Monday, September 24, 2012

How to Build a Dinosaur part VI

Here we are, the sixth and final installment of my long-overdue blog chronicling the Deinonychus I built this spring.

Links to the other posts in this series:
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V

When last we left, I was in the middle of the long and tedious process of applying epoxy clay scales.  Since most of the deino is going to be covered with feathers, I decided only to cover the legs, feet and hands.  The head has been covered for a while now.
Still adding scales
The leg on the left has a priming coat of acrylic gesso over the scales, as I'm going to paint this guy with acrylic paint.

Detail of the hands:
Detail of the hands

The whole guy scaled and ready to paint:
deinonychus scaled, primed and ready for painting and feathering

I started with the legs and arms:
beginning feathers 02
There's also a preliminary feather test going on in the above photo.

Closeup of the legs and arms.  The paint was applied with a pouncing brush (commonly used for stencils) to minimize brushstrokes.

I decided to add a little more color to the face as well:
deinonychus beginning feathers

I painted a basic counter-shaded coat under where I planned to put the feathers.  It served both as a means to reduce the visibility of the white plaster under the darker top feathers and as a template for where to place which feathers when I got to that step.


Before feathering I decided to build the final base for our hero.  I cut a 24" x 48" MDF in half and glued the two halves together.  When the glue was dry I freehand-drew a quick organic shape for the base then cut it out with a jigsaw. I then used a hand-held router with a roundover bit to smooth out and round over the top edge.  When I was done the base was very heavy and very stable.

Turning Mr. Deino upside-down I drilled holes in the bottom of his feet and inserted short lengths of PVC pipe, epoxying them in place.  I also glued a length of PVC into the already-made chest hole.  I then glued lengths of wooden dowel into holes I drilled into the base (one is visible above) so that the bits of pipe in the feet and chest would slide down onto these dowels and fit snugly and stably, but could be removed if necessary.
Another shot of the base

Later I painted the base with three coats of satin black latex enamel.

Oh yeah-- the feathers.
The bottom layer of white feathers were added first, and I used craft/costume fur (fake of course) for the tail and torso and craft feathers stitched into satin bias tape for the underside of the neck.  I glued and pinned everything in place.
Getting feathered up

I then laid in the top layer of feathers.  I used rooster hackle also stitched into bias tape that I purchased from Lamplight Feather Inc.   I started at the tail and worked my way toward the head, overlapping each course of feathers enough to cover the previous course's bias tape trim.
Feathering in progress..
The arm feathers were whole dried rooster wings I purchased on  They were also glued and pinned in place.
Test-fitting arm feathers
The feathers on the head obviously couldn't be attached via bias tape, so I pulled them off the trim and glued each one on separately, placing them in holes I made with a metal probe.
deinonychus sculpture closeup

And then I was done!  I put him in the yard and took a few photographs.
deinonychus sculpture finished

deinonychus sculpture finished

deinonychus sculpture closeup

I took Deino to work in a U-Haul van.
On to the exhibit...

Going for a ride

Here he is in the back room, waiting for his exhibit to be prepared.
staging area

And finally in his home, next to yours truly:
best friends

I prepared a little information placard:
exhibit info

Well, that does it for this series!  It was certainly one of the most challenging project I've ever done, but also one of my favorites, and writing about it reminded me of the all the crazy things I did earlier this year that I probably never thought I'd ever do.  And hopefully I'll get a chance to do another one some day...


  1. I'm guessing this must have taken a lot of time and hard work, but the result is an amazingly detailed work of art. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Well done, it looks amazing, thanks for sharing!