About Casimir & Inanimate Objects

Just search for seller “Casimir,” but I haven’t sold anything there in years. eBay’s policies are not seller-friendly.

I’m a big Batman and DC fan, and I wanted to add to the list of available figures released.

Simply put, I make what I like. I have made a few non-DC items, such as Transformers PVCs (and I tend to “fix” Buffy figures for the Violist!), but somehow I always return to DC and Batman. (Though there are plenty of pop culture things out there that I love, even if I don’t make customs of them.)

First, I don’t work in the toy industry. Second, you’ll need a lot of luck. In the past, the large toy manufacturers wanted only people with engineering backgrounds. If you were artistically talented and knew all there was to know about toys, they wouldn’t talk to you. To a degree, I think that’s still true. Things have changed somewhat in recent years, though. Now the large companies are more willing to farm out jobs to independent sculpting studios (like the Four Horsemen), but those studios are few and far between. Even fewer are commercially successful.

Inanimate Objects has been proudly operating since April, 2003.

Golden age comic books, of course! Specifically, old and beat up ones. When I design something of this nature, I like to start with a general theme and work my way towards the specifics. For this most recent design, I had spent weeks racking my brain for a satisfying concept. Suddenly, I found inspiration had been in front of me all along. On my desk, I have framed a very beat up copy of Detective Comics #247 that belonged to my father in the early fifties. (One of the few that survived from his childhood.) I realized that was the place to start. Even the color pallette was perfect! So I pulled out my many comic book reference tomes and started to pick the golden age elements I wanted to use. The final result is the site as it appears today.

inspiration

If you mean how long have I made a concentrated effort at making these figures in a consistent size and quality? Since 1995. If you mean in general, since I was old enough to take a screw driver to the back of a G.I. Joe figure.

I keep a running list of characters I’d like to see standing on my shelf. Sometimes the decision to make a character is motivated by the simple desire to make it. Sometimes it’s prompted by a the discovery of a new figure that would act as an appropriate base, or sometimes by a sculpting or painting technique that is new to me. For example, I’ve recently started several projects using vinyl as a prominent component. Most of these projects might not have happened for sometime had I not stumbled upon the versatile uses of vinyl.

Well, from the initial desire to make the figure to the final product can literally take years. Sometimes I’ll want to make a character, but the means of making it won’t exist yet, or might be too costly at that time. Other times I’ll have a hard time figuring out how to proceed with a project, but months later I’ll have inspiration as to how.

Assuming I have all the materials, the average figure might take a few days to several weeks depending on my interest in the character and interference from real life. As for money, that’s hard to say. As an artist, I keep a large supply of materials on hand at all times. That includes “fodder,” or figures bought with the express purpose of using them in future custom projects. In most instances, I can go to the fodder boxes and pull what I need to start work, without having to purchase anything at that moment.

Since I was old enough to watch TV. I probably learned to read with the words “Pow,” “Bam, and “Crunch.” Of course, this leads to vaguely disturbing memories of not understanding why I got uncomfortable whenever my mother was in the same room and Yvonne Craig was on TV.

Construction

More magnets than you can shake a metal stick at can be found at Applied Magnets. I strongly recommend you order more than you think you need because: 1) They’re cheap. 2) You’ll go through them faster than you think. 3) If you don’t order enough, they’ll slap you with a ridiculous “low quantity” fee. You can actually order more, not suffer the fee, and pay less.

“Wrap and shape” is the technique by which one wraps a figure in a protective layer, such as cellophane, and then adds and shapes a sculpting medium on top. The cured sculpt can then be easily removed from the figure, and the protective layer discarded. This is a great method to create over-the-shoulder capes and mantles. See Classic Ra’s al Ghul and Batman in the gallery.

RasWIP

“Boil and Pop” refers to the act of immersing a plastic figure in boiling water. After about 45 seconds, the softer PVC plastics (usually used in heads and limbs) will soften enough that they can then be “popped” out with a good strong tug. This is a good way to remove parts (usually heads) while preserving a joint mechanism. It’s not 100% guaranteed, but it often gets results. Just to be safe, I use an old pot that won’t be used to cook food.

