Monday, June 30, 2014

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Henderson Edition.

Fox Henderson returns to our pages with this Norse Cthulhu idol.  Click through to take a look at the high resolution version.  The finish is just outstanding. 

Sunday, June 29, 2014


Juan Carlos Porcel at Elder Props is on a roll.  He not only brings us the very cool Necrofonticon fantasy font, but his hand-drawn recreations of the Necronomicon artwork from the Evil Dead reboot.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Vampire Killing Kit, Christie's, London

Kudos to Christie's London for their honesty in the catalog listing for this vampire killing kit:


19th Century box with later additions

Containing crucifix and four stakes, Bible from 1873, European single- barrel percusion-box lock pocket pistol, iron-mounted shot flask, bullet mould, syringe, photograph of a priest, four vials and another crucifix, all of various dates from the nineteenth to late twentieth centuries.
 To clarify the contents of the box were assembled in the second half of the 20th century.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Shellbug Helmet

Swedish artist Peter Larsson brings us this recreation of the Shellbug Helmet from Skyrim

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Monolith of Cthulhu

Laboratorio FX brings us this full sized Cthulhu monolith from the upcoming Spanish film "Sandra Munt". 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Elder Props Edition.

Elder Props is a new Lovecraftian props blog that I'm looking forward to seeing more from.  They kick things off with a look at the design, sculpting, and casting of this nifty little Cthulhu idol.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Crass Commercialism

The Tillinghast worm from last week is now available on Ebay.  Contrary to some rumors being passed around, there's very little risk of it reanimating. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Mermaid Post-Mortem

I've spent most of the week gushing about the FeeJee mermaid project from Dan Baines, but there were a couple of techniques he used I wanted to highlight.  The first is using parchment paper with spray tints and varnish to create the creature's fins.

He starts the process in the second installment and wraps it up with final installation in the fourth.   It's a brilliant idea for recreating the look of the translucent membranes found in living creatures.   You can create a similar effect using thin sheets of latex, but they have the disadvantage of breaking down over time unless they're sealed up with a protective coating.  There's also tissue paper soaked with white glue.  The big disadvantage there is that it's incredibly delicate when the paper is first wetted.  What with it being,  you know, wet tissue paper and all.  If you have the patience and a delicate touch it can also produce some wonderfully curved surfaces reminiscent of shells and bone.  The paper will naturally fall into a catenary curve, giving it some impressive strength when dry.

 I also wanted to touch on Mr. Baines theming.  The mermaid itself is, of course, the highlight of the display, but he kicks it up a few notches with some incredibly thorough accessories in the fifth installment

Mermaid figurines, signage, newspaper clipping, photograph, a brass compass and bosuns whistle...they all help to reinforce the imagery and history behind the mermaid.  That's on top of the excellent basing that not only provides a physically strong support for the mermaid, but gives it a dash of Victorian pretentiousness.  Using spray tint to age the baize is another thing I'm going to be shamelessly stealing.

Lastly, I'm going to backtrack to the third installment and his use of fossilized shark's teeth.

They're pretty much perfect for the task, what with already being teeth and all.  It's pretty amazing that you can literally buy gallons of teeth for a pittance from a creature that died millions of years ago.

One alternative I'd suggest is dentalium, or tooth, sea shells.  As the name suggests, they look like teeth.  Specifically, the long needle-like teeth frequently found in deep sea creatures.  Here's a handful from a bag holding about a thousand I picked up for only $5.

Like all organic materials they have the wonderful quality of being the same, but different.  The  minor variations in size and coloration go a long way toward convincing the viewer that they're a natural part of a creature.  And the shape makes them perfect for doubling as teeth or protective spikes.  In their raw form they can be a bit delicate, but I've found a squirt of hot glue into the hollow interior makes them almost indestructible.

In closing, I want to thank Mr. Baines once again for sharing his work.  He's the first professional gaff maker to do so that I know of. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Wrapping It Up

Dan Baines has posted the fourth and fifth entries in his FeeJee mermaid build.  It's glorious.

