This weekend, I was asked about the process I went through on my journey to find the most ideal materials for doing armatures. One of the things I was asked if I tried was wood. It is mentioned that some of the early armatures used wood as a base. And at the time, I had forgotten about the small king I made to slay a dragon. As I thought more about it, I remembered that yes, I had tried using a wood form for an armature, and had blocked the memory because of the trouble I had getting the sugar to adhere to the form.
The small sugar king, has a wooden form to assist with the general shape and pose of a longsword attack. A 10″ wooden art manikin was used as the base.
The base was removed from the form. The wood pieces were sanded to remove all of the varnish. The manikin was posed into a mid-swing, German longsword movement.
The first attempt at sugar application was directly to the sanded wood. The sugar would not stick. There was not enough grip to the under surface for the sugar to make a solid bind. It peeled off the form, like bad paint peels from a wall that has not been properly primed.
The second attempt came after priming the surface with paper mache. I knew that sugar could grip the paper form my earlier attempts with the metal armatures. However, the paper mache would not stick to the surface either.
The third attempt came after a rasp was taken to the entire form. This created uneven surfaces in the wood. The sugar stuck, but when it was dry it would not stay in position. It slid off the form.
The fourth and final attempt was a combination of priming the surface with a tempera paint, a layer of paper mache sealed with glare, followed by the sugar paste. The surface of the sugar was a bit bumpy than it normal would be as there was only one layer of sugar. The sugar was “smoothed” by burnishing it with water while it was still pliable. Normally, there would be a second layer of sugar for the fine details, but given the unexpected layer of paper mache, a second sugar layer would have give the figure unwanted bulk.
If I were to attempt to use a wooden form again, I would probably use a layer of plaster mesh or possibly starched linen as a barrier between the wood and the sugar. This would probably give me a solid surface for the sugar to adhere.