Picture of the Week

27 Dec 2010

The Game Shelf

We were finally able to unpack the old table games we have. Classics (and quite out of print), most of them.

Location: 37° 45' N, 121° 27' W

20 Dec 2010

Lance Pope -- 1984

Lance Pope on TV, talking about the second season of Haunted Verdun Manor and special effects back in 1984.

Location: Peppermint Place, WFAA studios, Dallas, TX

13 Dec 2010

Brown Beast

Monsterous brown paws for a client in Kansas.

Location: 37° 45' N, 121° 27' W

06 Dec 2010

Pink Paw Pads

A set of wolf feet with pink pads for a client in Illinois.

Location: 37° 45' N, 121° 27' W

29 Nov 2010

Thanksgiving Fireplace

First fire in the fireplace at the new house. Small achievement, but still nice.

Location: 37° 45' N, 121° 27' W

22 Nov 2010

Halloween 2010: Ysengrin

Ysengrin posing behind the warning sign in our yard on Halloween night. We were giving out scares and candy.

Location: 37° 45' N, 121° 27' W

15 Nov 2010

Halloween 2010: DarkFang

DarkFang posing in our front yard on Halloween night. We were giving out scares and candy.

Location: 37° 45' N, 121° 27' W

08 Nov 2010

Pumpkin Demon

This jumping pumpkin demon is the creation of Bill Kirk, a cross-town neighbor, and graced his front yard this Halloween.

Location: 37° 45' N, 121° 25' W

01 Nov 2010

The Curse of Sleepy Hollow

The haunt entrance at Dell'osso Farms; the actual haunt is in a building back in the corn field and is tamer than the facade would suggest (kid-friendly). This was the closest operating haunt to us for most of the season.

Location: 37° 46' 53.41" N, 121° 18' 57.66" W

25 Oct 2010


A stack of pumpkins at Dell'osso Farms. The biggest Halloween attraction here is their corn maze, and they aim for a very family-friendly atmosphere.

Location: 37° 46' 53.42" N, 121° 18' 55.40" W

18 Oct 2010

Installing Jawsets

Here a jawset made of dental acrylic is being installed into a mask without an underskull. The muzzle has cotton cargo strapping embedded in the latex to help it hold the shape, and the jawset has cargo strapping partially embedded as well. The exposed jawset strapping is saturated with latex and the teeth are positioned in the mask. Held in place until the latex dries, the jawset is thus bonded to the mask. Superglue gel is then used to attach the base of the jawset to the inside of the lips for additional support. This gives teeth that are almost as secure as if they were part of a hard underskull.

Location: 37° 45' N, 121° 27' W

11 Oct 2010

Mufasa and Yellowfang

Watching over the household are Mufasa and Yellowfang (and an unnamed baby werewolf), all creations of Lance Pope.

Location: 37° 45' N, 121° 27' W

04 Oct 2010

Mount Oso

To the southwest of Tracy is Mount Oso (3,360 feet), part of the Diablo range dividing the central valley from the Bay area. Mount Oso was the site of California's first state-operated fire lookout station, built by the Stockman's Protective Association and donated to the CDF. That lookout tower is long gone, and today the summit is home to microwave towers.

Location: 37° 30' 27" N, 121° 22' 28" W

27 Sep 2010

Banta Inn

The local haunted restaurant, the Banta Inn. The original two-story saloon was built in 1879 by a reputed former bandit from Joaquin Murieta's band (to be taken with a big grain of salt; his descendants say he was a sheep farmer). With the dedication of the transcontinental Lincon Highway on Halloween, 1913, the saloon became a well-known watering hole for travellers until the highway was re-routed farther north in 1930. In 1937 the saloon along with much of the town burned to the ground, supposedly killing a mother and her child rooming upstairs (the first two ghosts). Quickly rebuilt, incorporating some of the original timbers, the Banta Inn has continued in business to the present day, though it converted some the space into a dining room in recent years.

Tony Gukan, an owner who died of a heart attack behind the bar in 1968, is the "best known" ghost. For the curious, here's a fuller report on the haunting (PDF) by Loyd Auerbach.