I'm pressed for time this morning, so I'll update this post later with some more thoughts.  One thing I did want to discuss is the nature of "classic" gaffs.  I've had a few email discussions about Mr. Baines' project with folks puzzled that the mermaid looks odd.  That's entirely intentional, and true to the original ones from the 19th and early 20th century.

Back then the upper body of a monkey grafted to a large fish was a wonder and an amazement.  It's an aesthetic that defines a classic FeeJee mermaid.  A modern version would likely make a few tweaks to the plausibility of the gaff by replacing the lower body from a fish with one patterned after marine mammals like a seal or a killer whale.  Different audience, different aesthetic.

One of the interesting things about the history of gaffs is that there was a quite intentional split between realistic creations and more stylized, almost "cartoony" ones.  It was brought about thanks to a cultural backlash against the whole idea of displaying oddities.  Well meaning folks found it distasteful that both living and dead "freaks" would be exhibited for the amusement of the masses.  That lead to a variety of local ordinances against obscene and disturbing performances.  Exhibitors responded by either recasting their exhibits as scientific curiosities, embracing the realistic approach, or making them intentionally ridiculous.  

One path gives us the Minnesota Iceman, crafted by Hollywood special effects experts.   With a museum-style display it had the defense of "historical or scientific value" against any kind of obscenity charge some small town lawman could throw at it.  The other path leads to "classic" style gaffs that are obvious fakes.  Doug Higley's work is a good example of the latter approach taken into the modern era.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Cthulhu Cultist Medallion

Jason McKittrick brings us the perfect way to display your loyalty to Great Cthulhu.  These cultist medallions are available in two different finishes, “Arkham Alloy” and “R’lyean Stone”.  It's a beautifully stylized sculpt.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

State of the Art

CoastConFan has a roundup of information about the art and artifice of vampire killing kits.  It's a great introduction to the subject for anyone interested in their history.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

More Mermaid

Be sure to check out the second and third installment of the FeeJee mermaid build log from Dan Baines.  It's a masterclass for anyone even remotely interested in creating gaffs. 

There are a lot of techniques in play I want to talk about when I have more time this weekend.  For now I'm enjoying seeing the project unfold.  The entire process is confirmation of something he wrote in his first post:

Not enough people in the prop building community share their ideas which is a shame. Some people guard their techniques like Smaug sat on his hoard of Dwarven gold. If we don’t share then our precious methods die with us. As Adam Savage mentioned at MakerFaire 2014 – no secrets!
In his own wise words -

"nobody is going to take your technique and then steal your ideas, nobody has a monopoly on being you and if you think that your technique is what makes you interesting you’re being ridiculous, so share your techniques! When you share an idea, somebody may come back to you with a better way of doing it and you’re going to learn something from them and develop your own techniques even further."

So, I’m going to cover what I do right here. If you want to try it for yourself and go for it, if you know a better way of doing something let me know! Either way sharing, experimenting and learning is what prop building is all about, so through my blogs and workshops I hope to promote that way of thinking.

From Beyond

 Another Tillinghast specimen.  This cuddly little critter was inspired by a thread at the RPF involving  a gaff by Dr. Takeshi Yamada.  More specifically, what he used to craft the body of his Mongolian Death Worm.

I wish I could credit my extensive education with recognizing what it is, but the truth is far more pedestrian.  I lived in coastal Massachusetts for a few years and frequently encountered these while beachcombing.  It's the egg case of a whelk.

They're an amazing piece of natural engineering.  Each casing contains dozens of separate compartments where the juvenile whelks mature before escaping into the sea.  The resulting texture is a perfect body form for a worm-like creature gaff.  Add an interesting head and sweet, sweet ickiness ensues.

Here's my take.  I picked up the egg casing from Ebay.  They're a popular element for beach-themed design pieces and pop up pretty frequently.

I'm really happy with how this came out.  As I mentioned a while ago, I've developed a sensitivity to Apoxie Sculpt epoxy putty that forces me to wear gloves and use tools for any kind of sculpting.  Frankly, it's the best thing that ever happened to me.  I'm not sure why, but my sculpting ability has taken a huge leap.

