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How DO you make those Animal Costumes? (Fursuits)
Bondo-Shell Hooves 
12th-Aug-2007 03:44 am
kittycanuck wanted to see the hooves i made a couple of years ago, and i've been asked a few times in the past as well... so i figured i'd write a little bit here "for the record" in case anyone else is able and willing to endure my hoof show & tell.

So, i began with a pair of smoothwalker horseshoes as a base, and built my frame from there.

I attached the band-iron plate on which my shoes would rest with a hinge to the base... this allows for a little bit of flexibility... i don't know if it's necessary, but it seemed like a good idea. And it was the only way i could do it with the limited tools i have. :)
There is a piece of tire rubber under each hinge, resting ontop of the wooden block at the back of the shoe (this block is basically where ALL your weight will rest, so i wanted it to be a little insulated.)

Anyhow, so after i put that together i used an old pair of shoes as a mold and wrapped aluminum foil around the toe of it, so that i'd have something to put the bondo on other than my shoe. You could use cardboard, metal, plastic, whatever. Though if it's something smooth the bondo will be less likely to grab on. (But that doesn't really matter too much either.)
And after applying the bondo, they looked like this:

I'd recommend using the bondo that comes with fibreglass in it, but i didn't have that at the time. Remember to have some ventilation. x..x

So, a rough hoof shape is formed... it doesn't have to look good yet, this is just to make it strong.

After the bondo had cured i sanded down whatever lumps seemed to look like they would stick out of the hoof once i added the finish layer, and brought them upstairs to apply a layer of celluclay.
Celluclay is what i had... and it's something i was comfortable using, but there are probably much better materials to use on the outer layer. Sculpy, for instance... or a lot of other clay type things.
Celluclay isn't too bad, it's nice and hard while being reasonably light... but it can't get wet.

And here we have one smoothed and looking not-so-bad!

Technically, i never finished these hooves... the celluclay is still bare. But... whatever you use to make the outer layer, you can always paint it. In this case, i should have at least coated it with some kind of waterproof sealer.

So... the hoof is done, but you still have to attach your foot to be able to use it... There are many ways to do this, i simply bolted and duct-taped an old pair of boots onto the iron plate and used some long-pile fur to cover the pastern and make it look like it wasn't hollow.
I remember i was adding this fur and finishing the hooves the very hour before i left for anthrocon. It doesn't pay to procrastinate! (except i had lots of time before that to do other things... yeah.)

This is what they look like in use. ...certainly could be better, but they worked reasonably well. Nice and cloppy!
Though next to Wgg there i look like a bit of a pansy. :) I totally wish i'd not been lazy and made some kind of covering to hide my neck. Oh well...

These hooves are pretty heavy, as you might expect... It's nothing that will make them tiring to wear (but don't worry, the angle your ankle will be held at will take care of that! whew!) but you definitely have to adjust to the momentum your foot has when you swing it around. I'm sure kicking someone with these wouldn't be a very kind thing to do.
And as for comfort... forget about it. But hoof boots tend to make a sacrifice out of comfort in most cases i think... Humans just aren't meant to walk with heels held aloft for long periods of time.

EDIT: I took some new pictures of the hooves by themselves, since i didn't have any:

There's a cd there for size reference too.

There are supposed to be some leather pieces that cover the ducttape, but they're buried in my box of miscellaneous costuming stuff somewhere. ...but you could fur it or whatever too, that shouldn't be hard. A much better job could be done with that than mine. :P

As you can see there's just a hole and an unfinished area where the frog is supposed to be... My idea for that is pretty much the same as what mwbard said below (aside from i hadn't considered what materials to use.) The frog would actually be below the top plane of the shoe, but it wouldn't really be noticeably outstanding. I figured since only the most unfortunate people i came across would be seeing the hooves from below i'd leave that part for later, since i ran out of time. heh.
Also, the 8 screws can be unscrewed and the shoe removed... however, it will look pretty rediculous without the shoes, because they were the platform on which the hooves were constructed. But this is something that could be improved on as well. (such as making a finished bottom so that one could take the rubber shoes off and exchange them for metal ones if they wished.)

Anyway, if anyone found that interesting...

12th-Aug-2007 08:47 am (UTC)
That is so awsome! I have been planning on a suit that involved hooves, and I really don't want to do false digigrade with it. How much did it all cost? And was drilling through the metal hard?
Oh, and do you have any close ups of the hoof-boots themselves?
Sorry for all the questions... those boots are just so dang cool!
12th-Aug-2007 09:03 am (UTC)
I'm heading to bed now, but in the morning i'll take some pics for you. I have the boots here, but no good pics of them solo and in their current state :P

Drilling holes through the steel wasn't hard, it just took patience. Heh. Aluminum on the other hand, is even easier! like drilling through butter!
I would have rather welded this stuff together, but i lack the tools.

