This was made for a friend of mine for a Christmas present. My original plan was to make something more like an action figure that was poseable and came with accessories, but after a few attempts at that I decided to go for a statue a) to get it done and b) to make it look fairly good.
The issues with making a poseable action figure are pretty immense, and I’d picked the wrong modelling medium to do that, I was using super sculpey which is awesome as a modelling medium, but it’s extremely brittle, especially in thin areas (like around joints!). Valuable lesson learned, and next time I’ll try something like Kato Clay, which should be much better for making something with moving joints.
As always, first thing is to collect reference images and come up with a game plan. Reference pics weren’t too hard – though finding images of his back was fairly tricky, I ended up finding a Gif which was very handy showing him turning around. As anyone who makes anything knows, you’re then presented with choices – do you try to make it exactly as seen, or are you going to do your own take on it? I had already decided that I wanted to do a “realistic” version (as much as a human-pickle-wearing-rat-part-exoskeleton-for-combat can be realistic). I did actually try buying actual rat bones, and I went and bought a jar of pickles. My plan was to cast one of the pickles, then sculpt in the face, and then construct the exoskeletal armour from real rat bones, using silicone for the flesh parts and fake fur for the rat fur.
After failing to find anyone selling rat bones, and realising that the pickles I had bought were fairly small, I figured I’d just make everything – I had however already bought the fake fur, so I decided to generally stick to the plan and make it as “realistic” as possible.
I did my usual trick and totally failed to take pictures for most of this process 🙁
I used the usual methods for working with Polymer Clay. I rolled a ball of aluminium foil into a vague pickle shape to get the size right, then covered that in a thin layer of clay – from there I added some rolled balls of clay and flattened them down for the lumpy bits, and then cut in the mouth, adding basic shapes and pushing them around. I tend to work on everything all at once – you can see here I had the eyes in, the nose vaguely in place and the mouth taking shape, and I just kept manipulating all those elements until the face looked about right. The teeth and tongue I added towards the end, and due to the great properties of super sculpy they were simple to add.
Everything that isn't a pickle
At this point I baked the pickle (sounds like a euphemism) according to the directions, which makes it solid and that meant I could sculpt the bones and things around it with no problems. The only issue here is that un-baked clay won’t stick to baked clay (without a special substrate), but since I was aware of this it wasn’t too much of an issue. I added the spine and ribs next – baked it, then added the pelvis bones, baked it again, then the lungs and brain – baked those. I made it sound quick, but it took a little while to do all that. I used fairly basic tools, you don’t need anything fancy – a pin taped to a cocktail stick for tiny details, a cocktail stick for less tiny details, and a basic sculpting tool (the one you see everywhere with a flat tiny shovel looking thing on one end and a blunt knife blade on the other), an old toothbrush to add texture, a pen cap to make the bobbly texture on the lungs, etc. You really don’t need anything expensive to work with polymer clay.
The legs and arms were a nightmare. As I mentioned, my plan was to make them articulated. I tried making wire armatures with loops that interlocked and putting clay over them – it worked, but the clay broke and cracked far too easily. Eventually I abandoned that and simply created a wire armature by drilling a hole right through the pickle body where the arms and legs would attach and feeding steel wire through. I use “Bailing wire” from the hardware shop, it’s cheap and commonly available and holds shape well – but I also have aluminium armature wire which I sometimes use, just depends what you’re doing – again, you don’t need expensive stuff to make it work. After sculpting on all the necessary shapes and parts, I gave it an all-over spray with primer and started painting.
Painting & Finishing
For the painting I used acrylics. They’re not my favourite paints in all honesty, but for this project they were the best choice given how much time I had left to get this done and the kinds of mixing I knew I’d need to do. In a perfect world, with much better time-management from me I’d have used oil paints because I much prefer the final effects you can get – but there’s a ton of drying time there and I also know that some paints react with Polymer Clay, and in all honest I didn’t have time for anything else to go wrong!
The base I designed in the Windows 10 software “3D builder” and printed – very simple, but brilliant (for what it does) 3D modelling program that comes free with Win10. It wasn’t any faster than using Sketchup, but I wanted to test it out and this seemed like a good opportunity.
The fur is the fake fur I purchased, glued on with E6000 glue (everything that needed gluing is, it’s tough stuff but has a tiny bit of flex for a while after, which is great for this sort of thing). I then trimmed the fur down with scissors, making it more rat-length, and then painted it with watered down PVA glue to make it look matted and like it had been flayed from a dead rat in a sewer by a pickle-based mad scientist.
The metal poles on the right leg are aluminium armature wire bent to shape and glued on, the screw on the left leg is literally a screw from my random screws box. The wrist blades are scratch built from plasticard, the wheels on them are 3D printed (again designed in 3D Builder). the blades themselves I made from thin sheets of Aluminium that I had left over from something else, I cut them out and filed them down using small tools. Would have been much easier to use actual scalpel blades – which I really thought I had, but apparently I did not!
To finish, I panted the pickle and bones with matt varnish, and the flesh parts and eyeballs with gloss varnish.
Overall I’m pretty happy with how it came out. I do wish I’d been able to do my original plan of making it an action figure, but ultimately I think it would have been fairly pointless to do that since it’s just going to spent its life in a display case!