The present building is not as fancy as the Brookdale Lodge, mentioned as a haunted restaraunt before on these pages, and the adjacent brick Brichetto building (built in 1911) is often shown on web pages as being the Banta Inn. More about the Brichetto family -- and their tomb -- another week.

Location: 37° 45' 13" N, 121° 22' 22" W

20 Sep 2010

New Home For Bear

Ysengrin picked up this chainsaw sculpture of a standing bear from the artist, Tracy Boquist, at Scarborough Faire back in 1979, and it has moved with him from home to home ever since. Presently it sits out in the back yard, awaiting re-finishing.

Location: 37° 45' N, 121° 27' W

13 Sep 2010

Castle Rock

From the Rocky Mountains westward, you will find dozens of stony outcroppings named Castle Rock. This particular one is just southwest of Tracy, a little ways up Corral Hollow from the flat floor of California's Central Valley. Castle Rock itself is a slab of Neroly Formation conglomerate pockmarked with several prospecting holes. Serving as a landmark along El Camino Viejo (an eastern fork of El Camino Real), folklore holds Castle Rock as one of Joaquin Murieta's many bandit camps. Grizzly Adams frequented the area around Castle Rock in 1854, after Murieta's demise.

Location: 37° 38' 14.9" N, 121° 29' 26.6" W

06 Sep 2010

Moving Day!

This is a shot of the inside of the *second* truck we needed to move everything. What you see here is roughly half the molds.

Location: 37° 45' N, 121° 27' W

30 Aug 2010

View Out The Front

This is what we see out the front of the new location, looking south across the street and green area. You can't really see them on this panoramic image, but the low mountains of the coastal range are off to the right, and to the left are the more distant and rugged mountains of the Sierra Nevada range.

Location: Tracy, California

23 Aug 2010

Fragments of the Berlin Wall

A friend who was in Berlin in the last months of 1989 collected several fragments from the Berlin Wall; he liked to gift little packets of the concrete chips, including that printed note. Ysengrin has kept this packet, given to him about fifteen years ago, on display in the workshop.

Location: Somewhere in California

16 Aug 2010

Citric Acid and Latex

A how-to tip for this week! Running latex in plaster molds will often result in a powdery surface to the latex, as you can see on the paw to the left. A brisk rubbing with a fairly strong citric acid solution will improve the latex surface, as you can see on the right paw. Both paws were cast at the same time with the same latex, and the cleaning effect of the citric acid is quite evident with this metallic bronze latex.

Citric acid is available as a powder for food canning.

Location: Somewhere in California

09 Aug 2010

Aquarena Springs Tchotchke

This is a little desk flip-calender that Ysengrin picked up at Aquarena Springs back in 1968 or so, back when it was a thriving and popular amusement park in San Marcos, Texas. In 1996 the new owners, Texas State University, closed the park and converted it to a learning center, in part to conserve the area and its natural springs.

Location: 29° 53' 35.5" N, 97° 55' 51.8" W

02 Aug 2010

What Big Teeth!

Here's an example of detailing on teeth. The jawset was originally sculpted by DarkFang, and here has been reproduced in dental acrylic. The lower jaw has been detailed by hand with water-soluble inks and sealed in a clear varnish to both protect the detailing and to give it that wet look. The upper jaw is plain, just as it comes out of the silicone mold, and will be given a similar detailing.

Location: Somewhere in California

26 Jul 2010

Where Old Molds Go To Die

All molds eventually wear out; after dozens of pulls the fine detail gets fuzzy, and sometimes molds crack (and are patched, repeatedly). In any case, you wind up with molds that can no longer be used. Rather than drag these weighty concrete doorstops to the new shop, we converted them to gravel and mixed the result in with the existing gravel parking. Recycling!

It should be noted that we have masters that were pulled when the molds were fresh, so that new molds can be made as needed.

Location: somewhere in California

19 Jul 2010

Mr. Toad Reads

Toad's Book Club, a sculpture by Albert Guibara located in Pioneer Park just outside the Mountain View library (in Mountain View, California).

