Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Pick of Destiny


J here. A few years ago, I decided I was gonna make my own Pick of Destiny. My brother is a musician and turned me on to Tenacious D during my college years, and I knew that building him the Pick as it appears in Master Exploder (as a magic necklace) was the way to go. If you don't know Tenacious D or the Pick of Destiny, be warned that any links or research you follow about them will be NSFW (Not Safe For Work). That's the last warning.

So, short of chipping the tooth of the Devil and fashioning that scrap into a musical implement, how do we go about this? I'm so glad you asked.

The pick you see in the video or pictures is large. As in, easily a few inches wide. Impractically large for a guitar pick. I scaled my sculpt down both to make it more pick-like (is that a thing people say?) as well as to make a less ostentatious piece of jewelry.

I picked out some black lava rock beads at a craft store, because the beads in the original prop appear to be smooth black plastic, which seemed a little cheap for the Pick of Destiny. Those made up the bulk of the necklace. The Pick itself was a custom sculpt matched to reference pics and the DVD cover.

I did the original sculpt in oil-based clay, using craft tools like an Xacto and a couple of tools I built myself. One is a bamboo skewer I rounded to a small point and the other end is a "blade" made by shaving down the skewer to a narrow paddle. The other sculpting tool I made myself is a safety-pin point superglued into a hole drilled into a different bamboo skewer. If you already have skewers in your kitchen, these tools are free, with a few drops of superglue on the working ends to harden them.

After the initial sculpt was done, I started building up my mold. I use a latex mold-making product  and it has to be applied in layers with a crap paint brush. This is a good time for a blow dryer or a high-wattage lamp you can bend down to your work station. Be careful not to overheat the latex or it gets brittle. Once dry, apply another layer. And another. And then a few more. Seven layers is about the shallowest you want to go to keep your mold from tearing. To hold it together, I embedded a layer of tulle into the wet latex and put a few layers over it to bind it in there. Utimately, I'm not sure how much the tulle helped, but it does keep it from tearing.

Once completely dry, I slowly peeled back the latex, dusting it with baby powder to keep it from sticking to itself. Then, carefully scraped out any remaining clay that was trapped in the mold. Using heat to dry the latex makes this much, much messier, as it liquefies the clay and makes it really sticky. But clean out your mold thoroughly. I cast the first copy in dental stone, same stuff I use for the Hirst Arts projects. The resulting cast was shallow in the "forehead", a result of the soft clay sagging while it heated and cooled, as well as the small amount of plaster being unable to press down the latex. I added some epoxy putty in the forhead and resulpted the detail, working with files and a few small, sharp implements to refine the stone copy. Once done, I started all over on the latex mold process and built up a second mold of the corrected cast. This mold would become the master for the project.

Two plaster copies made up the front and back of the Pick. I decided to go with double-sided so it would have a little more heft as well as being attractive from all angles. I consider it unlikely that the tooth of the Devil has a perfectly flat back. A groove scratched across the back of eack copy and filed to shape with square files left a channel for a small brass tube. I figured the tube would keep the cord of the necklace from being able to drag up between the plaster halves.

Gluing and clamping the halves together with the brass tube in between left some seams along either side that needed to be addressed. With more filing I got the front and back to line up and filled the seam with modeling contour putty. Then the whole thing went through paint: I settled on green with a black wash after playing with various combinations of metallics and green glazes. They looked good, but not like the Pick of Destiny. Thought I should punch it up a little, but black over green was the winner.

Finishing coat was a glaze or two of straight Future Floor Polish for waterproof protection. All of it was strung on some beading thread and tied to a barrel clasp.

I am complete!
I've had some thoughts about building the lava beads myself by rolling epoxy putty in salt and dissolving it out after they cured in the oven, but the result is very uneven compared to the factory ones. The texture is also a little fine, but kosher salt may help make the bigger pores I'm missing. Future versions may include an LED or two cast into green resin for the glowing one or a more robust plastic/resin cast. If you are interested in building one of these for yourself, feel free to contact me for a deal on raw plaster or resin castings.

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