print material are more than enough to give it a convincing history.  But if you're willing to research a bit more about Dr. Durville you'll discover he was a true mad scientist.  Seances, fringe experiments, nudism, movie producer...he's a dream come true.

What's great about this faux-history approach is how it only takes a few minutes to make a simple prop a real part of history.  You're tying into an already existing body of information that would be impossible to recreate from scratch.  Best of all, that treasure trove of history is just the beginning.

What if there was more to Dr. Durville's experiments than what was published?  Perhaps the unfortunate donor of the original hand just up and vanished from the morgue.  Did the bizarre magnetic treatment applied to his disembodied digits somehow "leak" to the rest of his body?  Is it possible the link between his hand and the rest of his body revitalized his dead tissues?  Does he still walk the earth to this day, searching for that missing body part?  That may explain the lead lining that was added to the hand's box sometime in the past...and the fact that such a valuable historic artifact is once again for sale.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Did you know you can have an allergic reaction to epoxy putty?  Neither did I, until about an hour ago.  I'm not sure if I'm totally sensitized, but I have a nasty rash all over my hands. 

The really galling thing is that I'm actually getting halfway good.  Well, maybe not "good", but I was definitely within striking distance of the "not totally awful" level of ability.

The Star Stones

Jason McKittrick brings us another artifact from the infamous Starkweather-Moore Antarctic expedition- a Star Stone collected from the Elder Thing city.  It's available for only one week at his Cryptocurium website.  It's not only an interesting artifact, but some say it has considerable protective powers against Mythos creatures.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Amulet of Shub Niggurath

S.D. Williams brings us a token from the Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young.  For some reason the first thing I thought of was a young couple dejectedly walking out of a fertility clinic when a kindly old man offers them something "that might help".  Icky-ness ensues.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Ogdru Jahad Amulet

Skelton Crew Studios brings us their latest discovery inside the BPRD archives- the Ogdru Jahad amulet.  As always, they've done a bang-up job of recreating the original design, and the presentation is impeccable.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Wrath of Osiris

PropMovieStudios brings us one of the more obscure props to appear here.  They've recreated the Osiran blowpipe from "Young Sherlock Holmes", a movie that to this day I find unaccountably scary. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Mongolian Death Worm

I've said before that 3-D printing is the future of both professional and amateur propmaking.  Here's a small example of what's possible with existing technology.  Brian Richardson brings us the remains of the infamous Mongolian Death Worm.  The skeleton is actually a digital file printed out on demand by Shapeways. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

On the Beach

Alonevil brings us this curious creature found washed up upon the shore.  It's easy to discount the existence of monstrous creatures today, but there are reliable historic accounts of some absolutely gigantic animals.  Things like cod fish the size of a man and lobsters measured in feet, not inches.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Blade of Woe

Folkenstal returns to our pages with another masterful Skyrim prop.  This time it's the Blade of Woe.  Browse through his gallery for some beautiful shots of his collection.  There's a real gift for presentation on display.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Inhuman War

The second piece in Jason McKittrick's Starkweather-Moore expedition series is now available.  This plaque depicts the Elder Things struggling against the rebellious shoggoths.  It's a beautiful sculpt, capturing the kind of stylized "last stand" posing seen in commemorative friezes.   The effectiveness of the sculpt is all the more impressive given that both the protagonists and antagonists are alien creatures.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Bones

Andy Alford brings us a fossil specimen that mainstream science refuses to recognize.  For too long the so-called experts have denied that some branches of the hominids took quite a different evolutionary path.

Thursday, May 15, 2014


Klaire Delys brings us a handy tutorial on creating a maggot infestation makeup.  For some reason I find it inordinately amusing when YouTube makeup girls turn to horror effects.  The contrast between their chipper, upbeat personalities and the gruesome details of the makeup always makes me smile.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Necronomicon, Harlow Edition

Professional artist Joel Harlow brings us this stunning interpretation of the Necronomicon.  It's a nice change of pace from the typical human face approach.  As much as I love the "Evil Dead" films I think it's time to retire that particular take on the Necronomicon.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

H.R. Giger Has Died

One of the most influential artists in the history of props and production designed has passed.  The AP has details on the death of H.R. Giger.  He's most famous for designing the xenomorphs in Ridley Scott's film "Alien", but his influence goes far beyond that single film.  His biomechanical art style has become one of the go-to visual themes in science fiction and horror. 

The Larval Form

The Schlitzie was kind enough to send over a link to this cool little project from artist Josh Hardie.  The sculpt is awesome, but the real genius of this piece is using clear rubber to suspend the resin figure inside the bottle.