Location: 37° 23' 24.2" N, 122° 05' 00.3" W

12 Jul 2010

Maker Faire 2010

Maker Faire, San Mateo 2010. Yeah, it was like that. This is the Raygun Gothic Rocketship, first seen at Burning Man 2009 and created by its crew. The rocketship will be on display at Pier 14 in San Francisco, beginning 06 August 2010, and ending 07 Oct 2011.

Location: 37° 32' 52" N, 122° 18' 07"W

05 Jul 2010

Maker Faire 2010

Maker Faire, San Mateo 2010. Yeah, it was like that. This is Soma, first seen at Burning Man 2009 and created by the Flaming Lotus Girls, as it was being set up on Saturday.

Location: 37° 32' 52" N, 122° 18' 07"W

28 Jun 2010

Maker Faire 2010

Maker Faire, San Mateo 2010. Yeah, it was like that.

Location: 37° 32' 52" N, 122° 18' 07"W

21 Jun 2010

Bigger Wolf Paws

Finally, here are the paws pulled from the molds, cleaned up with the flashing removed and claws added.

Location: Somewhere in California

14 Jun 2010

First Good Pull

Now, let's skip forward a bit. The bottoms of the molds have been done, the molds opened up and the clay removed. Colored latex is first painted in the molds while the two halves are open, then the molds are assembled. A couple of pours later, and the molds are opened to reveal the cast latex paw.

Location: Somewhere in California

07 Jun 2010

Now the bottoms

The top half of the molds have been done and the shims pulled out. The sculptures are flipped over, damage from the shims is touched up, and the bottoms are detailed.

Location: Somewhere in California

31 May 2010

Dividing the Mold

Here, metal shims have been inserted into the sculptures to define how the molds will split into two parts for each paw. Clay keys and screwdriver slots -- in reverse -- are added to the shims, and the non-sculpture surfaces are given a coating of vaseline so the ultracal will not adhere to them.

The upper surface wil be molded first, then the whole assembly flipped over and the bottoms of the paws finished up.

Location: Somewhere in California

24 May 2010


Using brushes, sponges and isopropyl alcohol the surface is worked and smoothed. All the rough edges of the wrinkles are softened, and fingerprints are wiped away. Wrinkles are re-cut and deepened as needed, and the smoothing process is repeated. Finally, texture stamps are used to add the finer wrinkles and pores.

Location: Somewhere in California

17 May 2010

Volcanic Ash Tchotchke

This is a little tchotchke wolf sculpture by Kathy Parker of Mount St. Helens Sculptures. It's made of stabilized ash from the 18 May 1980 eruption of Mount St Helens (30 years ago this week).

Location: Somewhere in California

10 May 2010

Wrinkles and Folds

Ysengrin now carves major wrinkles and folds into the roughly-shaped paws. A wire loop is also used to shave the clay down into shape. Claws have been added so their sockets will be correct in the mold; the claws will be removed before molding. A small amount of clay is used to build up the cuticle around the claws, but otherwise this step is about removing clay from the sculptures.

On the right is one of DarkFang's hindpaws for comparison. The new sculptures were envisioned as wolf paws to fit larger feet, and are fairly similar to the smaller wolf paws.

Location: Somewhere in California

03 May 2010

Roughing in the Knuckles

The paw sculptures are flipped back over and the knuckles and tendons are roughed in. The bottoms are left rough -- fine detail wouldn't survive resting on a surface.

Location: Somewhere in California

26 Apr 2010

Roughing in the Pads

Now the rough forms of toes and pads have been added. It's best to keep the footpaws close to mirror symmetry as you go; Ysengrin places a toe on one paw then places the equivalent toe on the other paw.

Ysengrin also comments that the main pad and heel pad were both shaved down in the final sculpture.

Location: Somewhere in California

19 Apr 2010


Here the base footcasts (feetcast?) have been covered by Roma roughly a half-inch thick, then roughly shaped into their future form. The casts themselves are marked left & right, as are the bottom of the sculptures. The side with the dewclaw and innermost toe are also marked as it's easy to confuse the two feet at this point.

Ysengrin likes to build up a form then sculpt into it, thus the thickness. The casts were taken with the foot someone extended, so the buildup on the calf was adjusted to make them more upright.

