Plaster Thumb Tack Tutorial

April 15, 2013Allison Murray
Plaster thumb tack tutorial at Dream a Little Bigger

Plaster thumb tack tutorial at Dream a Little Bigger

So I’m totally being a smart alec today. Sometimes I just can’t help it. I had some left over alginate and plaster of paris from Gomez, my freaky statue I made from a foam wig head thingie and decided I needed to do something with it. Since it does eventually expire and there was hardly any of the purple powder left in my bag, it needed to be something small, small scale.

Somehow one thing lead to another and I was like, “oh, yeah?” and I got the big idea to make these. Really have no clue how I got from Point A to Point B on this one, but here we are!

For this project you will need:

Plaster thumb tack tutorial at Dream a Little Bigger

Take your little cups and cut some down to be even shorter, keeping in mind that you want it to be comfortable while you hold your thumb inside of it for 15 or so minutes. Cut as many as you would like to have molds for (I made 6 total). Put 2 regular sized cups to the side.

Plaster thumb tack tutorial at Dream a Little Bigger

Scoop some of your alginate into the bottom of one regular sized cup. Add water little by little and stir with your popsicle stick until you get a thick, sticky pancake batter-like consistency.

If you have more than one person you’ll need to mix up more, but if this is just you, only mix up a tiny bit. Fill one of your cut cups to about the top. If you want to do two thumbs at once, go for it. Just remember that there’s going to be no bathroom breaks or phone calls during this time. (which means go pee first or this is gonna be a long 15 minutes, trust me)

Plaster thumb tack tutorial at Dream a Little Bigger

Put your thumb into the goop. At first you’ll be able to freely move around. As it sets, you’ll still be able to move around but it will feel like the alginate closer to you is collecting on you.

Remember to hold your thumb as straight as possible for the best end results.

Plaster thumb tack tutorial at Dream a Little Bigger

Sit back, maybe catch some TV and wait. Wiggle your thumbs on occassion to see if the alginate is getting firm. When it is difficult to move your thumb feel the top with your other hand to see if you can push on the surface without anything sticking to you. If it kind of bounces back you’re in business.

At first wiggle your finger around and then slowly remove it from the mold. Take a peek inside and you’ll see your thumb shaped mold all ready for plaster!

These molds will stay good for a while, but NOT days. Eventually the alginate will begin to dry out and it won’t be useable. You’ll have plenty of time to make as many molds as you want that day, but I’m not even sure if the molds will be viable 24 hours later so go ahead and plan on getting this project knocked out in a few hours, at least.

Plaster thumb tack tutorial at Dream a Little Bigger

So you’ve gotten all of your molds made and you’re ready to keep on keepin’ on? Excellent. Pour a small amount of plaster in your second cup. Add water and stir until you get the consistency of runny pancake batter. By the way, seriously having pancakes for supper tonight. Oh, my!

Plaster thumb tack tutorial at Dream a Little Bigger

Pour the plaster into your molds and then tap on the bottom of the table to help push out any air bubbles. A good four or five and you’re set.

No worries if you go over the edges of the mold a bit, it will easily break away. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes and thicken up just a little…

Put your thumb tacks in plastic end first. Since the plaster has thickened a bit you’ll notice that the pins easily stay exactly where you put them. Set these guys somewhere warm or hot (but not an oven or something) and let them sit for one hour.

Oh, and by the way, try to make the flat end of the plastic (where the pin connects) flush with the top of your wet plaster. This will make them stronger in the end. The way that I did above didn’t work out so hot… I should have set them in a bit deeper.

After your hour wiggle a push pin to see if it’s pretty firmly in there. If it is you can move on, but if it jiggles a bit, give it another 15 minutes and check again.

So now your pins aren’t moving you’ll need to extract the plaster from the molds. Gently wiggle the thumb just like you did in the beginning and slowly remove. The molds will still be useable again so keep refilling and removing until you get the number of pins you’re happy with.

Plaster thumb tack tutorial at Dream a Little Bigger

Let your thumbs sit, at least, over night or even better, for a few days to allow to fully dry.

