How to make your own hooves - Part II

  1. Design
  2. Tools & Materials
  3. The Armature
  4. The Underlayer
  5. The Outer Surface
  6. Cosmetics

Step 2: Tools & Materials

When I started designing my hooves, I decided I wanted something as realistic as conveniently possible. Therefore it had to be hard: hard enough to actually bear weight in fact, although I'm not advocating this project as an experiment in quadrupedal movement!

I've been using a commercial material to model with great success for some years now, and having a plentiful supply of it on hand (this soon changed!) I decided to stick to what I knew. The material is called Milliput, and is a two-part epoxy putty available from many art and hobbyist stores in the UK. To use it, you simply mix equal parts of the two components together. It's very workable, and comes in different grades: I used the Terracotta one. It starts off rather tacky, but water can be used to alleviate this. It dries over a period of hours into a very hard finished state which can be drilled, sanded and sawn. It's water-proof and will in fact dry underwater.

Basic design
Fig 3.

There are probably many other similar materials that could be used, but this may require some experimentation: you don't want anything that will be too brittle. It is worth bearing in mind that Milliput costs around three pounds Sterling per packet, and I went through about fifteen pounds worth per hoof, so you may want to look for a cheaper alternative. For myself though, I know its qualities, and know it will do the job in hand, so I'm willing to pay for it. If you can't get hold of Milliput where you live, try contacting the Milliput Company direct:

The Milliput Company
Units 5 & 6
Marian Mawr Industrial Estate
Gwynedd LL40 1UU
United Kingdom

Telephone and Fax: (UK) 01341 422562

The Milliput will be formed over a wire armature or framework. For this I used galvanised steel wire of 1.5 to 2mm thickness (roughly two to three 32nds of an inch), which you can get from good gardening and hardware stores (notably not the DIY superstores - you want the smaller highstreet stores). You can usually buy a coil of several meters length and this will be more than adequate: I used little more than half a meter or two feet per hoof, if that. Having a little excess means you can happily experiment and it doesn't matter if you make a mistake. This stuff is stiff, and it helps greatly to have two pairs of pliers to make the tighter bends with, as well as cutting it.

To secure the wire together, I chose to solder them. While a little care is needed, this is not difficult. Ordinary electronics solder will do, and any old electric or gas soldering iron - but NOT one you will be needing for electronics work in the future! This is coarse grade soldering and will probably ruin the tip. Cheap 'junior' soldering irons are perfect. It is also very useful to have some kind of hobbyist's clamp to hold the wire while you solder it. I have a device called "Helping Hands" which consists of two crocodile clips on poseable arms: invaluable for any kind of modelling. When soldering, it will also make things much easier if the wire is rubbed down with emery cloth too: the solder will adhere much more readily.

The final ingredient is a little different: a pair of socks! These will disguise the join between your hands and the top of the hoof. You can use any old pair, or you may want to buy some specially. A variety of textures and colours are available. It is worth noting that the thicker varieties also add some cushioning against the hardness of the hoof itself. A good strong glue such as Evostick will be needed to attach the socks to the hoof.

It should go without saying that you will need a good clear work surface, and one you don't mind getting smeared with wet Milliput or splashes of solder!

And so to stage three.