Friday, 23 March 2012

Figure Sculpting: Slotted Base Jig

I recently had to sculpt a figure and add a strip to the base of the figure that would fit into a plastic “slotta base”. Normally, I would use a pre-cast metal strip (I received a good supply of them from my caster many years ago), however I ran out recently and I haven’t had a chance to get any more. So I ended up sculpting the strip myself from my sculpting putty.

Slotta Base Jig Press moulded "slotta" strip, front side

This led on to the idea of putting my initials and date on the strip as a kind of signature, as is often seen on figure bases. It is very difficult to sculpt text neatly and quickly. Also it is far easier to “write” the text into soft putty rather than to build it up on the surface, even though the built up text does look more attractive.

Slotta Base Jig 01

This got me thinking, first off I tried writing the text into some putty, letting that set and then pressing some more putty into it to get the reverse (press moulding). It worked reasonably well, but still had that “hand sculpted” look, not as slick as I had hoped. Still the process worked, but how to improve it?

Slotta Base Jig Base Plate

Slotta Base Jig Base and Middle Plate, ready for putty!

Slotta Base Jig Top Plate

At this point I turned to my laser cutter (as I am doing more and more these days). The “Deep Engrave” setting for acrylic seemed like a good place to start. So I designed a little set of plates, a base plate with Iron Mammoth Design written in reverse. A middle plate, with a cut out 3mm x 20mm (a good standard size for a slotted base) and a top plate with 2012, also written in reverse. I cut the plates, and some locating lugs out of 2mm acrylic sheet.

Slotta Base Jig 03

Then I glued the lugs to the sides of the base plate. Before putting the putty into the mould, I lubricated it with some Vaseline (Petroleum Jelly), to aid removal once set. Then I  fitted the middle plate and pressed some putty into the cut-out section. I smoothed it in well, and just left it a little proud of the surface. Finally I pressed the top plate (with 2012 on it) into the top surface, squeezed it nice and tight and left the putty to set.

Slotta Base Jig Ready for Putty

Slotta Base Jig Pressing the Putty

The cut-outs at either end are there so that you can put rubber bands around it. You don’t need the while the putty is setting, as it holds the whole thing together, but it is handy when storing the jig.

Slotta Base Jig The set strip ready for removal

For a first attempt I am very pleased with the results. The text is raised and easily readable. I might increase the font size a little for the IMD side as it could be slightly clearer, but in general it works perfectly.

Press moulded "slotta" strip, back side

Slotta Base Jig Press moulded "slotta" strip, front side

I can see this being quite useful for a lot of sculptors, especially the individual and freelance ones. It is cheap and easily made, I can change the text very easily, so for example I can make a new “year plate”…

Any one who is interested in trying this out, please email me and I will see what I can do!

1 comment:

  1. You should check out the amazing figure sculpting reference models at


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