Another big question. Like limbs, very few heads match from figure to figure. If you’re looking at a ball-and-socket neck joint, the process can be even more complex.

Regarding boil and pop: Many folks will answer this head swapping question with the boil and pop answer (see below). However, this rarely works as most neck joints simply don’t match. Boiling is good for removing a head, but very difficult to add a head. I’ve done it, but even on the simple ones I usually find it to be too much trouble.

neckjoint

To make a simple swivel neck joint: I usually start by simply cutting off the unwanted head of the target base figure, and the wanted head of another figure. If a hole is present in the neck of the target figure, so much the better. If not, I’ll drill a hole into the neck, down into the body. I then drill a shallow hole at the base of the new head. After drilling, I find a piece of styrene rod that very nearly matches the size of the holes, cutting off an inch or so of the rod to be used as a neck peg. The peg is then Superglued into the shallow hole of the head. The head (with new peg) can now be placed into the hole on the neck of the body. If the hole is a bit too large and fit is not snug, you can use masking or Scotch tape to increase the thickness of the styrene peg by wrapping layers around the peg. When you’re done, you have a smooth, functional neck swivel joint!

Alternatively… Magnets!

This is a big question. There’s a different answer for every customizer, and for every figure. As the mechanics of almost every figure is different from another, there is no single method. For my part, I’ve never tried to swap a ball-and-socket joint, only “cut” or “swivel” joints.

Lately I’ve switched to using magnets for swivel joints. They’re relatively easy to use, and frankly, they’re fun! I’ll drill shallow holes in either side of a joint and fill with rare-earth magnets. So much easier than making new pegs!

General Questions

On extremely rare occasions, I will take on a commission. The fact is, between work, family, and my own projects, I rarely have the luxury of time for commissions. So chances are, no, I won’t be able to create and sell a custom on demand. (And the existing figures are not for sale.) Alternatively, I hope that my web site will inspire others to try their hand at this satisfying hobby.

There are three places I recommend. Some of my personal favorites can be found on the front page of this site. And there’s lots of talent to be seen at Custom Justice.

Unfortunately, I am only able to feature my own work at this time.

As with selling my figures, it’s not a matter of money so much as time. I simply don’t have the time to fulfill such requests. I’d be happy to offer advice and tips to those who might like to try custom toy making themselves.

Sorry, but no. I simply don’t have the time or resources to invest in producing more than my share of projects.

I’m always happy to offer suggestions and help. However, I’d prefer if the images were posted to a web site rather than emailed. If you must email, please be sure to send only a few files, and images of no more than 72 dpi at 8 inches tall. Please keep in mind that I live a very busy life, and it may take some time before I can reply.

Outside of professional requests, I simply don’t have the time to take on commissioned projects.

The shows, the comics… leftover parts. If the Joker shows up in a scene wearing a swimsuit, and I think it’s funny or it’ll look good on the shelf, chances are I’ll make it. Then I think about associations. I can’t remember Harley in a swimsuit in an episode, but a swimsuit Joker needs a swimsuit Harley. So really, there’s no specific place. I simply try to keep an open mind.

I’m always on the lookout for a deal. If I see something on clearance that I feel might be useful, I will usually buy it. Furthermore, I’m always open to new ideas. One never knows when the right base figure or new character design might spark something. To that end, I’ll stock up on figures I know are useful as I find them. I try to keep a working stock of figures and resort to things like eBay as little as possible.

Outside of a specific item for trade, I am not in the habit of releasing my stock figures.

Everyone has their own system and space. On my work desk, I keep a transparent tower of drawers. It’s perfect for small parts like heads, limbs, hats, etc. (Found at the Container Store.) I also maintain a closet that has a good deal of storage capacity. In addition to housing certain parts of my collection, it currently holds several large drawers with semi-transparent faces. Each is organized to hold certain types of figures and body parts. Near it are several medium sized transparent drawers for capes and other accessories. And of course, several shoe and file boxes, each holding a different category of stuff.

