My friend James is a prosthetist who makes body parts, either for people who need extra body parts, or for moovies who need extra body parts.
He asked if he could make a cast of my feet, and I pretty much threw my socks off in about 0.05 seconds and screamed HELL YEAH and he was like, well maybe in a few weeks when I have some materials and stuff and I was all yeah, I know, I was just feeling warm in here.
Anyway we finally got around to it. And I documented the hell out of it.
So, for your edification, here is how to make plaster feet!
Basically the procedure is to mold the feet in something soft (in this case, alginate gel). You make a negative mold- basically a hole shaped like a foot- in that material. Then you fill that soft, flexible negative mold with something hard and durable (in this case, plaster) to make the positive model of le foot.
This entry will show part one: the soft mold.
I’ll do the second step later in the week.
First, you need feet! Here are two! They are brown and oddly featureless, like tanned piglets.
I rubbed vaseline all over them to make them slip out of the mold better. This also had the effect of making Maybe The Adorable Boxer Dog desperately want to lick my toes. She stared at me with ridiculous longing, wishing and hoping for just a taste of my delectably oiled tootsies. But I refused and took some crappy grainy photographs of her emotions instead.
Meanwhile, James prepped a mold and mixed up the molding gel, which is called Alginate.
It’s essentially seaweed jello, and it’s pretty much edible (although, ew). You may in fact have tasted this stuff yourself, as it’s used for dental molds. Since it’s food-safe, James used his beer cooler as a container.
He built two little compartments inside with aluminum flashing and some duct tape. Then he poured in a 1-inch layer of alginate and laid in a piece of burlap netting to form a sturdy bottom layer for the mold.
He rubbed my feet all over with cool, gluey alginate, taking care to get it between my toes. This tickled tremendously and I squealed like a small hog and thrashed like a carp in a sandbox.
He covered the netting with another layer of alginate, and then in went my feet, and on went more alginate, until I was buried up to my ankles in cold, slimey, stiffening glue.
Then it was time for some waiting.
We played trivial pursuit while the goo dried.
This is a little chunk of gelled alginate. Its texture is like a cross between silly putty and feta cheese- smooth and flexible, but if you bend it far enough it breaks and some water leaks out.
Within about 20 minutes it was set enough for me to start working my feet loose. James used a popsicle stick to cut the gel away from my ankles, which let in some air and loosened things up. Air squeezing into the miniscule space between a moist jello block and a greased foot feels weirdly like a high-pitched toot, I’m just sayin’.
I wiggled and shifted my feet very gently to help- just hard enough to help the alginate weep a bit of water to lubricate my feet, but not too hard, or the alginate would crumble and the mold would lose detail. A few minutes of wiggling, and we could gently slit the alginate so I could start giving birth to my own feet.
It felt to me like a clean job- I predicted that the alginate hadn’t broken at all inside. If we were lucky, the texture of my skin would be captured in the mold, and in an ideal world, each of my toes might even be separated, creating a very lifelike foot model that could be used to make a realistic-looking prosthesis…. but there’d be no way to tell until the plaster molds were done.
I expected my feet to come out all naaaasty but they weren’t at all. In fact, being rubbed with vaseline then soaked in wet alginate actually left my feet almost perfectly clean, not to mention baby soft and reeeally smooth.
In fact if there was a smoothness competition between my feet and LL Cool J, my feet would kick his butt in the smooth department. Oh crap he heard me.
Well I’m SORRY LL Cool J, but look how smooth they are.
LL Cool J, come on. You can’t argue. Those dawgs are smooth. What? Smooth and adorable? Why, thank you for noticing, LL Cool J. It’s gracious of you to concede.
Oh, yeah, LL Cool J, of course I’ll keep it on the down-low. You’re totally still smooth, guy. The smoothest. We cool?
A’ight, man. Let’s talk later. Bye LL Cool J.
God he gets so defensive. Anyway here’s the cooler with the hollow alginate foot-holes all ready to go.
That brown stuff in the right foot is a little hint of the burlap layer poking through the alginate.
Next step: fill the alginate negatives with plaster, let that harden, then pull off the mold to get the finished cast, or model, of my feeties.
Stay tuned for Foot Model, Part Two: The Sequeling… coming later this week, or whenever I drink enough coffee to write it in a caffeine-fueled evening haze.