Location: Somewhere in California

12 Apr 2010

Ready to Sculpt

The scraps of Roma from last week's photo have been worked into cylinders and are ready for use. The bases for the sculptures are lifecasts of Ysengrin's (big) feet in dive booties.

Location: Somewhere in California

05 Apr 2010

How It Starts

Here's a bowl full of Roma Plastilina scraps. They used to be bits of various sculptures (you can see a single toe pawpad in there), and now will be re-used to make a new sculpture. They're heated until quite soft, then worked by hand to homogenize the clay and to get the chips of plaster out.

Location: Somewhere in California

29 Mar 2010

Bear in the Air

A plush polar bear as the pilot of an ultralight. Seen hanging from the ceiling at the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos, California.

Location: 37° 30' 44.6" N, 122° 15' 11.8" W

22 Mar 2010


A sure sign that spring has arrived.

Location: somewhere in the Santa Cruz Mountains

15 Mar 2010

Electric Light Tower

This is a half-scale reconstruction of the electric light tower that graced San Jose from 1881 until 1915. The original straddled the intersection of Market and Santa Clara, stood 237 feet high, and housed six carbon arc lamps at the top. Intended to replace the city's gas street lights -- it was found inadequate for the task -- the tower was only lit on weekends, holidays and festivals for most of its life.

The reconstruction was built in 1977 and stands in San Jose's Kelly Park.

Location: 37° 19' 13.6" N, 121° 51' 27.8 "W

08 Mar 2010

Ten Years Ago

This was the "Verdun pack" back in 2000. From left to right they are Loon A. Tik, Snort, Silvermane (Ysengrin), DarkFang, and Kanis. The sixth werewolf that year, Bloodfang, didn't make the photo. Lance Pope (AKA Baron Michael Verdun, AKA YellowFang) didn't suit up that season. It should be noted that the werewolves were a subset of the 100+ actors that took part in Verdun Manor's sixteenth season.

All these werewolves performed as their own original characters, maintained their own suits, and generally had a ball running around terrorizing patrons. Sadly, we've lost touch with many of them. Both Ysengrin and DarkFang fondly remember the companionship of those years, and look forward to the continuing growth of the Blackpaw pack.

Location: Verdun Manor / Thrillvania

01 Mar 2010

Wild Thing reading Wild Things

Ysengrin relaxes with a little light reading (Dave Eggers' The Wild Things, based on the classic Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak).

Location: somewhere in California

22 Feb 2010

End of the Night

Silvermane and Ysengrin Blackpaw after a long Sunday night of roaming the halls at Further Confusion 2010.

Location: 37° 19' 58.5"N, 121° 53' 21.1"W

16 Feb 2010

Marti Gras -- King Cake

Ysengrin Blackpaw cooked up a king cake for Marti Gras. The day for PotW was also adjusted to fall on Marti Gras this week. Happy Fat Tuesday, y'all!

Location: Standing in California, but his spirit is in New Orleans

08 Feb 2010

Piano Bar

Silvermane and Ysengrin Blackpaw goofing off with a piano at Further Confusion 2010.

Location: 37° 19' 58.5"N, 121° 53' 21.1"W

01 Feb 2010

'Yena and Werewolf

Johnny Blanco and Ysengrin Blackpaw posing in the lobby at Further Confusion 2010.

Location: 37° 19' 58.5"N, 121° 53' 21.1"W

25 Jan 2010

Wash & Werewolf

Ysengrin gives his fursuit a good washing after Further Confusion 2010.

Location: 37° 08' 06"N, 122° 08' 25"W

18 Jan 2010

DarkFang's New Badge

The second of two badges created by Chris B. Critter -- DarkFang as a Wild Thing.

Location: somewhere in California

11 Jan 2010

Ysengrin's New Badge

A most excellent gift from Chris B. Critter -- Ysengrin as a Wild Thing.

Location: somewhere in California

04 Jan 2010

Boulder Creek Sunrise

The sun just peeks over the ridge to the east of our shop on a foggy morning.

Location: 37° 08' 06"N, 122° 08' 25"W