One thing to keep in mind: some figures can become terribly warped if left under weights for long periods of time. Make sure those kinds of figures don’t get buried under other figures for too long.

fodderdrawers

foddercloset

I have several work areas. The main one is my general purpose desk. This is where I do most of the work, including assembly, sanding, Dremeling and painting. This desk is very much specialized towards customizing. I also have a full workshop in the garage for more general construction, and will often utilize power tools for customs when I need them. (God bless the scroll saw!) In the corner of the garage is a unique construct that usually makes guests scratch their heads: a spray booth made from an old Little Mermaid shower curtain. The frame is made from PVC pipe, and inside is an old pattern cabinet (like in the fabric stores) that’s perfect for storing spray paint. The cabinet is 42″ tall, making it the perfect height to use as a work surface. There’s also an old spinning TV stand in there that allows me to rotate figures so I can spray all sides. Across the top is a line of string and clips allowing me to air dry those things that can’t be touching a surface. (Since there’s no vent, I always wear a filtered mask of some kind.)

spraybooth1

spraybooth2

workspace

Every photographer has his or her own methods. Lately I’ll use the  “true sun” energy-efficient bulbs, found at Lowes.  I found these bulbs match the color of the sun on a slightly cloudy day near perfectly. Camera-wise, I’m currently using an older digital Pentax Optio 555. It has a great macro feature, allowing for extreme close-ups.

Painting

When the figure is fully painted, I apply a coat of Dull Cote fist, followed by a very light dusting of Testors semi-gloss. This give the figure just a tiny shine, enough to make it look like manufactured plastic, preserving the illusion!

I strongly recommend against the use of any enamels. They simply don’t work well with plastic, and they rarely dry fully. Your figure will forever be tacky.

Primarily, I use acrylic paints. Most any acrylics will work fine, be they the $.99 specials or the high-end professional series. Acrylics mix easily, dry quickly, and react well with primer.

Primarily, I use the Ceramcoat brand of acryclics, commonly found in craft stores. I’ve used these since I was a kid. I know some customizers who swear a decent custom cannot be painted with these kinds of acrylics. I feel this site is a testament to the contrary, as everything you see was painted with the “cheap” paints.

Many customizers now prefer the more expensive “Acryl” brand by Testors. I’ve dabbled in these, and found them to be fine paints.  But there’s nothing I can do with Acryl that I can’t do with Ceramcoat cheaper.

acrylic

First, paint on top of white. This means applying a white primer coat of some kind to the figure before you start hand painting. Once I start brushing on the acrylic, I usually thin the acrylics with a drop or two of water on my brush. Thin coats might mean you have to apply several coats, but the smooth finish is worth the effort.

I get this question a lot, and the truth is I rarely use a color straight from the bottle/tube. I try to as often as possible, as the color is easier to replicate later if I need to, but most times I have to mix colors. Unless it’s white, black, caucasian “flesh”, and sometimes pure red or yellow, then the color is probably mixed.

There are entire books and courses of study devoted to this question. Needless to say, I can’t even begin to scrape the surface here. Assuming you’re already familiar with the color palette of pigment, acrylics mix well together. I usually mix up just as much as I need at a time. With a little patience, you should be able to achieve the color you’re striving for. Just remember acrylics tend to dry a bit darker than what they appear to be in liquid form. Best to try a test on some scrap paper first.

First, make sure you have some tiny, clean brushes that come to a good point. Use only a small dab of paint on the brush. Beyond that, it takes practice, a steady hand, and luck. I often paint an eye poorly, then cover over with a new base coat, and try a second time. Also, for you right-handed folks, the right side of the face is usually more difficult to paint. (And vice-versa.) Don’t forget, to really make your figure’s eyes “pop,” paint them ever so slightly cross-eyed. (Unless you’re painting a “realistic” figure.) That will make the eyes appear focused. Plus, adding a tiny white dot as a highlight helps, too.

brushes

You’ll always, ALWAYS, want to prime your sculpts before painting them. (Assuming it’s not translucent.) Currently I use white primer by Testors, available at hobby stores. It dries reasonably well on most plastics. If it remains a bit tacky, I’ll follow up with a coat or two of dullcote. (And don’t forget to spray in a well ventilated area, and/or with a respirator of some kind.)

