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Posted by Roos, on 2012-06-04 20:18:50

many cobblestones

Hello everyone, I am working on a set of a dark alley for which I am making a cobble stone street. Some of you might have come across some pictures I posted earlier in the newbie section when I was asking some advice for the puppet I was working on for the same project. Now I am getting quite far with the set: finished a fence, lantern and most of the walls, need to wait for some to dry to paint them. Then for the cobblestone street I started making stones individually out of thin mdf. Sort of what I'd seen from the ones in Nick Hilligos' Soukh set. Only are mine quite smaller, and I'd need loads of them. I spent one full day making about 270 of them, later made some more, but by no means I have yet the amount I need. It would make sense I think in this type of similar ongoing thing to make a mold, it should be easy to make a press mold of some kind, only I am not sure what I could cast in..? As it would need to be a material that would be strong enough to make into a thin shape, but possible to drill through for tie downs, etc. Plaster doesnt seem great because I think it would be too brittle on it's own for such a thin layer, and putting some reinforcement in it like cloth would make drilling difficult. Then there are many other materials of course. I've heard about something called jesmonite but I've never used it and don't know much about its features/use. I have a friend who - for a different use then set building - found out that mixing candle wax with plastic (plastic chopping board e.g.) was giving quite a good strong material, that when melted together can be poured into a mould, etc. I was thinking about trying this, but then was doubting about how much possibilities to still shave/edit this afterwards there would be. As it would be a challenge perhaps to make parts that would fit nicely together and match with the rest of the set. Or I should maybe try make it as an as large part as possible in once...? Only, so far I've already made the part with mdf (I thought I could maybe make a press mold from this and then cast the different parts in something else). But that's sort of where I'm stuck now, also as it's not all perfectly symmetrical so it would maybe not be a perfect puzzle... Ok, I think I'm using too many words to get to my point again and start to repeat myself. Apologizes. Basically I just would appreciate any ideas/suggestions/share of experiences about materials, etc. I've also tried to find a faster way of making the cobble stone rather then sanding them down one by one. I thought it should work to get them spinning round in something in a box with stones or something. I tried this in a tumble dryer... Which didn't work. Well, I just couldnt get the box to stay closed, so sand, mdf and stones in the tumble dryer, not great... (it's still working though ;) ) Not much had happened yet to the mdf squares. I'm not sure if it could have worked if they had been in there in the box for longer.. Any thoughts? A picture of the cobblestones I did make so far:

Posted by Nick H, on 2012-06-04 21:32:29

Yes, I was making individual flagstones, and I didn't have anywhere near enough. I think I need to make a mould. I think that's what you need to do. They are good cobblestones! For a brick wall, I make up a section of wall with individual mdf bricks, then either vac-form plastic over them, or make a mould and then cast sheets of brickwork. This can work for cobblestones too. So there is no shortcut to sanding and shaping the first stones individually, but then you could take that area you have made already, and duplicate it many times. I did these cobblestones ages ago, starting with mdf stones like yours, but vacuum forming plastic over them: The stone walls in this film, Butterflies, are sheets of latex. For her film, Isabel sculpted a big section of stone wall in clay, rolled out to about half an inch (12mm) thick I believe. Then she made a 1-piece open plaster mould, and cast 15 or 20 sheets of latex stone wall. (I got to animate this shot) The only trouble with latex is, a puppet walking on them would make the rubber stones squash down, so it's better for walls. If the sections don't fit together, you could make a few individual stones to put between them to help fit them together - still easier than making all of them one at a time. An alternative is to use silicone rubber to make the mould, then cast the sheets of stones in fibreglass or other hard material. It depends on how much cobbled street you need - but it's probably worth making the mould.

Posted by MartindeMadrid, on 2012-06-24 20:53:35

A couple of thoughts, Roo, but understa nd I have never tried this. You might be able to use Friendly Plastic to cast the stones in. The drawback is that it might be a bit expensive, but you can reuse it later, and some use it instead of plumber's epoxy for making puppets. You could also cast it in papier maché. The website at has what looks like a great recipe for what she calls "paper mache clay" at The site probably has information on casting papier maché, from what I have investigated it seems to be one of the best sites on the subject. Good luck! BTW your cobblestones look really good. When I was young I had a rock tumbler, which used different grits to smooth rocks. You might look on Craig's List or eBay for a used one. They would do the trick, I think. Another alternative are jewelry tumblers. Look on the same sites for used equipment in this category also. You would want some kind of very coarse tumbling medium, which you can find at jewelers' supply companies -- for some addresses (in the US, but I am sure you can find some in the UK too), see my post on the old board on "Tricks from a silversmith" thread, here: My favorite jewelry supply store is Santa Fe Jeweler's Supply. Here is a link to their website: Martín Shellabarger My current project:

