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The Mysterious Stranger Costume Build; Part 5: Masks and Staff

This is an ideal for any costume requiring a mask, like a carnival or masquerade costume. the staff can be used with any mask, and can be painted any color! So if you need to learn how to build a mask, this is the place!

If you’re here for the Mysterious Stranger Costume, you may ask yourself why we’re skipping from the arms to the masks, and the reason is that the chest piece and neck guard is all quite complicated, and will take some time to explain, in many many parts, so I thought a break was nice. also, it is important to make the arm pieces first, because they give you an idea of movement, before you make the pieces that are going to make movement difficult.

So, lets talk about the staff first. It’s a fairly easy build. What isn’t easy is the means by which you will affix your mask. Now if you only want one mask attached to the staff, it’s really simple, you’ll just glue it down; however, if you’re like me and like versatility, or you would love to make multiple faces for this many-faced character, then you’ll want a way to remove your masks. The problem is that the masks are heavy, and no one wants something heavy on the end of a stick to fall off. So I came up with a way of doing this, that i think, is quite ingenius.

STAFF:

Materials:

  • Wooden dowel (I got a fairly thick one, measuring in at about half an inch. these cost about a buck and can be found at any craft or hardware store
  • saw
  • sculpey light weight clay (it’s the white kind that’s flufy like a marshmallow. THIS IS THE ONLY CLAY THAT WORKS, for reasons you’ll learn later)
  • blue paint of the squeezy tube variety
  • magnets. (now i’m not talking your refrigerator variety magnets, I’m talking industrial grade magnets. Mine are exactly the dimensions of a quarter or ten pence piece. They have a magnetic pull of 60 pounds. They cost me about twenty dollars and I ordered them online. Look for them online. They’re a common item, so you should be able to find them fairly quickly. Do not order anything stronger in pull than 60 lbs. or your mask will fracture. anything weaker and the mask will fall off. 60 is perfect but hear this DON’T EVER LET THEM COME TOGETHER YOU WILL HAVE A HELL OF A TIME GETTING THEM APART!!!
  • roll of quarters or ten pence pieces
  • masking tape
  • cookie sheet
  • oven
  • foil
  • hot glue or some other variety that will stay put
  1. Determine about how long you’d like your staff to be. I ended up cutting about 6-8 inches off the end of my dowel, which came in handy, and you’ll see why in a minute
  2. cut of the excess with the saw and set piece aside
  3. SKIP TO STEP 5 IF YOU ARE MAKING ONLY ONE MASK FOR THIS STAFF, AS YOU WILL SIMPLY GLUE IT ON using the quarters, create a spacer. By this I mean, stack exactly as many quarters as it takes to equal your magnet (if they are not round or whatever, use something that is the proper shape, but keep in mind this will be going in the oven, so it must be metal or wood) Once you have a quarter stack shaped like your magnet, wrap masking tape around it to make it solid. We are doing this because the magnets cannot go in the oven. Extreme heat demagnitizes them, and they’d also latch onto your oven, which could be bad.
  4. Take the extra dowel piece. this will be used as a baking tool. attach the quarter-stack to the flat side with some tape (it does not matter how sturdy it is, just be careful with it in future steps)
  5. using the sculpey, build around the quarters and the top of the wood. At this point you are ONLY building the base, not the embellishments. be sure to leave the quarters exposed at the very top. you are not trying to keep them in at this point. IF YOU ARE ONLY MAKING ONE MASK TO AFFIX TO THIS STAFF, JUST BUILD A SOLID BASE INSTEAD OF THE HOLLOW MAGNET FILLED ONE
  6. tipping this upside down so that the dowel piece sticks out of the top like a candied apple, set on the cookie sheet and bake the clay as per the instructions
  7. after this is hardened and cooled, wrap it in foil so that you make a little foil mold of the shape of the end. LEAVE THE FOIL ON WHILE WORKING.
  8. With the clay, build your cap piece. First make the cap piece for the magnets by creating this shapeover the top of the foil covered end
  9. remove this and bake.
  10. remove the clay end from the baking dowel and remove the quarters from inside it.
  11. put the magnet where the quarters were, making sure that theproper magnetic pole is facing out
  12. glue the “cap” piece of embellishment on top of the magnet, combining the two clay pieces with the magnets sandwiched inside. The cap piece should leave some magnet exposed, but form a ring around the magnet edge, locking it in place but maintaining its magnetic pull. Like a gemstone in a bezel (sp?) setting, the magnet will stay in place