Bondo ...like $12 bucks maybe?
Metal pieces ...maybe $6
Nuts and bolts ...a few bucks
Rubber horseshoes ...$30
Old boots ...$5 at Goodwill
Celluclay ...I have a 5lb container of the stuff that cost $25, but this hardly used any of it.
12th-Aug-2007 09:30 am (UTC)
Sweet! Thanks for the info, and I can't wait for the pics!
12th-Aug-2007 08:25 pm (UTC)
Ok, updated the entry with some pics. :)
12th-Aug-2007 10:11 am (UTC)
Ah, not quite like my technique, where I use the shoe to make a positive out of hardening clay, mold it in wet clay, pour the bondo, and then attach to a shoe -- but a very good technique indeed. If I had this about four, five days ago, I would not have spent so much time (and money) trying to figure out what to do. But hey, learning is fun.

Thanks for posting <3
12th-Aug-2007 10:42 am (UTC)
Hmmmm, I could do this, I have my old Combat boots in the basement, the metal stuff shouldn't be a problem, and I could probably use the Bondo itself as the outer layer as well if I make it look good enough They don't look very comfy, but who wants comfort when you look that damn good.
12th-Aug-2007 10:57 am (UTC)
Oh, I forgot to ask, what size horseshoe should one use?
12th-Aug-2007 07:49 pm (UTC)
I used a size 4, which is about 6 inches wide.
--> size chart

Bigger is better for balance, but bigger is heavier too.
12th-Aug-2007 01:50 pm (UTC)
very interesting... can wolf feet be done with this method?
12th-Aug-2007 07:53 pm (UTC)
You could probably do paws... but this seems a bit complicated to do paws when you could just make them with socks and foam. But i suppose, if you're thinking of having the heel raised for a true digitigrade paw instead of hiding your foot, you could do it this way. The difference would be in sculpting a paw shape instead of a hoof, and not using a horseshoe as a base, heh.
12th-Aug-2007 11:48 pm (UTC)
just wondering... do you feel comfortable and feel well balanced with the hoof's on?
13th-Aug-2007 01:12 am (UTC)
Comfortable: No. Well balanced: No.

Those aren't the strong points of hoof boots ;p
But when it comes to hooves, if you want them to look right sometimes there aren't really any other options. Paws have more comfortable alternatives...
13th-Aug-2007 07:18 am (UTC)
Just sounds like more revisions and experements need to be done to perfect those two lose ends.
13th-Aug-2007 07:34 pm (UTC) - Balance
I have seen some hooves that are a bit longer from front to back, with an added "heel" roughly an inch back of the back of the shoe - all appeared to be formed together but with an oval shaped wear plate. This would seem to increase stability. Thoughts or comments?
13th-Aug-2007 08:26 pm (UTC) - Re: Balance
Yeah, the further back you make the hoof go, the better your balance will be. But the hoof then either has to be bigger all around, or turn into an oval shape...
It just depends on how realistic you want it to be in proportion to your comfort. I guess that's a balancing act all its own. :)

The lack of balance for my hooves wasn't really a difficulty staying balanced and up... it was moreso that if i stood still, it was very easy to slump backwards and end up resting on my 'hocks' with my hooves' tips pointing upward ...i did this sometimes though, because it allowed my tired ankles a moment of respite.
As far as walking and such goes though, it's pretty easy...
12th-Aug-2007 02:14 pm (UTC)
Nice tutorial. And your tail is lovely! How did you make it?

-- Rika
12th-Aug-2007 09:06 pm (UTC)
The tail is a wig, wrapped around a stuffed cardboard tailbone. It's bolted onto a metal disc that rests against the top of my butt and keeps it held erect like that, and it's attached to a belt.
It worked really well, and i was quite pleased... the only downside was that sitting normally in chairs or laying on my back wasn't really possible, because the tailbone wasn't flexible enough.
12th-Aug-2007 04:26 pm (UTC)
How clever! I've been poking around at various ways to make hooves, but I think this is what I'll use :)
12th-Aug-2007 04:57 pm (UTC)
That's pretty cool, I'm gonna have to invest in the equipment to try and do that next time I get a little cash lying around. Thanks for the tutorial :).
12th-Aug-2007 04:59 pm (UTC)
I found the pictures of the finished costume about three months ago. Looking at the hooves, my guess was that you had used some kind of bungee-cord/spring structure inside, kind of like those moonshoes still floating around here and there.

Your real method is MUCH cooler.

It also has helped me resolve how to build my BETA3 hooves.

The basic plan for the BETA3 design has been a wooden hoof, a aluminum arm, a metal bar pivot point, and hard casting rubber poured in around the aluminum arm inside a drilled out area of the hoof for the "resistance" (where you either gave free motion (leaning forward), or slight rubber and 2x4 (leaning back).