Monday, May 12, 2014

From Beyond

We dip our hands into extra-dimensional space once again and pull out this vicious little monstrosity. 

This Tillinghast specimen builds on the previous incarnations.  In a callout to deep sea worms I've added a more visible spinal structure and some sub-cutaneous armor plates running along the length of the body. 

I've refined the mouth structure a bit, better defining the musculature holding the mandibles and adding a pair of bony internal plates.  The outer mouth is based on the secondary jaws of the goblin shark, but I think the next iteration is going to have a more conventional jaw structure.  I want to get the mouth wide enough that I can add some squicky detail to the interior.

One of the reasons I write up these narratives is to encourage you to give sculpting a try.  The most effective way to overcome a lack of natural talent is to just do it.  Your first project is going to suck.  Your second will suck a little less, and if you keep at it you'll steadily improve until you don't suck anymore.  The key is to keep plugging away at it.  I'm nowhere near artists like Simon Lee or Jordu Schell, but I'm a hell of a lot better than I was two years ago. Most of that improvement has come since the start of this year when I started working on one project a week. A few more weeks and I should graduate from "Meh" to "adequate". Heh.

If you like this project it just happens to be available on Ebay.  Or, even better, you could pick up some polymer clay from the craft store and try making one of your own.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The War Before Time

One of the problematic aspects of Lovecraft's "At the Mountains of Madness" is the info-dump of the history of the Elder Things and their war with the shoggoths.  Read as written, millions of years of the tale are conveyed by the bas-relief carvings that line the ancient buildings of the Elder Thing city.  The sheer detail conveyed is staggering and, frankly, unbelievable.  That is, unless, you assume that the strange technologies of the tentacled beings that called the city home allowed more than just visual information to be encoded into a sculpture.

Jason McKittrick has taken on the formidable task of recreating some of those sculpted images and I think he's outdone himself.  For the month of May he's offering up three artifacts collected by the Starkweather-Moore expedition.  Each is a short run project available for just one week, and he begins with the "Advent of the Shoggoth" plaque. 

It's available in a presentation shadowbox that does a handy job of re-creating the look of a museum display piece.

It's a fantastic sculpt, and a well thought out introduction to the two pieces that will be available later this month. Just click through for a preview of those works.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

This Man is Saving Lives

The Wood Whisperer shows us how to turn a vampire killing stake on a lathe. Note the narrow tip and long, slender shaft.*

Beyond the attraction of taking the "Fat Stakes Kill Vampire Hunters" joke as far as it can possibly go this is actually a really great tutorial on making a stake.  Even if  you don't have a lathe there's a good chance you know someone who does.  Woodworkers are addicted to the fumes from lumber, so it's likely they'd love to help feed your prop addiction assist in your vampire suppression efforts.

*Don't go there, people. Just because I throw you a softball doesn't mean you have to take a swing at it. Heh.

Friday, May 9, 2014

High Stakes

Perry and Co. of Pittsburgh is a custom woodworking shop that just happens to offer custom lathed vampire killing stakes.  How cool is that?  They have a couple of different models available, but I want to focus on this one because it demonstrates one of my pet peeves- vampire killing stakes that can't kill anything.

I know this is pretty neckbeardy, but real stakes need to have a sharp point and a narrow shaft in order to slip between the ribs.  A point this broad is going to slip along the rib bones and become imbedded in the muscle tissue along the side of the chest.  Unless you're a professional blacksmith with incredibly developed arms you're simply not going to be able to pound a stake like this into a vampire's heart with a wooden mallet.  A five pound sledge might do it, but the point is still going to skitter across the bone.

Of course, there is a perfectly logical explanation for all these chunky vampire killing stakes- they're traps.  For decades actual vampires have been using enthralled humans to produce the kits, safe in the knowledge that the stakes are too blunt to actually harm them.  Ernst Blomberg?  One of the greatest traitors to humanity in the long, sad history of our battles against supernatural forces. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Rottenz Edition.

Rottenz brings us this bronze-finish Cthulhu idol.  I like how this sculpt straddles a straight interpretive approach with a more stylized, Mignola-esque take.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Book of the Black Skull

Mille Cuirs returns to our pages with the Book of the Black Skull.  The cover of the hand-crafted tome is molded in leather.  It's reminiscent of some old work by Jason Soles.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Dawnguard Helmet

2StoryProps brings us this amazing reproduction of a Dawnguard helmet from Skyrim.  Check out the full gallery at their Facebook page.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Preserved Dragon's Egg

We bring to you today a preserved egg of the Northern Armored Drake (Dracorexus loricatus), one of the more elusive species of dragonkind.  Just right click on any of the photos below to open up the super-sized version in another tab.

