Plastic Wood or Wood Dough for Ventriloquist Figures

wood filler

In the not too distant past one of the favorite medium for making cast ventriloquist figure heads was plastic wood. Although it was very caustic (really hard on your lungs) it worked into the mold easily and when fully cured was rock hard and was able to be carved just like real wood.

You can still purchase the same brand plastic wood but they have reformulated so that it just does not set up and cure the same. As matter of fact it really crumbles apart and is not able to be carved.

Another medium that was used was celastic which was a cloth that was impregnated with a plastic.

It too is no longer on the market due to the chemicals that were used in its production. This celastic was strong as any fiberglass but was light weight and very easy to use.

Today we have a large assortment of epoxy mediums to use as well as resin. They do the job the same way but I suspect that most of today’s builders would love to find a few unopened cans of the original plastic wood or sheets of the old celastic to use for the head construction.

It just seems that the environmentalists keep taking the good stuff away. I am sure it will be the same in a few more decades and we will be saying remember when you could go to Michael’s and buy epoxy sculpt.

Just some thoughts of a collector.

Dan
www.ventriloquistcentral.com

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Dan Willinger is a ventriloquism enthusiast and ventriloquist figure collector. He has been collecting for over 25 years. He created the Ventriloquist Central Collection. It now has over 100 ventriloquist figures and over 50 of them are Frank Marshall figures. Because of his love for the art of ventriloquism, Mr. Willinger created the website Ventriloquist Central. For more information about the website, go to: http://www.ventriloquistcentral.com

Copyright 2011 by Dan Willinger

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6 Responses to Plastic Wood or Wood Dough for Ventriloquist Figures

  1. Gary Koepke says:

    Too true Dan. I remember when I decided to mold a plastic wood head after not building for about 15 years. I didn’t know about the change in formula… yet. When I took it out it didn’t look right, was very crumbly, and eventually shattered!

    Was talking with John Osborne awhile back and he still has a case of the original stuff as well as a roll of celastic. Maybe someday he’ll get around to building again.

  2. bob isaacson says:

    True….the “good old” plastic wood of old, was wonderful to work with, although it stuck to your fingers. 52 years ago, I made my own self made figure from plastic wood, ( plaster molds) & then carving the plastic wood. Any errors or changes could easily be corrected with a little plastic wood. Even as a grade school boy, I made a few hand puppet heads from plastic wood. If you made the vent head thick enough ( although it would be heavier) , it was as solid as wood. In fact, one of my early vent heads made in 1960 is still OK today and is owned by Bob Abdou. In fact I believe that head has been though at least 5 owners that I know of having it. Ah yes, please find some of the old plastic wood formula, I’ll buy it. It was taken off the market around 1985.

  3. Philip Grecian says:

    I made puppets and heads of all kinds with Celastic (Still have a Punch and Judy set downstairs). I made scores of stage props out of the stuff. I still have probably a one- or two-foot square downstairs. I loved Celastic. Absolutely indestructible stuff. Of course, the fumes were noxious and you were left with a thick, crusty black material you had to peel away from your fingers, but that was actually rather fun. I can’t tell you how much I miss Celastic. They’re still selling something they CALL Celastic. I find it listed in theatre supply house catalogues. I’d love to order some just to see if it’s the same.

    But I know it’s not.

  4. Scott Bryte says:

    of course there’s always REAL wood!

  5. Bob Conrad says:

    Phil Grecian and I seem to think alike. I have many, many puppets made from Celastic, and one vent figure. I first became aware of this material when working briefly for Puppeteer Bil Baird, who made most of his marionettes from Celastic (over 3,000). I also have a set of Punch and Judy puppets that I made from Plasticwood, about 40 years ago and they are as good as the day I made them. I think the biggest problem was the fumes, maybe the answer was ventilation, exhaust fans, not taking the product off the market. ( I still have a small amount of Celastic)

  6. David says:

    Hi there. Plastic wood may have changed, but there is a great product called MendALL that so closely resembles the old plasticwood formula that it’s almost indistinguishable. I’m actually casting with it right now. Go to http://www.mendallproducts.com/wood.htm

    You have to order this over the phone but the prices are reasonable. A 2 lb can costs about $11.50. That’s enough for a few heads and the packing for animations!

    Cheers,

    David

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