Tuesday, April 26, 2011

More About Carving Wax Test Doll

Who or what is Carving Wax Test Doll?
I probably haven't explained everything as well as I could?

Aalish is my first 60cm ball-jointed doll.
I am figuring her out as I go along.
I do not have any elastic-tensioned BJDs to refer to.
So I made my own test doll, so I can figure out the joints.

This is very similar to how Martha Armstrong-Hand figured out her first BJD.
Martha Armstrong-Hand wrote a book about making porcelain BJDs, titled Learning To Be A Doll Artist. It was first published by Scott Publications in 1999, but is currently out-of-print, and is pretty much unavailable.

Since I found out about LTBADA, I have searched and searched for more information about Martha's Method of making BJDs. I have managed to pick up some bits and pieces, here and there, on the Internet.

When Martha first decided to make fully articulated ball-and-socket jointed dolls, she made herself a test doll of carving wax by making a mold over a seven-inch Rosebud Baby that she had designed for Mattel, and cast carving wax into that mold. Then she gradually worked out the joints by trial and error with wooden balls and simple hinges. After that, she translated what she had found out experimenting with her test doll, into the joints for her ball-jointed dolls.

Carving Wax is a design material that Martha discovered when she was working as a professional sculptor in industry in the late 1950s and early 1960s. She brought the carving wax from industry into her doll making studio. In my opinion, this carving wax is one of the most amazing things that Martha gave us. She made her own carving wax recipe so she could control its consistency and color. She measured it by weight:

9 parts paraffin
9 parts talc
1 part beeswax
1 part carnauba wax

She melted the waxes in a double boiler or crockpot. She used a thermometer to make sure it didn't get too hot (under 180 deg.). Then she added the talc and mixed everything thoroughly. My recipe for carving wax is a modified version of a modified version of Martha's recipe.

Here is the carving wax recipe that I modified:

4.5 parts microcrystalline wax
4.5 parts paraffin wax
9 parts talc
1 part beeswax
1 part carnauba wax

My own carving wax recipe looks like this:

1 part microcrystalline wax (14oz.)
1 part paraffin wax (14oz.)
2 parts talc (28oz.)

I used what I had on hand, without having to order any carnauba wax or beeswax. I used Baby Powder Talc which I found at the Dollar Store in 14oz bottles. They had two kinds of baby powder, one that listed Talc and Fragrance as the ingredients, and the other which listed Cornstarch and Fragrance as the ingredients. I bought the one with Talc as the main ingredient.

Needless to say, my carving wax smells a lot like a freshly dusted baby's bum. :)

How did Martha use the carving wax to make a BJD?
First, she designed her doll with concept drawings, then made full-size working drawings.
She used the working drawings (front view and side view) to make a wire armature.
The armature was attached to a modeling stand.
She modeled her original doll sculpt in oil-clay over the wire armature.
Then she removed the oil-clay sculpt from the modeling stand.
This was easy to do because she designed her modeling stand with pipe fittings.
So all she had to do was unscrew the pipe fittings from the modeling stand. Brilliant!
Next, she cut the original sculpt into parts for plaster molding.
Note that because the oil-clay sculpt was modeled over a wire armature, that the wire
armature was cut in the process.
Her method requires a new wire armature for each new doll.
She cuts the original oil-clay sculpt at the head, the shoulders, and the hips.
She then had six doll parts to mold in plaster rough shell molds. (Head, Torso, 2 Arms, 2 Legs)

Wax and water do not mix. So if she soaks the plaster rough shell molds in water until they are fully saturated with water, she can pour melted carving wax into the molds and the carving wax will not stick to the plaster molds. Furthermore, because the carving wax in the molds starts to thicken up along the walls of the mold, when the carving wax is thick enough, she can pour the excess carving wax back into her wax pot, and have hollow castings!

The carving wax is tough enough to withstand elastic tensioning!
And, the parts are hollow which allows the elastic to go through the limbs and the torso, and the head. This allows the carving wax BJD to be test strung before the final molds are made. It is much easier to modify the carving wax doll parts than to discover that your joint design does not work after the final molds have been made.

Next, she cuts the carving wax doll parts at the joints. She had made other molds of balls, and she cast carving wax balls of various sizes into those molds. Then she used an electric wax pen and sculpting tools to design the joints and attach the balls to the limbs, and sculpt sockets and so forth.

Another property of carving wax is that it can be finished glass-smooth! After Martha designed the joints in carving wax, and test strung the doll parts, she would refine the doll parts so they could be used as master patterns for making porcelain slip casting molds. From what I have gathered, she was a perfectionist, and all her doll parts were refined to the highest level. Martha was a professional sculptor and doll maker.

If you have read this far, then you should now have a much better idea of what Carving Wax Test Doll is to me, in my process of doll making. I am loosely following Martha's Method, even to the extent of making a test doll for myself, so I can figure out jointing for my 60cm BJD, named Aalish.

Carving Wax Test Doll will never be finished for molding, but she will probably be finished as a test doll that is strung with elastic, and she will be able to stand and pose and so forth.

I will use what I find working with Carving Wax Test Doll, and apply that to my current work-in-progress Aalish sculpt, which is being modeled in brown microcrystalline wax (Victory Brown). I am trying to document my daily progress (or lack of progress) here, on my weblog. Keeping a journal or notebook of your doll's progress is also a part of Martha's Method. I find that doing the journal of this first 60cm BJD is a very good way to keep motivated, and to remember who, what, how, and why I am making this 60cm doll in the first place.

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