Friday, March 13, 2015

I Made a Neck Form (with help from my carpenter husband)

Before I finished my Bead Dreams piece, I knew that a normal neck form was not going to flatter the work.  I needed wider shoulders and a broader chest, and after an exhaustive hunt, I knew what I wanted was just not out there.

I have never really been very satisfied with the forms I purchase, and one of them was so crooked in the neck area that I had never been able to use it.  I thought I could perhaps take it apart to see how it had been made, and make my own custom-shaped one.  So, I ripped off the cover, and took a look.


Were you expecting something different? I was.  :)  It had 1/2 inch foam padding, which I removed, and then sized up the components.


It had a base, a support with a curve, a piece of what looked like masonite to me, stapled to the curve, and a funky little neck thingy, hot glued in place.  This one was 1/2 inch off center, and that probably explains why my work always looked lop-sided on this particular form.


So before I was even finished with my piece, I asked my husband Carl, (aka The Best Man Ever) if he could make me a base, support piece, and differently shaped face for a custom form.  He built a new wood shop addition onto the garage last fall, and seems to enjoy the place.  He has been busy making new furniture and storage for it and installing machinery.


He said he would help me, so I designed a shape I thought would suit my work.


Here is how it differed from the original form. I wanted a wider shoulder and broader chest.


I made a pattern of the curved support for Carl, and we discussed materials.  He suggested aspen, for the curved support and base, which he would finish for me, so I would not have to cover it.


I thought the curved face could be masonite, but he said it would be better to use special curve-friendly plywood and create exactly the curve I wanted by laminating layers together over a form, which he made, and used to create the face.


I didn't take a picture of the laminating process.  :( But this was in his shop when I sneaked in there... something else being laminated into a curve, like he described the process for the face of my form.


Here is a pic of the finished curved face in my workspace, attached to the base and support Carl made, before it got its little neck thingy. I thought it looked like a shield.


Next, came the cover.  Here's the one I removed from the old form.


I shopped for materials and found three possibilities.  Two were light weight vinyls, and one, some sort of actual leather, bonded to a stretch interfacing, similar to what the original cover material looked like. 


I also found a place in NYC, that made "custom forms" and sold their leatherette material by the yard. But I decided to use the white vinyl for a first try and made a pattern.  Maybe because of the broader shoulders, or the heavier vinyl, I needed to create a dart to help make the neck shape.  


Here's the vinyl cover, cut out and assembled.


I still could not imagine how I was going to get the vinyl to wrap flat around the back of the curved edges of the form. So I paid a visit to the local Tandy Leather and got a great lesson on the use of leather adhesives from an adorable leather geek.  He suggested water based contact cement, and assured me it would be sufficiently strong for the task at hand.  He also said I would get one chance to get it positioned correctly, because once the two tacky surfaces touched, the bond was final.  YIKES!  He suggested I pin the cover in place first, apply the adhesive, and then wrap.  I was REALLY NERVOUS about this.  But I took his advice.  I glued on the 1/2" foam (from the fabric store), and pulled the vinyl into shape.


I was really glad to have the thickness of the bonded plywood to pin into at this point. Crunch time came, and I painted the vinyl and the back of the plywood with adhesive, and let it get tacky.


Here are the tools I used, recommended by the adorable Tandy Leather geek.  I wrapped one of the spreaders I purchased (which was great for spreading E-6000, btw) with a 1" strip of foam, and that was the right size to apply the strip of adhesive that I needed, and the foam held the watery glue nicely, with very little dripping or mess.


I let it dry overnight, and actually got up around 3am to see if it was still ok!  The next step was to prep that back for the paper cover.


Carl let me steal some of his gorgeous drawing paper for the back.


I told myself from the beginning of this adventure, that what we made would have to look neat, clean, and professional or I simply could not use it.  I am really happy with the results!


And I think mine actually looks better from the back, than the commercial one.


Finally, the button bit is glued on to the top, and I am ready to shoot pictures tomorrow.  Carl cut me a masonite disc to cover, but the original was cardboard, and that would have allowed me to adhere the center as well as the edges.  Next time!

And now,  Carl thinks my piece needs its very own fancy pants wooden box.  I am one very, VERY lucky girl. Whatever that shop addition cost, it was worth it!  

Do you think I have to give him co-design credit?

20 comments:

  1. Beautifully done. Congratulations on your new neck form. It looks perfect. Thanks for the lesson, too.

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    1. Gwen, Thanks! It was challenging, but I am sure I could do it again, (assuming Carl's kind help) and each time it should be easier.

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  2. Wow, what a team :) Thank you guys for this post!

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    1. I married well. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  3. Totally awesome! You two definitely nailed it! And, yes of course your form is neater and cleaner looking - you always make perfection when you set out to do so! <3

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    1. Nancy, I have always admired the beautiful collaborative work you share with Sherwood, and both your beadwork and his photography. It was fun to find I could collaborate too! Thanks for the kind words.

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  4. Fabulous! You and Carl will probably be bombarded with order requests...lol! I cannot wait to see the gorgeous artwork you will showcase on this wonderful form!

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  5. It was a delight to see the beautiful craftsmanship of your project. You now have a form worthy of your exceptional work. I am very curious to know how the neck part is shaped. Any possibility of seeing a photo of the neck part before it was covered?

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    1. I knew someone would ask about this. I didn't take a picture of my husband's neck thingy. It looked just like the original, except that he shaped it to the curve of the face. Sorry about that!! If I do another, I promise to add that photo to this post. You can see just the top of it with the vinyl glued in place in the second shot from the bottom. :(

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  6. What a great project. You two make a very talented team. I have never been happy with the commercial neck forms- for me they are not long enough. Can't wait to see it in use!

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    1. Thanks KJ! Good to see you making jewelry again!

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  7. As one Jewerly Junkie to another- amazing! I have also made my own forms, but your take the cake! Carl is a doll!! Lucky you! 👍

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    1. You are SO right, Carl is a doll and I am a lucky woman. Thanks for reading!

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  8. Brilliant design...looks like a custom design opportunity!
    Happy Beady Day,
    -Eva Maria

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    1. Thank you Eva Maria. I am so glad Carl could help me create the perfect stand for this piece. Don't know if I would want to do it for a living tho... Time will tell!

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  9. I love the forms width and structure. Mr. Carl, I could use this shape to display a new piece I am working on..... hint...... hint. Anne's right! Bombardment of form quests will occur. Thank you for sharing this and I am looking forward to seeing the piece that this lovely forms displays.

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    1. Thanks for reading, Catherine. I think we will most likely not go into form production for a living. :( Sorry about that. But we will keep the idea in mind... One never knows what the future holds.

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  10. That is one of the most amazing posts I have seen in awhile! There is so much that went into figuring that out and making it work, and not just work, its gorgeous! wow

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    1. Thanks Staci! Now, if either of us ever has to do this again, we have a reference, eh? :)

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