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How DO you make those Animal Costumes? (Fursuits)
Teeth, Claws and Hooves, Sculpey and Leather 
6th-Feb-2006 09:04 pm
Captain Slyboots
Here's the first half of a tutorial for making costume hooves using boiled leather, followed by a description of how I made a neat texture tool to make a fairly nice looking canine nose out of polymer clay, and then some pictures of some of my current projects. :)

To make boiled leather costume hooves: the steps I took...
First I gawked at my friend, scendan's, tutorial on boiled leather orc armor. Then I went and bought a bit of vegetable tanned, undyed leather at my local leathercrafting store. (Go, Tandy Leather Factory!) To figure out how much shrinkage there would be during boiling, I cut a tiny piece of leather and dropped it in my barely simmering pot of water, which I figured would be big enough to immerse my hoof cut outs later on. After taking the scrap out (after it changed color from water absorption but before it shrank too much.) I laid the scrap next to the leather in the same spot it had been cut out of to determine the shrinkage. It was approximately 75% of its former size. Doing a little math and undecided on how boiling would affect a larger piece of leather, I decided that I'd have to cut the leather approximately 25% to 33% bigger than my original pattern.

Determining the pattern:
First, I made a paper model of one hoof-half, modeled around the shoes I might wear with the hooves. Cutting it back apart and spreading it out over the leather, I drew the pattern 25% larger than the original paper pattern. I then cut the "hoof" out of the leather with an x-acto knife and then traced around THAT pattern onto more paper, so I'd have a resized pattern to work from on the other hoof halves. For the facing hoof-halves, I'd just turn the pattern over. (I labeled one side "one" and the other "two" so I'd know I had two of each.)

Boiling and results:
Following scendan's Orc-armor tutorial, I boiled the leather and, after taking it out of the water, shaped it with my hands for a while until it set. (if you hit it just right...not too long in the pot, not too hot, you can keep messing with it for a half-hour or so before it gets too firm. I used wooden cooking utensils to help shape it. And as you can see, by comparing the solidified hoof-half and the next leather cut-out, the shrinkage was about 25% to maybe 33%. Now if you leave the leather in the water too long, or if it's too hot, the leather shrinks a bit more and gets really dark. It also becomes very hard to work with, as while the length and width of the leather shorten, the girth of the material gets bigger. It also becomes somewhat brittle and smells HORRIBLE, and the tanning oils come out. It was dreadful when I did it. For size and color comparison, here's what an overboiled leather hoof half and a well-timed one look like next to each other. (the overboiled one is to the left) As you can see, it's a bit smaller and darker. It also still reeks somewhat like bad fish. XD

I've yet to make three more halves that I am happy with, and will likely modify the pattern so that there is less overlap of edges on the inner surface of the hooves.

My next hoof "tutorial" will cover dyeing and polishing with such things as boot shine versus saddle soap. And then the actual attaching of the hooves to some sort of shoe. (I hope for a sort of fur-covered sock/elastic thing that can be worn like spats over any shoe, and even over stocking feet.)

For this polymer nose, what I did was I took a leftover blob of super sculpey and made one end rounded and the other end sort of shaped like an icee straw. (So one end was concave with an edge on the top and the other end was convex like a marble. Then I took some of those rainbow-colored, almost perfectly round cupcake sprinkles, and jammed them into each end of the sculpey piece until it was completely plastered with half-submerged cupcake sprinkles. (Sorry, no pics of this step, you'll just have to take my word on it! XD) Then I took the sprinkle-ended, unbaked Sculpey Baton Of Nose Texturizing to the sink and ran hot water over it until the sprinkles melted. (And in case you're wondering, Sculpey does fine under hot water, if the water pressure's not too strong. In fact, you can boil it in order to cook it, but you wouldn't want to use the saucepan you used for food afterwards!) This is what it looked like after the sprinkles had melted! And then, I baked it!

