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  1. #1
    Member Pod of New England TheMerthropologist's Avatar
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    sure, lets finally make a tail (maybe?)

    Whoopsie daisy, I haven't been on in forever! Long time no sea y'all!

    I've been a busy little guppy going to art school and all that, so little time to work on being a mermaid. I've been wanting to make a tail but could never really justify it considering lack of practice and space and money...

    but now I have justification...

    I've got a project called "multiples" and you know what is very multiple? Scales
    So, like, now I'm getting into how this thread is relevant to tailmaking.

    I'm gonna make a tail for this project...assuming I can work out the logistics...(that's where you guys can help hopefully)
    So wearability and proper functionality would be nice, but I gotta stay in budget and I've got say roughly a month...so I'll take what I can get

    Now part of this will require us to incorporate at least one of three processes into our project: printing (as in using a press), laser cutting, and/or mold making.

    I'm leaning towards mold making maybe?
    Silicone is way too crazy expensive plus a terrible idea for a first tail and a project to be using silicone the first time on
    So I'm thinking maybe latex is a good way to go...but not even fully latex technically! I think it would be possible to cut out fabric scale bases that I can set into a mold and more coat with latex and use a mold to impart texture!
    Because I like the idea of trying casting to make scales....

    but also as I type this I have another idea which would be to print scale patterns onto a fabric which I can cut down into scales...but then there's a problem with ink and finding something that I know would be body and I guess water safe...also finding a way to seal the fabric...

    I could also look for something which I can feed through (or engrave?) on the laser cutter...

    I guess it's not top priority that the tail be perfectly water durable, but just enough that if I want to give it a quick dunk or splash it will survive. I suppose I'd like to be able to wear it but if I can't well...gotta get my work done

    I'm also, like, really into this idea of making an individual scale tail...It's a dream really...

    Really I only have a vague idea of how to go about this...I mean I've done a ton of research on other tail making methods and I'm gonna go back over those...but also I like to try my own things sometimes and that tends to have mixed results...

    SO thoughts?
    Any better solutions/ideas I may have overlooked? Or just worth looking into?
    Ideas on how to be cost-effective? Or which route here would be the most cost-effective? I'm looking for "cheap" but still safe.
    Things to be wary of in my first tailmaking adventure, rookie mistakes and the like?

    And I will update this thread as my shenanigans ensue. One way or another a tail is probably going to be made no matter how convoluted I have to get.
    Gonna try to hit up this retail fabric store (jomars) I've heard good things about, supposedly couple bucks a yard, sounds worth a trip. Gonna look for power mesh/swimsuit lining...

    any other fabrics I should look out for maybe?

    Thanks for hearing me out fishies...please pray for me and my terrible ideas.

    ps..any phillymers? maybe willing to help a baby mer out?
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  2. #2
    I think a hybrid tail would be great for this.
    Maybe use caulking (GE1) silicone and pipe the scales onto some neoprene that you've cut to fit your body? Making a texture stamp would help to make them look individual but still uniform. You could likely either paint the color onto the fabric then squeeze the scales on, or impart some pigment into the silicone before or after putting the scales on.
    Regardless, I would still try for a silicone fluke if that's an option, or do silicone design over a fabric fluke on say... a mahina monofin or a fantasea fin since it already has the shape? With either of those a skin sling (think mertailor's slings for their fantasea fin) would work fine and not be too overwhelming for your first tail.

  3. #3
    Member Pod of New England TheMerthropologist's Avatar
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    Thanks @ChelseaSelkie ! Not sure if I'll be able to get neoprene...I'm on a tight budget, but I can look (maybe get lucky)
    The caulking sounds interesting though, and would that be safe? I guess if it is 100% silicone... Oh, but I bet I could potentially press the caulk into a mold...

    Silicone is expensive so that's why I sorta passed on it and I was thinking maybe a latex...but the caulk is definitely a thing to look into more!
    Can't really afford another monofin though, so I'll have to work around that...but I've got some ideas...
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  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by TheMerthropologist View Post
    Thanks @ChelseaSelkie ! Not sure if I'll be able to get neoprene...I'm on a tight budget, but I can look (maybe get lucky)
    The caulking sounds interesting though, and would that be safe? I guess if it is 100% silicone... Oh, but I bet I could potentially press the caulk into a mold...

    Silicone is expensive so that's why I sorta passed on it and I was thinking maybe a latex...but the caulk is definitely a thing to look into more!
    Can't really afford another monofin though, so I'll have to work around that...but I've got some ideas...
    Neoprin would be a cheaper option, if real neoprene isn't going to work. I am not sure if scuba knit will work too or not since 100% silicone doesn't stretch like dragonskin would. And yes, you should use 100% silicone.
    Using caulk would prevent you having to make a life-sized sheet scale mold, which is actually very expensive. Instead, you pipe directly onto the fabric itself and then use a custom texture stamp or your fingers to create the scale shape.
    What is your current budget, if that is safe to ask?

