Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Making of Quagmire

Most of you have realized by now that I name my pumpkin-based props after Family Guy characters. So herein lies the making of Quagmire.

I did not invent this technique, by any stretch. I ripped it off, fair and square from the great Spooky Blue, who was one of the first prop builders I found on the Internet. You can see his full tutorial on building the Moth Brothers here. I did everything according to his instructions, and came out with a pretty cool pumpkin guy. This is the second round of paper mache pumpkins I have done, as I traded Peter and Brian for a prop-1 controller for my pneumatic groundbreaker zombie (thanks, Dean!) and needed to replace them.

I started with my large Empire Plastics blow mold jack-o-lantern, and covered him with foil. I double-layered him, just to be careful, and used some scotch tape to tack everything down. Then, I gently wiped on a thin layer of WD-40 as a release agent. I then started the long process of covering this with paper mache, using Dead Spider's recipe for the mache glue, just to play with a new recipe. Each layer took me about an hour and a half, and I did about eight layers, maybe more. I left an approximately 1/4" gap on opposite sides so I could pop the two halves off the plastic jacko later, and I let each layer dry completely before I started the next one. I alternated one layer of newspaper with one layer of the yellow pages, so I could have a visual of how close I was to being finished with the layer I was working on.

Looking back, I really should have done ten or twelve layers, which would have staved off the sagging I had later, after I carved Quagmire's face. Also, typical of me, I got distracted by shiny things, and Quagmire sat between layers for several months before I got back to him, which is why I forgot what layer I as on. Procrastination is an ugly thing.
At long last, I got that last layer done. Gently, patiently, I took a screwdriver and pried the two halves off the jacko. I was very careful, so I wouldn't scratch the plastic.
I found out last year from Spook's tutorial that he used some neon-colored paint inside his, and saw how well it worked on Brian and Peter, so I did the same thing this year. I took a can of white spray paint-one with paint and primer in one, and sprayed both halves before I started to meld them together. I then took some neon orange paint (the kind they use to make the streets before they tear them up) and sprayed a layer of it over the white.
After the paint had dried overnight, I took some duct tape and duct tape the two halves together on the inside and outside of the newly made pumpkin, being careful to line up the edges as best I could. Spooky Blue calls the result a "mutant walnut," and it was. I went with it. After the duct tape, I put three layers of newspaper strips over the duct tape, inside and out, with the paper mache glue, letting each layer dry completely before applying the next layer.

Next, I cut the face, using a mixture of Sawz-All, Dremel, and razor knife. I twisted up some newspaper pretty thickly and duct-taped it through the hole I left on top of the pumpkin to make the stem. You can get very elaborate with the stem, or keep it very simple. For Quagmire, after I got the main stem taped, I had my young helpers design the rest of it.

I then took my Claycrete and mixed it with a little bit of water. I recommend using a mask for this step, as the paper mache floats around like dust, and that can't be good for your lungs if you inhale it. I applied the Claycrete (shown here on a different pumpkin) around the eyes to create ridges, then made more ridges for his teeth, to give him some depth and interest. Other places, I used rolled-up newspaper for vines, and duct-taped them down too. When I do this, I really wrap the paper tightly. Below, the tape job had sat in the heat for a few days, making the tape glue a little mushy, so I had to re-do it all before I started the next step.Next was the shop towel/carpet glue treatment. If you happen to have a full-body condom lying around for this step, I'd recommend wearing it. It is messy! Wear disposable gloves and your ratty-est clothes for this step. Carefully tear all hard edges off your shop towels, and then tear them into strips, just as you would tear newspaper for the paper mache step. Then, I take a healthy glob of outdoor carpet latex and smear it on the area I wanted to lay the shop towel on, and laid down a strip of towel, making sure all the edges and the middle of the towel had glue on them, too. You'll need to apply a bit to the back of the piece of towel you're working on ans you go. I also advise you to have the garage door open and a fan going, as the carpet latex is pretty strong-smelling. You can make some great textures and wrinkles with this on the second layer, which I really recommend. (It comes out it the paint job later. I did (with my helpers) two layers of the shop towels, making sure to cover everything in-between layers with a painted on coating of carpet latex. Painting a layer of latex after both the first and second layers is important, as you'll wind up with the cloth-like texture of the shop towels showing through on your paint job later if you don't. (UGLY!) I use a two- or three-inch chip brush, which are super-cheap and I can just toss it when it's done. You will NEVER get the carpet latex out of it, so don't even bother. Below, you can see the neon showing through.
Next, the paint job. Using all outdoor exterior flat paint, I painted on the first layer in brown, which I found in the "oops" section at Home Depot. After that dried, I sponged on a layer of this really gross green, also found in the oops department. I sponged on a layer of dark orange, then a layer of lighter orange, about three shades lighter that the dark. (If you go to your hardware or paint store, just find a dark orange you like and then find another one the you can see when it's laid over the top of the dark one.) I then took some of the light paint, put it in a separate container, and added a smidgen of white exterior flat to it, mixing it thoroughly. I used a dry-brush technique to bring out the ridges and wrinkles, and ta-da! Quagmire was done and ready to scare on Halloween night!

If you decide to do paper mache, I'd suggest you start working on it as early as you can, since it's a time-consuming process, especially for larger props. I usually have several mache projects going at once, so while one is drying, I can be working on another one.
Also important- seal the mache with a clear deck sealer, inside and out! And don't use flame inside to light them up, o.k.?


  1. hey thanks for the lesson! being a relative newcomer to the 'hauntworld', I appreciate all and any tips!

  2. Impressive!! And until you mentioned Quagmire, I hadn't noticed that you named your props after Family Guy characters. I guess I'm a little slow that way <:)

  3. That is a great piece of work!! I so have to get off my bu...behind and make me some pumpkins this year!!!!

    Thanks for the how to. I will definately give it a try.


  4. Love, love, love it!!! And a great tutorial as well - and hahaa, I never realized the JOLs were named after FG characters either - but of course, Quagmire is pretty unmistakable!


In order to protect my readers, I screen all comments. Spammers will immediately have their comments deleted, so please, if you are a spammer, just go away. I will promote your blog or site if I know you, but if not, please accept my invitation to the world.