    Caption in pic below should say “magnet” not “quarters” my bad

  13. glue to actual staff
  14. Now create you extra curly ques and whatnot to add to your staff. (I already had my masks made, and so could use their chins as a guide for how I wanted to curve the embelishments upward) The reason I did it separately was so that the magnet would be inside, but I also had an engineereal reason. If the little curly arms are flexible at glue joints, then the staff will not shatter if your magnets and mask snap into place violently, which mine did, which was why I incipiently, made two staffs. The finished product is all glued together, yes, but is very sturdy, because the little arms are just decoration. it’s the magnets that hold the mask in place. it will stay in place, even if the arms fall off. If it’s sturdiness concerns you, you can resin coat it, being careful not to cover the magnet inside. I did this with mine, and it held up extremely well However, if you’ve made a staff for only one, permenantly affixed mask, then you can just make all the pieces at once, all attached, and have it be solid
  15. paint and/or resin coat
    (
MASKS:
Now this is the place where we pause for a moment and assess our artistic ability. If you are ambitious, and have an artistic bent, or if you are making this as part of a different costume, please go ahead and make a mask, but if you find that you tend to be a little less artistic, well, then i would suggest buying a mask. Plastic masks sold in halloween stores or even at the crafting stores are very similar in style to the Mysterious strangers face, however, his moves and has expressions, so you can paint it, and it will look good, but it wont be exact.
However, i’ve come up with a method that i think will be fool proof (fingers crossed) so that even if you dont have much talent, you can get the right face. sculpting a face free hand is hard, so if you’re a bit leery of this, trust me, you can do it.
Materials:
  • heavy cardboard
  • plastic mask bought at any craft store, this item is thin and flimsy and only costs a few bucks
  • sculpey leight weight; light and fluffy like marshmallow. each mask takes about two, so with two packs you should have enough to make staff and one mask these are 15$ a pop, so this can get a bit costly if you’re not careful
  • masking tape (A LOT)
  • paint in whatever shade you like
  • cookie sheet
  • oven
  1. We start with the base. Using the purchased mask, trace its outline on the cardboard. DON’T CUTE IT OUT YET OR ERASE ANY LINES.

    Now, looking at photos of the film, and a TON of close ups on the mask, I added to this tracing, by making the cheek bones a bit larger, etc, until I had a general cameo silhouette of his face, in whatever expression mask I was making. DO NOT ERASE THE TRACIN OUTLINES FROM THE ORIGINAL MASK

  2. cut out the finished tracing.
  3. set the purchased mask in place (line up original tracing with mask edges) and tape down to cardboard
  4. now, using the masking tape, tape from the high pints of the store-bought mask (cheek, forehead, chin) to the edges of the tracing, wrap around the back, and reinforce. Basically, you’re creating space in the shape of the finished product, A kind of mask within a mask effect.
  5. roll out your clay until you have a thick sheet, about 1/4′ thick, that will lay on top of the mask base, and completely cover it.
  6. now its up to you. punch out the eyes, add clay here and there, take away here or there.
  7. when the face looks about how you want it, pop the whole thing into the oven (yes, the base too, really it’s ok) Bake as per the instructions on the clay
  8. as you bake this, the clay will harden, luckily it will harden before the plastic mask inside begins to melt a bit and collapse. hehehe…. i was sure the clay was going to collapse too, but honestly it didn’t. Now obviously you’ll need a new plastic mask and piece of cardboard or each finished mask, but hey, the price for a work of art. IF THI BOTHERS YOU AND YOU’RE NOT SURE IT WILL WORK, YOU CAN ALWAYS MAKE A PAPER MACHE MASK OVER THIS BASE, AND BAKE OVER THAT. IF THE MACHE IS THICK AND HEAVY, IT WILL NOT COLLAPSE WHICH MEANS YOU HAVE A TEMPLATE TO MAKE OTHER MASKS. I was just skipping steps and lazy.
  9. remove from oven, and while its still hot, take the mask off the base, back fill it, so that it is more sturdy and smooth (meaning put more clay on the inside of the mask) and bake it again. Don’t worry about the clay that has already been baked cracking. It wont. That’s why we’re working with this type of sculpey, because it’s flexible
  10. The mask should pop out looking smooth, sturdy and white. you can now sand it, carve it a little bit, shave the edges, and paint it.
  11. To get the shaded effect from the film, I thinned down white, brown, tan, and pink acrylic paint and did a multi layer white washing effect.
  12. varnish when finished and dry.
ASSEMBLING THE MASK AND STAFF:
  1. put the mask in place on the staff (i cut out pieces of foam and glue them on the top of the staff as a cushion
  2. CAREFULLY and as SLOWLY as possible, lower the other side of the magnet into place inside the chin of the mask.
AGAIN, DO NOT EVER LET THE MAGNETS TOUCH, ESPECIALLY WHEN THEY ARE INSIDE THE STAFF, BECAUSE SHATTERING IS A HUGE ISSUE AND SO IS REMOVING THE MAGNETS ONCE STUCK TOGETHER. YOU HAVE THE HARDEST TIME WHEN REMOVING THE MASK. TO AVOID THIS, LIFT THE MAGNET STRAIGHT OFF AS HARD AS YOU CAN AND HAVE SOMEONE ELSE CATCH THE MASK AS IT FALLS.

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