greyspray

99% of the time, I spray white and paint on top. On rare occasions I’ll start with black, grey, green, or even yellow, depending on the color scheme at hand.

blackspray

whitespray

Yes and no. Obviously, you’ll want to use spray primers, as explained above. I’ll sometimes apply spray paint to a large area that requires a single color. However, this can be tricky. It often requires masking off other parts of the figure. Also, most spray colors do not come in a matte or even semi-flat variety. Most are strictly available as glossy, and these rarely dry well on plastic. I’ve had some success using glossy sprays followed by Dullcote, but it’s fairly hit or miss. I usually just buckle down and paint the whole thing with a brush. Besides, mixing paint to match a spray color in case of mistakes is tough!

Dull Cote will become your best friend when you’ve finished a project. It’s a matte sealer produced by Testors. (The company that makes enamel paints for models.) A few sprays of Dull Cote and your figure will have a smooth, even finish. Dull Cote is great for bringing paints of the same color but different luster into line with each other. Dull Cote will even help cure spray paints that refuse to dry. I’ve had good experience with Dull Cote on top of enamel sprays. Naturally, Dull Cote acts a protective sealant. Perhaps most important, though, Dull Cote does not act as a dust magnet, as so many other sealers do. I’ve had figures sprayed with Dull Cote on my shelves for years, and they collect no more dust than they should. Alternatively, I’ve had figures sealed in other brands that become giant dust bunnies in a month.

dullcote

Most hobby stores that carry Testors products will have it. You can also learn more about Dull Cote via the Testors site.

Tools & Materials

The black foot-peg stands seen throughout this site were purchased directly from a dealer at a comic book/sci-fi convention many years ago. They can still be purchased at ProTech Products. The Type I (modern) stands fit modern Star Wars, and with a little effort can fit Mattel’s Justice League. (I usually drill the foot hole a bit wider in the latter’s case.) The Type II (vintage) stands fit vintage Star Wars, most DC Direct, Hasbro Batman lines, McFarlane, LOTR, and most anything else.

stands

Lots of patience. It doesn’t happen at once. Start with some simple projects (repaints) and then take on more difficult chores. Also, I recommend you visit the sites of numerous customizers. Most will give a fairly detailed accounting of the techniques they use, and most are also happy to answer any specific questions you might have.

There is no simple answer to that question, and every customizer will answer differently. Some basics include:

  1. X-acto knife & mat knife
  2. Superglue
  3. Acrylic paints
  4. Paint brushes
  5. Sculpting medium
  6. Sandpaper
  7. Spray paint primer

Ultimately, one could get by with the above list. However, in the interest of sanity, I highly recommend some or all of the following:

  1. Dremel
  2. Magic Sculpt
  3. Plumber’s epoxy
  4. Super Sculpey
  5. Alumilite
  6. Various sharp pointy things
  7. Dullcote
  8. Access to a computer and printer
  9. Modeling paste
  10. Matte gel medium
  11. A full range of spray paint colors
  12. Masking tape
  13. Drill & drill bits
  14. Airbrush

These are both fairly common tools, found in hobby, art, and hardware stores. An X-acto knife is a small, fine blade. (Available in a variety of sizes and shapes.) It’s excellent for sculpting and slicing small parts. A mat knife, sometimes called a utility knife or box cutter, is a larger blade that can handle heavier tasks without as much risk of breaking (like slicing through thick plastic).

knives

A Dremel is a marvelous, multi-use tool available in most home improvement stores. It’s a small rotational motor. Dremels are designed to be used with numerous bits serving different purposes. It can act as a drill, a sander, a grinder, a small saw, a polisher, etc. It’s great for eating through chunks of unwanted plastic. A basic set can start around $75, and is probably the best investment a customizer can make as far as tools are concerned. Easily found at most home improvement stores.

dremel

A Dremel box is an ingenious apparatus that allows you to drill and sand without making a huge mess in the room you’re in. Depending on the material being altered, drilling and sanding can produce a lot of debris and dust. A Dremel box keeps most of that contained.

