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Thread: Akula's first full silicone, individual scale tail!

  1. #1

    Akula's first full silicone, individual scale tail!

    Hallo, all! Long time no talk!

    After a few good years floating around the mer community, a few fabric tails, a few partial silicone tails, and about a year's worth of experimentation, I'm preparing to make my first full silicone tail.

    I've been playing around with designs for my personal freshwater dream tail, but I have a couple of months to kill before I get started on it in earnest (for reasons that will be detailed in a later tailmaking thread). To that end, and because I LOVE playing with silicone and don't want to stop, I'm going to make a different tail, which, provided I'm happy with the results, will be for sale when finished (I won't sell a garbage tail, so if it turns out I'm garbage at this, I guess I'm out the money for supplies! And that's okay. We all start somewhere).

    I don't have a fully realized design right now, but I do have some basic shapes I think I want to achieve, which I've sketched out:


    Inspiration drawn from lyretail anthias and similar fish. In terms of color, I'm thinking purples, from a deep royal purple at the base of the body and the tips of the fluke, up into a pale, pearlescent lavender-violet at the waist.

    I have a couple of basic scale types I'll be using. I sculpted these ridged ones for my freshwater tail and ran some for a color test:


    I'll be using the ridged scales up the sides and around the fins, but I'm in the process of sculpting flat scales to use for most of the tail.

    I'm starting the fluke sculpt this week. I'll be using a Finis Shooter in this tail, because it's one of my personal favorite monofins for propulsion and maneuverability. I have a gallon kit of Dragon Skin 10 and enough MoldStar to do another scale mold, but I'm going to have to make a trip to Reynolds for more silicone this week.

    I'm stoked to get started in earnest!

  2. #2
    Senior Member Pod of Oceania Mermaid Jaffa's Avatar
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    Ooo! Purple tail!
    Formerly known as ireneho

  3. #3
    Here's what I'm working on today. I've been buying cheap, walled paint palettes to sculpt my scales in, so when I pour the mold I don't have to make a clay wall. I start by tracing repeating forms of my prototype scale in dry erase marker right on the plastic:


    ...so that they're all basically the same size. But I sculpt a bunch of the same basic scale, so that they're all a little different from one another. It gives the whole thing a more organic look and feel.

    Here's what one of my finished molds looks like. This is for the ridged scales. (Forgive the top layer of silicone curing in it; I've been painting in a topcoat because it's cold af and thinner layers don't bubble. After this, I can pour the rest of the scale without a problem.)


    I was using Composi-Mold to make my molds until yesterday. Unfortunately, on a mold this size, I was having a ton of problems with bubbles, so I picked up a trial kit of MoldStar and thinned it out to try that. It's much improved, but because MoldStar is platinum-cure silicone, it does necessitate the use of a mold release when I pour my scales. Fine by me! It's not enough of a drawback not to use it.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Mermaid Jaffa View Post
    Ooo! Purple tail!
    Yeah! I love purple, but can't picture myself wearing it. I wanted to make something beautiful that I wouldn't be tempted to keep when it's done

  5. #5
    Senior Member Pod of Oceania Mermaid Jaffa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Akula View Post
    Yeah! I love purple, but can't picture myself wearing it. I wanted to make something beautiful that I wouldn't be tempted to keep when it's done
    Oh ya might change your mind!
    Formerly known as ireneho

  6. #6
    Running a set of scales today, I'm realizing I probably need more/a different mold release in the MoldStar. I think they're going to come out, but it won't be easy. Here's hoping I didn't ruin $18 worth of silicone! I think I'm going to try thinned vaseline for the next batch--Smooth-On recommends it as an alternative to their universal mold release, which I'm reluctant to try because of cost.

  7. #7
    Here are some more of my purples! Looking forward to get some of my flat scales, the ridged ones are too predatory for this tail.


  8. #8
    Update: I totally ruined $18 worth of silicone. The scales in that MoldStar mold are NOT coming out. Trying a different MoldStar mold with petroleum jelly instead of the craft store spray-in mold release, hoping the results are better. Otherwise I have to find something else to make my molds--I've been holding on to flexible materials because I really need to run more than one mold of each sculpt.

  9. #9
    OKAY.

    So I spent last week working on another project (I also make coats), but I made it into Reynolds and talked to them about molding materials. I wanted to hold onto my positives so I could get multiple casts, but the guy pointed out that if my clay positives get wrecked, I can always use the original mold to cast a new positive in silicone.

    GOOD POINT, REYNOLDS MAN.

    He sold me a trial kit of Smooth-Cast 300, a urethane resin, and a can of spray-on mold release. And it is amazing. The resin cures in 10 minutes and that mold release is no joke, so I have all-new molds now and they're awesome.

    Today I'm casting flat scales in a beautiful lavender-blue color:


    I found a tip from Pearlie Mae in another tailmaking thread about dumping the silicone over the mold and using a palette knife to get it in the negatives, and holy wow did that save me time. Thanks, Pearlie.

    I also did a little test patch of scales on powermesh.


    They are ON, seems really durable, but this slime coat is too thick and robs the scales of detail. I definitely need to thin my silicone for that. But I used an interference violet pigment in that topcoat, and it's pretty beautiful.

    I'm also working on sketching out my fluke today. Looking forward to sculpting that this week! Progress!

  10. #10
    Y'all tired of seeing purple scales yet? I hope not!

    These are the first set from my resin mold, and they're honestly so perfect I could cry. They hardly need any trimming. This is going to save me so much time.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Undisclosed Pod
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    Wonderful progress! I didn't see this thread until now so I'm too late to tell you a few things you've already learned. lol

    Looks gorgeous though!

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by LaNyah View Post
    Wonderful progress! I didn't see this thread until now so I'm too late to tell you a few things you've already learned. lol

    Looks gorgeous though!
    Thank you! I'd be thrilled to hear any other tips you have, I've made a top with this method but that project was so much smaller. I'm totally down for advice

  13. #13
    Sculpting fins is fun! Digging into details later today.


  14. #14


    I thiiiiink I'm ready to mold them! But I'll probably wait a few hours so I can obsessively smooth them while I'm doing other stuff.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Pod of Texas Mermaid Delphinidae's Avatar
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    Nice! Iím digging the purple!


    Sent from my iPhone using MerNetwork

  16. #16
    I made some heel fins yesterday!





    One of them is a little rough along the bottom edge where I had some bubbling in my mold. It's nothing I can't fix, and I think I can correct it in the urethane, too. I really love these! I wanted to experiment with this technique on a smaller scale before doing it on the fluke, but there's no paint on these, I just worked the gradient into the silicone as I made them. I'm working on another set right now.

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Akula View Post
    I made some heel fins yesterday!





    One of them is a little rough along the bottom edge where I had some bubbling in my mold. It's nothing I can't fix, and I think I can correct it in the urethane, too. I really love these! I wanted to experiment with this technique on a smaller scale before doing it on the fluke, but there's no paint on these, I just worked the gradient into the silicone as I made them. I'm working on another set right now.
    Iím loving these



    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  18. #18

  19. #19
    Finished the fronts and backs for heel fins (the dark spines) and pelvic fins (the pale spines)! I learned a ton making these, and I'm really happy with how they turned out.




    I need to get something to sculpt my fluke on this week. Eager to get rolling on that.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Euro Pod Azurin Luna's Avatar
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    Those look very lovely, can't wait to see how your complete tail will look like
    Your imagination is your only limit

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