Take your fine sand paper or emery board and carefully remove any raw edges, weird distortions and all of that business.

Plaster thumb tack tutorial at Dream a Little Bigger

Give your thumbs 2 coats of your skin tone paint. I used flesh tone by Americana and I was really, really happy with the results.

Plaster thumb tack tutorial at Dream a Little Bigger

Since acrylic dries pretty quickly, you can move onto painting the fingernails as soon as you want. I chose a pink, red, coral and purplish color and went to town.

You can always do nail art types of paint jobs on these guys if you want – totally up to you.

Plaster thumb tack tutorial at Dream a Little Bigger

Give all of your thumbs a coat or two of matte Mod Podge to give a nice seal and protect the paint. I found it was easiest for me to shove them all into the cork and then paint around each.

Allow to dry fully before putting into use.

Plaster thumb tack tutorial at Dream a Little Bigger

And, bam! The likeness is uncanny, isn’t it? Unfortunately the night before I got my big idea I trimmed my fingernails way, way down (I’ve found they’re much less of a hazard when crafting that way). But in the end, I think they’re really cool. I’ve been told their creepy but to each his own, right?

My ‘thumb’ tacks are holding up a lotto ticket I won big on (2 dollars, baby!), a picture of my Poppa and a few other things on my boards. Do they look weird? Yeah, kind of, but I wouldn’t trade them in for everyday push pins no way, no how! Happy Monday.

Comments (16)

  • Lauren @ The Thinking Closet

    April 15, 2013 at 3:43 PM

    I love how your creative mind works – – how fun are these? And I think you may have to revisit this around Halloween…and perhaps make zombie finger thumb-tacks…though your thumb might be too cute for that mold! ;-)

  • Allison Murray

    April 15, 2013 at 9:58 PM

    Thanks, Lauren! I actually accidentally cut my left thumb enough today to go through the nail today, so perhaps zombie thumbtacks later in the week? :)

  • E

    April 15, 2013 at 11:16 PM

    These are cool!

  • onel

    April 16, 2013 at 1:28 AM

    It's a bit freaky but all the same very creative! Love them!

  • Allison Murray

    April 16, 2013 at 1:54 AM

    I agree that they are a weensy bit odd :) Thanks!

  • cinti

    April 16, 2013 at 10:04 AM

    I love this, so funny!

  • Melyssa @ The Nectar Collective

    April 16, 2013 at 11:13 AM

    HAHA You are hilarious woman. I love how you can go from big flower art one day to making real looking thumb tacks the next. Love love your diverse creativity and "weirdness"! Thanks for sharing this :)


  • Allison Murray

    April 16, 2013 at 1:26 PM

    Thanks, Cinti!
    Melyssa – just keeping it real :)

  • Michelle L

    April 16, 2013 at 10:45 PM

    Haheehee! these are delightful! Great tutorial, Allison, thanks for the details and fabulous photos.

  • Allison Murray

    April 17, 2013 at 1:39 AM

    Of course, happy to oblige, Michelle!

  • Shelley Graham Turner

    April 17, 2013 at 12:37 PM

    I love these!! Please contact me about this tutorial, I havent been able to find your email address on your blog yet. I have an idea I need to run by you!
    ~ Shelley shellsney (at) gmail

  • Lisa

    April 18, 2013 at 4:18 PM

    These are amazing! If a little creepy, haha, but that's part of what makes them awesome.
    Thanks for sharing your process

  • Allison Murray

    April 18, 2013 at 4:32 PM

    Thanks, Lisa – I have to agree. They kind of creep me out when I look up at my cork board, but I wouldn't trade them in for anything :)

  • Jacquelynne

    April 19, 2013 at 12:55 PM

    Hilarious and creative! Love it.

  • mary

    February 11, 2014 at 2:51 PM

    thank goodness I found yu ,yu are awsume and I love the thumbs thank yu wish yu lived next door ,but guess this will have to do thanks again

  • Charlene

    April 8, 2014 at 10:43 AM

    My 9yo dd and I made these last night along with the balloon birds we found online. I love these little bits of oddness!! So cool! Thanks for reminding me again that I am not the only one who thinks this way lol!!

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