I first saw one used by Bruenor, who himself saw one somewhere else. It’s essentially a transparent or semi-transparent plastic box that’s been turned upside-down. The “top” is cut out and replaced with a piece of Plexiglas for purposes of visbility. On my box, the glass is screwed to the box, with a layer of transparent caulk in-between for a sure seal. Two corners of the box are then cut out and act as arm holes. You can see mine uses pipe insulation to soften the edges, and clear vinyl acts as a debris-drape. I’m able to reach inside with whatever tools and parts I need and Dremel away without fear of dust getting everywhere in my house.

dremelbox3

dremelbox1

dremelbox2

Every substance has its own qualities, be it ABS or PVC plastics, Magic Sculpt or Alumilite, styrene or wood. If I need to remove a large mass of something that can’t simply be cut off with a mat knife or saw, I’ll reduce that mass with the large, coarse sanding drum on the Dremel. Sometimes I’ll use the 1″ upright belt sander in the garage. Usually that’s not needed, so I’ll start with the fine sanding drum. From there, I may go at it with the polishing brush bit, or I might switch to some medium-to-fine sandpaper (I prefer 220). More often than not I’ll go back and forth between paper and bits. When I’m satisfied, I’ll put a final polish on using some extremely fine sandpaper (so smooth it feels almost like normal paper). Some materials sand better than others. It’s just a matter of patience, really. For the record, I hate sanding. But it has to be done.

Kneadatite is a two-part, air-drying compound. It’s primarily designed as a plumber’s epoxy, but artisans have found it to be a great sculpting medium. When mixed, it is pliable and holds its shape. It cures in about four hours with a consistency not unlike PVC plastic. I prefer air-drying over heat-drying mediums as I don’t risk heat damage to the base figures. (Some of my earlier projects were destroyed in the oven while trying to cure Sculpey.) Also, Kneadatite is very durable when dried. It has a slight flexibility that allows it to “give” under pressure without snapping. For more information about Kneadatite, please visit the manufacturer’s site polymerics.com.

kneadatite

I purchase Kneadatite directly from the manufacturer, polymerics.com.

A plumber’s epoxy is any sort of compound that’s used to seal pipe fittings. However, many plumbers epoxies make great sculpting mediums as well. Kneadatite above is but one example. A more typical plumbers epoxy is available at most home improvement stores. It usually dries quickly (5-20 minutes) and has a rock-like texture. I’ve found this to be useful when sculpting large areas or filling large holes that don’t require much detail. It can be sanded smooth and then painted.

plumbersepoxy

Most hardware and plumbing supply store carry a basic plumber’s epoxy.

Sculpey and Super Sculpey are popular sculpting mediums easily available at most hobby/craft stores. It requires heat to cure, so the sculpt time is not limited. It allows for very fine detail work (especially Super Sculpey), and is easily shaped. However, once cured it can be very fragile. Don’t drop your Sculpey sculpts! Also, if you’re sculpting directly on a plastic base figure, you’ll want to boil the Sculpey for about three minutes, as 12 minutes in the oven could warp your base figure. (Just to be safe, when boiling Sculpey I use an old pot that won’t be used to cook food.)

sculpey1

sculpey2

Most art and craft stores carry Sculpey products.

MagicSculpt is yet another two-part sculpting compound, like Kneadatite and Plumbers Epoxy. By mixing equal parts of the two dough-like substances, you create a pliable sculpting medium. Like Kneadatite, it takes at least four hours to cure, if not more. The cured MagicSculpt is not unlike hard ABS plastic. This is my sculpting medium of choice now. It’s relatively easy to use. It’s durable when cured, and sands easily. It’s also easy to keep smooth, just by keeping your fingers damp with water. It’s great filling in etched lines or small holes, too. I’m told the curing time can be altered by adjusting the ratio of the two components, though I have yet to try this.

I’ve only bought the stuff online. I’ve never seen it in a store of any kind. I found the best prices tend to be taxidermy suppliers. Most recently I’ve ordered from McKenzie Taxidermy Supply.

Depending on the requirements, I use plumber’s epoxy, Kneadatite, MagicSculpt and Super Sculpey.