While it was baking, I shaped a nose out of polymer clay, and sized to fit into the mask I was making. After the sculpey tool was baked and had cooled off, I pressed the new sculpey texturizer into the nose, using the rounded end for surfaces and the edged end for getting into nooks and crannies, pressing the tool into the clay to leave the sort of bumpy texture that is distinctive of most canine noses.

And now you can make your own! ;D (If you hadn't already, of course, you clever folks, you!)

The nose is for my coyote zombie costume. Here's the progress on the mask so far, which I'm making out of acrylicized paper mache over wireform gallery mesh because I am used to working with it.
The wireframe, with reference.
The dried paper-mche mask, separated to make a top and bottom jaw. This is so far the only way my mind will let me create a top-and-bottom-jaw that fit together while permitting me room for my head. What you see here is the skull-side, complete with nasal and sinus cavities. I'm pretty sure it'll be much more skull-like once it gets a little further on. For right now, where the wireform is exposed is where I'll be looking out of, and the mask's eyes will be above my own eyes. I'll be putting a finer black fabric mesh over that so's it's not as obvious and such. Hopefully you'll see all that later.
And HERE are the polymer teeth I've made to fit it! Gosh I hope this thing won't be too heavy! ;D

Also, here are three rows of claws. They go, from top to bottom, Bird-demon finger claws, coyote fingerclaws, and coyote toe-claws. I'll be distressing them with sandpaper and burnishing them to make them more "realistic" later.

And that's what I've been up to! I hope some of that was useful, or at least interesting!
7th-Feb-2006 05:29 am (UTC)
You get an A+ for creativity. xD Sprinkles... I'm still amazed by that one.
7th-Feb-2006 02:45 pm (UTC)
Yay! Thank you! I must say that foofers has used them for texture in some of his projects to great effect, so I knew I could find a way to use them somehow! It was being at the leather store that finally solved it...all those stamps they have for putting texture-patterns on leather got me thinking!
7th-Feb-2006 06:08 am (UTC)
Very nice :) I think I will get some use out of each of these tutorials and projects :)

I especially like the boiling leather for hooves. I hadn't even realized that it was possible even for *me* to shape leather...
7th-Feb-2006 02:46 pm (UTC)
YES! XD Though it must be said that once boiled, it's as soggy as doing laundry by hand, with the added "bonus" of being slippery as an eel and a little oily. So it's really good to have old clothes on and a rag-towel to sop up whatever surface you end up using. ;)
7th-Feb-2006 06:22 am (UTC)
Have I mentioned recently that you are awesome?

Just wow. Hehe. I look forward to seeing the mask as it continues to evolve.

7th-Feb-2006 02:48 pm (UTC)
*blush!* Thank you, Shadow! You kick a lot of butt yourself!

As for the mask, yes, I also look forward to its progress! Gawds yes!
7th-Feb-2006 09:42 am (UTC)
Ooh, I hope the pictures are there for a while. This is really helpful, so I added it to the fursuit community Memories. Thanks!
7th-Feb-2006 02:48 pm (UTC)
Sure! I hope it helps a LOT of future costumers!
(Deleted comment)
7th-Feb-2006 02:49 pm (UTC)
My only hope it to serve....

well-costumed dessert!
8th-Feb-2006 12:09 am (UTC)
Wow, what cool ideas! You're really creative. :) I might just steal that mesh technique, my friend and I need to make a general-sized mascot head and we can't find a helmet anywhere. Do you think it would hold up well if we padded out the wire with foam?
6th-Apr-2006 01:48 am (UTC)
how did this suit turn out, anyway?
6th-Apr-2006 03:24 am (UTC)
actually, my last day at my desk job is TOMORROW! I quit it so I could do art full time. And THEN I can get this done Right now the suit's wearable, but not more than half finished, and the mask and paws are only barely started on their path towards coyote zombieness. How are YOU doing on YOUR projects?
6th-Apr-2006 03:41 am (UTC)
my client wants all sorts of weird things on his, and it's driving me batty! XD
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