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Has anybody had any experience of making eyeballs that sit inside a hollow cast head, and can be moved by using pins in the pupils?

I was wondering what solutions people have used for parts that hold the balls in place and allow them to move easily within their sockets.

I have had something like this made for me, but there is too much friction between the eyeball and the front of the face to manipulate the eyes, and although the eye balls have been lacquered, they are picking up dirt from the car body filler that is just inside the head around the eyeholes. There is also an issue with the screw that holds the part into the head, so I don't have control over the tension across the whole piece.

I'm just trying to find a fix or an alternative, or even someone who could take on the work.

Thank you!

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The two materials I've tried personally that have gotten good results are silicone, and Sculpy Bake & Bend.  Silicone obviously has the advantage of being able to cast directly around the eyeball, but the flexible Sculpy has just the right amount of give -- if you model the socket just barely past the center of the eyeball, it'll hold the eye in place without restricting movement, and will still allow you to pop it out to clean/lubricate the socket, no screws needed. 

The puppet I had just used for my project was carved in wood.  I ensured to drill the sockets carefully to the diameter of some glass doll eyes I had set in.  I simply manipulated the direction by moving them with my finger from behind, inside the head itself.  The socket was just wide enough to act as a tiny shelf with walls to keep them from popping out.  I'd be interested to see other's approach as I blindly did my own thang!

Thank you both. Thomas - did you then fix these to some kind of plate in the head?

The silicone sockets I've done have been full silicone cast heads (so what skull structure there was wasn't connected to the eyes at all), but in theory if you had properly designed sockets in a head from a different material, you could put the eyeballs in and cure silicone around them for that nice fit.  The sockets would just have to give some clearance around the eyeballs for the silicone to fill, and maybe some recesses for the silicone to fill up to help keep it in place.

The Sculpy sockets I did were attached to wooden skulls -- I carved in a rough hollow for the eyes, and gave the clay something to hang on to, and then sculpted them right on and baked them into place:

All of that was eventually covered in felt (so it didn't have to look pretty) but it did a great job of holding the eyes where they needed to be without hampering movement.

Cool. Would be good to do it with the silicone. Thank you. They looks like a good solution.

It's been so long since I did this I don't remember the details very clearly, and I never took it beyond the test stage, but here's what I did.

The face was a mask piece made of sculpey (a resin casting would be a lot stronger) and I carved out the eyeholes and gouged out sockets behind them. The mask piece was held against the block of wood that was the skull with I think just one screw, though having one under each eye would give better tension control. Then I just put a tiny piece of cushion foam behind each eyeball to give slight compression. I didn't drill holes to stick a pin in for moving the eyes, I was using the pencil eraser technique if I remember right. I might draw up something in a bit to make it more clear. 

Ok, better than drawings - I dug up the actual head and got some pics:

And wow, was I right about not remembering it quite right!! Much of what I "remembered" was actually what I was planning but hadn't done yet. This is as far as I got with it in reality - the eyeballs are made from steel filled epoxy putty which is why they have the dark grey metallic look. And they're just held in place with a gob of modeling clay. Also, I had forgotten - there was no need for me to move the eyes around, since I had decided to go with this haunted look of solid grey orbs. But I did think about ways to make them animatable, and what I described above was the plan I came up with. So sorry, no actual experience after all! 

Mostly my eyeballs are surrounded by latex or silicone.   But I made one puppet for a client, which had a rigid head and movable eyeballs.  It was a fairly large head, so I needed to make it hollow to keep the weight down.

The front was like a hollow fibreglass mask, and the insides of the eyelid area were moulded from a blank ball the same as the eyeball, so it fit perfectly.  There was some cushion foam behind the eyeballs, which very gently pushed the eyeballs forward so they stayed in the sockets.  That's like a spring loaded tensioner, but using the foam as a spring, very low-tech.   I cut a hole in the top of the head, hidden under the wig, to allow access to the eyeballs once I joined the back half on to the front.

I had to make one change in my usual eyeballs.  I countersunk the iris area around the hole in a white bead, as usual, and painted the pupil and iris, then filled with clear epoxy to form a cornea.  But where normally I have the cornea bulge slightly, I had to make sure it stuck out no further than the curve of the ball, so it didn't stop the ball rotating in the hard socket.  Actually the epoxy cornea was just slightly under where the ball would be, so it didn't touch the socket.  It seemed to work well.  It was all dry, with just a little talc sprinkled into the socket, and didn't pick up dirt.

However, I do like Thomas Nichol's use of a silicone socket.  He has it for the back of the eyeball, but it could be done in front as well so the ball doesn't rub against a hard material, if the face is going to be hard resin. You could use a silicone putty that can be pressed into the hollow head from behind, then the balls pressed into the silicone.

Just looked, and found a work-in-progress photo showing the hollow face and eyeballs.

I cast my heads in latexrubber with an additive to give it the colour I want, and to regulate thickness. When I pour the rubber into the mold I put in dummy eyes at the right spot. Around these dummy eyes a socket is formed. So when I pull the heads out of the mold the I only have to cut out the eyes and remove the dummy eyes. The fit is perfect and the rubber socket is flexible, so the eyes move easily in every direction.

The heads in the picture are made of rubber. The eyes are round beads with the top eyelid painted on the eyeball. So, for blinking you turn the eyeball all the way down. If you want a different expression in the eyes you simply pop out the eyeball and replace it with another. This is all done with a needle through the centre of te eye...


Here's a quick method. When I am baking a head in Super Sculpey, I have the plastic eyeballs (already drilled) in place. I take the head out of the oven when it is part-baked, about 5 mins, and use a pin to just move the eyeballs a little bit, to break the join. Then finish baking, and the eyes move.

Tricky thing is to paint the eyes afterwards, but not impossible.

Thanks everyone! Some really good ideas for next time.

I have actually managed to get the eyeballs moving, having sanded the sockets and sitting the plate slightly back. The eyes are sitting back a little, but I think I can do something for this.

I have tried a couple of things for lubricating the ball - vaseline and metal / chrome polish. Any other ideas - something that doesn't dry out too quickly, doesn't strip paint, and won't cause excess grease? I will have to fix the paintwork on the ball now, without causing more friction.

I like the eye lid idea - I have made separate lids to sit on the ball, but each time I move the eyes in their sockets the lids move about. I want to be able to move the eyes (so that the pupils appear to move) without the lids getting moved. It probably means attaching them above the eye and to the face. Has anyone done anything else to get around this?

These are the plates that sit in the head.

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