Plumber’s epoxy is fairly rough stuff. It’s not easy to sculpt small details with it. Plus, it’s fairly sticky and cures in about five minutes. I use it to fill in large holes.

My primary sculpting medium is Magic Sculpt. There’s not much it can’t do, and solves a lot of problems. It can take small detail well, and can easily be sanded. I go through a lot of this stuff!

I don’t use Kneadatite much anymore. Plumber’s epoxy is cheaper and fills in large ares, and Magic Sculpt is better for detail work. Still, if ever I need to craft a large, plastic-like piece, Kneadatite might be the way to go.

I’ll use Super Sculpey sparingly. It’s great for projects that will take a great deal of time (i.e. you can set it down and come back to it days later). My Mxyzptlk was made entirely from Super Sculpey (except the hat). If I’m in a hurry, and feel the fragile nature of Super Sculpey won’t be a risk, I’ll use Super Sculpey on a project and boil it, rather than waiting four hours for Kneadatite to completely cure. (See the work in progress photos of Firefly to see Super Sculpey and Kneadatite used on the same figure.) Again, I do this sparingly.

Alumilite is a two part liquid compound. When mixed, it turns solid in about three minutes. When solid, it has a consistency very much like ABS (hard) plastic. It can be easily sanded and painted. It’s an excellent casting agent for use with simple molds. A number of the heads you see on my figures are castings from molds using this material. To learn more about Alumilite, please visit alumilite.com.

Alumilite

Some art and hobby stores will carry Alumilite. However, I have been known to order directly from the manufacturer, alumilite.com.

I am lousy at making molds! I cannot do this question justice. But the internet is chock full of information about. My buddies Stew and Glassman are both good places to start asking questions.

When sculpting, you’ll find the best tools are whatever you have at hand. The truth is, you never know what you might need. I keep a selection of old dental picks, pens, letter openers, tooth picks, etc. on hand whenever I’m sculpting. (I recently discovered computer supply stores sell packs of “dental picks.”)

pointythings

Clear raw vinyl can usually be found at better fabric stores. It’s usually pretty darned cheap, too, especially if you buy the scraps. It’s available in varying thicknesses, so get a wide selection.

vinyl

Why, for all the great Inanimate Objects downloads, of course! You can print emblems and costume details, as well as some Inanimate Objects playsets.

I’ve also used Photoshop to test ideas by making “virtual” customs. I’ll lay a figure on a scanner and scan an image of the (limb/head/chest/etc.) that I want to match to another scanned figure. This process doesn’t yield 100% results, especially since it only works in two dimensions, but it can give you a good idea of whether a proposed custom will work or not. It might just save you cutting into the costly rare figure!

You can many emblems in the Inanimate Objects downloads section.

If you see something printed in the backdrop of an Inanimate Objects photo that’s not on the download list, drop me an email. I may be able to help.

Modeling paste is a thick liquid that will dry into a chalky, rock like material. It’s useful for some quick fixes and fills, but fairly difficult to use otherwise. Usually available at most art stores near the acrylic paints.

modelingpaste

Matte gel medium is a clear paint-like material, used in conjunction with various acrylic paint techniques. For my purposes, I use it as an adhesive for applying emblems that I’ve printed.

mattegel

This is known as decoupage, and there are a number of ways to go about this. (There are also many other customizers out there who are higher authorities on this subject.) In general, you’ll want to apply some of the gel medium to the back of the paper emblem, and some to the target area of the figure. Apply the emblem, and then use the brush to smooth out the excess gel medium along the edges. You can even brush the gel medium over the emblem, so as to seal it. This action along the edges also helps to smooth out the “seam” of the emblem, allowing it to appear as though it were printed directly on the figure. One warning: Don’t smear too much if your emblems were made on an ink-jet printer. I’ve smeared many a super-hero symbol this way. (Laser printed emblems won’t smear.) If you do use ink-jet printed emblems, try spraying them with Testor’s Dull Cote or some other fixative before applying to the figure with matte gel. That will cut down on the smearing.

Styrene is a type of plastic, most commonly found in model kits. It’s also available in raw sheets, rods, and tubes, in various sizes and textures. Styrene can usually be found in hobby shops.

Styrene