Hello! I'm teaching myself how to make stop motion puppets, and this will be the first time I cast anything.

The character I plan on making is a bird humanoid, and I'm planning on either casting it in silicone or foam latex depending on which one would be better for applying the feathers.

My first thought was punching some of the feathers in silicone but I'm not sure how well they would stay. I'm sure I could glue them on but I'm not sure what type of glue I could use that wouldn't too stiff, flake off, or inhibit movement. Does anyone have any ideas or tips they could give me?

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Foam latex takes glues and more latex quite easily, but it is very soft. It is also more difficult to make a piece in foam latex because it has to be mixed and poured carefully, then baked in an oven (NOT your domestic oven!) for about 4 hours. If you haven't cast anything before, I would not recommend foam latex as your first try.

Silicone is tougher and heavier, and sets at room temperature, so has less requirement for specialist equipment. But it cannot be glued so easily. Silicone however sticks to itself. I have had success using builder's silicone to stick hair onto Platsil Gel 10. There are also some products marketed as silicone glues.

You can also punch hair etc. into silicone (and foam latex). This is done using a sewing needle that has half of the eye cut off, making it into a miniature pitchfork. If your feathers have quite stiff stalks this might be tricky, but is worth experimenting with.

One other technique that might be of interest, if you want to go the latex route, is to make a piece with a skin from liquid latex filled with 2 part soft foam like Flex-It. It isn't as good as a proper foam latex, but would have a tough skin and lighter weight than silicone.

Have you any photos of the feathers and/or sculpt? And are you paying careful attention to the need to use non-sulphur clay for sculpting a piece to be cast in silicone (platinum cure)?

Hi Heather,

I happen to have made a foamlatex bird puppet with feathers and all. I did tests with punching them in but found that it was too hard to control the direction of the feathers sticking out. When only off by a tiny bit, it makes a feather stand out from the general shape.

So I ended up glueing them onto the foamlatex, which worked really well and was very easy! To glue them I used Bison tix (http://www.bison.net/en/products/642-contact-adhesives/product/2280...) A glue that is, amongst others, used to repair shoe soles etc. After drying it stays rubery and flexible so the feathers can still move individually from eachother. I added some pics below.

I don't know if you have feathers yet and what type you would like to use, but I found out that there are numerous online shops specialising in fishing lure materials. Each lure uses a different type of feather, shape etc. So these shops have all sorts of different high quality feathers for sale from all sorts of different birds. The same goes for furs by the way. I remember seeing they had camel, wolf, coyote and many more. This is the address I ordered http://www.martensvliegvisprodukten.nl/store/
It is in the Netherlands I think though, so it might be easier to order closer to home.

Both of your replies are very helpful! Thank you so much!

I'm still gather the materials at the moment, so I don't have a sculpt done yet, and I was still looking for places to get the feathers at. My main problem was finding feathers small enough to look natural. Did you cut you feathers to the right size, or did the shop sell them that way? They look like the perfect size. Not to mention your bird looks amazing!

I didn't know that foam latex had to be cured like that so I'm very glad I mentioned it! I'll have to cast it in silicone despite the weight. 

I was worried about the feathers being too rigid or too thick to work very well, but I think since they'll be smaller punching them might work. I'll test it out on a piece before I finalize the design I think. But, I imagine the silicone glue will be flexible enough to work if punching doesn't. Though I hope it does since all this is already so expensive.

Hi Heather,

I did order very fine feathers (from French black chicken necks apparently haha)
But to get the feathers really the right size I made a tiny set of cutting dies (I think that is what you call them in english...) Sounds harder than it actualy was. Just take a strip of metal (brass) and grind or file one side to a sharp edge like a knife. Then I bent them into feather shapes in various sizes. You can lay these over an allready tiny feather and with one punch of a small hammer you have cut it down. With a scalpel you can cut some irragularities in like I did in the bigger feathers to make it look a bit more natural. Or not, depending on the design.

Personally I would imagine that punching them would take a whole lot more time then just laying them on a row at a time with glue. But I can see your point with the budget.  

be sure to show us some pictures when you have finished the bird! I would love to see it.

I've made a raven and a couple of magpies.  Since they were going to be covered in something to look like feathers, I did not need to cast them in foam latex or silicone.  I just built the bodies up from cushion foam.

The Raven had to go from wings folded up to fully open and flying, and fold up again when it landed.  So each feather was made separately so it could slide over the next one.  The tricky bit was having that many individual feather wires join onto the arm wire, without getting too bulky.  I used 1mm wire for the feathers.  To be honest, the wings didn't fold up as compact and neat as a real bird's, but they were usable.

I ended up using fur fabric for the bodies, and making feathers for the wings by sandwiching a fine armature wire between two layers of tissue paper.  But real feathers would certainly look better than the mix of two materials I used.  What put me off was attaching hundreds of tiny feathers, which I would probably have to cut down to a smaller size, all over the body.   A cutting die is a great idea!  I was thinking I'd have to cut them with scissors.

The legs were built up with liquid latex and epoxy putty over the wire.  I built up the heads, with epoxy putty over pine wood for the beaks, but I would have got more character and control over the shape if I had sculpted the heads in plasticine, and cast in latex.  I'd still build up the body, that kept it light.

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