Constructing a tiny guillotine

After trying the new multi-part Vixen mold, I have found I do prefer the first version. Of course, I had to go and cannibalize the original master mold to make the second version! But I am going to ignore the fact that I will eventually need to make another first version master for a while. I do have a working Vixen mold, so I have been pouring castings in preparation for a visit from my good friend Addi Velasquez. Addi will be spending a few weeks at the studio in October, so we’ll need horses for our experiments!

Since it’s a little unorthodox to chop off a horse’s head while it is still in the mold, I thought I would show how it can be done without marring the plaster.

What I need is a guillotine – one that creates a perfect cross section of the neck. Here I’ve taken very fine wire and used it to form the shape my “blade” will need to make a clean cut.

I then can trace the wire profile onto my guillotine material. Finding the right material was the most difficult part. I needed something paper-thin so that my cut didn’t remove material from the neck, making my final horse short-necked. I needed something rigid enough to cut through without collapsing, but soft enough that it didn’t leave a mark on the unexposed side of the mold. I settled on stiff vellum paper.

I cut the profile, and left a small tab long enough for me to hold. Small pieces of vellum are surprisingly rigid, so I wanted to keep the length minimal so the paper did not bend. Here I am double-checking the blade profile to be sure it will cut all the way through the casting.

Here is the guillotine in action. There are actually two face pieces that are exposed when the first side is pulled. I’ve taken them off in this picture (as I always do when I make this cut).

Here is the severed head. (Gasp!) The mold has to be done this way because the body must lift up to come out, but the head needs to move back (towards the neck). Fortunately the strands of mane at the top and the jugular groove on the bottom make it really easy to align the piece when it comes time to reassemble.

The biggest flaw I have found so far is that I am really prone to losing my guillotines. I was pretty good at losing my metal minarettes before I installed a magnetic strip, so I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me that I cannot keep track of small bits of translucent paper.

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4 Responses to Constructing a tiny guillotine

  1. Becky Turner September 12, 2009 at 3:51 am #

    Hey leslie,
    why not take a piece of artists tape and tape your guillotine to the mold after you use it? that paper will unstick really easy and it wont leave a sticky residue on the paper. and should stick to the outside of the mold too..
    Rebecca Turner

  2. Diane September 14, 2009 at 2:21 am #

    It’s funny how serendipity works! I visited a friend this very weekend; he and I make military miniatures and are doing some ceramic pieces and were thinking on how we could chop a few peices in their molds without plaster damage. Glad I didn’t throw the vellum away! :-)

  3. mel September 16, 2009 at 1:19 am #

    Were you to have a cat, your problem would be solved. Cats abscond with all things portable and stash them under the fridge. Missing a chap stick? Under the fridge! Missing a pill box? Under the fridge! Can’t find the vellum guillotine? You know where to look!

  4. Lesli Kathman September 18, 2009 at 1:04 am #

    It works a little like that around here, Mel. Only since I have a dog, if it’s missing, Emma probably ate it. :)

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