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How To Make a Front Face Lifecast
Equipment you will need:
Victim (pick someone who is not claustrophobic)
Plastic sheeting to protect the floor
Large black garbage bag
Spirit gum & remover
Petroleum jelly (Vaseline)
Latex gloves (or vinyl)
1 lb. Accu-Dent Alginate
Containers for Mixing Alginate & Plaster
3 to 4 Rolls 4" Plaster Bandages
5 lbs. Ultra-Cal 30 Plaster
1 Chip Brush
Read all the instructions before you begin. Make sure the person you will be lifecasting is wearing old clothing. This might get a bit messy. Explain everything you are going to do to so they know what they will be expecting. Sitting under Alginate is not scary for most people. In fact some find it very relaxing and a few fall asleep while under it. Work out some signals in case the person sitting under the Alginate freaks out, like waving his hand or pointing at his face.
Alginate is a temporary impression cream that will start to shrink in about 45 minutes. Don't use it for a final permanent mold. Use it for casting and throw away. We used a barber chair but not everyone has access to one so find a comfortable chair for the person. When doing lifecasting, have the person tilt his head slightly back so he is not leaning forward. Alginate and bandages tend to get a little heavy so keep the head a little back is best, a head rest would be great.
Sit your victim down and make him comfortable. Taking the bald cap, fit it on the person's head. It is usually too long in front and will go over his eyes. So, you will need to cut it to fit. Take your Sharpie marker and mark the bald cap a little below the hairline. Take the cap off the person and cut the excess off. Brush hair back, if necessary use water or pull back into a pony tail. Place the bald cap on the head and glue the front edges down with spirit gum.
Rip a hole in the bottom of the black garbage bag to slip over the persons head. This will be used to protect clothing. Tape the bag down around neck using masking tape.
With a cue tip apply petroleum jelly to the eyebrows or mustache. If the person has very thick brows or mustache you may want to apply a piece of small netting (you can get at a fabric store) and glue it down with spirit gum. Some people don't even apply petroleum jelly, Alginate will not usually stick to eyebrows.
Before we mix up the alginate we will get the rest of the materials ready to go, as time is a factor here. Open the plaster bandages and rip them into approximately 12" pieces. Fold them in half so they make a 6" double bandage. Get a container of water ready to dip the bandages in. We are going to use 1 lb of Alginate. Water temperature is a factor when using Alginate; warm water will make it set quicker and cold water will give you a little more time before it sets. For maximum working time cooler water is used but warm water is much more comfortable. You may want to test a small batch and time it to get just what you want.
Our Alginate comes with exact measuring instructions, follow them to get your best mix.You may want to add more water after you start mixing if the alginate seems too thick. You will be able to tell how thick you like your Alginate after you've used it a few times. But also remember if you mix it too thick it may make your Alginate set quicker. Dick Smith has given us a great formula. Take a 7 oz. paper cup (must be 7oz.) and sift the alginate into the cup with a spoon so it's fluffy. Level the top by running a knife across it. Fill another 7 oz. cup to top with water. Mix. You can double or triple this, but you must use a 7 oz. cup. Also set up your Ultra-30 plaster and water you will need to pour into it. It's pretty much a 50/50 mix. I usually add a little more plaster, I like mine fairly thick. You will also need your chip brush and a place to cradle your new Alginate lifecast.
Now we're going to mix the Alginate. Get ready. You have about 7-8 minutes from the time you combine the water and Alginate until the Alginate sets so you have to work quickly. After the Alginate is set you have about 45-60 minutes before the Alginate starts to dry up and shrink, so you need to be ready to go on to the next step. Some people add the Alginate into the water. Our manufacturer suggests you add the water to the Alginate. It's up to you. Put your gloves on before you mix, it makes it easier to clean up and it is more sanitary. If you are allergic to latex gloves wear vinyl. You can tell if you are allergic if your hands begin to itch or sting when you wear latex. Mix your Alginate and water together. Our new Alginate is creamy and is orange in color. We haven't upgraded our pictures yet so they show the older blue lumpy Aginate.
Have the victim hold the bucket of Alginate so it is easily accessible. Start at the top of the head and working around the sides to the chin apply the Alginate to the face.
Talk softly to the person letting him know exactly what you are doing. You may want to ask him if he's feeling ok and maybe get a hand signal back to let you know. Apply Alginate to the mouth area, keeping away from the nose.
Then apply to the eyes and work around the nose area. Remember, you have a time limit so work quickly.
Once the Alginate starts to gel you're beat.... you will be able to tell.
Next we apply the plaster bandages. Have your victim hold the bucket of water. Taking a strip of plaster bandage fold it lengthwise and dip it in the water. Apply this strip to the top edge of the Alginate and strip to the other side to help form a firm rim of bandages. Rubbing the plaster bandage in circular motions. Get the plaster in the bandage distributed well.
Work quickly so your person doesn't need to be under all this for too long. Again, explain to the person what you are doing and tell him that it won't take much longer. Dip each strip, folded in half, into the water and place around the Alginate working in until you get to the nose. Apply 2 or 3 layers so you will end up with a strong outside cast.
When you finish at the nose rip plaster bandages into smaller strips and folding them place around the nostrils as well as placing larger pieces across the edges to help keep them in place. The bandages will warm up a bit as they set and then cool down and harden.
Now it is time to take the cast off. Have the person lean forward and slowly working the facial muscles until the Alginate loosens. It should come off easily.
Place the Alginate and bandage cast in a bucket or cradle it where it won't rock. Your victim is done, he can now clean up. Use spirit gum remover or alcohol to remove the spirit gum. You will need to plug up the nostrils. We used a little Dental Alginate because it sets quick. Clay is also good for this purpose.
Mix up a batch of Ultra-Cal 30. Wear a dust mask, you don't want to breathe this plaster dust into your lungs. And wear a pair of latex or vinyl gloves. Start with about a cup of water and slowly add the Ultra-Cal 30. You will probably use a little more than a cup of the plaster. Just keep adding the plaster until the top of the water looks like a dry river bed. It is called Ultra-Cal 30 because it takes 30 minutes for the plaster to set up. So you have 30 minutes working time. Do not mix the plaster and water until all the plaster is absorbed into the water. Mix thoroughly.
Using a chip brush scoop up some plaster and dab it into the Alginate. You don't want to brush it in, just dab it into the Alginate. Being careful not to trap bubbles under the plaster fill in the cast and brush up the sides using up that batch of plaster.
Mix up another batch of plaster and brush that into the cast. We used 3 batches all together.
Let it set up. It will heat up when it is starting to set up and cool down when it is done. Don't pull your Alginate off until it is totally set (about 1/2 hour after it cools down) or you may weaken the plaster. When you are sure it's done pull the plaster bandages off.
Carefully pull off the Alginate.
That's it! You now have a lifecast.
Take a break, you've earned it. I want to thank Tom Zambrano for being our victim, Seth Wolfson for doing the lifecasting, and my son Luke for helping us get some of the equipment together.
Disclaimer: FX Warehouse Inc. will not be responsible for use of misuse of any products you may buy or use from us. Most of our products are for Professional Use only. Use at your own risk.