Buddy Davis: Making a Dino


Q. How do you know that the dinosaur is ready for the finishing touches?
A. This is the point where I stand back and carefully inspect the overall shape of the dinosaur. Does that leg need a little more muscle? Hmm. Clay is used to make these small changes, as it's shaped onto the fiberglass to fix the problem. A layer of plastic wrap is applied over the clay fix, and we're ready to add another two layers of fiberglass on top of this. When the fiberglass is dry (the plastic wrap speeds this along), I have to remove the patch that I just made. I just cut around the fixed area, and the fiberglass peels off like the shell of a hard-boiled egg. Then, I dig out and remove the clay, because it's excess weight that we don't need. (The clay is re-used, too.) The fiberglass "mold" of the fix is re-attached with another layer of fiberglass to keep it in place, and I'm ready to re-assess the shape again.

Q. How do you add more wrinkles for a more natural flow in the skin?
A. Sometimes I use a blanket. Like the kind that you have on your bed. Draped over the back or around a leg, the flow of the fabric gives a very naturally wrinkled look to a smooth surface. Then I lightly brush on a very light coat of resin. By the next day, it's like a heavily starched shirt, It's heavy enough, at this point, to take the weight of the fiberglass and still retain its shape.

Q. How do you know if that problem in the shape is worth fixing?
A. Through a lot of years of sculpting, I've learned one important lesson. If you see a mistake, as much as you hate to have to re-do the area, you should stop and fix it right away. You're going to look at that model for a long time, and you hate to see a mistake in it. Most sculptors will tell you the same thing. It usually seems like a pain to go back and fix something, but taking care of your mistakes early is always worth it in the long run.

Q. How do you make the final layer of "skin"?
A. Cabosil and epoxy are my two favorite methods (Cabosil is finely ground silica). Mixed with resin and a catalyst, Cabosil creates a mixture with a consistency like peanut butter. This goop is spread on with a knife and then textured. Epoxy is expensive and heavy, but it holds up better to the stress of moving the model and gives you better detail . Cabosil is less expensive and easier to mix but produces a more fragile, easier-to-crack skin. Both methods produce a nice finished product, though, so you have to weigh all the ups and downs before deciding which to use. In a pinch, if you don't have Cabosil, you can even try ground corn cobs or sawdust with the resin. I've occasionally used oil-based clay for the skin, but the weight and cost of the finished product make it a poor choice for most large-scale modelling. On my original dragon model, I tried latex, but the skin deteriorated in less than three years and just hung in shreds. Back to the epoxy or Cabosil!

Q. How do you know what a dinosaur's skin looked like?
A. The skin is something that a dinosaur sculptor is always working on. Very few fossilized-skin impressions have been found, but we're learning more about the skin texture all the time, as we uncover more of the fossil record. I have a casting of a Hadrosauran fossilized-skin impression, about the size of my open hand, that presents a clear outline of highly-textured scales. I often make a flexible mold of this cast and use that to create the skin texture. It's especially useful around the face and the feet. Bi-pedal dinosaurs, however, appear to have had a more pebbly type of skin. This is what I use on many of my models.


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