    Sent from my [device_name] using MerNetwork mobile app

  5. #5
    Member Pod of New England TheMerthropologist's Avatar
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    From my research neoprin isn't too great and stretches out too easily

    Gotta try too keep this..let's say under 100.
    This is going to serve as a project for a class, being able to actually use it is a hopeful bonus. It doesn't make sense to blow the bank on this. It's also going to be my first tail on top of having a time restraint (like 5 weeks tops?)

    I want to try an individual scale approach so I'm not going to be making any sheets. That's why I was thinking of using a fabric base like power mesh, maybe lycra if needed. I know I can get other fabrics like tulle fairly cheaply too which sounds nice for flowy fins. My thinking is with a fabric base, I could also cut out some scale shapes from fabric and coat and set them into a mold with silicone or latex. Alternatively, I could try creating a stamp and go more fully towards the fabric. But I want something to coat the scales so they're a bit tougher and lay better.
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  6. #6
    If you're going straight for an art tail or land-gigs, it shouldn't really matter what you use. But if you want it to be swim-friendly, you're going to need a good monofin and decent fabric. 100 is quite a small budget for a tail that actually works.

    Personally, I feel like coating fabric scales would make it thick, heavy, and be fiddly. It wouldn't lay smooth, and personally that would remove the fishlike illusion IMO. Power mesh or tulle seems like a good idea.

  7. #7
    Member Pod of New England TheMerthropologist's Avatar
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    Well you know, college and trying to do this as a class project leads to a tight budget that requires some creative problem solving and troubleshooting before I go further. It's all in the OP I think...Material matters for multiple reasons like in any art/sewing project.

    In theory, I don't think it should be any more finicky or heavier than say a full silicone individual scale tail...may need some extra glueing/sewing to lay correctly but some extra thickness may stop any shifting that would occur if it were fabric alone. Shouldn't even need a heavy coating really...

    It should be some good experimentation regardless if I go through with it and would provide at least a mock-up for future endeavours. Might also be useful for other merfolk too, who knows. I can be the test SeaMonkey.

    Hence the whole thread to help get some feedback and some other ideas to fit the parameters I need to fill (individual scale, fabric base, use a mold or print or both, budget friendly)
    A fish out of water waiting for dreams to come true
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  8. #8
    I wonder, if you are going to make a tail with individual silicone scales, if the whole thing could be made of powermesh with a fabric insert to protect the wearer's skin? GE1 would be the cheapest silicone option (cheaper than latex, if I remember right) and that would more than likely require an insert or something.... maybe scuba fabric? Also, you'll have to buy pigments for that silicone, since it won't hold paint. At least powdered pigments go further than paints...

    E2A: I know that it's a college art project. Been there, in much a similar position. However, I'm also trying to be kinda realistic.

  9. #9
    Member Pod of New England TheMerthropologist's Avatar
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    It's a tight budget but I don't think it's outside the realm of possibility...The fabrics I can likely find cheap enough... It's whatever I add on top of that that's gonna start bumping the price.
    If I need to drop the idea of silicone caulk and latex then I drop them. Then it's a game of finding an alternative, which is also doable. There could be other materials to consider or products to give some stiffness and coating to fabric scales.

    Taking a look at most silicone individual scale tails it's a process using a power mesh base to attach everything to. If I'm worried about skin contact I can double up on that layer...but hence that first question on if the caulking is safe because if it's not then maybe it shouldn't be used.

    I know the whole thing is like crazy but that's sort of half the fun (?). Like in an ideal situation I would probably just make a plan and go, but this isn't ideal. So it's a game of creative problem solving and how to be as smart as possible in picking materials and creating a design. The options are open.
    A fish out of water waiting for dreams to come true
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  10. #10
    I've been told that GE 1 is safe, but have read other places it isn't ideal directly against the skin. It's one of those "grain of salt" things, I think.

    I wonder though, if you are going to use just fabric, if doing an "art tail" instead of something swimable would be fun. My brain thinks of using beads on thread to create rouched, bead-edged fabric scales.

  11. #11
    Member Pod of New England TheMerthropologist's Avatar
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    well thanks for all the help

    Anywho
    This thread will now be moving into its shenanigans phase,
    The part where I do as I please and show the resulting mess from my endeavours.
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  12. #12
    Member Pod of New England TheMerthropologist's Avatar
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    Alright, so neat-o-rooney

    the project is a-go for class! Really on that front, it's going to be how I present the finished work and create a sort of meaning behind it!

