#hobbytiptuesday - Making Sharpened Teeth

 Note: for simplicity's sake, I'm simply going to use reference "teeth" throughout this Hobby Tip writeup, but the technique is applicable for just about anything on a figure that one would want as a length of pointed object: sharp teeth, spines, spikes, claws, studs, spurs, and all the way up to tusks and the like with thicker lengths of styrene. I've been using this method for a while and found it useful in shaping a wide variety of add-on details with my miniatures.

 I would imagine a lot of people sculpt pointed teeth, spikes, etc. from the same material with which they are doing customization or additional sculpting onto a figure. Personally, I prefer to make sharp teeth and similar details out of length of styrene rod, which I can buy in a variety of pre-sized diameters and grind to shape. I find it gives me a bit more freedom to sculpt details on a figure, drill in holes for the "sharp bits" afterward, and then (if necessary) sculpt gums or additional flesh around the solid styrene. I also find that by making teeth out of a firmer material beforehand, it allows me to make adjustments directly to the teeth as the project goes along, if need be, before putting them in their "final" position. Personal opinion again, but I figger that added details sculpted around the teeth respond more dynamically to having them there as an existing hard physical object what I than I feel I'd get if I were trying to do them as a part of the overall process with a medium like Green Stuff or Milliput - to each their own, though.

Here are the materials I generally use in making teeth to add to figures:
Making Teeth Image 1
 Lengths of styrene rod, available in many hobby stores or through suppliers of Evergreen and Plastruct products; sandpaper - I use a 120 "medium" grit here, although that's a matter of personal preference from trial and error; Tenax 7-R Plastic Welder - couldn't recommend this stuff more highly for a variety of uses with plastic miniatures and bitz; a sharp hobby knife of some type; and alternatively, a Dremel or other high speed rotary tool with medium or coarse sanding discs - it goes a bit faster in terms of shaping a point, but is a bit sloppier due to melting of the styrene in the process (I'll focus on strictly sandpaper here in this Hobby Tip, but you can get the same results with careful quick taps of your styrene rod on a sanding disc at a low speed).

Making Teeth Image 2
 Holding the styrene rod at roughly a 45° angle to the sandpaper, you want to shape a quick point first with application of pressure slightly behind the end of the rod and short, quick drags of the rod backwards on the paper. I find that you get better results if you work near the outer edge of a piece of sandpaper on a flat surface, twisting the rod as you go with your other fingers to keep a different surface of the styrene against the paper with every burst of friction - eventually, if you keep twisting it evenly, you end up with a centered point.

Making Teeth Image 3
 Once you have your initial centered point, you move your grip slightly so as to make light, quick drags of the styrene rod backwards along more of the flat surface behind the shaped point. Again twisting as you go, you'll find that the surface of the sharpened shape begins to lengthen with repeated dragging across the paper with application of pressure further behind the initial point - in other words, you can vary the length and curve of the tooth's "pointiness" by adjusting how you grind down the remaining styrene rod behind your initial 45° angle. This particular example tooth in the picture ended up being about 3mm in length with a gradual curve to the top as I used a thicker styrene rod and drew out the "point" by sanding against the "flat" of the styrene rod.

A few steps not shown, but hopefully self-explanatory:
 After shaping the tooth to whatever curve and length desired, I generally give the tooth still attached to the end of the styrene rod a quick dip into the jar of Tenax 7-R - what the stuff normally does is liquefy plastic it comes in contact with, so you can brush it on in small doses and let capillary action and a little pressure "glue" plastic parts together seamlessly. In my case, with just a quick dip of the piece I've sanded to shape, it "firms" the whole dipped tooth up to a hard, smooth length of styrene so fine points at the end of long gradual tapers are less likely to get broken off. (Barring having a jar of Tenax 7-R handy, a similar effect could be achieved from an extra- extra-fast dip in straight acetone - acetone, however, is more likely to ruin the shape of your sanded tooth if it is left suspended in the liquid too long, and it takes a little longer for the styrene to solidify completely again as compared to using Tenax.)

 All that remains is cutting your sanded tooth off the end of your length of styrene rod. Generally I make teeth two at a time - one on each end of the rod following the same process - and then trim them both off the length of styrene, for the sake of saving some time and effort. I would also recommend leaving a little extra length of un-shaped styrene at the base of your teeth to allow for sinking an inset hole for them on your figure, or drilling in a pin in the base for purposes of mounting a home-made tusk or something a little thicker.

Here we have an assortment of finished sanded teeth ready for use:
Making Teeth Image 4

 Through experience, I've found that teeth and spikes and the like made this way prove a bit more durable if you leave a slight length behind your curved point and you mount them on your figure glued into a shallow hole from a suitably-sized fine drill bit. You can then go and shape the gums or flesh around the base of the tooth - or in the case of spiked armor, leave it as-is if you have the length of sharpened styrene rod in a hole of matching diameter.

 As always, I'd appreciate any comments or feedback and if anything is a little unclear wording-wise, I'd be more than happy to explain any part of the process in a bit more detail. (Any excuse to make another entry here, you know...)

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