The art of customizing models is a challenging one. No model is ever perfect, just as no real horse is ever perfect.
I used Breyer's Salinero model to demonstrate how to correctly portray the extended trot. In an extended trot, all parts of the horseget extended: the stifle, shoulder... you name it, it all changes from the collected trot/passage.
This step by step process will show you how to drastically change a model’s gait. Let’s get started!
First, get photos of what you want the finished model to look like. I have ridden, shown, and raised horses my whole life, but I never do a remake without real-life references. I used a photo of the real Salinero.
Next, I mark where I need to cut the plastic with charcoal pencil. To move the legs, you need to free them from the body with a dremel tool. I cannot stress this enough: cut out as much as you can!
|With white charcoal pencil, draw where major cuts need to be done
Make the big body cuts first.
|Make major cuts - note "v" shape to cuts to ease removal of plastic
Don’t cut the lower parts of the legs until you move the upper joints, or you risk snapping off the legs. Since I am extending the trot, I need to extend that shoulder too, not just stretch out the leg! I cut all around the leg. The less plastic attached, the smoother the leg will move.
|Cut to free up major body joints
Next, I turn on the heat to move the legs and head. I use a simple heating gun that can be found in any hardware store. Heat the body part of the joint, and make sure to have a cotton glove on your working hand. Move the heater back and forth - don’t hold it in one place too long or you risk scorching/melting. Once an area is heated, pull it gently in the direction you want with the gloved hand. Move the big areas first. Grab the leg where it joins the body to move it, not the lower leg.
Once I have everything moved, I do a photo check to see if I like the body position. Don’t cut and move the pasterns yet since they may break under the stress. To tuck the head, I cut out the areas at the throatlatch and poll to prevent the plastic from lumping up, resulting in a coarse throat appearance.
|After heating and removing, check position
Next, I fill the horse with crumpled aluminum foil. DO NOT use paper or other organic substances of any kind as they will decay and produce gases which can crack the model.
Next, cover the gaps with the first layer of epoxy.
|Fill in major areas over aluminum foil packing
I use Aves epoxy sculpt. After the big areas are filled in, work on the lower joints. To move a hock, pastern, or knee, make V cuts on each side of the joint, then gently heat and move.
|Make "v" cuts on either side of the joint to get smooth repositioning
Then, check that the movement is diagonal and symmetrical. I use sticks and place them along the legs on the ground to be sure the legs are parallel.
|Use sticks to check for correct position
When I am satisfied, I move on to carve areas such as the stifle.
|Sand out rough shape of areas - use large sanding sponge
Building up the muscling is the most time consuming part of the remake. Do one area at a time. With my fingers I put down the rough outline of a muscle, then use denatured alcohol with golden taklon brushes to smooth it out. The alcohol works better than water and it helps dry the epoxy. The brushes help to smooth the surface and put in the muscle lines. (The alcohol can cause headaches and lung irritation, so keep a window open and fan blowing.)
| Fill in major areas, one at a time. You could start with the shoulder,
then go to haunch, for example
|Continue to fill in major areas, but not too deep with each layer
(1/4 inch max epoxy thickness)
Once you finish an area, you can speed up the curing process by placing the model six inches in front of a small heater turned on low. If you get a bubble, there was a weak spot in the epoxy. If you get lots of bubbles, the heat was too high. Sand them down and sculpt over. I recommend studying anatomy books to get an idea of equine musculature. Make the muscle outlines subtle for a natural look.
After you do several layers and have your shape, place the leg and tail wires in.
Placing leg wires. Use coat hanger wire for legs - note shape of wire
I use a removable base, so I use coat hanger wire and make a bent shape that fits each leg. The wire is stiff, so you will need pliers to shape it correctly. Let the wire extend half an inch below the hoof.
The tail wire should be soft aluminum. Use a piece much longer than the horses body, and push it into a drilled hole in the hindquarters until you can’t fit in any more.
I make a base using epoxy. After half an hour of setting, pour a small puddle of alcohol where the feet will go and press the feet into the base for imprints.
|A base made with epoxy, with imprints where the feet will go
The alcohol prevents the hooves from getting stuck. Drill into each hoof and pastern, make a snake of epoxy, place that into the hole. Then, insert the wires and let them dry overnight. Once the base is dry, build up the areas around the hooves to give the appearance of the hooves sinking into the ground, and stabilize the model.
To start the little details such as braids, place the rough braid pieces on the neck.
|Using small pieces of epoxy, lay down braids
Then, use a spoon tool to flatten the areas where the hair comes from the neck.
|Using spoon tool, flatten areas to connect braid sections
Body and facial details such as neck wrinkles, wrinkles between the legs, and flared nostrils are done using a spoon tool and a scribe tool, or a sharpened pencil.
|Using curved tool, sculpt in details such as wrinkles
The curvature of the tool should follow the curvature of the area. Add correct genitalia, including the under-the-tail parts since this will be a visible area.
|Various angles of the finished piece. Shoes, veins and chestnuts will be
added during painting stages to avoid bulky appearance.
Now, its time to sand and add a prime coat. I use sanding sponges, because they work better on a curved surface than sand paper. I use grey primer first to get an even color where I can better see rough areas.
Shoes, veins and chestnuts will be
added during painting stages to avoid a buIky appearance.
I realized that the area where the foreleg joined the body looked strange with that skin flap so I did it over. If something looks off, change it!
It takes me at least five coats of primer with sanding in between to get a smooth finish. I don’t sculpt chestnuts or veining. Instead, I paint them on by mixing base color with gesso. Have fun, and remember-- practice makes “perfect”!