Here's a closeup of the mouth.  The five inner teeth are patterned after a squid's beak and alternate with the external grasping pincers.  The claws are...claws.  Coyote claws, specifically.  The entire head structure was sculpted over an armature made from bamboo.  Once I had the basic form I just started adding layer after layer of texture to duplicate the look of a partially decomposed creature.  

Once the head was finished I gave it an ivory base coat and used epoxy to attach it to the egg casing.

After that I applied a torn, ripped layer of tissue paper to the body with white glue to recreate the look of damaged skin.  More glue and some loose plant fibers helped blend the join between the sculpted head and the body.  The entire creature was lightly drybrushed with white to bring out surface highlights and then washed down with brown ink.  The final finish comes from a coat of my beloved shellac. 

One of the cool things about the egg casing is it's translucency.  It's a very convincing double for a segmented, cartilaginous skeleton.  I tore the skin away in sections to take advantage of that awesome internal structure and let the viewer see light shining through the segments. 

Just right click on any of the pictures to open up the high resolution versions in another tab.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Making a Mermaid

Professional propmaker Dan Baines is spending this week creating a classic-style FeeJee Mermaid.  More importantly, he's providing a detailed build log of every step in the process. 

I wanted my mermaid to be true to the original size which is about half a metre in length, I also had to consider mounting options at I did not have a display case or dome in stock.

The mermaid is built around an 18” medical skeleton model, a resin cast of a human infant skull and tail made from armature wire, tin foil and air dry clay.


In the past I have had to source real magpie or crow feet to obtain claws for fingers. Thankfully I can now just 3D print a bird’s foot, claws n’all without harming a single creature. I use the Up Plus 2 printer and using black ABS filament I printed 4 sets of Osprey feet. To get the shiny claw finish I brushed each foot with pure acetone. This also smooths out any imperfections and bumps let over from the printing process.

Mr. Baines deserves a great deal of credit for this project. Gaff making has traditionally been incredibly insular, with artists jealously guarding their techniques and materials.  His willingness to share his knowledge is truly admirable.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Innsmouth Taint

Professional makeup artist Joel Harlow brings us this denizen of Innsmouth.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Stevens Vampire Killing Kit

Another vampire killing kit recovered from an online auction site. What's interesting about this one is that it has a number of features I've seen repeated in other kits, in particular the distinctive visual style of the labels and contents list and the type of percussion pistol. That leads me to believe this and similar kits are the work of a single artist working somewhere in the Atlanta area.

Take note of the sharpness of the graphics, pointing to their origin on a modern desktop printer.  The color mismatch between the velvet in the upper tray (red) and the lower (green) seems like a significant oversight.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Dunwich Horror

Jason McKittrick returns with another limited run project.  This time it's the titular Whately brother from "The Dunwich Horror".   The piece is available for only 72 hours starting this morning. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Onychuk Edition.

 Greg Onychuk brings us this excellent Cthulhu idol.  I really like how the unpainted resin cast mimics the look of polished marble.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Tóbal Edition.

It's turning into quite the week for outstanding prop collections.  Tóbal brings us this Mayan Cthulhu idol, which comes complete with a variety of prop documents.  That second photograph is just perfect.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

"The Case of Charles Dexter Ward" Comes to Life

Dale Bigford brings us this amazing prop collection based on H.P. Lovecraft's "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward".  He's certainly not the first to tackle this story, but the sheer size and thoroughness of his work puts it in a class by itself.  He's broken the project up into three separate entries covering an overview of the collection's history, a closer look at the physical components, and a rundown of the included paperwork and ephemera. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Preserved Shrunken Head

Artist Tom Kuebler brings us this incredibly detailed tsanta.  The base sculpt features some well done texture work, but it's the punched hair that really makes the piece. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Mater Draconem

Mille Cuirs returns to our pages with the Mater Draconem, a conjectural tome from "Game of Thrones".   The leather work and Targaryen seal are amazing.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Red Baron Vampire Killing Kit

Red Baron Antiques brings us this interesting vampire killing kit.  It's filled with a whole lot of stuff, which actually works to its detriment.  The assembled items are a bit too disjointed and it seems like there's a lot of filler pieces.  After all, how many different styles of crucifix do you need?  That said, I'm happy to see they're not trying to pass it off as "authentic".