    As for the construction...
    I'm looking at fabrics now, I may purchase it online or try to take a trip down to fabric row and jomars if I can find the time.
    I'm considering:
    power mesh (this one seems to be a must
    lycra
    and maybe the neoprene scuba?

    Right now I also need to figure out how much (of any fabric) I would need to cut enough scales out of to cover a tail...
    (Since like, the reason I can do a tail is because the scales themselves are my multiple)

    I still need to get some latex at least for testing
    I did do a quick experiment with modge podge on some leftover tulle, so that may be useful! Probably wouldn't want to swim around in a modge podge tail too often for too long..but like for general costume/sculptural? purposes...could do the job...
    for now I do have some left over tulle which should help with just testing

    I'm considering maybe getting some vinyl and/or another material I saw (and don't remember what it was) and its use in constructing fins...
    maybe also getting something like plastic rods (or moldable pellets) to help also with creating fins...

    I've got ideas
    I gotta check materials, get a list together, see how much I would need of what, compare costs, and go from there.
    gotta get some experimenting done too and start thinking about how the work will be installed/presented (and I could totally make it performative if I so choose to)

    I'm really considering Cameron Stahlheims work as a source of inspiration as he did a beautiful (and giant!) sculpture of a merman "...and then I met colby on the street and my fantasy died".
    It may be something you guys have seen before (It's very long, dark tail, smooth, beautiful).

    Next update...will be whenever I get time to get more work done...which should be...after whenever I get the work I need to do more immediately done...

    bahbahbah...

    So thoughts on materials, resources to check out, artists to look at...advice
    All helpful stuff which I do encourage.

    Keep in mind...I gotta keep the budget tight and I have to make individual scales because the project is based on multiples.
    On the flip side (of needing to keep a tight budget because school), because school I do/should have access to some neat stuff like printing presses, the laser cutter, maybe the woodshop (they changed the rules), I should try to see if I can borrow a sewing machine probably...
    A fish out of water waiting for dreams to come true
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  13. #13
    Member Pod of New England TheMerthropologist's Avatar
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    Awwww yeeeeeeah ordered some power mesh and a pretty organza (because it was cheap)
    hopefully, I get it in a timely manner. I got the mesh in what seems to be a pretty skin neutral tone that way depending on how things go it shouldn't too much of a hassle to dye if needed and I can play with illusion a little bit.

    Anyone know off hand about how much surface area different amounts of liquids cover? Because I don't remember the math and I need to look into that.

    I'm still considering what materials to cast in...

    I think I'll also make a sort of body double the tail can fit onto for if I go the more sculptural route.

    I'm gonna try to draw some scale ideas and patterns. Maybe Sculpt some if I have time, I have to go to the ceramics studio anyway and assuming my leftover clay is workable it should be fine for mold making purposes (since I've used it to make plaster molds before and I can't fire it now that its been used in that process. but I can make more molds!)
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  14. #14
    Member Pod of New England TheMerthropologist's Avatar
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    HAHAHAHAHAAAAAAA

    let's do an update:
    I've got a tape dummy of my lower body made from packing tape
    I've got 3 yards of power mesh
    3 yards organza
    I made 3 smallish plaster molds of...38? scales I made from clay

    As for casting...I've toyed around with matte varnish and modge podge using vegetable oil as a mold release...the modge podge stuck a bit but the varnish does well.
    Had trouble with varnish + acrylic paint...but that could be thickness issues...

    I'm gonna try some materials again, change some recipes, oh and switch over to petroleum jelly as the mold release since I have noticed the plaster will absorb some of the oil which could have been contributing to some of the problems.

    I'm considering using resin and my teacher thinks it could work great. It's really a question of price...
    It looks like the sculpture shop resale actually sells the smooth on crystal clear 200 in a 2 pint for $25 (they buy different materials in bulk and then separate them into smaller kits for students to purchase)...which actually sounds like a good route to go...maybe I could even try to get 2?
    Since I'll be doing very thin castings I don't know how far the resin is gonna take me but....worth a shot...

    Once I finish all my nonsense I can hopefully do a neat little write up and count up all the material costs...It's not looking too bad any more really...
    hopefully I sort this out quickly enough so if I decide to go to acmoore I can use my 55% one regular price item coupon...I have like 3 of them actually so it'd be cool to use them...
    like if I wanted to retry the modge podge maybe and I like that I can get a fuck ton of modge podge...I might get some anyway...

    I thought about polyester resin but based on my research while it is relatively the cheapest it isn't the most durable, has the most fumes, and can be more of a hassle to use.
    the epoxy resins on the other hand while like the most expensive are much more durable, safer, and an easier mixing process.

