From the Horse’s Mouth
The Adult Horses Mouth
Warning: This is a technique for plastic horses. It needs to be altered for resins or solid models. Stone horses tend to have thick plastic that will make the techniques very difficult so I suggest Breyers as a starting point. AA resin is very fragile and may not take to customizing very well.
A willing victim (model)
Apoxie Sculpt™ (or similar two part Apoxie (i.e., Gapoxio™ or Amazing Sculpt™).
Soft small brush (for smoothing Apoxie work)
Dremel™ (with various bits/attachments)
Sandpaper (varying grits)
Step 1 - To start we draw cut lines on model. Drawing the anatomy can help as well. Nutcracker looks like he got lost in the Nightmare before Christmas. This basically gives you a frame of reference for when you’re cutting. Try and make sure the cut is straight or else it will provide interesting challenges such as crooked jaws later for you to fix. For cutting I used a small hack saw but a dremel would also work well. I prefer hack saws for this because my cutting disks don’t like too thick of plastic and I wasn’t sure how thick Nutcrackers would be. Just a warning, Stone horses tend to have really thick plastic, this makes customizing much more difficult, so beware.
The reason we cut the jaw like this is to accurately represent what is actually going on when a horse opens its mouth. See Tibbi Searchers article “Open Wide” in the RESS Technique Booklet #3. It is not just moving the part of the jaw that has the chin bit on it. The jaw’s joint is actually behind the eyes! This means that when the mouth opens (like a pair of scissors) it opens wider where the front of the muzzle is (where the point on the scissors are). Instead of having handles they have muscles and other connective tissue that create this movement. So just opening up from the corner of the lips forward isn’t realistic (although it is a common misconception).
It’s also going to skew the way the muscles of the jaw look. This is the part that makes it hard. If it was just adding teeth, tongue and other details it would be much easier. You are going to want to look at lots of ref photos to see how this works. There are lots of squishy bits that move when that jaw opens up.
Step 2 - Heat the jaw “joint” with a heatgun and slowly open it up. Yes, it’s going to have to be opened unnaturally wide (again think Jack Skellington) so that you can do the work you need to do in there. You can set the bend in cool water once you have it where you want it.
Note the red marker for the joint of the jaw
Step 3 - Clean out the mouth area. To do this you need to remove the sharp edges and bits of plastic that you don’t want. Dremel Away! You also want to remove anything that will be in the way of your sculpting. For Nutcracker I removed his lips and nostrils as well as his whole face were going to change.
Differences in the jaw size and canine placement
For resins I suggest removing the jaw all together. I personally find it easier to re-sculpt the entire lower jaw but some people may prefer to add the details in to a carved out jaw (resin is lovely to carve into) and replace that later.
Step 4 - Next is the fun stuff! This is the best time to sculpt the inside of the mouth as you have lots of room to work with because of the overextended jaw. Roll out a worm of Apoxie and moosh it up into the edge of the mouth. This will become the gums and teeth. Blend the edges very well into the rest of the mouth to make sure your horse doesn’t have a fun set of false teeth that fall out.
At this point it just a matter of playing with the shape and angle until it’s correct to your reference photos. There is a slight angle to the teeth that depends on age, so you generally need to know how old your sculpt/custom is before endeavoring into sculpting its teeth. Many changed happen to a horse’s mouth over the years and you want to make sure you represent that. I would personally sculpt everything but the canines first and add those in later (after both upper and lower sets are completed). That way you’re not working with soft Apoxie on soft Apoxie. It helps, trust me.
Step 5 - I would sculpt the palette next. To do this mix some Apoxie, smoosh it up into the top of the mouth and smooth with rubbing alcohol. You can now use your tools to make the details of the palette. I used a sculpting tool with a flat circle end so I could do the ridges and then smoothed it with a paintbrush lightly dipped in the alcohol.