What I am planning to do now is the following:

1. Make "master hoof" out of clay. The hoof will be fully sculpted with frog, attachments for Smoothwalker, and surface texture. NOTE: The "frog" will actually be "below" the top of the Smoothwalker, FOR A REASON (see below).
2. Make rubber mold of said master hoof.
3. Cut out metal plate for the bottom (not exact, but most of the bottom. Large enough for the smoothwalker to SCREW to). Have small piece of 1" thick wood and bolts to secure the hinge to.
4. Place the above metal components, and Smoothwalker, inside the rubber mold. Place big block or non-hardening clay in the middle. Pour in first resin cast for first hoof.
5. Pull out clay, pour in more molding rubber to fill in the hole for future hoof construction.
6. Secure shoe "arm" to base, pour in HARD casting rubber into the gap to provide the resistance.

NOTE: The solution occurred to me about an hour ago, so no pictures yet, and there are probably a few design issues I missed, but it solves all my major ones.

This method solves a number of problems. Using a mold and resin master allows easy and custom shaping/sculpting of the hoof, including the bottom. (note that the frog is "below" the top of the smoothwalker shoe as the metal plate will end up screwed to said smoothwalker. Screws are used so that the shoe can be removed for hoof finishing and then re-attached). It solves the problem of carving the "hole" for the rubber resistance to the motion of the shoe arm. It solves the problem of the wood cracking under the strain of the pivot metal dowel as nearly my entire weight will be pressing down on the wood at that point. It allows easy reinforcement during the production process by simply putting a few screws here and there before pouring the resin. Finally it solves the problem of the "cotter pin"(?) (the pin in the hinge that connects the two pieces and hence allowing it to work as a hinge) slowly working its way out as on my BETA2 model -- hard rubber pressing against it will prevent said motion.

As to the rest, I am going to shape foam and glue/screw it to the bottom of the metal bar for the "shape" of the back of the leg. Bungee cords, etc. will still be used as with the BETA2 design which should make them much easier to use than your model (likely will screw a piece of 2x4 to the heel of the metal bar, with some shaping, to use as anchor for the connection points for the ankle pivot to the knee braces. The bungee cords will hook through holes in the shoe bar).

Thanks a *WHOLE* lot for posting this!

P.S. One thought for those wanting to build. The hinge is CRITICALLY important for balance. My BETA1s had the shoe screwed to a 2x4 screwed to the hoof. They worked, but if you didn't put the hoof down EXACTLY right, you lost balance, slipped, and fell (happened to me once, no harm was done). The hinge gives a LOT more flexibility on putting the hoof down as the hoof auto-adjusts to flat on the floor, and have MUCH better balance.

P.P.S. For those curious about my BETA1 and BETA2 designs, and about the physics of digitigrade stilts: http://transform.to/~mwbard/stuff/equinecostumeconstruction-hooves.htm

P.P.P.S. The same concept can be used for digitigrade "paws". Use the same construction technique, but attach "toes" to the front with some kind of pivot point. All of the weight/stress is on the camouflaged "hoof", the toes are just there for show. An example of a working digitigrade paw design: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ainptedZE2w
12th-Aug-2007 08:59 pm (UTC)
I tried making something similar to your BETA2, except i was going to use tire rubber between the foot-plate and the hoof as a springy but durable substance, as opposed to springs. I abandoned the project when i lost patience with figuring out how to attach the hooves... but now that i've made simpler hoof boots, that seems like it would have been easy. The bungee tendons are a great idea, and they seem to work flawlessly.
Interesting design parallels! Though the hoof on this model would probably not work... But that's where i had trouble.

These more complicated designs have advantages for sure, as i would assume they are much more comfortable over longer periods of time (because your ankles won't tire out as fast.)

Good luck with your new model too! I'm glad i've been a little helpful by my posting.
13th-Aug-2007 04:54 pm (UTC)
Your updated test is interesting. Lots of parallels, though I'm not sure about the test hooves... Hopefully they were just fill ins... :)

I've tried my models with the bungee support, and it is *MUCH* harder. They make a huge difference.

I do have one question back to your original design you wore at the con. How "cloppy" were they? My Beta2 design just "thuds", almost no sound at all. I have various plans for "clop makers" to be added. Yours might have worked better because they were hollow, giving a bit of a chamber to amplify the sound. Any ideas?
13th-Aug-2007 06:14 pm (UTC)
The 'cloppiness' of mine was pretty nice... though as expected it was somewhat dulled because the shoes were rubber. But i think the sound was still pretty enjoyable.
The concave space in the center of the hoof's bottom makes a big difference.
12th-Aug-2007 05:23 pm (UTC)
YAY HOOFERS! Have you posted this link in Yahoo "hooves" group? They would love to see it.

How much do these weight? Do you have a close up pic you could post of the finished set?

12th-Aug-2007 08:29 pm (UTC)
Hoofers are the best! :D

I guess i ought to go post a link in Hooves... i've been pretty absent from there.

Each boot weighs about 4-5 lbs, give or take. Definitely feels different than wearing sneakers...

And i updated the entry with some more pics if you want to look again. :)
21st-Aug-2007 05:02 pm (UTC)
Thanks for that, I'm going to refer to this page when I get to building Wydehoof's hooves.
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