    I should start taking more pictures...

    Maybe when my molds dry out a bit because the plaster room has been freezing cold and disgustingly humid which is well, awful for working in plaster

    still gotta work on coloring too...
    I can try my paints...but I also have these dry pigments so that might be interesting...

    So as always, thoughts, opinions, helpful ideas
    Always welcome!
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  15. #15
    Member Pod of New England TheMerthropologist's Avatar
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    hahahahaaaaa the plaster is still moist! Not as bad but still bad enough where I need to be extra careful or I could damage it!
    But I have 2 pictures!...Which I'm not going to share at this moment because It is being troublesome to upload them...But I can try leaving some links!

    One of the double I made out of packing tape which I now need to fix and finish (I started with 2 rolls which got me a lot farther than I thought they would get me)
    https://drive.google.com/open?id=1IC...wLgUO4-93-p610

    and my tiniest mold I made with some tests in there setting up. One is modge podge again and the other is the matte varnish Rather than the acrylic paint this time I tried out powder pigment (and definitely added too much). HOWEVER I used vaseline as the mold release which I'm much more confident about so I should be able to get them out of the molds much easier. It does seem like a better barrier and it doesn't absorb at all. I'll check on them in an hour or so...
    https://drive.google.com/open?id=1Ie...uGaEzkbv5-8sVW

    Still also deciding if I should go with one seam or two...Since I have the form it does seem possible to wrap the mesh around it, pin it, and sew along it to make a big ol sock...might also save on material...
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  16. #16
    Member Pod of New England TheMerthropologist's Avatar
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    So I finished the double, fixed it up, made the pattern, cut the mesh and have pinned it around the double.
    When I figure out how to effectively use the sewing machine I have I can get that bit done if needed...currently the issue I'm having with the machine (an old singer 5127) is I can't get a good control of speed from the foot pedal.

    As for the more important part which is getting scales cast...still running into problems...see a layer of fabric and a coating of modge podge or varnish seems to do fine but any more than that or the resin I tried...won't release completely. I tried sealing the mold with modge podge (which modge podge then ripped off). I'm gonna try sealing with varnish and see if that works any better.

    Also I'm gonna try cutting a hole in a box and putting my hair dryer in there to see if that will help dry out the plaster molds more and help release what materials are left inside still. It should also be helpful with resin. Gonna research layer casting methods some more...

    Anyone ever work with smooth on crystal clear 200 before? I could use some tips and advice for it.
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  17. #17
    Member Pod of New England TheMerthropologist's Avatar
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    Oh hey, I made a thread! Here's the conclusion to this (mis)adventure:

    All in all, very educational and did serve to gather useful data and the end result did give me a nice multiples art piece. It had obvious flaws but the concept was well appreciated. This is certainly something I'd like to revisit.

    I did not end up with a costume for myself (I mean..technically I could wear it but...not ideal) but it did make for an interesting sculpture. I ended up just using basting stitching and sewing it around a tape body.

    I think a lot of what I did would be good to explore more for a full wearable tail. The fabric scales I cast do look pretty darn good (when properly done) and would probably look better with clean up. I would have to test how well they do in water and how they'd move. Also, thanks to a hairdryer in a box they dried super fast!
    They are very thin and lightweight...I think it'd be possible to thicken and stiffen them also I'm sure there would be a way to sew them down...
    I got the fabric from fabric wholesale direct, and it was lovely!

    I did a few resin...and those were less successful...I think resin could be viable...but need some more practice with the material and casting...also like, the right set up to cast in.

    https://drive.google.com/drive/u/1/f...KBj4g0nHGtFuEt
    hope the link works!
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  18. #18
    Senior Member Euro Pod Azurin Luna's Avatar
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    Sad it didn't really work out in the end.
    Hopefully the next try will turn out lovely.

    The link doesn't work, it says you need permission to few it.
    Your imagination is your only limit

  19. #19
    Member Pod of New England TheMerthropologist's Avatar
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    Sad it didn't really work out in the end.
    Hopefully the next try will turn out lovely.

    The link doesn't work, it says you need permission to few it.
    Thanks! I'm not mad at the end result at all really but yeah. I think the info I gathered will be very useful for further reiterations! It's less that it didn't work and more that it didn't work out as originally intended.

    One day I also hopefully won't be totally inept at figuring out how to put in pictures (and putting the right settings on folders!)
    Hopefully, this link should let the images be viewable through it
    https://drive.google.com/open?id=1yJ...KBj4g0nHGtFuEt

    I still gotta go through the editing and resizing process
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  20. #20
    Senior Member Euro Pod Azurin Luna's Avatar
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    Looks pretty cool as a light this way
    Your imagination is your only limit

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