Posted by Roos, on 2012-06-05 14:40:05

Thanks a lot Nick, as usual. :) For the brick wall actually I already decided finally to just sculpt it all out of paper mache. It just seemed easier in a way to not need to puzzle with all different pieces around windows/etc. And it went fairly quickly. Well, it took much time anyway, but I've almost finished all the sculpting now. I'm still not sure what to cast in now... Latex sounds possible, but not ideal perhaps for the reason you mention. I don't know how much it would squash down if it's just a thin layer... but for drilling it doesn't seem ideal either. Maybe good because you can probably cut it and easily hide it then again, but can also imagine that it could be a nightmare when drilling holes and the drill gets stuck in the latex... I tried the thing I mentioned with candle wax and plastic, I'll spare you the details, it wasn't a success... I also tried earlier to apply some paper mache in a small piece of mold. I just peeled it off, it wasnt entirely dry yet, so the middle is damaged. But the parts that aren't damaged look good. So it could be worth trying this for more parts and having more patience. It's at least easy to still reshape and cut away pieces afterwards as well, and if neccesary add some bricks or sculpt some parts to match... The vacuum forming sounds good too, only I have this part I have already attached to the entire base of the set now. I know there is a vacuum former somewhere at the university, but I can't really transport this to it now... Well, I might go for the paper mache in mold method. Not very usual maybe to use paper mache with a mold, but it seems to work. :) Silly enough, from all the materials I do have, I don't have any old news paper laying around anymore, so I might have to knock on some neighbours' door. :P And btw, that project with the latex brick walls looks awesome! Thanks for sharing that, I hadn't seen it around yet. Your mdf/vacuum formed stones are amazing as well, I don't recognize any mdf in that anymore. How did you shape them like that? Is it just all sanding and shaving until it looked right? Looks like much work, imagine you don't want to make a 300 or more of those...

Posted by Nick H, on 2012-06-05 22:56:36

To shape those stones, which were Bluestone, a type of basalt used for paving here in Melbourne - I used the round drum of a belt sander to make hollows from different angles, in the MDF. Then I put a little Agnew's Water Putty on it - it's a plaster with additives in it so it doesn't flake off so much. That broke up the smooth surface. It would be too much if I made every stone that way, but to make 30 of them, then vac-form several copies, it wasn't so bad.

Posted by Roos, on 2012-06-25 15:21:10

Hi Martin, thanks for the suggestions, I should have replied earlier again on this topic, as I have finished the cobblestones, and sort of finished the set, yay! Worked on my lighting set-up and am about ready to animate... :) I uploaded some pictures of my final cobblestones to the new stop motion animation site: Well, this shows mainly a close up of the mdf ones, but it also sort of shows the difference from there to the rest, which I did make with paper mache. I finally ended up making a 'stamp' from polymorph, pressing it when hot in my mdf cobblestones, I had one from one, and one from three cobblestones in a row, and used that to press it on the paper mache I applied to my set for the rest of the street. It looks very different, and I like the mdf ones more, but they're ok. I have to make the shots now in such a way that I don't show the 'seam' the line where it changes, too obvious, but then it will be ok I think. The paper mache ones are shrinking a bit while drying, just like with the bricks I made for the walls, also from paper mache, so that makes the surface less smooth. Which is nice in a way, especially for the walls it made it easy to apply more textured paint to it and make the details stand out, for the cobblestones it's ok but it makes them more different from the rest. So far with the test shots I made I'm happy though. :) But the rock tumbler is a good suggestion, that's the type of thing I was looking for but not sure what exactly or where to look or how expensive it would be, a simple used one should do the job... I might look into that for future cobblestones. :) maybe even replace my paper mache ones at some point if it works well. For my paper mache I just used old newspapers mainly, and blended them with a food mixer into a smooth paste (with added starch of course), but the paper mache clay recipe looks interesting as well, perhaps it would shrink less when drying.