Friday, November 4, 2011

Building Uncle Dirtnap

Thanks to the Wayback (www., I located an archive of the long lost Uncle Dirtnap tutorial, which was pretty popular back in 2001. So, here it is again for those needing a decent looking mummy's head.

BONEHEADS: You could make a corpse the usual way, but that tends to be a legal mess, as does simply "procuring" one. Your best bet for acquiring a corpse for a film is to make one. I like to make all my props as cheap as possible, so look elsewhere for that fancy RD foam latex stuff- I use good old cardboard, nylon, tissue paper, carpet glue (latex), and a BIG-ASS roll of gaffer tape. Helps to have an anatomy book as well. I've got one of those kiddie Eyewitness Human Body books. It is actually a VERY helpful resource (who needs all that jargon, you just need the pictures!). Note this entire process takes a big chunk of time; be patient and you should come up with some excellent results.

First you want to get a hold of a human skull, or at least a plastic model of one. You want a plastic so it'll be easy to pose the finished corpse and it will move appropriatley when needed. You can get these skulls at hobby shops and sometimes Wal-Mart for between $16 and $20. This will be the most expensive component in your corpse- it's all downhill from here! Well, after you build the thing, anyway. Paint the skull in yellowy greys with acrylic paint and your ready to go. You can reuse this skull over and over again! Or you could just go the other route and bring a shovel to your local cemetery, but I don't advise it.

(click the picture for a larger view)

NYLONS: You'll need a few pairs of flesh coloured nylons (whatever flesh colour you like- nylons come in all the shades!). Cut 6 x 1 foot long (30cm) lengths of nylons- this will give you 6 ‘‘tubes' of nylon you can twist into ‘‘muscles' (Figure "A" above). Spread the end of one of these tubes and place it on the appropriate point on the skull for a neck muscle. Paint these onto the skull with liquid latex (You can get liquid latex in a tiny tube at a hobby. costume or theatrical supply store for more than what gold is going for these days or you can get a gallon of it from a carpet store for $40 or so; it's the same stuff - crack a window though, because the ammonia in it that speeds the curing is dangerous to breathe); but use a brush you're no longer fond of, as it WILL BE DESTROYED in the process. Nothin' you can do about it. Use a hair dryer to speed the drying (note: it's not the heat, but the flowing air that dries the latex). So now you have 6 twisted ‘‘muscles' dangling down from your skull. Get yourself a wire coat hanger and bend it into the basic shape your collarbone follows and mirror this shape in the back-(kind of a saddle-shaped oval). Tie the loose ends of these ‘‘muscles' to the hanger (Figure "B" above).

Now that you have a painted skull, get the leg of another nylon, cut out the reinforced toe. Push the skull's face through the opening you've just made and paint the edges in place (only the face should be protruding). Once you've dried this, stretch the loose end of the nylon over the hanger, safety-pin it in place and paint the entire nylon over with a layer of latex (Figure "D" above). This makes a kick-ass skin as well as fixing the skin to the base and the skull. Once the ‘‘skin' is dry, glue the muscles to it underneath the skin.

Now for the face. If you want the jaw open, fix it open with pleistescene or Fun-Tak before continuing. Get some tissue paper, lay it over top of the forehead, cheeks and eyes and paint this over with latex. If you want to add a nose, lay a piece of tissue paper across the face, covering the sinuses, and paint over with latex. Allow this to dry. I got a little lazy and used make-up applicators (true foam latex) as filler for the nose- there's no reason you couldn't do the same. Build up the missing bits of the nose with cotton balls covered in tissue- again paint this with latex. For the lips on Uncle Dirtnap, I used balloon rubber folded over with bits of make-up sponge inside for volume. I painted over this with latex as well. The ears were made with a tube of nylon rolled back and shaped before covering with latex. I safety-pinned these ears to the skin of the skull and again painted them on with latex. ALL SAFETY PINS ARE REMOVED ONCE THE GLUE/LATEX IS DRIED! Ram a broom handle into the hole in the bottom of your skull to act as a temporary neck. You'll eventually need a real ‘neck'-you could use an old goose neck from a lamp or salvaged industrial wire covers, or thread spools with a few rubber bands running through the centres (Figure "C" above).

Now you have a ‘bust' of your corpse. It's the only detailed piece you should need unless you want to carve shriveled hands from styro or polyfoam. Paint the skin with artist's acrylics and pin on a second-hand wig to top off your head and Bob's Yer Uncle (Dirtnap). Alternatively, you could put a light coat of liquid latex and drape in some stray hairs from your hairbrush or tub drain for a more aged look.

Shortly after building Uncle Dirtnap, I had the opportunity to get withing inches of the face of a real ancient Egyptian mummy and I must say, what I made was disturbingly close to the real deal.

Pretty cool what you can do with a model skull kit,
some old nylons, a wig, and carpet glue, eh?

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