There are a thousand ways to make something like a dragon head. I chose this method partly to experiment with some techniques and partly because I wanted a durable prop that could be reused for years and that would resist the weather. Essentially, I built a head out of easy to use, inexpensive materials and then covered it with fiberglass. The fiberglass was expensive, messy and time consuming. However, the permanent hard shell can't be beat for durability. However, I'm sure i could have skipped the whole process and still had a prop that would last for years. The big difference is that, the soft unfiberglassed version would need more touch-up and minor repairs. All in all, despite the fun of working with fiberglass, I don't think it was really necessary.
I started with a tomato cage as the form for the head. It had the basic shape I needed and it saved me the trouble of building a rough form. I snipped the smaller ring in half to allow me to open the dragon's mouth. I pulled the cage apart a bit and then bunched the loose stakes together into two bunches to make the tips of the top and bottom jaws. I secured the tips together with duct tape. Next I bent some contours into what would be the top jaw wear the nostrils would be. This is just a little hill before the end on the top jaw and then a steep bend at the very end to lead down to the mouth opening.
Next, I wrapped the upper and lower jaws with duct tape, being careful to contour the concave areas inside the mouth. I continued to wrap duct tape over the rest of tomato cage.
To create the eye mounds, the raised brow areas above the eyes, I taped two tennis balls into position where i wanted the eyes to be. Keep in mind the these can be on the sides of the head or on top depending on your ideal Design. however for a natural look the eyes should be behind the point where the mouth opens. Keep in mind that you can still adjust the mouth opening by adding or removing tape to suit your design.
The next step is to give the dragon some flesh> I used a couple cans of spray expanding foam, sprayed directly onto the duct tape.. Because you can't control the foam beyond the most basic form, go ahead and over fill the design. After the foam cures, you can use a drywall rasp to sand off excess foam and add fine details to the form. When applying the foam, it'll stick very well but as its weight grows, it will sag and drip. So go slowly and add more foam after a few minutes so the foam can set and it will be much less likely to drip.
Sand down the high spots and create the contours for your dragons head. The next step is optional. However if your dragon has a lot of gaps or low spots, you may need to do this step to get satisfactory results. I used drywall compound sometimes called mud, to create a smooth solid surface for the head. The mud fills in gaps and be used to add texture to the skin. For instance, you can apply a coat of compound, smooth it, then add texture with a piece of tin foil that was crumpled and then unfolded. Lay the foil onto the surface and then lift it off. The result will be it little like alligatoring, only in reverse. allow it to dry and then sand down the highest spots. when you paint you can create a very distinctive look with thus texture.
If you will be applying fiberglass, the fine details wont show through, only coarser details will show up. fiberglass creates a mess so make sure to have a good work area with a disposable surface, resin is so sticky that newspaper or plastic will just stick to everything. work in small sections. allow it to cure before moving on yo another section. the chief problem being that the fiberglass will sag with gravity. this can mean that it will pull off from the form and potentially harden in a wrong position. Use fiberglass cut into small shapes or strips.
I waited until last to add the horns because , frankly, the get in the way . I used 1/4" hardware cloth, a Metal mesh to make the horn forms. I chose to create the horns from one single sheet of material. It would have easier to make each horn separately, but i was concerned about attaching them so that they'd stay in place. also i wanted a kind of webbing effect between the horns and that easier to do using a single piece of mesh. I decided i wanted the horns to stand about ten inches tall from the side of the head and 14 inches from the top. i simply added 20 inches to the width of the head 14 inches to the height of the head. i took the piece of metal mesh and cut out a half circle the same size and shape from the middle of the bottom edge of the mesh. This was fitted over the head and then i bent back about a half inch of mesh to fasten to the dragon. next i cut out "U" shapes of material, the excess from between the horns. don't cut out too much, leave enough material to be able to roll the material into a long tube shape. bend down the sharp edges of the webbing between the horns. folding it back instead of all the way over helps to give the form some rigidity.
if you use fiberglass, you can apply it directly to the mesh. it will also work well as a way to fasten the horns to the head. if you use duct tape, start with long strips along the head and then up to the horns. wrap the strips on the head across the length to help secure them.
Materials List for Dragon Head
- Tomato plant cage
- Spray expanding foam
- Duct tape
- Two tennis balls
- Metal lathe
- Fiberglass and resin are optional