Step 6 - The reason we leave the upper jaw not fully hardened is to be able to move it to match the lower and visa versa. You could always sculpt the lower to match the dried upper set if you would like too. You just have to find what works best for you. I like to add the tongue first as it’s easier to get that in there before the teeth are there. It’s just an Apoxie blob that you blend in and shape to your liking. Depending on what the horse is doing (yawning, nipping, squealing, calling, etc) the tongue will be in different positions. So play with it and have fun with the composition of it. It’s funny how much of a difference a little tongue can make to the feel of the face. After that is done to you liking you move on to the lower teeth/gums. You basically do everything you did for the upper jaw, consulting your references while you go.
To match the teeth up I heat the jaw joint again with my heat gun and close it so the teeth touch. This way you can see if the alignment or angle is wrong. It definitely helps. I leave the mouth a touch (or more) open so that the teeth can dry properly. A lot of this process is just tinkering to get it right so play and see what works for you.
Some people are more comfortable building a base letting that dry and sculpting more on top later. Again, you’re just going to have to tinker and see what works best for you personally.
Step 7 - Because you don’t want an endless hole into nowhere in your horse, you will need to fill in the back of the mouth. I open that jaw up (again!), not quite so wide this time though. Make a ball of Apoxie and mush it into a fat pancake. You will need to have something at the back of the head to give a base to build off. I generally use tin foil. I will scrunch it into the back of the head, then use my finger to make it concave (a bowl shape) at the back of the throat/mouth and add my Apoxie pancake after that. Keep the mouth as closed (or close to the position you want) as you can otherwise when you finish you will have to close it up and then your horse will have wrinkly throat disease!
Once you get the pancake in there, smooth and blend it the best you can and then heat your jaw and move it where you want it.
Step 8 - Now you can start thinking about the lips. The top lip of a horse is very flexible, they use it for many tasks and if you have ever been lipped but a horse, it can be pretty strong too! Take into consideration what pose/motion/emotion you are looking for so that you can align everything else up to match it. What I mean here is that you wouldn’t want to sculpt a snarling mouth only to have a soft lip and nostrils… it wouldn’t look right. That is like sculpting a sweetly smiling person with eyes tensed in anger…it can serve its purpose I suppose but looks strange. We are going for a more natural look where everything plays together as a whole.
This is why I dremelled off the nostrils and lips, got to do it right! A screaming stallion isn’t going to have nice calm nostrils or a poky lip; we have to give this guy a makeover. Now remember, the tension from the open mouth will stretch the lips back at the corners and thinner along the sides of the mouth. The nostrils will also get larger in this case as he is all flared up, the front part of the lip will tense up and draw back a little as well. Synchronicity of the features! Now, I have a sneaking suspicion that I am going to need to at least partially resculpt the eyes too, as Huck’s eyes are just too soft for the strained look I want for this guy, the ears were all wrong too so off they come.
So again, to actually make this happen, it’s just using worms of Apoxie and a blob for the lip and chin, blending it well into the plastic to ensure a good connection and playing with the shapes. You want the lips to feel like real mooshy gooey horse lips so if you have access to a real horse, go out with some treats and play. They can be soft and squishy or hard and grasping and that is what we want to capture. Getting that feeling in your head should help immensely with actually sculpting it. Move those lips around and learn!
Use your tools to carve and push the Apoxie around and a brush and rubbing alcohol to smooth it. This way you can form wrinkles and give them that fleshy soft feeling. Try not to overdue the alcohol or it can ruin your Apoxie and make it all gummy and gross.
Tada! You have a detailed mouth for your custom or resin! For the nostrils you can refer to Sarah Minkiewicz-Breunig’s article “Successful Sniffers: Basic Tips for Sculpting Nostrils” in the RESS Technique Booklet #2. There is also a lovely article on sculpting a custom’s eyes in that booklet as well as other pearls of wisdom.
*Another alternative to opening the jaw this way is removing it and replacing it later, but that is a whole different can of worms.
I hope that you enjoyed this tutorial and I hope that you find it useful. Happy sculpting!