This was a fun little project. The egg itself started life as an Easter toy. After epoxying the seam I injected it with expanding foam to give it a nice, solid feel. As much as I like "Game of Thrones" I absolutely hated the scaled texture treatment they gave their dragon eggs. I wanted something leathery studded with bony protrusions. After sanding down the plastic to give it some tooth I applied the first layer of skin with paper clay. The leathery texture was a simple matter of mixing up the paper clay slightly wet, waiting for a "skin" to form while it dried, and then pushing and prodding it to get those nice organic folds.

While the paper clay was still moist I applied the armor studs. They're shells, more precisely the shells of Patelloida Lottiidae, the star limpet.  I wish I could take credit for the idea of detailing gaffs with seashells, but it's actually an old technique I stumbled across.  Once the skin was dry I added some more texture using paperclay and then gave the whole thing a once over with shellac.

Have I mentioned how much I love shellac?  It not only provides a warm, aged finish, but it's amazingly tough stuff.  Back before the invention of things like polyurethane and acrylic it was the the go-to sealant for gaff makers working in paper mache.

Once the egg was finished I needed a suitable container.  This started life as a box for bath salts painted with the most insipid faux-Chinese imagery imaginable.  While they skimped on the art design they invested heavily in getting the toughest, most solvent resistant paint imaginable.  I tried sanding it off, but the paint had actually seeped into the unsealed wood.  After removing as much as I could I taped off the panels and sponged it with a mix of red, dark brown, and metallic copper acrylic.  I followed that with a coat of stain.

With the terrible paint job fixed it was time to tackle the cheap hardware.  The original fittings were bargain basement brass-plated steel.   I replaced them with leather strapping attached with copper studs.  The "dragon tooth" catch is an antler tip that got the once over with a Dremel carving bit to roughen it up.

The final step was buffing down the box and hardware with Schmutz.  That's my standby mixture of furniture wax, burnt umber oil paint, and ground up pastel chalks.  It fills up any indentations with grime and produces a warm patina on any flat surfaces.  Take a look at the large versions of the pics to see how it brings out the grain and every imperfection.

If you like this piece it just happens to be available on Ebay

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Quick and Dirty Wound Makeup

Cassie7 at the Halloween Forum brings us a tutorial on creating wounds using liquid latex, oatmeal, and craft paint.   Beyond the fact that it uses easily available off-the-shelf materials it's also fast.  With a blow dryer to speed drying something like this can be completed in just minutes.   It's also a great base technique that can be customized depending on your needs.  Change the color scheme from black/red to green/yellow and you have icky pustules.  Then add some maggots to really take it over the top.

Oh, and none of this applies if your subject has latex sensitivity.  In that case they'll go into anaphylactic shock, swell up like a balloon, and die.  A cool effect, to be sure, but you can only really do it once.  So make it count!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Rosewood and Ebony Vampire Killing Kit

This vampire killing kit comes to us via the February 29, 2012 "Fine and Decorative Arts Auction" at Dallas Auction Gallery. It's a beautiful piece of work that incorporates a goodly amount of custom fabrication and excellent component selection. From the auction description:

Cased vampire killing kit, in a rosewood and ebony case with inlaid silver stringing and mother-of-pearl inlaid plaque. Contents include a black powder percussion 2-barrel pistol, a powder horn and bullet mold, bone handled dagger with crucifix, three small crucifixes, mallet and two wooden stakes, book of common prayer, two small framed portraits of Jesus, holy water and four glass vials with crystals. 4"H x 16"W x 9.75"D, Circa - 19th C.

Circa 19th century? Really? Then I read the auction terms.

TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF SALE 1. All items are sold "AS IS, WHERE IS" with all faults. There are no warranties or representations of merchantability, of fitness, nor of any other kind, express or implied. All items are available for your examination prior to bidding. Written and oral descriptions are our opinions and should in no way be construed as a guarantee of any kind as to authenticity, age, condition, materials or any other feature of items being sold.

I suppose that lets them off the hook, but I'd still prefer a more creatively worded description that doesn't assert a definitive provenance. Remember kids, all vampire hunting kits are fake. They're wonderful examples of artistry and craftsmanship, but every single one dates from the modern era.

My apologies for the wall o' pics. One never knows when the auction catalog will be pulled down and I like to keep a record of notable kits.