How to make a Plaster Cast of a Hand or Foot

Plaster cast of the hands of Executioner Albert Pierrepoint. Wandsworth Prison Museum.

Plaster casting kits are sold at many craft and discount stores. The kits are usually marketed towards parents who want to make plaster casts of their children’s feet or hands. This is a wonderful way to stop time and forever hold a memory, but these kits are rather expensive. You can buy the necessary supplies separately and save a considerable amount of money.

To make a plaster cast you will need 10 pounds of plaster of Paris, petroleum jelly, 2 large mixing bowls, a large spoon, a measuring cup, a hammer, and a chisel. You will also need waxed paper, dishwashing liquid, pliers, water, craft glue, a large measuring cup, a paintbrush, newspapers, and a 13 by 9 by 2 baking pan. Optional supplies are acrylic craft paint, clear acrylic sealer, and decorative trim of your choice.

Start by protecting the surface you will be working on with several layers of newspaper. The next step is to make a plaster of Paris mold which will be used to create the plaster cast. Pour a pint of water in a large mixing bowl. Add the plaster of Paris powder a cup at time until you have added 8 cups to the water. Do not stir the mixture after each addition. When all 8 cups have been added to the bowl, stir the mixture until it attains the consistency of oatmeal.

Lay a sheet of waxed paper in the bottom of the baking pan. Coat the hand or foot you will be making a plaster cast off with a generous layer of petroleum jelly. Place the hand or foot on the waxed paper. Make sure it’s flat against the pan, and slowly add plaster of Paris until the hand or foot is completely covered.

Allow the first layer to dry for several minutes while the remaining plaster in the bowl thickens. The subject must remain as still as possible. Cover the hand or foot with an additional layer of plaster. The plaster will take approximately 10 minutes to dry.

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After the material has sufficiently cured, carefully, and slowly remove the hand or foot of the subject from the hardened plaster. Some of the molds may break off in the process. If this happens, it can easily be glued back together.

Fill the baking pan with water, and place the finished mold right side up in the pan. The water should only come in contact with the outside of the mold. While it’s absorbing the water, fill a bowl with water and a little dishwashing liquid. Apply the soapy water to the inside of the mold with a paintbrush.

The soap will act as a lubricant that will make the removal of the finished plaster cast easier. Allow the mold to remain in the pan of water for approximately 5 minutes, or until it has absorbed an adequate amount of water. Make sure the plaster mold is completely saturated, and then remove it from the water. Soaking the mold in this manner will help keep the plaster cast you are about to pour from draining and becoming too dry.

Lay the finished mold on a piece of waxed paper, and mix up enough plaster of Paris to fill it about an inch past the rim. Allow the fresh plaster to thicken for several minutes, and carefully pour it into the mold. Let the finished piece harden for at least an hour before attempting to remove it from the mold.

After you are sure the plaster is sufficiently hard, you will need to sculpt away the mold using a hammer and chisel. Pieces of plaster may also be broken off using pliers. Take your time and do this carefully so you don’t damage the finished piece. If the finished cast happens to chip or crack, you can easily repair it with additional plaster. Allow any necessary repairs to dry before painting or decorating.

You can paint the finished plaster cast with acrylic craft paint. When the paint dries, protect the piece with a coat of clear acrylic sealer. Allow the paint and sealer to dry completely, and add decorative trim of your choice.

A plaster cast of a hand and wrist can be embellished with a colorful bracelet or ring. Fingernails can be painted and decorated with nail polish. Castings of feet can also be embellished with jewelry and nail polish. Use your imagination to make an original work of art that will last forever.

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