Plaster and Vaseline

The Horror

Another trip to the CFC further bridged the gap between the skills of an Anaplastologist and an Artist.  Finally, I feel like my undergraduate degree prepared me for something!  An afternoon watching one of the clinicians work on dental bridges and armatures for a silicon ear was an awesome and very educational experience.  In the Small Scale Metals Construction course in my undergraduate university, you learn how to construct jewelry and small scale works of art.  You cut down your metal, position it on solderite board, apply flux, solder the pieces together, sand the piece down, and buff it to a mirror sheen.  When casting precious metals, you first create what you want in wax, sprue it, invest it, cure it in an oven, pour liquid metal into the investment, cool it,  cut it, sand it, and finally polish it until you feel  arthritic.  These steps are almost identical to those used to make a prosthesis in Anaplastology.   Who knew that a prosthesis and a piece of jewelry could be so analogous!  The level of craftsmanship required to make these devices is incredible – a real art form.  The mark of a good  Anaplastologist is the ability to create  something so life-like that it’s nearly indistinguishable from the real thing, and some of the examples they have in the clinic are simply mind-blowing.

During this same visit, I got to act as the guinea pig for a nose impression.  After a generous application of Vaseline to my nose, lip and  eyebrows, a caulking  gun full of alginate put down the first layer of the mold, followed by a stiffer second layer after the first layer set.  Sitting in a dentist’s chair with your eyes closed and your face covered in Vaseline is just as glamorous as it sounds.  Attempting to carry on a casual conversation while not being able to breathe makes you sound like you have a severe cold, and accidentally smiling only loosens the mold from your face.  In the end, I just sat there, slack-jawed, like the mouth-breather that I am.  But it was for a good cause - practice and experience!  And I got rid of a few pesky nose hairs to boot.  Not a bad day.  After the mold was done, we made a plaster positive that will be used to make the actual silicon nose.  The process for casting the piece followed the same rules as mixing investment for a casting: hand mix the plaster to the right consistency, suck the air out, give it a whirl in the automatic mixer, vibrate all the bubbles out, then pour it into the mold.  Once everything sets up, you’re left with your perfect, chiseled stone nose, sniffing back at you like a statue of Adonis.

Next semester I begin to unravel the mysteries of Anaplastology, once and for all.  I’m looking forward to getting my hands dirty and working with some materials!  And something I’ve always been interested in: making an eyeball.  More on this as it develops.